Jerry Lewis was Terry Gross' guest on NPR's Fresh Air this afternoon, and he told a funny story about how "Rockabye Your Baby" became his best selling record, as well as one of his signature songs. One night, he says, he got a call from Sid Luft, Judy Garland's then-husband and professional manager. Sid told Jerry that Judy was suppossed to headline a sold-out benefit that very evening, but she was unable to take the stage (a circumstance that occured often during the booze-and-pills-addled second half of her career). Luft begged Lewis to come and take Judy's place. Lewis asked Luft, "Tonight? Well, what the hell do you want me to do?" Luft allegedly responded, "As far as I'm concerned, just show up." Lewis did show up, and when he asked a band member what  Judy would have done at a key moment of the show, he said, "Sing 'Rockabye'." "So," says Lewis, "I did."

It's a great interview. Lewis talks extensively about working with Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro on King of Comedy. "The first thing I told them was, you're not going to become wealthy and famous without paying's tough enough to get there, but that's nowhere near as tough as maintaining it...I had five stalkers in my career." He also dispels Gross' suggestion that he based the Buddy Love character in The Nutty Professor on his former partner, Dean Martin. "I hated that character," he says, insisting that it was in fact based on "all of the rude, discourteous, ill-mannered people I had ever met." Guess that's a compliment for Dean, then?

You can listen to the interview here.
categories Cinematical