From Vegas...


By • Nov 23rd, 2000 •

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It was indeed an auspicious beginning at The Orleans Hotel & Casino. At the appointed hour, Duke Morgan, a Las Vegas radio talk show host, smoothly introduced Michael Gaughan, the CEO of The Orleans parent company, Coast Resorts. Within a minute the audience was focused on the main attraction, the legendary comedian, Jerry Lewis. Though conspicuously underdressed in blue shorts, a blue polo shirt and white tennis shoes, Lewis assumed unquestioned control of the forum and began a dialogue that would be most unfamiliar to his many fans. Though introduced as “the original Nutty Professor,” he was clearly much more the professor than nutty in his presentation.

At 74 years of age, and long past retirement for most performers, Jerry Lewis announced that he had just signed a twenty-year contract to perform five times a year at The Orleans Hotel and Casino here in Las Vegas. That’s right. Lewis has a secure night job until he is 94 and said he is considering renewing before this term runs out.

The audience, comprised of media representatives resident in Las Vegas, are usually jaded by superstars who often keep them waiting just to prove they can. Not only were they surprised by the courteously prompt entry, but also by the extremely frank discussion that ensued. Admittedly, relations between Jerry Lewis and the media have often been strained. He noted that in the past reporters seemed not to be able to get a quote down verbatim. The expense has usually been his. Still, he felt this new venture required some assistance from the local media. He stated that he wanted them to know what he was doing so that they could better inform the people of Las Vegas. Lewis noted that despite dozens of movies, decades of charitable telethons, and many years headlining on stages around the world, many people said they did not know what his show was about. And, he wants them to know.

Importantly Lewis stressed that he always attempted to present quality entertainment suitable for an audience ranging from 6 to 96. While possessing full knowledge of four letters words, he feels they are not appropriate on stage. Too many current comedians, he noted, use such language because they are inept in their art form. Swearing should not be a replacement for craftsmanship and talent. Those comments brought a huge round of applause from all those assembled.

While cracking a few jokes, Lewis was surprising candid in responding to some of the questions from the media. When asked about what a serious illness had taught him, he replied that he learned how to really pray. For five weeks doctors tried vainly to determine what was ailing him, to no avail. Lewis said it was in those dark days, when nothing else could be done, he learned the true significance of prayer. The importance of his family was addressed, especially the love for his youngest daughter, Danielle, who is just eight-years-old. Although he has made billions of people laugh, nothing surpasses the pleasure of his young daughter’s expressed happiness.

He also paid tribute to his former partner, Dean Martin, and stated that he missed him dearly. But then, he quickly added, Dean never did like to work. Throughout the session, it seemed as though Lewis was making an effort to insure that the reporters saw him as a complete human being. What they saw was an intelligent, caring individual who has been at the top of his game for five decades. Looking decades younger than his age, his energetic delivery and wit is a role model for all senior citizens.

Jerry Lewis is not out of the film business either. He is preparing to produce a new movie, Truffles, which will be filmed initially in Paris. A comedy, it is not yet decided if Eddie Murphy or Robin Williams will star.

Lewis also had special praise for his chosen venue, The Orleans. The showroom was designed for one purpose, he said, so that people could see the performers. At nearly 1,000 seats, it is small enough for the entertainers to establish a mutual rapport with the audience. Lewis observed that there is a coziness that is missing from most theaters. Nostalgically, he reminisced about the various clubs he had played in Las Vegas and why he chose The Orleans. When he started in 1947, there were only 27,000 residents in town. In fact, he wondered where the people came from to fill the theaters. But they did come, and they are still coming. Lewis expects to be sold out for all of his performances. Given the performance we saw, he probably will be. Therefore, if you’re headed this way, I suggest that you check the web site for The Orleans and see if Jerry Lewis is playing. If so, order your tickets early.

Jerry Lewis is booked at The Orleans September 7-10 (showtime is 8 P.M. and ticket prices are $54.95/$59.95/$64.95 + tax) and again in November.

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