Joseph Lewis looking
photo of father, Jerry
Dig A Hole: Jerry’s real kid Joseph Lewis
January 10th, 2010 by Scott Marks
Jerry Lewis’ estranged son Joseph, 45, died on October 24, 2009 in St. George, Utah after suffering a seizure. I had to learn about it by reading a comment on EC? Aside from the Globe, no one appears to be covering this story.
The Medical Examiners Office in Salt Lake City determined the cause of death was a narcotic overdose.
Joseph Lewis was the youngest son of comedian Jerry Lewis and his first wife, the former big band singer Patti Palmer Lewis, 88, who is battling dementia in a nursing home.
Of the six Lewis boys, Joe was easily the black sheep of the family. Jerry turned his back on his son in 1989 after Joe sold an explosive tell all to the National Enquirer. The two-and-a-half page tirade detailed how his father viciously abused his children. From that moment on, Jerry never spoke about Joe in public. When asked about his family Jerry would curtly reply, “I have five sons and one daughter.”
Here are a few of the accusations Joe went public with:
■The Lewis family occupied a 32-room Bel Air mansion. Joe told the Enquirer, “The house was huge and posh, but there was no love in it.”
■The Nutty Bathroom: It was Jerry’s fortress of solitude. A “Do Not Disturb” sign warned passersby to steer clear. According to Joe, this was no ordinary comfort station. It came stocked with a color TV, two telephones, two revolvers, a wet bar, refrigerator, bookcase, marijuana, Quaaludes, Nembutal, coke paraphernalia and an intercom system hooked up to each bedroom so Jerry could eavesdrop.
■The Strap: A thick leather belt Jerry used to administer punishment.
■The Rubber Snake: Joe and brother Christopher were roughhousing with a toy snake. The noise bothered Jerry so much that he took the toy and proceeded to whip Christopher with it. He took the snake into his dressing room and proceeded to chop it to shreds with his pocketknife. Once finished, he threw the pieces on their bed and said, “That will teach you stupid kids.”
Joe was not the only one of Jerry’s sons to cause the comedian heartache. Oldest son Gary Lewis returned from Vietnam a heroin addict. Christopher Lewis pleaded innocent in August 1991 to felony counts of grand theft and receiving stolen property.
Now it is Gary’s turn to speak out. The rock ‘n’ roll icon of the 1960s group Gary Lewis and the Playboys blames his father is in part responsible for the death of his younger brother. He told the Globe, “Joe had problems his entire life and I blame our father. Jerry Lewis is a mean and evil person. He was never loving and caring toward me or my brothers.
“I don’t know if Joe’s death is drug related, but I believe it could have been prevented if he and my father had been on better terms. I believe he partly died of a broken heart.
“(My father) doesn’t really care. He’s more worried about his career and his image than his own family.”
The Globe mentions that the last time Gary saw his brother was in 1999 when Joe came to see The Playboys perform in Las Vegas. Sounds like Jerry wasn’t the only member of the family neglecting Joe.
If half of Joe’s allegations are true, Jerry must have been a holy terror to live with. Still, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Jer. No father should have to bury a son. Joe was obviously a troubled soul who spent a lifetime searching for his father’s love. In the Enquirer piece Joe recalls how he learned of his parent’s divorce: “My father came to the dinner table and held up The Enquirer cover that announced my parents were splitting…A week later my father moved out of our house.” Joe wanted to hit his father where he breathed so he sold his story to Jerry’s nemesis The National Enquirer.
At the time of his death Joe Lewis was managing a Beatles tribute band. He is survived by his second wife Cheri Wilson and three sons.