"He said 'I'll be there and you can take that to the bank," explains another.
"He's a borscht-belt jerk!" proclaimed one more TCM employee.
I too am disappointed, but I can't say I am surprised in the least. Few out there are as immersed in exploring the fascinating, overwrought showbiz neurosis of Jerry Lewis as much as I, so when he bailed at the last minute on his heavily advertised appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood this week, it seemed to follow the continuity of the life of Jerry Lewis. Jer is Jer and he does whatever he wants. He hasn't left his house without infuriating somebody in almost sixty years.
As upset as organizers are at Lewis (he apparently announced his cancellation while nonchalantly snapping his gum, gave no reason for being unable to attend, and did not apologize) they probably would have had to endure a far worse fate had he actually attended. Lewis, love him or hate him, is known for being very controlling. Several productions he was a part of became victims of his sabotage. Stanley Donen, another attendee of this festival, had once been asked by one of the major studios to direct Lewis in a film. Knowing Jerry's reputation for clashing with everyone around him, Donen responded to the request with a simple "Never."
The wonderful Tony Curtis, now an eccentric octogenarian bohemian, is also here this week. He's showing off his paintings, signing copies of his book, introducing a 35mm screening of Some Like It Hot and just being down right awesome. Two interesting undercurrents accompany Curtis during this event. Curtis starred with Jerry Lewis, in the short-of-the-mark comedy Boeing, Boeing in 1965. Jerry's ego was at the height of its ballooning during that period in history (until four decades later when his head very literally ballooned), so I imagine the notoriously frank Tony Curtis might have an anecdote or two to share about working with him. I'm hoping to ask him about it sometime this week. Moreover, Tony Curtis might be the only man still alive that actually fucked Marilyn Monroe. The Hotel from which I write and the venue where Curtis is spending most of his time this week, is said to be haunted by Marilyn. I don't know what that's a recipe for exactly, but if your skirt suddenly blows up in a gust of wind when there isn't any wind... well, you'll know why.
To be fair, Jerry Lewis' health has not been the best of late. Contrary to the way we picture him in our minds, the eighty-four year old comedian is more often than not being chauffeured around in a wheelchair. He doesn't let you see that side of him when he takes to a stage these days, but as I understand it, he's not supposed to be stressing his body by walking around. He's been having trouble breathing of late, and I am not going to be the one to beat up on him. He's a bastion of old showbiz, the type of tux-sporting Vegas relic that has been so often satirized in the guise of Tony Clifton and other assorted knock-offs. If Jerry Lewis didn't act like a jerk - that's what would be disappointing.