Decades Later, Jerry Lewis' Co-Stars Are Still Haunted

They speak to 'Vanity Fair' about sexual abuse by the actor
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2022 11:19 AM CST
Updated Feb 27, 2022 5:15 PM CST

(Newser) – Comedian Jerry Lewis had film audiences laughing, but often not the women who starred alongside him. Several of the late comedian's female co-stars tell Vanity Fair that he subjected them to degrading mistreatment, including sexual assault. Karen Sharpe, who played Lewis' love interest in 1964's The Disorderly Orderly, says he assaulted her after a costume fitting in his office. "He grabbed me. He began to fondle me. He unzipped his pants," says the 87-year-old. When she stopped him, he refused to rehearse with her and threatened production staff with fines if they talked to her, she says. She adds he later told her he was "sick," which she took as an "excuse for bad behavior."

Hope Holiday, who starred with Lewis in 1961's The Ladies Man, says she was in his dressing room when he pressed a button that locked the door, then masturbated in front of her. The 91-year-old notes she had first met Lewis, a friend of her theater executive father, when she was only 13. Actor Anna Maria Alberghetti adds Lewis "came on to me constantly," while singer Lainie Kazan claims it took her 60 years to recover from the sexual harassment she faced at the comedian's hands. She notes that during a telethon they co-hosted, Lewis introduced her as "Lainie Kazan and her cantaloupes," referring to her breasts.

Jill St. John, who appeared as Lewis' love interest in 1963's Who's Minding the Store?, says "making the film was an extremely unhappy and disappointing experience," though she chooses not to go into further detail about encounters with "someone no longer on this planet, and who cannot rebut." The women's stories emerged from interviews with Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the Emmy-winning filmmakers of Allen v. Farrow, who've put out a nine-minute short film to accompany the Vanity Fair piece. In it, Holiday says another famous actor raped her, though she doesn't name him. There's been no comment so far from Lewis' former manager, publicist, or widow, reports USA Today. (Read more Jerry Lewis stories.)

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