What better way to wake up in the morning than a dose of Jerry Lewis? That’s what everyone felt today with crowds lining up around the block at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., with some arriving before 8 a.m. for the hand- and footprint ceremony for Jerry in the theater courtyard.
The tradition of celebrities preserving their handprints and footprints in wet cement (along with a few other curious objects in some cases) extends all the way back to 1927, and the spot remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Los Angeles area. It’s hard to believe Jerry hasn’t become part of it already, but today turned out to be perfect as the 88-year-old actor-director-comedian-technical innovator-philanthropist (and whatever other hyphenate you can probably think of) delighted the crowd and photographers with the physical comedy that shot him to stardom.
TCM’s Robert Osborne appeared first to welcome attendees, with special guests sitting nearby including Ben Mankiewicz, Richard Lewis, Illeana Douglas, and Dane Cook. Jerry’s official introduction came from one of his biggest fans, writer-director Quentin Tarantino, who recalled his days in elementary school when “we only had one favorite movie star,” the funny genius who became the one movie idol for children.
Jerry really came into his own as a filmmaker with his 1960 directorial debut, The Bellboy, and it’s been a wild ride ever since with films like The Errand Boy and The Ladies’ Man and memorable roles for others like Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, a performance Osborne appropriately cited as worth an Academy Award.
“What a motley-looking group!” Jerry exclaimed when he came up to the podium. This morning was also special since this was the first official ceremony to which he invited his daughter, Danielle (“Dani”). “She’s crazy about me!” he said as she beamed from the front row.
Jerry’s first big laugh came when he feigned cracking his knuckles and getting stuck, which he quickly shook off to press his palms into the cement for posterity. His footprints came next, including some hilarious antics balancing on the heads of his handlers, followed by plenty of photo ops (with a few riotously-placed hand gestures) and some catching up with friends and family. That’s just the start for today, though, as Jerry will be back at 6:15 tonight for a Q&A with Douglas at the El Capitan screening of his 1963 classic, The Nutty Professor.