Comedian Jerry Lewis might not have been the most famous celebrity to call Las Vegas home, but his contribution to the city rivals anyone who ever lived in Southern Nevada.
Lewis, who died Sunday at the age of 91, influenced many that he came in contact with, both famous celebrities and adorning fans.
The star of such films as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy,” as well as half of one of the most successful comedy duos with Dean Martin, had lived in Sin City for decades and constantly performed on and off the Strip all the way up to October, when he did two shows at the 400-seat South Point Hotel’s Showroom.
Another of the town’s residents is Wayne Newton and he fondly remembered Lewis, telling the Review Journal newspaper he was one of a kind.
“I shall miss his love and friendship, but I know he is joining true friends who have gone before him,” Newton said. “As long is he is in our minds and hearts, he will be with us forever.”
Lewis, like several celebrities with ties to the town, has a street named after him. Ironically it intersects with Dean Martin Drive.
No where was his presence greater than his philanthropy and the city played a critical role in his fund-raising. Lewis was the host of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon and he worked tirelessly for the charity for 44 years and it is estimated that his efforts helped raise $2 billion.
The show was moved to Las Vegas in 1973 and was filmed at the Sahara Hotel. By then it was a huge production and attracted well-known celebrities such as Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was responsible for reuniting Lewis and Martin in 1976.
In 1982 the telecast moved to Caesars Palace for seven years before heading to Hollywood. It returned in 2006 setting up shop at the South Point until 2011.
Lewis’s role had diminished greatly because of his age and health and the following year it was overhauled and Lewis was replaced by a series of hosts.
Assisting Fellow Performers
The comedian performed in many of the nightclubs on Las Vegas Boulevard, including resorts such as The Sands and Bally’s. He knew how hard the profession was and made a point of helping out mainliners with advice and support.
Cris Angel was the beneficiary of his generosity when Lewis lent his name to the magician’s charity event 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 told the Review Journal. “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.”