LOS ANGELES, Kalifornia (PNN) - September 27, 2017 - Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant - all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s - died on Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. He was 91.
His death was announced by Playboy Enterprises.
Hefner the man and Playboy the brand were inseparable. Both advertised themselves as emblems of the sexual revolution, an escape from American priggishness and wider social intolerance. Both were derided over the years - as vulgar, as adolescent, as exploitative, and finally as anachronistic. But Mr. Hefner was a stunning success from the moment he emerged in the early 1950s. His timing was perfect.
He was compared to Jay Gatsby, Citizen Kane and Walt Disney, but Mr. Hefner was his own production. He repeatedly likened his life to a romantic movie; it starred an ageless sophisticate in silk pajamas and smoking jacket hosting a never-ending party for famous and fascinating people.
The first issue of Playboy was published in 1953, when Mr. Hefner was 27; a new father married to, by his account, the first woman with whom he had slept.
He had only recently moved out of his parents’ house and left his job at Children’s Activities magazine. But in an editorial in Playboy’s inaugural issue, the young publisher purveyed another life.
“We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex,” he wrote.
This scene projected an era’s “premium boys’ style,” Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University and the author of The Sixties said in an interview. “It’s part of an ensemble with the James Bond movies, John F. Kennedy, swinging, the guy who is young, vigorous, indifferent to the bonds of social responsibility.”
Mr. Hefner was reviled, first by guardians of the 1950s social order - J. Edgar Hoover among them - and later by feminists. But
Playboy’s circulation reached one million by 1960 and peaked at about seven million in the 1970s.
Long after other publishers made the nude “Playmate” centerfold look more sugary than daring, Playboy remained the most successful men’s magazine in the world. Mr. Hefner’s company branched into movie, cable and digital production, sold its own line of clothing and jewelry, and opened clubs, resorts and casinos.
The brand faded over the years, its flagship magazine’s circulation declining to less than a million.
Mr. Hefner remained editor in chief even after agreeing to the magazine’s startling (and, as it turned out, short-lived) decision in 2015 to stop publishing nude photographs. In 2016, he handed over creative control of Playboy to his son, Cooper Hefner. Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, Scott Flanders, acknowledged that the Internet had overrun the magazine’s province.
“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” he said, “so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
The magazine’s website, Playboy.com, had already been revamped as a “safe for work” site. Playboy was no longer illicit. (Early this year, the magazine brought back nudes.)
Mr. Hefner began excoriating American Puritanism at a time when doctors refused contraceptives to single women and the Hollywood production code dictated separate beds for married couples. As the cartoonist Jules Feiffer, an early Playboy contributor, saw the 1950s, “People wore tight little gray flannel suits and went to their tight little jobs.”
“You couldn’t talk politically,” Mr. Feiffer said in the 1992 documentary Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time. “You couldn’t use obscenities. What Playboy represented was the beginning of a break from all that.”
Playboy was born more in fun than in anger. Mr. Hefner’s first publisher’s message, written at his kitchen table in Chicago, announced, “We don’t expect to solve any world problems or prove any great moral truths.”
Still, Mr. Hefner wielded fierce resentment against his era’s sexual strictures, which he said had choked off his own youth. A virgin until he was 22, he married his longtime girlfriend. Her confession to an earlier affair, Mr. Hefner told an interviewer almost 50 years later, was “the single most devastating experience of my life.”
In The Playboy Philosophy, a mix of libertarian and libertine arguments that Mr. Hefner wrote in 25 installments starting in 1962, his message was simple: Society was to blame. His causes - abortion rights, decriminalization of marijuana, and most important, the repeal of 19th Century sex laws - were daring at the time. Ten years later, they would be unexceptional.
“Hefner won,” Mr. Gitlin said. “The prevailing values in the country now, for all the conservative backlash, are essentially libertarian, and that basically was what the Playboy Philosophy was.
“It’s laissez-faire,” he added. “It’s anti-censorship. It’s consumerist. Let the buyer rule. It’s hedonistic. In the longer run, Hugh Hefner’s significance is as a salesman of the libertarian ideal.”
