There he is with his gold medallion on his well-exposed chest, singing and pleading from the television set into the homes of an estimated 88 million Americans.
And there he is again, wiping a tear from his eyes, passing a hand through the black hair, nearly whispering in his now-hoarse voice about the terrible disease called muscular dystrophy he fights annually from television land.
'It's the 14th annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon, folks, brought to you live from Las Vegas. For 21 1/2 hours, you can see Jerry sing, laugh, slip, fall and change clothes. You can also see Jerry cry and deliver soliloquies that help raise $30 million from phone-in nationwide pledges.
But in Washington, the scene behind-the-scenes at the local portion of the telethon aired live -- 15 minutes every hour -- from the Shoreham-Americana is, well, maybe not so inspiring.
"Okay, let's open up with Dan and Delores hyping the phones," says Bill Castleman, director of local station WTTG's portion of the telethon. Dan is Dan Patrick, WTTG sportscaster, and Delores is Delores Handy, WTTG newscaster. The three and a handful of others, including local telethon co-host Jerry Clark from WASH radio, are having yet another production meeting to plan the hourly 15-minute segment WTTG must produce for the telethon.
"We're all basically waiting for you to do that hype," says Suzanne Shaffer, regional coordinator of the local Muscular Dystrophy Association. "So let's do it in the beginning, at the middle and at the end."
The hype is to raise the local pledge money from the $112,814 figure that existed about noon to a goal that is one dollar more than $682,010 -- the amount donated from the Washington area last year.
And finally, here is that hype as it opens the 1:10 to 1:25 p.m. portion of the telethon:
"Light'em up!" screams Patrick. "Let's go! Light'em up!" He prances back and forth in his second tuxedo of the telethon waving his arms, waving his microphone, encouraging the folks at home to call 783-4000, that's 783-4000, and pledge even the smallest amount. Sure enough, the little red lights on the phones blink like magic as 130 volunteers and Lewis fans who couldn't imagine Labor Day without Jerry begin scribbling down the pledge money.
At 1:10 p.m., the pledge money stood at $122,894, still a considerable distance from the $600,000-plus goal. But nobody seemed worried.
"It all happens at the end," says co-host Clark, who says he stayed up for 21 1/2 hours by eating Hershey chocolate bars and drinking Gatorade. "The last four hours are absolute murder. The emotion starts going, and people start getting serious about pledging."
But back at an earlier production meeting, held at the round table tucked behind the lights and the pink and brown-striped set, the behind-the-scenes work continued.
"Do we need any heavy pitches yet?" asks Patrick.
"Yes," says Robbi Conley, program coordinator of the district Muscular Dystrophy Association here. "The Congressional Plaza was a flop."
"Okay," says Patrick."When I'm out there, I'll talk up the Congressional Plaza a lot."
Congressional Plaza is one of the suburban "fish bowls" where people can donate pennies, nickels and dimes on the spot. But it's not doing well and people like Conley need to make sure people like Patrick give it good plugs on the air.
Which is just a minor problem, actually, compared to the big one at hand; how to get the hundreds of people and organizations who have donated money to muscular dystrophy during the year (but especially just prior to the telethon) on the air.
Not everyone fits, so rules have been established. If you have given more than $1,000, you get to appear inside in the Shoreham's Regency Room for say, 15 seconds or so. If you've given less than $1,000, you have to stay outside with the bake sale and carnival fund-raisers, standing in front of the camera stationed in the Shoreham's driveway.
Of course, if you're a disc jockey or a cute kid, you get on the air regardless. Like Josh Cohen of WWDC-AM and Tim O'Neill, 7, of Rockville.
But even that isn't easy and air time is tight. "Use him like you want," director Castleman tells Patrick about Cohen. Castleman shakes his head, trying to figure where Cohen might fit. "He's like a little thorn in there," he says.
Even O'Neill -- a blond third-grader who wants to sing like Elvis Presley when he grows up and who raised $75 at a muscular dystrophy carnival in July -- was cut a little from the air. He had prepared a week for his television debut, but was only given time to stand around and be cute.
Said his mother, Martha: "He didn't get to say a word, poor thing."
But a number of others did get to talk -- thousands and thousands of them called in so that by the close of the telethon, Washington had pledges totaling $704,466 and the phones were still ringing.
"I feel very gratified," said David Simon, program director of WTTG. "I feel very gratified that deep down in their hearts, people felt that they could part with this money."