Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jerry Lewis Charges $20,000 For An Interview?!?!?

(Note: Click here to see the update posted 8/20)

With the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon in Vegas next month, I wanted to interview Lewis. I figured I'd do a Q-and-A for Newsweek, use some of it for my Las Vegas Weekly column and play the audio on our celeb-interview podcast "The Strip."

So I emailed his management to arrange the conversation. And Lewis' PR guy, Rick Saphire, wrote back promptly: "Any interviews related to the MDA Telethon, must be scheduled through the publicity office of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I can schedule general, career related interviews, but Mr. Lewis gets a sizable fee." (emphasis mine.)

That's weird, thought I. Also, manna from blogger heaven. So I wrote back and asked: "If the MDA helps me set up an interview, will it be restricted only to MDA and the telethon or will I be able to ask other questions? And, also, how much is the fee for an interview otherwise?"

Saphire answered two hours later: "Jerry Lewis will not (and can not) combine an interview about the MDA with matters pertaining to his own career. He does not use his position as MDA National Chairman to advance his other activities, etc. Up to a one hour interview with Mr. Lewis for a commercial publication (electronic or print) is $20,000." (emphasis mine.)

I was floored. And morbidly fascinated. I had to press on. "That's awfully steep," I wrote Mr. Saphire. "Have many media outlets actually paid that? Or do you negotiate?"

Eleven minutes later, Saphire replied: "Jerry Lewis' price is his price. It's a healthy sum, but ANY story about him receives international attention and raises readership. Yes, he is often paid that much and more for his interviews, but obviously it's only the heavy hitters in the media which can afford the fee."

So here's the thing. I write for the "heavy hitters." There isn't a single one that would pay for any celebrity interview, let alone one with a faded star who, while surely a fascinating conversation, wouldn't exactly move the needle on circulation or viewership in any meaningful way. And $20,000 is just off-the-wall even if it was one of the tabloids that do pay for certain interviews.

We took a look-see at Rick Saphire's site, by the by, and we wonder what he charges for access to such luminaries as Mally Lewis (daughter of Shari), "The Colbys" star Maxwell Caulfield or Jerry Mathers. And I wonder how we got last summer's bizarro interview with Chubby Checker, also listed on the site, for "The Strip" without having to mortgage the house.


dan kane said...

Holy crap!!!! What planet are these people from???

Amy said...

Wow! Seems like this is a story in itself. I'd be more likely to read this story than the interview.

Dave Lifton said...

Was this fee supposed to be in the form of a donation to MDA?

TheStripPodcast.Com said...

The screenshots of the emails are posted for you to see, dave, but there was no indication that he was trying to rattle the dish for the MDA. In fact, it seemed like what he was saying was that Jerry would give a free interview about the MDA, but not about anything else.

Dave Lifton said...

Gotcha. It could almost be justifiable (albeit still steep) if it was a donation, but it's still a dick move. I'm blogging about it now, because it refers back to something I said in my last podcast.

Mark Weissman said...

I can't understand why you posted those emails. This is a non story. If you were told to go to MDA for an interview, why didn't you do just that? That agent was pretty nice giving you all the information and responding so quickly to you. Why shouldn't Jerry Lewis charge big bucks for a story that will be read all over the world? I can't believe a REAL writer for newsweek would stoop to such unprofessional behavior. Jerry Lewis does more to help people than you will ever do. Why do you want to discredit him? Jealous, I guess. How would you expect anyone to do business with you if you are going to post your conversations all over the internet. I guess you have a need to seem important.

Mark Weissman
Tampa, Florida

Anonymous said...

So maybe he DOESN'T WANT to do interviews. Putting a price on them would seem to be a better strategy even than just saying no.

martina said...

Dude, the guy who owns this blog writes for every major news outlet. Check out his site. He's done remarkable, amazing interviews with some of the biggest stars working today. Nobody charges for interviews. Nobody. It's not how it's done. If you don't want to speak, you just say, 'no thanks.' you don't pretend you're important enough to command a ridiculous fee like this.