The Playboy Philosophy advocated freedom of speech in all its aspects, for which Mr. Hefner won civil liberties awards. He supported progressive social causes and lost some sponsors by inviting black guests to his televised parties at a time when much of the nation still had Jim Crow laws.
The magazine was a forum for serious interviews, the subjects including Jimmy Carter (who famously confessed, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times”), Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Malcolm X. In the early days Mr. Hefner published fiction by Ray Bradbury (Playboy bought his Fahrenheit 451 for $400), Herbert Gold, and Budd Schulberg. It later drew, among many others, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, James Baldwin, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Hugh Marston Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, the son of Glenn and Grace Hefner, Nebraska-born Methodists who had moved to Chicago. Decades later, he continued to tell interviewers that he had grown up “with a lot of repression,” and he often noted that his father was a descendant of William Bradford, the Puritan governor of the Plymouth Colony.
Though father and son reached an accommodation - the elder Mr. Hefner became Playboy’s accountant and treasurer - neither changed moral compass points. Glenn Hefner, who died in 1976, said he had never looked at the pictures in the magazine.
As a child, Mr. Hefner spent hours writing horror stories and drawing cartoons. At Steinmetz High School in Chicago, he said, “I reinvented myself” as the suave, breezy Hef” - a newspaper cartoonist and party-loving leader of what he called “our gang”. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, after serving in the army, he edited the campus humor magazine, Shaft, and started a photo feature called “Co-ed of the Month.”
He married a high school classmate, Millie Williams, and began what he described as a deadening slog into 1950s adulthood: He took a job in the personnel department of a cardboard-box manufacturer. (He said he quit when asked to discriminate against black applicants.) He wrote advertising copy for a department store and then for Esquire magazine. He became circulation promotion manager of another magazine, Children’s Activities.
He was meanwhile plotting his own magazine, which was to be, among other things, a vehicle for his slightly randy cartoons. The first issue of Playboy was financed with $600 of his own money and several thousand more in borrowed funds, including $1,000 from his mother. But his biggest asset was a nude calendar photograph of Marilyn Monroe. He had bought the rights for $500.
Plenty of other men’s magazines showed nude women, but most were unabashedly crude and forever dodging postal censors. Mr. Hefner aimed to be the first to claim a mainstream readership and mainstream distribution.
When Playboy reached newsstands in December 1953, its press run of 51,000 sold out. The publisher, instantly famous, would soon become a millionaire; after five years, the magazine’s annual profit was $4 million, and its rabbit-head logo was recognized around the world.
Mr. Hefner ran the magazine and then the business empire largely from his bedroom, working on a round bed that revolved and vibrated. At first he was reclusive and frenetic, powered past dawn by amphetamines and Pepsi-Cola. In later years, even after giving up Dexedrine, he was still frenetic, and still fiercely attentive to his magazine.
His own public playboy persona emerged after he left his wife and children, Christie and David, in 1959. That year his new syndicated television series, Playboy’s Penthouse, put the wiry, intense Mr. Hefner, pipe in hand, in the nation’s living rooms. The set recreated his mansion on North State Parkway, rich in sybaritic amusements, where he greeted entertainers like Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole, and intellectuals and writers like Max Lerner, Norman Mailer, and Alex Haley, while bunches of glamorous young women milled around. (A later TV show, Playboy After Dark, was syndicated in 1969 and 1970.)
In the Playboy offices, life imitated image. Mr. Hefner told a film interviewer that in the early days, yes, “everybody was coupling with everybody,” including him. He later estimated that he had slept with more than 1,000 women. Over and over, he would say, “I’m the boy who dreamed the dream.”
Friends described him as both charming and shy, even unassuming, and intensely loyal. “Hef was always big for the girls who got depressed or got in a jam of some sort,” the artist LeRoy Neiman, one of the magazine’s main illustrators for more than 50 years, said in an interview in 1999. “He’s a friend. He’s a good person. I couldn’t cite anything he ever did that was malicious to anybody.”
