Sideshow: Jerry-less telethon raises $61M

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (center) appeared at the Muscular Dystrophy Association's six-hour telethon with show cohosts (from left) Nigel Lythgoe, Alison Sweeney, Jann Carl, and Nancy O'Dell. For 45 years the event has been hosted by Jerry Lewis, but he and the MDA parted ways last month. He was remembered in a two-minute montage at the end of the show.
Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (center) appeared at the Muscular Dystrophy Association's six-hour telethon with show cohosts (from left) Nigel Lythgoe, Alison Sweeney, Jann Carl, and Nancy O'Dell. For 45 years the event has been hosted by Jerry Lewis, but he and the MDA parted ways last month. He was remembered in a two-minute montage at the end of the show. (Photo by MDA via Getty Images)
Posted: September 06, 2011

Even without Jerry Lewis, the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon posted its best take since 2008, though the program's longtime host was on the minds of many during the 46th annual fund-raiser.

American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said after cohosting Sunday's program that he was sorry the famed comedian didn't participate but that the organization needs to move on to ensure that the fund-raiser continues.

The telethon raised nearly $61.5 million, an increase of about $2.6 million over last year, MDA officials said.

Lythgoe told the Associated Press minutes after the six-hour live broadcast ended on the East Coast that he thought the 85-year-old actor would show up either during the telecast or earlier to record a segment featuring his signature song, "You'll Never Walk Alone."

An orchestra was ready for Lewis, but he didn't come to the Las Vegas casino where the telethon was filmed, Lythgoe said.

Lewis publicist Candi Cazau declined comment. Earlier, she said Lewis never agreed to any appearance - recorded or live - after the MDA announced last month that he wouldn't take part in the show or be its chairman.

Lythgoe and cohost Jann Carl said during the show that Lewis "retired."

Just before the show's closing, a two-minute montage over piano music showed Lewis dancing, singing, mingling with famous faces, and interviewing children - though he was never heard.

Lewis' absence ended a 45-year run in which he raised $1.66 billion. Last year's 211/2-hour telecast raised $58.9 million.

'Black Widow' strikes again

The "Black Widow" of eating contests has scarfed down 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes to break her own world record set last year in Buffalo.

Sonya Thomas took home first place Sunday at the 10th annual National Buffalo Wings Festival, winning $1,500. She beat Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who came in second with 174 wings, for the $750 runner-up prize.

The two won titles at the July Fourth hot-dog eating contest at Coney Island.

The 100-pound Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., is called the Black Widow because she often beats male competitors in eating contests. The reigning wing-eating champion downed 181 wings to win last year's contest. Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., settled for second last year with 169 wings.

From ballpark to 'Entourage'

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez got to tell off Turtle.

The New York Yankees stars took a little time off from the pennant race to make guest appearances as themselves on the next-to-last episode of the HBO comedy Entourage, which was telecast for the first time Sunday night. This is one time players didn't mind being accused of acting.

"I'm not going to quit my day job," Teixeira said with a laugh before Monday's game against the Baltimore Orioles.

In the episode, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) calls Teixeira during batting practice at Yankee Stadium and asks him to double his investment to $500,000 for a planned Los Angeles-area branch of Don Peppe, an Italian restaurant in New York. Teixeira turns him down, complaining about the cost of sending three kids to private school in Greenwich, Conn. A-Rod places a separate call during which he tells Turtle to stop pestering Teixeira.

Not all Yankees caught the cameos. When team community relations consultant Ray Negron shouted congratulations to Teixeira across the clubhouse, pitcher A.J. Burnett chimed in "Good job!" before turning to Negron and asking, "What'd he do?"

Teixeira said he's friendly with Doug Allin, the series' executive producer. Teixeira wrote his lines with Allin.

Firth plays second fiddle

Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth says his supporting role in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, showing at the Venice Film Festival, is a meaty one.

Firth enjoyed top billing in both A Single Man and The King's Speech, which won him the Oscar. But Firth said Monday he jumped at the role of playing a calm intelligence agent in the screen version of John Le Carre's 1974 spy tale because it was "the best of the menu" and he was happy to let others do the heavy lifting.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's rendition of the Cold War classic is a slow-brewing, elegant retelling of the novel. It's a spy story without James Bond sexy antics or the fast action of the Bourne series, but Firth says the audience should not be underestimated.


This article contains information from Inquirer wire services and websites. Contact "SideShow" at sideshow@phillynews.com.

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