"Bringin' back the good old days when Labor Day was spent
With families 'round a barbeque, a holiday that meant
Tuning into Jerry watching all the stars come out
The Telethon that fights with love for hope instead of doubt
Jerry Lewis Telethon, we're with you all the way
Labor Day is America's Day...for MDA"
Those were the lyrics to the National Jingle for Muscular Dystrophy's Jerry Lewis Telethon back in 1983. I should know, I wrote them. My oh my, have the times changed.
This Labor Day weekend will mark the 30th Anniversary that Jingle made its national broadcast debut over radio and television stations. The star of Bedtime for Bonzo was leading our country, Sally Ride had become the first American woman in space, Karen Carpenter had died and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were born. It was also the second year I was performing live on the nationally televised portion of the Telethon.
As a 22-year-old songwriter, this was a big gig for me, even though it didn't pay. But why should it, I was (after all) one of "Jerry's kids," a label that had protestors rallying profusely outside of Caesar's Palace that year. Groups of wheelchair bound adults protesting over being called "Jerry's Kids." I completely understood it, but it never really bothered me, although as I look back, perhaps it should have.
That assembly of disgruntled petitioners was a sharp contrast to what was going on inside the make-shift television studio at Caesar's. I was in my glory rehearsing two of my songs with a full orchestra; hanging out with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Tony Bennett one minute and "Coochie Coochie-ing" with Charo in the next. I should have been paying them! While it may have been 18 years since I was the Poster Child for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of America (as it was called back then), you never forget how to schmooze.
Cut to: thirty years later. Jerry Lewis is out (apparently booted, Oh, and does this mean I'm an orphan?), and the Telethon has been renamed, "MDA's Show of Strength" while being drastically reduced to a mere two hours -- a sign of the times indeed.
The days of waging bets on who could stay up and watch the MDA Telethon for 21+ hours are gone. We live in an era where access to virtually everything, anytime, anywhere is at our fingertips and yet our attention spans can only devour a fraction of what we were once capable of in 1983. Less truly was more.
Radiation threatens our global community as I type this, and few people really even know the magnitude of that situation. We're too caught up in the shenanigans of Miley Cyrus while songs like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" provide the soundtrack to our modern day culture. Somehow, somewhere...we lost the essence in the glory that once was America.
Alas, there is hope. For all its foible's, American's still remain among the most generous in the world. We bark loud, but at the core of us there is a tender heart that cares. From Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Tsunami's to acts of Terrorism, poverty, illness and yes, even the environment...American's continue to dig deep into their pockets (for many those pockets are nearly empty) for various causes that ultimately help to ease the pain of others misfortune.
While Labor Day is generally viewed as a time for barbecues and the end of summer vacations, for me (and likely for a lot of people in my age group) it remains the weekend I got to stay up and watch TV for 21 hours. Not gonna lie, I miss watching everyone cry when Jerry sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the end of the Telethon Broadcast, but I also miss square pizza on Fridays in Junior High School.
Don't forget to tune in this weekend on ABC to watch MDA's Telethon... oh, I mean "MDA's Show of Strength!