At the same time, Mr. Hefner adored celebrity, his and others’. Mr. Neiman, who sometimes lived at the Playboy Mansion, said, “It was nothing to breakfast there with comedians like Mort Sahl, professors, any kind of person who had something on his mind that was controversial or new. At the parties in the early days, Alex Haley used to hang around. Tony Curtis and Hugh O’Brian were always there. Mick Jagger stayed there.”
The glamour rubbed off on Mr. Hefner’s new enterprise, the Playboy Club, which was crushingly popular when it opened in Chicago in 1960. Dozens more followed. The waitresses, called bunnies, were trussed in brief satin suits with cotton fluffs fastened to their derrières.
One bunny briefly employed in the New York club would earn Mr. Hefner’s lasting enmity. She was an impostor, a 28-year-old named Gloria Steinem who was working undercover for Show magazine. Her article, published in 1963, described exhausting hours, painfully tight uniforms (in which half-exposed breasts floated on wadded-up dry cleaner bags), and vulgar customers.
Another feminist critic, Susan Brownmiller, debating Mr. Hefner on Dick Cavett’s television talk show, asserted, “The role that you have selected for women is degrading to women because you choose to see women as sex objects, not as full human beings.” She continued, “The day you’re willing to come out here with a cottontail attached to your rear end…”
Mr. Hefner responded in 1970 by ordering an article on the activists, then called “women’s libbers.” In an internal memo, he wrote, “These chicks are our natural enemy. What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart. They are unalterably opposed to the romantic boy-girl society that Playboy promotes.”
The commissioned article, by Morton Hunt, ran with the headline, Up Against the Wall, Male Chauvinist Pig. (The same issue featured an interview with William F. Buckley, Jr., fiction by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and an article by a prominent critic of the Vietnam War, Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana.)
Mr. Hefner said later that he was perplexed by feminists’ apparent rejection of the message he had set forth in the Playboy Philosophy. “We are in the process of acquiring a new moral maturity and honesty,” he wrote in one installment, “in which man’s body, mind and soul are in harmony rather than in conflict.” Of Americans’ fright over anything “unsuitable for children,” he said, “Instead of raising children in an adult world, with adult tastes, interests and opinions prevailing, we prefer to live much of our lives in a make-believe children’s world.”
Many questioned whether Playboy’s outlook could be described as adult; Harvey G. Cox, Jr., the Harvard theologian, called it “basically antisexual.” In 1961, in the journal Christianity and Crisis, Dr. Cox wrote, “Playboy and its less successful imitators are not ‘sex magazines’ at all. They dilute and dissipate authentic sexuality by reducing it to an accessory, by keeping it at a safe distance.”
In a 1955 television interview, a frowning Mike Wallace asked Mr. Hefner, “Isn’t that really what you’re selling? A high-class dirty book?”
Such scolding sounded quaint by the time crasser competitors like Penthouse and Hustler appeared in the 1960s and 1970s. Playboy began showing pubic hair on its models, while the others doubled the dare with features on kinkier sexual tastes and close-up photos that bordered on the gynecological. Mr. Hefner would decide, after furious debate among the staff, not to compete further.
Playboy Enterprises still prospered. In 1971 it went public to finance resorts in Jamaica, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Great Gorge, New Jersey; and gambling casinos in London and the Bahamas.
The heady mood broke in 1974, when Mr. Hefner’s longtime personal assistant, Bobbie Arnstein, committed suicide. Ms. Arnstein had just been convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and Mr. Hefner said bitterly that investigators had hounded her to set him up.
He left Chicago for his second home in Los Angeles, an enormous mock-Tudor house with a grotto and a zoo (Mr. Hefner loved animals), where he could orchestrate the company’s move into films.
The 1980s brought a huge retrenchment for Playboy. The company lost its London casinos in 1981 for gambling violations and was denied a gambling license in Atlantic City, partly because of reports that Mr. Hefner had been involved in bribing New York officials for a club license 20 years earlier.
The company shed its resorts and record division and sold Oui magazine, a more explicit but less successful version of Playboy, while the flagship’s circulation plunged. The Playboy Building in Chicago, its rabbit-head beacon illuminating Michigan Avenue, was also sold, as was the corporate jet with built-in discothèque. Bunnies were going the way of go-go dancers, and the Playboy Clubs closed.
