On Eclipse Day, as twilight gave way to darkness, a different kind of light show illuminated the Las Vegas Strip.
Interrupting the jumbo, sunlight-bright sales pitches, on marquees where casinos tout their Cirque du Soleil shows — and their Starbucks locations — still photos, in glorious black and white, briefly interrupted the advertising barrage.
Suddenly, there was Jerry Lewis — who died Sunday at age 91 — back on the Strip, beaming from marquees of casinos that didn’t exist, in a Las Vegas that didn’t exist, when he and former partner Dean Martin made their Flamingo debut.
These days, Donny and Marie Osmond occupy the Flamingo showroom, but at 7:49 p.m. Monday — 19:49 in military time, the same year Martin and Lewis hit Las Vegas — Lewis’ image flashed across multiple Strip marquees.
Accompanying the image of the tuxedoed, beaming Lewis at the microphone: the words “International comedic icon, Las Vegas resident, headliner and philanthropist.”
The tribute also quoted a few lyrics from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which Lewis sang during the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon he hosted from 1966 to 2010, raising about $2.5 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and “Jerry’s kids.”
Telethon memories loomed large for some visitors who aimed their smartphone cameras at the strangely still image, which provided striking contrast to the flashing, perpetual-motion promotions continuing on other Strip marquees.
“The only Jerry Lewis I know is from the telethon,” said P.J. Fanberg of Big Lake, Minnesota, who remembered the Labor Day fixture as a time “when I didn’t get to watch anything I wanted on TV.”
Richard Cory of Kent, Washington, also recalled that “it hacked me off” when Lewis’ telethon “would take over the TV,” he admitted. “I was a little kid. What did I know?”
When Fanberg learned about the Lewis marquee tribute on the Fremont Street Experience’s Facebook page, a half-hour before it began, he decided “I’ve got to run down and see this,” he noted. “It’s kind of a cool moment.”