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Jerry Lewis Misses Part of Telethon

From Times Wire Services

Ailing comedian Jerry Lewis kicked off his annual Labor Day Telethon with a rendition of “Sitting on Top of the World,” but had to sit out much of the event backstage after seeing double and complaining of a headache, a spokesman said Monday.

“He experienced some double vision and his blood pressure spiked,” said Jim Brown, a spokesman for the telethon. “With the double vision he literally could not read the cue cards, and with a live broadcast it becomes impossible to continue when you can’t read.”

Lewis, 73, was hospitalized last month after falling ill from viral meningitis during a performance tour, the balance of which he had to cancel.

Despite Lewis’ health problems, the 34th annual Labor Day Telethon raised a record $53.1 million in pledges for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., breaking last year’s mark of $51.57 million. The figure was expected to climb as many local stations extended their telethon broadcast after the show’s official end, Brown said.

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Lewis appeared for the first three hours of the annual Los Angeles-based telethon when it started Sunday evening. He sang a duet with Martin Short and performed another solo and returned with about four hours remaining in the show.

Two neurologists monitored Lewis’ condition throughout the broadcast.

“I’m thrilled and grateful for the support of our viewers, and filled with hope that the dollars we’ve raised will translate into new research breakthroughs to help us conquer the muscle-wasting diseases,” Lewis said in a statement.

The 34th annual telethon began Sunday at 6 p.m. and concluded at 3:30 p.m. Monday. It was broadcast on the Internet live in three languages, Brown said.

Lewis has vowed to conduct the telethon each Labor Day until a cure is found for neuromuscular diseases, Brown said.


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