Mr. Hefner relied more and more on his daughter, Christie Hefner, named company president in 1982 and then chief executive, a position she held until 2009. Mr. Hefner suffered a stroke in 1985, but he recovered and remained editor in chief of Playboy, choosing the centerfold models, writing captions, and tending to detail with an intensity that led his staff to call him “the world’s wealthiest copy editor.”
In 1989 Mr. Hefner married again, saying he had rethought Woody Allen’s line that “marriage is the death of hope.” His second wife was Kimberley Conrad, the 1989 Playmate of the Year, 38 years his junior. They had two sons: Marston Glenn, born in 1990, and Cooper Bradford, born in 1991.
The couple divorced in 2010, and Mr. Hefner plowed into his work, including the editing of The Century of Sex, a Playboy book. When a New York Times interviewer later prodded him about the rewards of marriage, he replied, “Unfortunately, they come from other women.” Meanwhile, to widespread snickering, he became a cheerleader for Viagra, telling a British journalist, “It is as close as anyone can imagine to the fountain of youth.”
The re-emerged Hef reveled in the new century. In 2005 he began appearing on television on the E! channel reality show The Girls Next Door, although his onscreen role consisted mostly of peering in while his three young, blond girlfriends planned adventures at the mansion. When the three original Girls Next Door went their separate ways after five seasons, he replaced them with three others, also young and blond - and shortly afterward asked one of them, Crystal Harris, to marry him.
Five days before the 85-year old Mr. Hefner was to marry the 25-year-old Ms. Harris in June 2011 - the wedding was to have been filmed by the Lifetime cable channel as a reality special - the bride called it off. Mr. Hefner, by this time a man of the 21st Century media, announced on Twitter, “Crystal has had a change of heart.”
But Ms. Harris had another change of heart, and the two married on New Year’s Eve 2012. On their first anniversary, Mr. Hefner tweeted to his 1.4 million followers, “It’s good to be in love.”
Mr. Hefner’s survivors include Ms. Harris and his four children.
Another of the Girls Next Door, Holly Madison, offered a much more depressing version of life in the mansion in a 2015 tell-all book. In the years when Mr. Hefner was calling her his “No.1 girlfriend,” she wrote in Down the Rabbit Hole, she endured a dysfunctional household of petty rules, allowances, quarrels and backstabbing, all directed by an emotionally manipulative old man.
Through those years, however, the Playboy brand marched forward. In 2011 Mr. Hefner took Playboy Enterprises private again. Scott Flanders, after taking over as chief executive in 2009, focused on the licensing business, shrinking the company and raising its profits. The website, cleansed of any whiff of pornography, enjoyed huge growth, while Mr. Hefner, who retained his title and about 30% of the company’s stock, cheerfully tweeted news and pictures of the many festivities at the mansion, along with hundreds of photographs from his past, in the glory decades of the ’60s and ’70s.
Last year the Playboy Mansion was sold for $100 million to Daren Metropoulos, an investor. As a condition of the sale, Mr. Hefner was allowed to continue living in the mansion for the rest of his life, with Playboy Enterprises paying Mr. Metropoulos $1 million a year to lease it.
Mr. Hefner was to be buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, in a mausoleum drawer he had bought next to Marilyn Monroe’s.
LOS ANGELES, Kalifornia (PNN) - September 27, 2017 - Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant - all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s - died on Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. He was 91.
By Brent Johnson
Skrill (www.skrill.com, https://skrill.com) is an online financial institution that is one of the organizations that lets you transfer currency into a form for purchasing Bitcoins.
I used Skrill for that purpose and found, to my dismay, that the organization is engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, and outright theft.
I had no problems as long as I was sending money to my Skrill account or transferring funds from it to a website from which I purchased Bitcoins.
However, when I sold some Bitcoins and tried to withdraw the funds from my Skrill account, I had no end of trouble.
The first time I tried to withdraw funds, due to an error in the entered account my withdrawal was refused and the funds were returned to my account, but not before Skrill took 3.99% of the withdrawal.
