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Orphans Heckle Jerry in Chicago

Jerry Lewis -- the celebrity do-gooder that activist crips love to hate -- was at it again last night at the Chicago Library. He was talking to a packed house, promoting his new book "Dean and Me - A Love Story" (which is by all accounts an embarrassment, but that's another blog).

Guess it never occurred to him that Chicago is home to Jerry's Orphans. Or maybe he'd forgotten about the group that formed in 1990 in protest of his infamous Sept. 2 Parade magazine article that year, "What If I Had Muscular Dystrophy?" -- the article in which he imagined putting himself in "that chair, that steel imprisonment that long has been deemed the dystrophic child's plight" (he was talking about a wheelchair) and going on to proclaim that if you have a disability, you can be only "half a person"?

Well, orphans do often get forgotten.

But Jerry's Orphans have not forgotten Jerry. They were there in the Library, too. Of course -- cripples love Jerry, no? No reason to question them being in the audience.

But then they started hecking the great man.

CBS News in Chicago reports:

Jerry's Orphans accused him of portraying the disabled as people to be pitied. Lewis yelled at them to get out and stormed off the stage.

"When he spotted these activists in the audience that were in the front row in their wheelchairs, he even went so far as to say, 'These people are going to walk out of those chairs and drive home tonight. I bought those chairs for them,' " said witness John Gabrysiak.

Disability rights activists contend Lewis would benefit more people by focusing on issues such as accessible buildings and employment.

Lewis's hubris is matched only by his insensitivity: Read "Jerry Lewis to Crips: 'Stay In Your House!"


Frequently Asked Questions about the Telethon Protest

A Test of Wills: Jerry Lewis, Jerry's Orphans, and the Telethon

Jerry's Orphans: The Next Generation

The Kids Are All Right (Film about Jerry's Orphans founder Mike Ervin)


I attended and recorded the event at the Chicago Public Library. You can hear an 23-minute MP3 by clicking This URL.

Listen for yourself and make your own conclusions. I believe Mr. Lewis was ambushed, and handled himself well under the circumstances. These protesters did not offend Mr. Lewis as much as they did the 400+ fans who came to hear the life stories of a great entertainer.

I was there and I thought it was a rude, pointless gesture. There was no "heckling," just someone reading a prepared statement, but no one could really hear what they were saying. After a while, some people in the audience who could not identify the protesters were upset by ANYONE in a wheelchair. Spoiling an evening for people was not really a good way to make a point.

Mr. lewis needs to seriously separate and distance his book promos from Jerry's orphans? that's real pathetic. I'm sure there are a lot of the children in wheelchairs had to face more challenges than any one person can ever dream up!
I do agree, mr. lewis's manager should help him come and join in the 21st century or give it up!!! the "Telethon. I am VERY PROUD of the protesters for speaking up and using their 1st ammendment rights!!!! It's time the public hear the kids' voices whether mr. lewis likes it or not... keep the book and the kids separate, the man may or may not be who he once was?

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