So I found myself out in Vegas for the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, something I’d done numerous times. Was there to ensure that the top fundraising HD dealers – who’d make a brief appearance on the show – were well entertained (cha-ching!) over the long weekend. Simple enough. CEO Rich Teerlink and his wife, Ann, were always there as well, since Rich would appear four times on the Telethon each year to present Jerry with enormous checks. Rich handled it the same way he handled everything else: He’d say, “Where do you need me? What do I need to say? Let’s do it.” (Can’t imagine why employees liked him so much…)
One year, my then-wife decided to come along. Jerry Lewis hosted a dinner for major supporters of MDA to kick off the event. Seeing that Mrs. Schmidt was pregnant, he came over and started rubbing her belly (He’s Jerry Lewis and he can do anything he damn well pleases.) He starts rolling his eyes and making a face and says, “Ooooh. That’s a boy. I can tell. I’m never wrong about this stuff. “ I’m completely giddy about this because I’m a huge, huge fan of his.
Three months later, we brought home a daughter. That spring, I was out at MDA for a board meeting with Jerry (by the way, anybody who even slightly doubted his motives or sincerity never saw the hours he put into helping these kids, for 60-plus years). He asks how’s the family and I show him a picture of my new daughter. I reminded him that he told me we were gonna have a boy. And he immediately gets loud and launches into a schtick, saying, “So let me get this straight. You’re saying I was wrong. You flew all the way out here from Keokuk to tell me, Jerry Lewis, that I was wrong in front of all these people” while waving his arms and pretending to make a scene.
He kept up that schtick for the rest of the day. Any time I said anything at the meeting, he’d light up and say, “Oh no. Here it comes. Mr. Critic! Mr. Know-It-All from Keokuk!” Getting teased by Jerry Lewis? Easily one of my favorite memories.