He was a world-class joker, but according to Jerry Lewis, who died at his Las Vegas home on Sunday at 91, he was also a lover—and among his paramours was Marilyn Monroe.
The comedy icon, once the best-paid movie star in the world, claimed in a candid 2011 interview with GQ magazine that he’d had a secret love affair with Monroe.
“It was … long,” he said, reportedly “smiling ruefully” before adding, “I was crippled for a month.
“And I thought Marlene Dietrich was great!”
Lewis admitted to the romance when asked a question about his friend, President John F. Kennedy.
Insisting the alleged infamous Monroe-Kennedy affair never happened, Lewis said, “Never. And the only reason I know is because I did. Okay?”
The actor then elaborated, saying Monroe used sex like he used humour: “She needed that contact to be sure it was real.”
During the affair with Monroe, Lewis was still married to his first wife, Patti Palmer, who he wed in 1944.
They divorced in 1980 and three years later, the comedian married SanDee Pitnick, who he called, “My right arm, left arm, both legs, head, lips and eyes.
“She’s one of those things people get lucky with.”
Lewis was survived by Pitnick and six children. Asked in 2016 what his greatest accomplishment was, he said, “It’s always family.”
In a statement from Lewis’ daughter Danielle, the comedian’s manager confirmed that “he passed peacefully at home of natural causes with him loving family at his side.”
Last September, Lewis said he knew he was “running out of time”, telling People magazine, “You don’t think of your age when you’re working and doing what you love.
“I have a lot of stuff to do in not a lot of time.”
He gave up hosting his annual telethon for muscular dystrophy in 2010 after 54 years, but is said to have raised over $2 billion for medical research.
One of his foibles? He would change his socks four times a day, because “I just like the feeling of brand-new,” he said in 2014.
The thing that “disturbed” him most about getting old? “I can’t take a fall now like I did when I was 20,” he said.
“You think about getting old, but when you get there it’s not what you thought it would be.”
He survived heart attacks, open-heart surgery, prostate cancer, diabetes, viral meningitis and depression triggered by a huge dose of the steroid prednisolone prescribed for scarring on his lung tissue.
In June, he was hospitalized in Las Vegas after developing a urinary tract infection.
The news of Lewis’s death saw a slew of celebrities reacting on social media. Said Neil Patrick Harris, “Watching Jerry Lewis on screen makes me laugh harder than anyone.”
Wrote Penn Jillette on Twitter, “Jerry Lewis just died. When I met him, I fell apart, just sobbed. I guess it’s time for that again.”