Disability Culture Watch

17 Nov

A Close Encounter on Friday the 13th

The scene: A rehearsal studio on 42nd Street near Broadway.The occasion: Rehearsal for Gimp, the thrilling dance you should all see http://www.thegimpproject.com/gimp/

The personnel: Lawrence Carter-Long, Simi Linton, Heidi Latsky and Catherine Long and a surprise encounter with ………

The moment:  As this crew is leaving the studio, heading for the elevator, we see a cluster of people outside one of the other studios. Holding forth in the midst of the circle is Jerry Lewis saying what a great show they are going to make, and how wonderful it will be. Jerry, in blue velour leisure suit, is surrounded by the composer Marvin Hamlisch, a woman in a mink coat and other theatrical types, all nodding agreement and smiling at him, saying what a wonderful thing this is. A sign on the door says: “Rehearsal for the Nutty Professor.”

The background: As many of you know, a group calling ourselves “The Trouble with Jerry” http://thetroublewithjerry.com/ organized last February to go to LA to protest the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give Jerry Lewis their Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award during the February 22 Academy Awards ceremony (”the Oscars”). Lawrence and Simi flew to LA for the protest, where we joined up with a contingent of some of the most righteous crips the world has known. For more on this go to site above and to http://similinton.com/blog/?p=133

The dilemma: What do we do? It is a narrow hall, Jerry is surrounded by well-wishers, and he is grinning and blabbing away.

The action: Simi and Lawrence move in (nothing parts a crowd quicker than a loud-mouth crip in a power chair and a louder-mouthed gimp with a cane) and introduce ourselves.

The ensuing dialogue:

Simi: Mr. Lewis, we are fans of your work (he smiles), but want you to know that we both flew out to LA last spring to protest the award you received. (His smile quickly fades and he gets a snarly look on his face)

Jerry: (He barks) I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Simi: You know, the award, Los Angeles, … (S trying to say more, and quickly. Lawrence says something at this point too, but we can’t remember it exactly.)

Jerry: I don’t know what you are talking about and when I’m confused, I go home. And that’s the end of that.

Jerry: This is not going to enrich my life. In fact, it’s going to make it more problematic.

Simi: I bet it does.

Group is heading toward elevator.

Man (a producer-looking type) sneers at us and says: Are you allowed to be here?

Lawrence and Simi: Yes, we are rehearsing next door.

Producer-type: Rehearsing? Why are you rehearsing? (Looking us up and down)

Lawrence: I’m a dancer; I’m rehearsing.

Simi: (sarcastically) Why are we rehearsing?

Lawrence: (Shouting out to the group scurrying on to the elevator) Happy to talk about it. C’mon out, we’re all right here. (Gesturing that they should come back out, we could talk.)


PHEW!!! We were breathing pretty heavy by then.

Here are some of Lawrence’s thoughts: Poof! Down the rabbit hole he goes. Funny, he’ll curse us out in Vanity Fair but when confronted face-to-face he dashed away like a scared child…

What strikes me about the whole thing is how taken aback Lewis was. Totally non-plussed. He has spent the last 40 years insulating himself from us and didn’t have the balls to engage with us right there in front of him. It’s all bluster. The man is a bully and a coward.

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