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Jerry Lewis Could Not Understand the ‘Unfair’ Day His Penniless Son Joe Took His Own Life at 45

Edduin Carvajal
Sep 24, 2021
11:00 A.M.
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Jerry Lewis had a remarkable career in showbiz but a fractured relationship with his children. The famous comedian was blamed by his own family for his son's suicide.

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"The King of Comedy" Jerry Lewis has an outstanding sense of humor with impeccable acting and filmmaking skills, earning him the nickname. When it came to parenting, though, he could have used some help.

JERRY'S WIVES AND CHILDREN

Jerry was married to only two women his whole life. His first wife was singer Patti Palmer. The former couple tied the knot in 1944 and stayed together for 36 years.

During that time, they had five biological sons and one adopted. While Jerry and Palmer had a long relationship, it was far from perfect as the comedian frequently cheated on her with different women.

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Although it has not been confirmed, Marilyn Monroe reportedly was one of his mistresses. Out of all his lovers, the one that attracted the most attention was model Lynn Dixon.

Portrait of late actor and comedian Jerry Lewis | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Portrait of late actor and comedian Jerry Lewis | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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The two supposedly had a three-year-long affair that resulted in a daughter, Suzan Minoret. Jerry never publicly acknowledged Minoret as his legitimate daughter, but when she was still a child, he would see her "whenever he could," she revealed.

Life was hard for Minoret, and by 2017, she was homeless in the streets of Philadelphia. The fact that Jerry was a millionaire made her story even more heartbreaking.

Palmer filed for divorce in 1980 as she pointed out that Jerry kept showing "an open disregard" for their marriage. The process became final in early 1983, with Palmer supposedly receiving $450,000 a year in child and spousal support.

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Jerry's second wife was Sandra Pitnick. They married in 1983 and adopted one daughter, Danielle. The comedian and Pitnick were together until he passed away in August 2017.

Unfortunately, Jerry's relationship with his children was quite negative. Over the years, his sons shared some hurtful comments about him that attracted a lot of attention.

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[Joe] always felt he was a "big disappointment" to Jerry only because he wasn't a girl.

Jerry Lewis, his first wife Patti Palmer, and two of their sons | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis, his first wife Patti Palmer, and two of their sons | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

However, people only learned how bad the situation was after the comedian's death as he left seven children — Minoret included — out of his will.

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Jerry went as far as to include Joe Lewis, his youngest son who died by suicide almost a decade before he passed away himself, in the list of people that would not get anything from him. He left his $50 million estate to Pitnick and Danielle.

Jerry Lewis, Patti Palmer, and four of his sons in California, in September 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

Jerry Lewis, Patti Palmer, and four of his sons in California, in September 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

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JOE LEWIS' SUICIDE

Speaking of Joe's death, he passed away from a drug overdose in 2009. He was 45, and just like his unrecognized half-sister Minoret, he was so broke that he had to live in a homeless shelter and eat in soup kitchens.

Jerry and Joe's relationship was so fractured that the comedian didn't even offer to pay for the funeral arrangements. Their unhealthy relationship didn't happen overnight, though.

In 1964, Jerry already had five sons, and Palmer was expecting another child. Since all his children were boys, he was really hoping that his sixth was a girl. He even sang about it on TV.

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Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Later that year, Joe was born. According to Kim, Joe's ex-wife and mother of his two children, he always felt he was a "big disappointment" to Jerry only because he wasn't a girl.

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"[Joe] was my son and he's gone, and there's not a lot I can do about that."

As a result, Joe tried to find solace in alcohol and drugs as a teenager and became an addict. He couldn't keep a job and was eventually diagnosed with manic depression.

When Joe was at his lowest point, he would shut all the blinds in his home and sleep for days. Eventually, he ran out of money and started living in different places, including a motel in Los Angeles and a homeless shelter.

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As if Joe and Jerry's relationship wasn't bad enough already, the former made things even worse in 1989 by accusing his father of physically abusing his kids. Joe said:

"Living with him was pure hell. I've tried drugs. I've tried therapy, and the truth still hurts; my father doesn't love me."

Jerry denied his son's allegations but also pointed out that Joe was a "dope addict for his first 23 years." In 1995, Joe made headlines again for describing his father as a "vicious man" who left him an "emotional cripple."

Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

Jerry Lewis' family in the late 60s | Photo: YouTube/Inside Edition

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JERRY ON JOE AFTER HIS PASSING

In 2014, five years after Joe died, the comedian revealed how he really felt about him. He confessed he didn't understand their complicated relationship and even admitted it was unfair to Joe. Jerry added:

"That he went that way made the unfairness stupidity. But he was my son, and he's gone, and there's not a lot I can do about that."

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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He said he would frequently criticize himself for how things turned out with Joe, but Pitnick would try to step in and let him know that he had nothing to do with that.

According to Pitnick, Jerry sent Joe — what he thought was a perfect human being — out into the world when he was a 25-year-old man, so he did not influence what happened to him after that. Still, Jerry couldn't "get over that."

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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MORE BACKLASH

Unfortunately, Jerry received backlash from more than one family member. Gary Lewis, one his sons, blamed him for Joe's death as he believed Joe wouldn't have taken his own life had Jerry supported him instead of abandoning him.

According to Gary, his brother's death could have been prevented. He even believed Joe "partly died of a broken heart" as Jerry was never loving or caring toward his sons.

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A couple of months after the comedian's passing, Anthony Lewis revealed that his father wanted nothing to do with him.

He wasn't surprised about Jerry leaving him and the rest of his brothers out of his will. Still, he was heartbroken that his children, nephews, and nieces didn't get anything.

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

Jerry Lewis in his final years | Photo: YouTube/Sussex Daily News Ver.2

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Anthony went as far as to say that Jerry was emotionally abusive "every day." When his dad arrived home, he and his brothers would scatter as they could never predict his behavior.

However, Anthony admitted he wished he could have had a chance to make things right and tell Jerry that he loved him. Rest in peace, Jerry.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, don't hesitate to get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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