Bravo, Steve!

dan kane said...

The problem here isn't just the hubris of someone like Jerry Lewis expecting to be paid such a huge fee for his interviews. It's the disingenousness of his spokesguy claiming that major media have paid it. What major media would pay that kind of money for that?

If a star doesn't want to do an interview, fine. Don't. But don't lie about it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there are publications that pay for interviews. You can buy them at the checkout stand at your local grocery store. Which explains why that's the only place you ever see a story about, say, Jerry Mathers.

Anonymous said...

Is the guy broke from his recent medical troubles? (because otherwise, how completely obnoxious!)

Mark said...

Is Mark Weissman an anagram for Rick Saphire?

jack jett said...

Thanks for sharing this story. It is incredible.

I had the same experience, believe it or not, with Tanya Harding when I was trying to interview her about her new career as a boxer (the sport not the dog).

Her manager requested a fee of $500,000 for a TV interview and when he found out it was a show for the GLBT community, the fee went up to a cool million. I was told that Ms. Harding "wasn't that crazy" about the gay community.

I agree with a previous comment that this story give a better insight to Mr. Lewis than any interview could have.

The sad fact is that other than MDA, he has no career.

jack jett

Anonymous said...

To Jack Jett who says Lewis has no career other than MDA - you should really check your facts before speaking sir.

Lewis is directing the Broadway version of his Nutty Professor movie which he co-wrote, wrote a best selling book on his 10 year career with Dean Martin, and is in plans to sell 2 of his movies to major studios. For a guy in his 80's that's a lot more than expected.

Also it should be noted that upon hearing of this fee situation, Lewis FIRED his "representative. That should give you a little inkling into the class of the man you're speaking of.

Staff Writer said...

Rick Saphire has announced that comedian and humanitarian Jerry Lewis will star in a new documentary film titled, "When Comedy Went to School."

Rick Saphire, who is Associate Producer of the feature length documentary, secured Lewis' services for the film. Saphire reports the film will also include on screen interviews with Robert Klein - Sid Ceasar - Jackie Mason - Mort Sahl - Larry King - Hugh Hefner - Jerry Stiller - Joe Franklin - Pat Cooper - Dick Gregory and Others.

"When Comedy Went to School" is about the greatest generation of American Comedians. Faced with anti-Semitism and against all odds, Jewish immigrants built the largest resort area of the 20th century. More than 500 hotels in New York's Catskill Mountains provided the setting for Jewish American comedians who went on to become worldwide legends. Their unique performances, and the audiences who watched them, changed American humor forever.

A special pre release screening will take place on July 24, 2008 at New York's Friars Club. Invitees to the private screening will include all of the comedy icons who appear in the film.

For information regarding, "When Comedy Went to School," contact Rick Saphire Celebrity Management at 1-856-424-1064 or via email at .

"When Comedy Went to School" © 2008 Ron Frank Productions

Anonymous said...

Jerry Lewis is in the background along with Dean Martin in Sam Moffie's newest novel--The Organ Grinder and the Monkey. True Lewis and Martin fans will love the title. Moffie portrays Lewis (in fiction) just like the $20,000 per interviewee man he is.

Jenny said...

While this is OLD news, it's relevant in this respect: Everyone has a right to make a living. In Jerry Lewis' case, it makes absolute sense that he would only give an interview related to MDA weeks before the telethon. While Steve is a great writer, he is a freelancer who has the RIGHT contacts. He writes what the CONTACTS want him to write (ie Steve Wynn) and has managed to accrue some substantial credentials. Can't understand why on earth he would publish professional business e-mails. Sounds like he wanted to hurt the PR/management guy. By the way, Miles and Steve should stick with print. The show sounds amateurish - even 3 years later.

Anonymous said...


Scott S. said...

I’m just glad Jerry didn’t have to suffer the indignity of being interviewed by you, Steve. He’s been through enough crap this year. And, no, I will not donate to your blog. Scott S.