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Jerry Lewis Wants to Outlive George Burns!

”I told him I was going to,“ the comedian said in a GQ sit-down with Amy Wallace

In case you missed it, Amy Wallace did a great sit-down with the 85-year-old Jerry Lewis a few months ago and came out with a wonderful GQ story this month.

Love him or loathe him — and personally, I love Jerry — there are some wonderful gems in the Wallace "Jerry-atrics" profile.

Also read: Jerry Lewis Pulled From His Last Muscular Dystrophy Telethon

Among them:

>> When you've been on the planet for almost nine decades, like Lewis has, and when you can't throw anything out ("I've kept everything!"), and when you're slightly nuts ("Did you ever see a man who can look at one eye with the other?"), you require order.

>> Lewis employs three full-time people to help him stay organized. He loves them fiercely — and drives them bonkers. 

>> He looks good — a little stooped, sure, but still sharp-eyed and quick-tongued and up-tempo, his red silk shirt unbuttoned low enough to reveal the scar from his double-bypass surgery 29 years ago.

>> This is a man, after all, who was tight with Charlie Chaplin, not to mention Stan Laurel and Al Jolson. This is a man who's met nine presidents and performed for four. As we talk, photos of many of those he holds dearest "look down from his crowded walls," including the "handsome crooner Lewis still calls 'my partner' even though they broke up their act 55 years ago," Dean Martin.

>> "If you don't get Jerry Lewis, you don't really understand comedy, because he is the essence of it," Jerry Seinfeld says in ''Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis'', a documentary slated to premiere on the Encore Network this fall.

>> "[Lewis] has always clung, and clung mightily, to his inner child, and he admits his act is fueled by an unquenchable thirst for attention. 'I need the applause,' he'll say, sounding vulnerable, like the lonely boy who got shunted from relative to relative while his parents (vaudevillians, "show people") went on the road."

>> "There are times when I wonder where I get all of the goddamn energy," he says.

>> Peter Bogdanovich (who has known Lewis since the 1960s) has written that his friend always "represented the frightened or funny 9-year-old in everybody, most especially the male," who, even as he got older, hid "a secret desire to resort to some form of infantilism in order to survive the hard knocks of life."

>> Jerry Lewis has had a spectacular sex life. On the road, of course, girls were everywhere — in his dressing room, back at his hotel. But even at home, when he was directing a film, sometimes he'd get to the set early for "a little hump," just to get the day started right.

>> Joseph Levitch, as he was named upon his birth in Newark, New Jersey, had his first sexual experience when he was 12. It was backstage at a club where his father, a singer and dancer who called himself Danny Lewis, was performing. The temptress was a twentysomething stripper named Trudine who lured the boy into her dressing room.

>> He gave up his decades-long habit of smoking five packs of cigarettes a day in 1982, when he had his double bypass. He's had prostate cancer, two heart attacks, and viral meningitis; he continues to manage diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, the latter of which requires him to sleep with oxygen (and to carry it with him when he flies).

>>  Lewis is going to last to 101, he says. …''I've got to beat George Burns, because I told him I was going to."


Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.