When I re-entered the information - this time properly (at which point Skrill took another 3.99%) - and sought to withdraw the funds, Skrill refused to allow me to proceed unless I first went through an additional validation process, even though their own instructions said that a withdrawal in the amount I sought could be done without any additional validation.
Skrill sent me an email with the documents they required in order to complete the validation. I scanned and emailed them my U.S. passport, my driver’s license (front and back), an original statement from my bank (with an original bank stamp and officer’s signature affixed to it), and a photo of me holding my driver’s license. I received an email telling me it would take a few days for them to process the information.
Several days later, I called Skrill to find out the status of my validation. I was told that my identification documents were fakes, and then the Skrill agent hung up on me! I was livid! I called back and reached a competent and capable woman, who explained that nobody in their division was authorized to tell me such a thing, nor did they have that information at the call center. She said she would research the matter and send me an email within 24 hours. She actually helped me to calm down and I agreed to wait for her email.
The next day I received an email telling me that Skrill had determined that I was in violation of their terms and conditions and that they were taking (i.e. stealing) 150 euros from my account. I was instructed to withdraw the balance and close the account. The email said this determination was final.
I called back to find out who to contact to challenge this determination as was told that there was nobody I could call to do that.
All Skrill has to do to verify my identity was contact the U.S. Department of State to confirm my passport, the issuing agency to confirm my driver’s license, and the bank to confirm my account. Obviously they didn’t do that. For some reason they decided I was not who I said I was, and used that decision to justify stealing my money.
I did receive an email from the woman with whom I spoke who said she would email me within 24 hours, and she said that Skrill is investigating the matter. I then received a second email from another woman who essentially said the same thing and told me to reply to her email if I had anything else to say. I did so and explained that the only resolution I would accept is the return of the 150 euros that were stolen from me.
Subsequently, Skrill returned 150 US dollars to my account (they said they took 150 USD and not 150 euros like they originally said). I was then allowed to withdraw the entire 1373 USD from my account. However, when it finally arrived in my account, it was substantially less than expected (there were currency conversions and another 3.99% that Skrill took but that doesn’t account for the extensive discrepancy in what I should have received). Skrill told me that the various banks associated with the wire transfer each must have taken some but I am still very suspicious that more was taken than is legitimate, and nobody at Skrill would send me a written explanation of precisely how much was taken.
I did file a formal complaint with INTERPOL, accusing Skrill of cybercrime and money laundering; hopefully they will open an investigation into this criminal organization.
My recommendation is that you seek out alternatives to Skrill, should you wish to convert currencies into Bitcoin. Use Skrill at your own risk!
We are here to say goodbye to a miracle child.
But how do you say goodbye to an angel?
How do you adequately thank a precious being for the countless gifts she has freely given, or for the many ways in which her presence has added to your life?
I find myself lost in a slew of thoughts, about an innocence and purity of spirit that this angelic creature carried with her throughout her oh-too-short life; about her regal yet sensitive character; about her generosity and acceptance, even to those she did not like; about her strength and fortitude, especially during these last days, when she continued to display amazing determination to remain with us as long as she could.
Time and time again, this precious spirit showed me the meaning of true, unconditional love. I can honestly say that I have never met a more intelligent being - of any species - than my little girl, my little angel.
There are many people who would think me odd for expressing these sentiments about my cat, Calle (pronounced Cal-ee). But she was more of a quality being than most humans I have known, and I far preferred her company to that of the disingenuous, dishonest and disrespectful people who inhabit this world.
She always found a way to clearly communicate with me, it was amazing... really. She would “think” at me or “talk” to me and I would understand precisely what she was trying to say. It was both uncanny and delightful. She taught me about “drippies” - drinking from sink or bathtub faucets - and later on, about the proper temperature of the water for her. We would take her with us when we traveled to conduct a seminar, or sometimes just for a weekend away from home - Calle, her mama and me. She would always let us know whether or not she approved of the hotel room.
