Jerry Lewis was known as a comedy king, not a lady killer, but rumors about his romantic flings with his leading ladies have been circulating for decades. Lewis, who died on Sunday at age 91, was married twice and had six sons. And while he juggled careers as a comedian, movie star and even chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, legend has it Jerry Lewis was also one of Hollywood’s biggest lotharios.
In a 2011 interview with GQ, Jerry Lewis revealed that the stories about his playboy ways were mostly true during his reign as comedy king alongside comedy partner Dean Martin. Jerry downplayed rumors that he slept with all of his leading ladies even after splitting from Martin and making movies solo (this can’t be true, he joked, since one of his co-stars was Agnes Moorehead, a great actress, but no bombshell), but he acknowledged that he wasn’t entirely faithful to his first wife.
Jerry Lewis told GQ it’s “not good press” to rattle off a list of his lovers. But later in the interview, Jerry announced that his close friend President John F. Kennedy never had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, admitting that he did instead.
“I’m telling you what I know,” Jerry said. “Never! And the only reason I know is because I did. Okay?”
Jerry Lewis went on to say that Marilyn Monroe used sex to make an emotional connection with people, the same way he did with humor.
“She needed that contact to be sure it was real,” Lewis said.
Jerry Lewis name dropped a bit more when describing what it was like to be with Marilyn Monroe.
“It was…long,” Jerry said.
“I was crippled for a month. And I thought Marlene Dietrich was great!”
According to People, Jerry Lewis’s affair with Marilyn Monroe allegedly happened while he was married to his first wife, Patti Palmer. Lewis and Palmer were married from 1944 until 1980. Jerry Lewis married his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, in 1983.
This was not the first time Jerry Lewis dished about his relationship with Marilyn Monroe. In a 2003 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Lewis defended his friend JFK amid the incessant rumors about the late president’s alleged affair with Monroe. At that time, it was hard to tell if Lewis was serious or not.
“Jack Kennedy was probably the best thing that ever happened to my life as a friend,” Lewis said.
Jerry went on to say that he told news host Bill O’Reilly about his affair with Marilyn Monroe so he could shut down questions about the late president’s relationship with the screen siren.
“He said, is it true that John Kennedy and Bobby were doing all that stuff with Marilyn Monroe? I said, what stuff? Well, you know, sleeping with him,” Jerry Lewis recalled.
“I said, ‘Listen to me. I’m so tired of people doing this, particularly when someone’s not here to defend themselves. I’m going to tell you, they never touched Marilyn. I was in that mix. We were all together. Neither of them ever touched Marilyn.’ He says to me, ‘How can you be so sure?’ I said, ‘Because I was doing it.’ And he sat back. Oh, okay. And that stopped him. I didn’t believe that was going to be the effect but I was glad that it was.”
Jerry Lewis went on to no one would ever never know if he told the story of his affair with Marilyn due to his affection for Jack Kennedy or if it was the truth.
“You’ll never know,” Lewis told King. “No, never. I’ve got some pictures of it — no, never mind.”
Romantic moments aside, Jerry Lewis revealed that he had a close relationship with Marilyn Monroe, describing her as “this wonderful kid that was so brilliantly innocent.”
“She was everything that people thought Marilyn was,” Jerry said.
“She was so eager to play a part rather than be a sex symbol, that she really worked very hard at learning her craft. And she just died too soon. She had another few years, she would have been — could have been Rosalind Russell.”
With an acting and comedy resume a mile long, Jerry Lewis probably had few career regrets, but he once admitted that he regretted turning down Jack Lemmon’s role opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1959 movie Some Like It Hot. Lewis reportedly turned down the role because he didn’t want to dress in drag for the movie.
“I would have had a chance to kiss Marilyn Monroe,” Lewis once said, according to Page Six. “Instead, [director Billy] Wilder called me ‘the schmuck who turned down Some Like It Hot for the rest of his life, and Lemmon sent me chocolates every year until he died.”
Take a look at the video below to see Jerry Lewis talking about “making it” with Marilyn Monroe.
[Featured Image by Baron/Getty Images]