Talking With Jerry Lewis – September 25, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Jerry Lewis Oscar

This week, Ira spoke with Jerry Lewis, This is part one. To listen to the interview click below.

Entertainment legend and Academy Award® winner Jerry Lewis will be performing “An Evening with Jerry Lewis” at the Smith Center on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. It’s a blend of stand-up comedy, gags, trademark vignettes, songs, and big-screen video montages of the Academy Award winner’s most memorable and hilarious feature film moments.

Some highlights of Lewis’ long and successful career:

Jerry Lewis was born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey. His parents, Rae and Danny Lewis, were professionals in the entertainment world. Jerry’s father was the “total entertainer,” his mother played piano at New York City radio station WOR, made musical arrangements, and was her husband’s musical director.

When only five years old Jerry made his debut in New York’s Borscht Circuit singing “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” By the time he was fifteen, he had perfected a comic routine, miming and silently mouthing lyrics of operatic and popular songs to a phonograph located off-stage. This was known as his “Record Act”.

On July 25, 1946, Jerry began a show business partnership with Dean Martin, an association that would soon skyrocket both to fame. It started when Jerry was performing at the 500 Club in Atlantic City and one of the other entertainers quit suddenly. Lewis, who had worked with Martin at the Glass Hat in New York City, suggested Dean as a replacement. At first they worked separately, but then ad-libbed together, improvising insults and jokes, squirting seltzer water, hurling bunches of celery and exuding general zaniness. In less than eighteen weeks their salaries soared from $250.00 a week to $5,000.00.

When the motion picture producer Hal Wallis watched the two perform at the Copacabana in New York City, he offered them a contract with Paramount Pictures. Of their first film, “My Friend Irma” (1949), Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote: “We could go along with the laughs which were fetched by a new mad comedian, Jerry Lewis by name. This freakishly built and acting young man, who has been seen in nightclubs hereabouts with a collar-ad partner, Dean Martin, has a genuine comic quality. The swift eccentricity of his movements, the harrowing features of his face, and the squeak of his vocal protestations… have flair. His idiocy constitutes the burlesque of an idiot, which is something else again. He’s the funniest thing in the picture”.

For ten years Martin and Lewis sandwiched sixteen money making films between nightclub engagements, personal appearances, recording sessions, radio shows, and television bookings. Their last film together was “Hollywood or Bust” (1956). On July 25th of that year the two made their last nightclub appearance together at the Copacabana, exactly ten years to the day since they became a team.

From then on, Jerry Lewis was constantly on the move. His film career skyrocketed, and he recorded several records and albums; one of them “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”, released by Decca Records, has sold nearly four million copies to date. With increased confidence, Lewis plunged into screen writing, directing, producing as well as acting. In the spring of 1959, a contract between Paramount Pictures and Jerry Lewis Productions was signed specifying a payment of $10 million plus 60% of the profits for 14 films over a seven year period… at that time the biggest single transaction in film history for the exclusive services of one star.

In 1967 Jerry became a professor at the University of Southern California, where he taught graduate students a course in film direction. “The Total Film-Maker”, based on recordings of 480 hours of his classroom lectures, was edited by Jerry and published by Random House in 1971. The USC library also houses an extensive collection of Jerry’s original documents relating to motion picture production.

Lewis has won the Best Director of the Year award eight times in Europe since 1960; three in France, and one each in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

In September 1976 the United States Senate unanimously adopted a resolution of appreciation to him “For his outstanding contribution in the fight against muscular dystrophy.” In June 1978 the communications industry honored him with the NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) Award of the Year for his humanitarian efforts in raising funds to combat neuromuscular disease through his annual Labor Day Telethon.

On February 22, 1998 Jerry received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Comedy Awards.

In 1999, Lewis dedicated much of his time to the remakes of his 1960’s classics, “The Bellboy,” “Cinderfella,” “The Errand Boy,” and “The Nutty Professor II,” as well as writing and developing new film and television projects. In September of 1999 he was awarded the “Golden Lion” by the Venice International Film Festival for his lifetime achievements in motion pictures. This was a great honor from the oldest film festival in Europe.


Talking With Norm Clarke and Frank Marino – September 18, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Norm Clarke and Frank Marino

This week, Ira spoke with Norm Clarke and Frank Marino. To listen to the interview click below.

Norm Clarke’s popular “Vegas Confidential” column is featured four days a week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He regularly breaks news about celebrities or personalities that are reported around the world.

Clarke is a Montana native, whose background includes more than 15 years in Denver as a baseball writer, sports journalist, and man-about-town columnist.

He had a 12-year stint with the Associated Press (with stops in Cincinnati, San Diego and Los Angeles) and has written two books, “1,000 Naked Truths” and “Sinsational Celebrity Tales.”

He will be presenting his quarterly “Conversations With Norm” in Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center on Sunday, September 28th at 2 p.m., this time sitting down with Frank Marino, the “Divas Las Vegas” star and the self-proclaimed “Queen of Las Vegas,” who recently celebrated his 25,000th show.


Talking With Kevin Burke – September 11, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Kevin Burke

This week, Ira spoke with Kevin Burke. To listen to the interview click below.

Kevin Burke is the star of “Defending The Caveman at Harrah’s Las Vegas. He’s the Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year, and with more than 3,000 performances, he holds a Guinness World Record for Caveman. The show is presented nightly at 7 p.m. with additional matinees at 4 p.m. on Sundays and Mondays.

The production showcases Burke as a narrator trying to understand the timeless issue between the opposite sexes dating back to the Stone Age. Before the humorous yet sentimental tale found its home in Las Vegas, Burke headlined the show’s national Broadway tour.

Originally from Chicago, Burke has dabbled into acting, playwriting and directing earning him the title of “Entertainer of the Year” by the Annual Meatball Awards. Entertainment runs in Burke’s blood. His grandmother was a vaudeville performer, his grandfather was a standup comedian who toured nationally, and his mother is a singer. Fulfilling his family’s dynasty, Burke caught the acting bug young starring in his high school play “Dracula.”

Burke’s performing career began as a musician touring with numerous bands as a backup drummer. He then earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the Indiana University in Bloomington for acting and directing. Post-grad he put his talent to work playing Pooh in Timberlake Play House’s “Winnie the Pooh.” Burke refined his skills by becoming a certified stage combatant at the Society of American Fight Directors and has also studied physical comedy with the world-famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

Shifting gears, he found his niche in comedy and went on the road performing standup at comedy clubs of all sizes for 15 years. His tour proved successful twofold after meeting his better half, Karen, performing in a comedy club at Raleigh, North Carolina. They have been married for over 14 years and have two children together.


Talking With Beatles Author Chuck Gunderson – September 4, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Chuck Gunderson

This week, Ira spoke with David Osborne. To listen to the interview click below.

Chuck Gunderson, author of “Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How The Beatles rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966,” was raised in San Diego, California, the site of the Beatles’ eighth stop on the 1965 North American tour.

Gunderson was too young to attend the show, but he fondly recalls his older siblings spinning the records of the Fab Four as he grew up, which perked a life-long love for the band.

He has worked in the outdoor advertising industry most of his life, although his true passion is history. He holds two degrees in history—a B.A. from San Diego State University and an M.A. from the University of San Diego.

Having published a few articles over the years, Gunderson turned his sights to researching and writing this epic two-volume set on the history of the Beatles’ North American tours of 1964 to 1966.

With hundreds of photographs and images of rare memorabilia, it is a definitive reference for what is arguably the most important period in the Beatles’ long and winding career.