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Jerry's Kid...and Dean's, Mel's, Louis', and Judy's

Anthony Lewis and his dad, Jerry Lewis
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There will be some major kid-ding around going on at the M Resort come November 8th.

That’s when Ricci Martin, Steve March-Torme, Lena Prima and Lorna Luft, the children of legendary stars Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Louis Prima and Judy Garland, will perform together in a show called “The Next Generation” hosted by Jerry’s kid, Anthony Lewis, and produced by Lewis and his wife, Patty Ascher-Lewis. As one can imagine, it is an evening that promises to serve up child’s “play” at its finest.

“The credit for the idea goes to my wife, Patty, who is from Brazil and ran an ad agency there,” Lewis explains. “This was a whirlwind thing – we actively pursued it for less than three months. I had met Steve March-Torme in my dad’s dressing room at the Sahara in the 70s when his dad and mine played on the same bill. Patty recommended Lena, having met her a few times. And I had met Lorna back in 1979-81 when she did the MDA telethon -- she was very receptive to this idea.

“Ricci Martin and I had tried previously to put a few things together, such as a documentary about his parents, but we couldn’t get it together,“ continues Lewis, whose profession is making documentaries and who runs a TV and film studio. “We both, independently of each other, had aspirations to do documentaries about our parents. Although we had known each other since we were kids, it was when Ricci was appearing at the Suncoast back in 2001 or 2002 that we really got to know each other and began talking about this. Then, PBS signed a deal with my dad for a Jerry Lewis documentary, which took my dad out of the loop, But Ricci and I always wanted to do something together and we stayed in touch. Now Martin and Lewis are working together again – I just can’t wrap my head around that! “

Interestingly, although both siblings were aware of the emotionally charged issues that plagued the original Martin and Lewis famed comedy team, history has not impacted Anthony and Ricci’s friendship. According to Lewis, there is no acrimony or emotional sensitivity between them.

“My dad and Dean split up at the height of their fame and celebrity,” Lewis recalls. “But it was strictly a business decision – they didn’t want it to end when it fell off a cliff. There were both personal and professional issues and my dad was a wreck. My mom told me the story numerous times. It still hurts my dad and he doesn’t talk about it. But both he and Dean went on to have amazing solo careers.

“Dean and my dad made up in 1976 on the MDA Telethon,” he adds. “Frank Sinatra organized it and no one knew about it except my dad’s security guard. The reunion happened right in front of the cameras and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. They stayed in touch after that and the tragic April 1987 death of Dean’s eldest son, Dean Paul, made them closer. Dean and Dean Paul had had a special bond and I was here in Vegas when my dad got the call from Dean – he and my dad talked for two hours. I remember my dad saying, ‘This is going to kill my partner – he’s not going to recover from it.’ Dean died on Christmas Day in 1995.”

Of the six children in the Lewis family, Anthony was the son who really embraced the complexities of TV and film. He credits his father, who put a 35-millimeter camera in his hand when he was nine years old, with getting him into photography, He also says that Jerry was his mentor and taught him darkroom work.

“Then, when I was 11, my dad got me my first Super 8 movie camera,” Lewis remembers. “I learned from him everything from how to create a storyboard to the fundamentals of filmmaking and how to direct. I had a natural instinct for it – my dad and others told me that either you’re born with it or you’re not and that no school can teach you filmmaking. I also learned from my dad about the philosophy and politics of the entertainment industry, the business of filmmaking, and making command decisions as well as how to direct and interface with those I’m working with and how to deal with people and effectively tell a story, being sensitive to the human condition.”

For Lewis, the biggest challenge in being the son of Jerry Lewis has been, and will always be, dealing with profiling and stereotyping. Lewis admits that he was picked on horribly at school and that he was exposed to the dark underbelly of society. He likens it to experiencing a sort of racial prejudice and says that he was looked upon as a freak who was over-privileged, pampered, and had a silver spoon in his mouth.

“My father had a TV show that aired on Tuesday nights and I would dread going to school on Wednesdays because the kids would rib me about my dad’s antics on the show and call him stupid. I didn’t let it destroy me – I roiled with it. But even as an adult in business, I have run into stereotyping. I’ve had to overcome the perception that I’m just another celebrity’s kid dragging around on my father’s coattails. Overcoming that stereotype is my biggest challenge. I have to do more to prove myself and show that I’m not just in cruise control basking in the glow of fame.”

The proof is the providing where Lewis is concerned. Lewis has a solid body of work and an unsolicited stack of testimonials. Moreover, when audiences see the show that Lewis and his wife put together at the M, one thing will be for certain -- “The Next Generation” has the legs –and talent -- to stand all on their own.

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