By Ken Ritter Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — A year after the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon split with comedian and longtime host Jerry Lewis, the Labor Day weekend show is leaving Las Vegas.
An official at the South Point Hotel Casino &Spa, where the event was held last year without Lewis, said Friday that association executives had decided to move it to the Los Angeles area.
“Last year the MDA made us aware they were looking to make a change, so the recent news comes as no surprise,” resort marketing chief Tom Mikovits said. “We are proud to have hosted the Labor Day Telethon for the last six years and we wish the MDA all the best in the future.”
Hotel owner Michael Gaughan told a Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist that the show would be shortened to three hours and broadcast from CBS studios in Culver City, Calif.
“The show is being put together,” said Roxan Olivas, a Muscular Dystrophy Association spokeswoman in Tucson, Ariz. She declined to provide details.
A spokeswoman for Lewis said the entertainer and host of the telethon for more than four decades was traveling, and probably wouldn’t comment about the MDA move.
“He has not discussed the telethon since last year, when he had no comment,” spokeswoman Candi Cazau said.
Lewis turned 86 on March 16 and lives in Las Vegas. He was MDA national chairman from the early 1950s to 2011. He started the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 1966 with a nearly 22-hour show at a single TV station in New York.
The event moved to Las Vegas in 1973, and had stints in Los Angeles before moving to Gaughan’s hotel.
Lewis’ absence last year ended a 45-year run in which officials credit him with raising $1.66 billion for research and aid for those living with of the degenerative inherited muscular disease.
Despite Lewis’ absence, telethon officials reported raising $61.5 million last Sept. 4 in a six-hour show with several hosts. A silent montage of Lewis film clips was shown, but he didn’t take part in person or tape his signature song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Lewis, who once teamed with comedian Dean Martin, grew into a film icon with antics and characters including the “Nutty Professor.”
He was nominated in 1977 for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the telethon and muscular dystrophy relief.