I am spending Labor Day the way I usually do -- at home in front of a television, watching the Jerry Lewis telethon while waiting for the CFL football games to come on. This is the first one since Jerry was awarded an Oscar for all his work he has done to try and stamp out MD. Also, this is kind of an emotional telethon because it is the first one since the passing of Ed McMahon, the telethon's longtime announcer.
You wonder how long Jerry will be around for these telethons, too. With every passing year there is kind of a "freak-show" factor associated with the telethon: Jerry Lewis has had so many health problems of his own that you tune in just because you're worried that this will be the year of the very last "Jerry Lewis Telethon" -- not because MD is about to be cured, but because you're worried Jerry is going to die! So you tune in just in case this happens to be the last Jerry Lewis Telethon ever. And every year, it isn't.
I had thought for sure that Ed McMahon would end up outliving Jerry and end up stuck hosting the telethon without him, but that never did happen.
I read this article over at TV Squad about the telethon, with the writer remarking about how it seemed to be a bigger deal when he was a kid. It sure seems that way to me too -- it seemed a bigger deal for me, too, when I was younger. I looked forward to watching it because it was "event television", what television was all about! They used to promote it weeks in advance with local TV personalities doing promos with Jerry. And they used to get tons of big celebrities to appear on the show. They'd have these big "Rat Pack" stars on the show and these other cool people. But then again, every aspect of television was a bigger deal back then.
It truly was a different era of entertainment that was celebrated on the telethon -- that smoky Vegas scene -- but even then, in the late Seventies, you could sense that the era was ending.