Jerry? Jerry who? Jerry Lewis is out, but the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual Labor Day Telethon went on — and it had what the MDA is calling its best showing since 2008.
According to association officials, the 46th annual event raised nearly $61.5 million, without a peep from its biggest cheerleader: Jerry Lewis. That’s about $2.6 million more than last year, The Associated Press reports.
The Lewis-less telethon began airing live on the East Coast Sunday night with an opening number featuring young dancers performing to David Guetta’s “Titanium.” Nygel Lythgoe, American Idol producer and So You Think You Can Dance judge, was joined by co-hosts Nancy O’Dell, Jann Cann during the six-hour live broadcast — which was shortened from 21.5 hours of broadcast time in 2010.
Lythgoe told The AP that he thought the 85-year-old actor would show up either during the telecast or earlier to film a taped segment of his signature song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“I was fully expecting him to turn up at any point and join that six hours — and I’m sorry he didn’t,” Lythgoe says. “And hopefully another year he might. I mean, he knows that he is always welcome on the telethon. It’s his baby.”
In May, the MDA announced that Lewis was retiring as host. His absence ended a 45-year run with the MDA telethon and as chairman of the organization’s triumphs in neuromuscular research, clinics, and summer camps for youngsters. The showbiz icon raised $1.66 billion for the MDA over the years and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the telethon in 1977.
Lewis has not publicly discussed his split from the MDA.