Calle was originally more of Lee’s cat. She had bonded to Lee and I had bonded with Yoda, a black cat we got at the same time we got Calle. When he was 10 months old, Yoda was hit by a car and killed. Calle was despondent. She adored Yoda, even though they were not from the same litter. She climbed onto the roof of our house (something she had never before done) and howled and wailed. She never cried like that, before or since. She was heartbroken to have lost her little friend.
I, too, was heartbroken at the loss of Yoda. Calle and I comforted each other, and in the comforting, we developed a bond that would last for 13 years, and perhaps beyond. We became so close that we could detect each other’s thoughts and feelings… no kidding!
Calle used to take me out for walks. She would walk me to one end of the property, then turn around and walk me back, always looking back to see that I was keeping up with her along the way.
I remember a time when we had adopted a female longhaired cat named Princess. Calle despised Princess. One evening, I called Calle to come in but she wouldn’t. Instead - and this was decidedly odd - she sat outside in the yard, stiff and in one set position. When I realized she was trying to tell me something, I went out to her and looked where she was looking. I saw Princess stuck in a tree. Princess was the color of tree bark, so she was effectively invisible. I never would have found her if Calle hadn’t waited outside that evening, pointing up at the tree. Calle did this, even though she did not like Princess. That is what an angel does. That was my little girl.
Calle made an impression on so many people. The veterinary hospital staff bought her flowers; Shane, though he has only been with us a short while, was so touched by Calle that he built a beautiful coffin for her; Tom embraced Calle as part of his family, too, and I could see his grief at her loss. Lee is Calle’s mama; Calle loved you so much, Lee, there is no question about that.
Calle brought out the very best in me; she brought out the best in those whom she touched, and there were many.
Michael Curtis, a friend I have known for several years who now lives on the West Coast, was deeply affected by the news of her loss. He sent his condolences and sorrow. How many people do you know who have been so affected by briefly knowing a cat that they remember her when she is gone? That was the effect Calle had on people.
Other animals, too. Somehow, all of the cats and dogs knew to respect Calle. She was the queen; she held herself like royalty and animals and humans alike recognized her majesty.
I do not know what my life will be like without Calle. Right now, everything seems so empty and without purpose. I suppose that is somewhat normal, but I cannot help but wonder… what do I do now?
Calle is now in a spiritual meadow, eating blades of grass and clicking at birdies, like she loved to do. She is with Yoda and Thunder, the black cat we got to help her get over Yoda. She bonded with him, too. I can only wish for you, Calle, sunny days, fresh grass, lots of birdies and mousies, and always good hunting.
Thank you for bringing us such immense joy and love, my sweet little girl. Thank you for blessing us with your presence these 13 ½ years. Thank you for being our teacher, our best friend, our little angel.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (PNN) - August 23, 2017 - Entertainer Jerry Lewis, famous for his zany comedy and for raising millions to fight muscular dystrophy, died Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas.
He was 91. His family confirmed his death. “Famed comedian, actor and legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home in Las Vegas with his family by his side.” According to the family, Lewis died at 9:15 a.m.
Lewis, who performed in Las Vegas with Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and many others, also famously became national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He hosted the association’s annual Labor Day telethons from 1966 to 2010; they raised some $2.6 billion, according to People magazine. The children suffering from the disease, whom Lewis aimed to help with the telethon, became known as “Jerry’s Kids”.
Lewis was born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey. He was the son of entertainers - Danny Levitch, a song-and-dance man, and Rae Levitch, a pianist; they performed with the surname Lewis during vaudeville acts. Rae lived in Las Vegas for eight years and is buried in Palm Valley View Cemetery.
In 1946, Lewis co-starred in a nightclub act with Dean Martin, rising to meteoric fame. In the act, Martin was calm, singing unflappably; Lewis was jittery, scampering manically. After frequent pratfalls, Lewis would utter his trademark line, “Hey, lay-dee!”
Martin and Lewis landed major gigs at New York’s Copacabana and Roxy Theater and Atlantic City’s 500 Club. In the 1940s and 1950s, the pair combined on movies including Pardners (1956), The Stooge (1951), My Friend Irma (1949), and The Caddy (1953). On television they co-hosted The Colgate Comedy Hour from 1950 to 1955 on NBC.
