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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

It was 40 years ago today that Frank Sinatra brought “a friend” out onto the Sahara stage in Las Vegas during the wee small hours of Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon. Frank had just finished singing and was laying some checks on Jerry and when they finished with the money transfers Frank said he had a friend that enjoyed what Jerry did each year and wanted to come out and say hello. Frank bellowed to the stage crew to have his friend come out. Amid roars of shock and delight, out walked Frank’s pal Dean Martin, the former partner of Jerry Lewis. It had long been rumored that the two had not spoken since their breakup in 1956. Sinatra decided this telethon, with a TV audience in the millions, was the proper place for a public reconciliation and he was the peacemaker who should design the truce.

I didn’t see it live because it happened around 2:00 am in the East but Lewis played the exchange again late in the telethon after he was a bit more composed. I’m running off to do my radio show right now but I’ll write more later. For now, enjoy this tidbit of show biz history from 40 years ago today!


All I wanted to add is a certain trick my memory has played on me over the years about this event. It may be because I think of this event as having happened so long age (which it did) but for whatever reason, I always remember, or rather think I remember my dad watching this with the rest of our family late in the afternoon as Jerry talked about the reunion and replayed the video. It happened in the last hour or two of the telethon and everyone was at our house because, believe it or not, we really did have Labor Day barbecues back in those days. Imagine that, instead of running out to the store to buy sheets or to the nearest car dealership to buy a new car, people gathered at home with family and friends to enjoy that last weekend of summer fun. I guess, if nothing else, that should remind me just how long ago it was.

Anyway, I’ve always thought of my dad being with us as we watched this little moment of show biz history and yet, it’s not possible. My dad died in March of 1976, nearly six months prior to the Labor Day Telethon. Perhaps it was because it was so soon after his death? Perhaps it was because it was a “where were you when” moment? Perhaps it was because we were all gathered together in a way we had done every year when he was with us? ¬†Or maybe it’s just that as I get older, I want to remember more of my memories with my dad in them. The older I get, the more minuscule those 12 years I had with him look to me.

Whatever the circumstances, much like the clip I posted the other night of Jackie Gleason and Johnny Carson, I’m grateful I was around in time to know who all these guys were and to enjoy some of their talents before that whole era just disappeared. And thank goodness for audio, video and film archives!!

Happy Labor Day.


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