By Tony Rizzo
HOLLYWOOD — Jerry Lewis, who created the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon 60 years ago and has raised $2.5 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, announced he’d retire as goodwill ambassador for MDA next year. MDA, however, made a point to cut him loose BEFORE this year’s fundraiser. While Lewis can be difficult and was being paid a bundle to represent MDA, there’s no denying he got the job done. Who can forget when Frank Sinatra got Lewis and Dean Martin back together on the telethon after they hadn’t spoken for decades, or Liza Minnelli doing “New York, New York” with Sinatra, a song they both made a solo hit.
MDA is gambling on a new demographic with hosts Nancy O’Dell, Jann Carl, Alison Sweeney and “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe. Now called the MDA Labor Day Telethon, the six-hour fundraiser (cut down from 21 hours) airs Sunday, Sept. 4, starting at 6 p.m. Darius Rucker, Martina McBride and Lady Antebellum also are set to appear. Hope MDA didn’t spit into the wind and that Jerry’s Kids don’t suffer because of someone’s poor judgment!
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Where are the teen stars of the 1960s now? Fabian (Forte), now 70, had “Tiger,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Hound Dog Man” mega hits, made the ’60s films “High Time” with Bing Crosby and Richard Beymer and “North to Alaska” with John Wayne, as well as “Ride the Wild Surf” with Tab Hunter and “The Longest Day,” to name just a few of his 30 films. Fabian and Frankie Avalon inspired the 1980 film “The Idolmaker.” His last film was “Up Close and Personal” (1996), with Robert Redford and Michele Pfeiffer. Fabian now lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Andrea Patrick, and has toured clubs and Vegas since 1985 with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell. “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” which he co-wrote, is due out in 2013.
Frankie Avalon, now 70, had the hit single “Venus,” did the “Beach Party” movies with Annette Funicello and played Teen Angel in “Grease” (1978). He sang on “American Idol” in 2009. He’s still married to Kathryn Diebel, and they have eight children and 10 grandkids.
Former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, now 68, starred in “Babes in Toyland” (1961) and the “Beach Party” movies, among others. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in ’92, but still managed to play herself in the final scene of “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story”(1995). She and current husband Glen Holt made headlines last March when their Encino, Calif., home caught fire.
Next week we’ll catch up with Tab Hunter, Chad Everett, Connie Stevens, Ann-Margret, Bobby Rydell, Shelley Faberes and Richard Beymer. Think Justin Bieber can last as long as they did?
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© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.