The rather prickly nature of the choice of Jerry Lewis as recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement honors at the ICG Publicists Awards was underscored by none other than Lewis himself. He noted in his acceptance remarks that he was receiving the guild’s statuette with all the humility he could muster — and his name wasn’t one normally associated with humility.
Lewis also noted his surprise at being given any award by the press, since he’s long made his feelings about the press clear. Interesting that somehow in the weeks ramping up to the event — not to mention a career spanning seven decades — he failed to recognize that publicists and press are two different things.
The 87-year-old legend of slapstick did, however, take the time to tell an odd joke/story about how he’d decided to take a New York subway train one day, only to have a man clad in leather and chains with head full of rainbow-hued hair board his car. Seeing Lewis stare at him, he said — said Lewis — “Hey, old man. Haven’t you ever done anything unusual?”
The audience laughed.
Lewis went on, “I had sex with a parrot once. I was wondering if you were my son.”
The Friars Club must’ve loved that one.
In fact, a clip package of Lewis in his antic comedy heyday, as well as his later achievments — the drama of “The King of Comedy,” for instance — and his many Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raising telethons, reminded the crowd of what a towering figure Lewis has been in entertainment.
Not that this ultra-savvy crowd needed reminding. There were also grumbles from some who recalled just how despised Lewis was by many who worked for him.
Complex, gifted, controversial Jerry Lewis has a Publicists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps he’ll take time to become aquainted with the work of publicists now.
Introducing her friend Lewis was Carol Burnett. The long standing ovation that sparkled with sincerity for Carol was among the more uplifting moments of this 51st Publicists Guild Awards. She motioned for everyone to sit down, and tugged her ear — after all, she was a presenter, not a recipient this time — then introduced Lewis. He also got a standing ovation, of course.
Also honored at this favorite Oscar week event were writer-producer Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Gray’s Anatomy”)– named the Television Showman of the Year; Lionsgate chieftains Rob Friedman and Patrick Waschberger — named the Motion Picture Showmen of the Year; and “Entertainment Tonight” exec producer Linda Bell Blue — given The President’s Award.
Awards to publicists included honors to the team that executed the campaign for “American Horror Story: Coven.” And on the film side, the publicity team for “Gravity” were named winners. Indeed!
The glamorous Friday afternoon event, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, got off to a merry start with a video from Jimmy Kimmel depicting what his show would be like if it weren’t for publicists: himself and an empty chair. He exhorted the audience to relax and enjoy themselves in the only Hollywood event where they didn’t have to run around the red carpet wearing headsets and catering to narcissistic stars. But Jimmy, they live for that stuff!
It’s only right that incredibly hard-working and under-sung entertainment industry publicists get their moment in the sun in this popular annual luncheon.