Lewis’ love for Martin, whom he called “my partner,” was undeniable. Lewis said he often dreamed of performing onstage with Martin, and named one of his dogs Paulie, after Martin, whose middle name was Paul.
“This is the end of an era for me personally, and for millions of people around the world,” said Deana Martin, Dean Martin’s daughter, who considered Lewis a family member, often calling him “Uncle Jerry”.
“The night I was born, he and my dad were performing at Slapsy Maxie’s in L.A., so I have known Jerry all my life,” she said. “He could be tough, but he was always so giving and sweet to me.”
Lewis broke with Martin in 1956 and wrote, directed and starred in many movies. Lewis’ acting credits include The Sad Sack (1957), The Ladies Man (1961), The Bellboy (1960), and The Nutty Professor (1963).
He was featured in Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy (1982) and starred as himself in Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night (1992). On Broadway, Lewis starred in the 1995 revival of Damn Yankees, as Mr. Applegate, the Devil; he joined the production on an international tour.
Fascist Police States of Amerika Rep. Les Aspin (Wis.) nominated Lewis for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In 2009, Lewis received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charitable work.
Lewis has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movies, one for television. The Library of Congress acquired Lewis’ personal archives in 2015.
Lewis also became famous in Europe for his acting and philanthropy. The French government inducted Lewis into the French Legion of Honor (1984) and named him Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (2006).
During the 1976 MDA telethon, Frank Sinatra staged an on-air Lewis-Martin reunion. Lewis remembered the moment, which he watched on film of dozens of times and used in his multimedia stage show last year.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned,” Lewis said. “Frank had set it up, and everyone knew about it except me. When Dean finally got to me onstage, I was able to say, ‘So, are you working?’ That broke him up, it broke the ice and got our friendship back on track.”
Martin and Lewis wouldn’t perform together again until June 1989, when Lewis surprised Martin by bringing a birthday cake onstage at Bally’s for the singer’s 72nd birthday.
“Here’s to 72 years of joy you’ve given the world, and why we broke up I’ll never know,” Lewis told Martin.
Magician Penn Jillette, who has succeeded with a seemingly odd-fitting co-star, Teller, as Martin and Lewis did, said Lewis demonstrated the power of the right pairing.
“On the surface, they were two people who did not belong together, a handsome guy teeming with a comic outcast, but they absolutely belonged together,” Jillette said Sunday. “They had a powerful, powerful bond, and showed that art could be demonstrated between two people. Studying Martin and Lewis certainly changed my life.”
In the mid-1980s, longtime Las Vegas headliner Clint Holmes and his music director Bill Fayne joined Lewis and Tom Jones at a performance by Sammy Davis Jr. at the Diplomat Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Powerhouse producer Ben Segal arranged the reunion; Lewis and Davis hadn’t spoken for years.
“Jerry took photos of the show, from beginning to end,” said Holmes, as Lewis was an avid photographer. “Finally, Sammy brought him up on stage, where they had a very long hug, reunited, and sang ‘Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody’ (a top 10 Billboard hit for Lewis in 1956). That great night ended with Sammy cooking us all breakfast in his hotel suite.”
In 1988, Lewis and Davis co-headlined at Bally’s Celebrity Room, a clip of which Lewis played in his stage show at South Point.
“I saw him with Sammy at Bally’s,” said Brad Garrett, who opened for Davis and who now operates and headlines his own comedy club at MGM Grand. “It was unforgettable.”
Muscular Dystrophy Association board Chairman R. Rodney Howell expressed deep gratitude to Lewis and said the organization wouldn’t be the same without him.
“Jerry’s love, passion and brilliance are woven throughout this organization, which he helped build from the ground up,” Howell said in a statement. “Though we will miss him beyond measure, we suspect that somewhere in heaven he’s already urging the angels to give ‘just one dollar more for my kids.’ Thank you Jerry, you are our hero. God bless you.”
Beyond MDA, Lewis lent his name and star power to Criss Angel’s HELP charity event in September. Lewis was a fan of Angel’s show at the Luxor.
