Comedian, actor Jerry Lewis dies at 91

Comedian, actor Jerry Lewis dies at 91
Posted at 6:27 PM, Dec 07, 2012
and last updated 2017-08-20 10:45:45-04

(RNN) - Entertainment Renaissance man Jerry Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas on Sunday morning. He was 91.

According to John Katsolometes, a reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Lewis died of natural causes. Lewis did, however, have a history of medical issues throughout his life. As recently as June 2017, he was hospitalized for a urinary tract infection. 

He injured his back during a comedic skit in 1965. He became addicted to painkillers and struggled with the habit for more than a decade. He had a neurostimulator installed in 2002, and became a spokesman for the company that made it after it greatly reduced his pain.

He suffered thee heart attacks, and in 2006 was discovered to have pneumonia following his third heart attack.

Lewis also dealt with diabetes, prostate cancer, meningitis and pulmonary fibrosis.

The aging star worked for more than six decades raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), most notably through hosting the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon that raises money for the organization.

In May, Lewis announced he was retiring from his position as host of the telethon after his final show in September, 2011.

"I'll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman - as I've done since the early 1950s," Lewis said in a statement on the organization's website. "I'll never desert MDA and my kids."

Lewis was rushed to a hospital in 2011 just moments before he was scheduled to perform for a sold-out audience in Sydney, Australia, media reports stated.

According to the Associated Press, he was touring the country to raise money for the Australian foundation, and had performed in Brisbane earlier in the week.

The first Telethon was held in 1955 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and raised $600,000 for MDA, the organization's website said.

It was later broadcast for the first time in 1966, with Jerry Lewis as the host, and has since raised millions of dollars for muscular dystrophy research and treatment.

In 2010, pledges and donations to the MDA Telethon brought in $58.9 million, the organization's website states.

According to Lewis' biography on his official website, he was born on March 16, 1926 in Newark, NJ to Rae and Danny Lewis who were both professionals in the entertainment industry.

Lewis began his lifelong role in show business at a tender 5-years-old, debuting on New York's Borscht Circuit singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime."

But it wasn't until a show business partnership with Dean Martin, when they performed together at the 500 Club in Atlantic City in 1946, that his career really took off.

During his lifetime, he worked as a comedian, an actor, a singer, a screenwriter, a director, a producer, a professor and even a professional baseball player.

He played first base for several professional teams in the '50s and '60s and trained every year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lewis' fight against muscular dystrophy earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, his website said.

He is survived by five sons, one daughter, seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter, as well as his wife, SanDee "Sam" Pitnick.

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