Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon goes on — minus Jerry Lewis
The Jerry Lewis era of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Labor Day Telethon has ended a bit sooner than expected.
The event’s host and main public advocate since 1966, the veteran comedian was slated for a final appearance on this year’s edition, entailing his traditional and typically emotional finale performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” That changed sud- denly a month ago, when a brief statement indicated Lewis had “completed his run” as national chairman of the MDA.
At this writing, neither party had given a reason for the early breakup, but Lewis — who helped raise more than $1 billion for the MDA — said he was planning his own press conference for the day after the telethon. Asked in July during a session with television critics about his telethon role this year, Lewis replied, “It’s none of your business.”
The show must go on, however, and it will ... with another major change. Usually an overnight Sunday-into-Monday event, the MDA Labor Day Telethon is being condensed into a six-hour prime-time telecast carried on more than 150 “Love Network” stations, including Chanel 22 in Seattle, on Sunday. In most cases, talent from the respective station will appear in two local-origination segments each hour.
National telethon hosts include present and past “Entertainment Tonight” anchorreporters Nancy O’Dell and Jann Carl, television producerpersonality Nigel Lythgoe (“So You Think You Can Dance,” “American Idol”), and “The Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney (also still of NBC’s “Days of our Lives”).
O’Dell has been pivotal in the MDA’s “Make a Muscle, Make a Difference” campaign, and her involvement is deeply personal. She is the national ambassador for the organization’s ALS division, dealing with the nervedebilitating illness commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, of which O’Dell’s mother died in 2008.
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