“Jerry Lewis was the true king of comedy, a creative genius and the champion of children’s causes, may he rest in peace,” Angel said. “He will forever be imitated, but never duplicated. I cherish the time we had together and he will forever be in my heart. The world will never forget him. My deepest condolences to his beautiful family.”
Lewis also visited Carrot Top’s show at the Luxor in March, and the headlining prop comic appeared several times on the MDA Labor Day Telethon.
Despite his long success, Lewis sometimes faced controversy. Over the years, some former MDA poster children claimed Lewis portrayed them as objects of pity.
In 2000, he famously told a comedy festival audience he didn’t like any female comedians, not even Lucille Ball; and in 2010, he told television’s Inside Edition what he thought of troubled young stars such as Lindsay Lohan, calling her “a fresh, dumb broad”.
“I would smack her in the mouth if I saw her,” he said, “and I would be arrested for abusing a woman.”
As Lewis shined on stage, he often struggled with health off stage. He suffered a spinal injury after a pratfall in 1965 and developed a dependency on painkillers as he coped with the resulting aches. He once smoked five packs of cigarettes a day and later had two heart attacks. He had double bypass surgery on Dec. 21, 1982, at Desert Springs Hospital. He also battled prostate cancer and pulmonary fibrosis.
More recently, he had been hospitalized from June 3 to Aug. 7, suffering from a urinary tract infection.
Lewis’ final stage performances were Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-2 at the South Point Showroom.
In memoriam, celebrities spoke glowingly of Lewis in person and online.
“What a sad day. We lost one of the greats,” Carrot Top, whose real name is Scott Thompson, said Sunday. “Jerry Lewis was truly a legend, icon, genius, and master of comedy. I was lucky to know and work with him through all the years on the telethon.”
Recording star Tony Orlando, who co-hosted the Lewis MDA Telethon for 33 years, said, “(Lewis) was my boyhood idol, and we ended up friends. He always reminded me he only had three people partner with him on stage for live performances: Dean, of course, and then Sammy Davis Jr., and myself.
“After Sam died, he asked me to finish the dates with him on the road, and then at the Riviera and the Las Vegas Hilton. Talk about one of my dreams come true, to partner with the great Jerry Lewis, my idol. The world lost a great one today, as did Jerry’s kids. May he rest in peace.”
Entertainer Wayne Newton expressed condolences for Lewis’ family and lauded his charitable work.
“Jerry spent his entire life making us laugh and working tirelessly for Jerry’s Kids with muscular dystrophy,” Newton said. “I shall miss his love and friendship, but I know he is joining true friends who have gone before him. As long is he is in our minds and hearts, he will be with us forever.”
Magician David Copperfield said Lewis inspired him.
“His film techniques and creations were very much what a magician would do, combining logic with technology and problem solving with art,” Copperfield said. “Spending time with him and his family was a blessing.”
Even the White House weighed in. In a statement, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Lewis lived the Amerikan dream.
“Jerry Lewis kept us all laughing for over half a century, and his incredible charity work touched the lives of millions,” she wrote. “He truly loved his country, and his country loved him back.”
On Twitter, a horde of celebrities remembered Lewis, including health columnist Dr. Mehmet Oz, former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, guitarist-actor Steve Van Zandt, rapper Chuck D, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
Comedian Jim Carrey tweeted, “That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius and an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute! I am because he was!”
Actor Neil Patrick Harris tweeted, “Watching Jerry Lewis onscreen makes me laugh harder than almost anyone. His great contribution to cinema is undeniable. #RIP.”
Closer to home, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval tweeted, “Jerry Lewis was a giant of entertainment. He brought laughter and awareness worldwide. He’ll always have a place in the hearts of Nevadans.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman tweeted, “Jerry Lewis was a neighbor and friend. He was such a laugh but also very wise, often sharing his insights for building a more meaningful life.”
Lewis is survived by his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, whom he married in 1983, his daughter, Danielle, his sons, Gary, Ron, Scott, Christopher and Anthony, and several grandchildren. Lewis’ first marriage, to Patti Palmer, lasted from 1945 to 1980 and ended in divorce.
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