Jerry Lewis has long been regarded as a difficult man, but listen to him at this recent Tribeca Film Festival appearance. He’s 87 and yet he seems more engaged and feisty and crackling than the vast majority of his contemporaries. Last week I was listening to 91 year-old producer Walter Mirisch talk at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and he was also sharp as a tack. There’s something about old show-business buzzards. The scrappy survival instincts that helped them make it when young are the same qualities that keep them sharp in their doddering years.
I’ve visited my mom’s assisted living facility many times and spoken to more than a few of the residents, and it hasn’t been altogether pleasant. If your brain isn’t at least 75% alert and engaged then what’s the point? You don’t have to be a prick to be intellectually focused and alert (the elegant Norman Lloyd is in his late 90s and a beautiful man to speak with) but if given a choice between a state of advanced vegetation and being a Jerry Lewis type of old guy, I’d definitely go with the latter. I suspect that Lewis biographer Shawn Levy will go “hmmm” when he reads this.
Here’s Lewis trashing Sandra Bernhard.