Telethon Man

jerry lewis, R.I.P.

My birthday nearly always falls on Labor Day weekend. As a child, the occasion meant action figures from the close-out rack at Uncle Tom’s Toys (yes, Uncle Tom‘s), and the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. I liked the telethon in the way I liked the Johnny Carson-era Tonight Show: If I was seeing it, then I was being allowed to stay up late.

The year I turned 8 I was gifted with a $5 bill by my far-away, rarely glimpsed paternal grandmother. Later that weekend, I tuned in the telethon. One of its pre-taped segments about children with muscular dystrophy got to me. I walked down to phone booth at the corner gas station, and pledged my birthday money to Mr. Lewis and the MDA. (Why I was walking down to the corner gas station to make a phone call is another story.)

A couple of weeks later, at a time when things happened at the pace of “a couple of weeks later…,” I received an invoice and an envelope, in which I was to tuck in my $5. By then, however, I’d decided that $5 was a lot of money, and I didn’t want to part with it. I felt guilty about not living up to my word, and about about letting down the children, my peers, but I didn’t feel guilty enough to send in the $5. And so I kept the cash. I don’t recall what I did with it, but my money’s on: (a) I spent it foolishly; or, (b) I lost it recklessly.

Lewis. who died Aug. 20 at the age of 91, last hosted the telethon in 2010. When I wrote his obituary for Yahoo!, I was struck by how few of the usual career plaudits came his way. There was no Kennedy Center tribute, no Mark Twain honor, no American Film Institute black-tie gala; the Jean Hersholt statuette that he did receive was met with backlash. He was “loved”; he was “reviled.”

And I’m the kid who reneged on a $5 pledge to his charity, so I don’t think I get a vote on this one.


When James Bond Went to Outer Space

007, Clip, Movies, R.I.P., Roger Moore

It was the 1970s, specifically, the post-Star Wars 1970s, an era when everyone and everything, including the opening-credit sequence from Superman: The Movie, was blast into the great beyond. The movie (which was better as a poster) was Moonraker, and Roger Moore was 007. Moore’s era overlapped with Sean Connery’s, and extended into the 1980s, but he was surely the Bond of the 1970s, the Bond of my childhood.

Moore died today at age 89. Here’s the the obituary I wrote for Yahoo!


Thanks for the Lullaby, Mary Tyler Moore

parenting, R.I.P., TV

About the only songs I know word-for-word are TV theme songs of the 1970s, and so for the past 10 years, “Love Is All Around” has been in heavy rotation as a bedtime lullaby.

Mary Tyler Moore didn’t write it, but she and her iconic TV series are the reasons I sing it.

Moore died today at age 80. Here’s a piece I wrote for Yahoo! on her life and career, which was influential beyond The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And bedtime lullabies.