Tony Denison on working with Jerry Lewis

Tony Denison of 'Major Crimes,' which airs its 100th episode Tuesday on TNT
Tony Denison of ‘Major Crimes,’ which airs its 100th episode Tuesday on TNT

Q: Didn’t you work with Jerry Lewis on CBS’ “Wiseguy” in 1988-89?

A: Yeah, the five-episode arc, “The Rag Trade” I think was the name of the five-episode arc. … It was wonderful and I got to work with Jerry Lewis, and at the end of the day I wished that he was an uncle of mine, I had so much fun working with him. He was just a good guy. And he would tell jokes, he would tell Hollywood and Las Vegas stories and we would just be enraptured by these stories. And he was very respectful of me. He even said something to the effect of, “I really like working with you, kid. … You’re good, you’re good, kid.” And as soon as I got home, I called my mother (laughs) and I said, “You know what Jerry Lewis just said to me?”

Tony Denison

Q: He didn’t get enough credit as a dramatic actor.

A: Oh, he was wonderful in “The King of Comedy” … and he was telling me stories about … the shooting. But the really fascinating stories were the stories of the Vegas years with him and Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and then the deals he would put together making movies.

And he used to say to me (that he) made a point that when he went to the set he knew the name of every single person who worked on the show up to and including the craft (services people). It didn’t matter who they were, he needed to know their names, he got their names down, so when he came to the set every day, he said, “I didn’t need somebody walking next to me whispering their names in my ear. I knew who they were. I don’t know if that means anything at the end of the day, but it made me feel good about what I did.” So I try to do that. … And I know for me, if somebody says, “Good morning” to me … and remembers my name from something, it feels good.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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