Jerry Lewis, My Brush With Fame

Jerry Lewis

When I was still working at the IAFF, and during my last convention, in 2008, my job was to “bird-dog” the schedule and keep things running smoothly.

The meeting began at about 9AM and was mostly a series of speakers and work on IAFF business, usually attended by about 1,500-2,000 union officers.

Jerry Lewis, the titan of fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), was always on the agenda to speak and fire the crowd up for the annual Labor Day event.

Lewis was scheduled to speak in the afternoon and about an hour before his time, Ron Kuley, then the IAFF national MDA coordinator, began to call me on a portable radio to discuss an issue.

Luckily, I was wearing an earpiece.

We were in Las Vegas at the Rio hotel and Jerry was demanding a golf cart to bring him from his hotel suite to the convention center.

Ron was in negotiations with the hotel to secure one.

After about twenty minutes he let me know that the hotel said the golf cart was a no-go so we were back to square one.

The clock was ticking.

Those who know Ron Kuley know he is nothing if not resourceful.

A few minutes later he reported over the radio that the Lewis entourage was enroute with Jerry hanging from a hotel luggage cart.

Over the next fifteen minutes or so, Ron gave me updates as they made their way down the elevator and through the service areas of the hotel.

A few other staff members, also with radios, were dissolving in laughter at Ron’s color commentary.

Transiting the kitchen area Jerry took time to break a few plates.

Ron reported that as they made their way down the long hallways that Lewis, braced atop the cart, looked like George Washington crossing the Delaware.

Lewis finally arrived in the green room, dressed in impossibly tight tennis shorts and a polo shirt.

With a few minutes to spare he warily reviewed his prepared comments as I listened to Schaitberger begin his Lewis introduction.

With eyes on Lewis but ears on Schaitberger I managed to send Jerry out off cue, a circumstance I could have cared less about after the adventure to get him there.

Lewis, of course, was a hit, disregarding his prepared notes to riff about his long history with the IAFF and his devotion to find a cure for muscular dystrophy.

And I have Ron Kuley to thank for his turning that famous portrait of the serious and stoic George Washington into Jerry Lewis at the Rio hotel.

Thanks, Ron!





  • IslaFire says:

    Jerry was a great performer. Personally, he was a dick. That’s well documented. I never met the man but a close FF friend who ran into him at an airport gave me a less than stellar narrative of their meeting.

  • Joe blow says:

    Will fill the boot (and Harolds Christmas stocking survive)?

  • Bryan Reid says:

    As a boy…heck even as an adult…I’ve laughed over and over at Jerry Lewis movies. When I played on the FD softball team I even had a personal imitation and the guys always wanted to yell my “OH LADY!!!” at the opposing batter!

    This is a great story. I saw an interview Lewis had and to say that he was difficult with the reported would be an understatement. Its sad that fame can turn people into something that shouldn’t be sometimes.

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