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Jerry Lewis Treated Adopted Daughter as His 'Real Child' & Called His Other Kids 'Inauthentic'

Gaone Pule
Feb 28, 2022
09:40 P.M.
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Jerry Lewis was more fond of his adoptive daughter Danielle Sarah Lewis than his biological sons. He even once made a shocking revelation to that effect. 

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Jerry Lewis was an actor, comedian, and singer well-known for his witted humor in film, television, stage, and radio. He starred alongside Dean Martin on "The Martin and Lewis Show," which aired from 1949 to 1953 on NBC radio.  

The pair first appeared together in the movies "My Friend Irma" (1949) and "My Friend Irma Goes West" (1950). Lewis wrote, produced, and acted in "The Day the Clown Cried" (1972). Here are the details of his personal life, marriages, and kids. 

(L) Comedian and actor Jerry Lewis with his wife Patti Palmer and their four sons, (left to right) Ronald, Christopher, Scott, and Gary pictured for the CBS program "Person to Person," in September 1958 in California. (R) Jerry Lewis and daughter Danielle attending Broadway Stars "'First Ball" Benefit on May 4, 1995 at Central Park in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

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MEET HIS WIVES 

Jerry had been married twice and met his first wife, Patti Palmer when she was a singer with Ted Fio Rito. The pair wed in October 1944 and had only met two months before walking down the aisle in Detroit.  

Two years into their marriage, the couple welcomed their first son, Gary Lewis, in 1946. After that, Palmer and Jerry went on to have five more sons, Ronald Lewis in 1949, Scott Lewis in 1956, Christopher Lewis in 1957, Anthony Lewis in 1959, and Joseph Lewis in 1964. Then they adopted Ronald. 

Jerry Lewis at Heathrow Airport from his trip in New York with his wife Patti Palmer in July 1975. / Source: Getty Images

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Although their union lasted 35 years, Jerry often had various love affairs. He once mentioned their time together was marred with infidelity: 

"This is when I'm sleeping with everybody in Hollywood." 

During that time, the screenwriter allegedly had a three-year-long affair with model Lynn Dixon, which resulted in a love child. Dixon gave birth to daughter Suzan Minoret in 1952, per Philadelphia Weekly.  

Jerry Lewis photographed sitting on a couch with wife, Patti Palmer, and their two sons, Gary and Ronald. / Source: Getty Images

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In August 2017, Minoret came forward and revealed she was still waiting for Jerry to acknowledge her as his child. However, the producer never confirmed nor denied Minoret was his biological daughter.  

Another extramarital affair Jerry had during his first marriage was with Hollywood's darling Marilyn Monroe. Eventually, Palmer requested a legal separation in 1980 and $450,000 a year to support herself and her youngest son.  

According to People, she wrote in her filing that Jerry "has displayed an open disregard for our marriage, and I am a 'financial puppet' at the mercy of his office, with no money of my own."  

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Singer Patti Palmer pictured with her children (left to right) Anthony, Chris, Joseph, and Scott at a children's party, a 'Batman' luncheon for an orphanage in August 1966 in California. / Source: Getty Images

In her court papers, Palmer disclosed that her husband spent money irresponsibly, which led to unpaid household bills, forcing her to sell her jewels and leading her to dispense with all live-in help.  

Their divorce was finalized in January 1983, and Jerry went on to remarry. He wed SanDee Pitnick in February 1983, and together, they adopted a baby girl, Danielle Sara Lewis.  

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Jerry met his second wife while he performed in Las Vegas in the early 1980s, and the couple got married shortly after he divorced Palmer.  

Jerry Lewis with his new bride Sandra Pitnick pictured after their wedding which was a small private ceremony on February 13, 1983. / Source: Getty Images

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The duo said their 'I do's' in a private ceremony in Key Biscayne, Florida. Jerry was 57 at the time, and his new bride was 32. Their wedding vows came less than two months after he underwent successful double-bypass heart surgery.  

Their nuptials were a traditional Jewish ceremony at the Sonesta Hotel, Jerry's manager Joe Stabile revealed at the time. The lovebirds were married for 34 years until his death.  

Pitnick is a former dancer and stewardess who appeared in Jerry's film, "Hardly Working," in a minor role as a dancer. She also appeared on "Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon." 

Screenwriter Jerry Lewis posing with his wife SanDee Pitnick during a press conference on April 10, 1989 in Paris. / Source: Getty Images

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TOO MUCH LOVE FOR HIS 'REAL CHILD' 

While trying to start their own family, Pitnick sadly suffered two miscarriages. Jerry had previously expressed his desire to have a daughter, and his wish got granted when he and his wife adopted Danielle in 1992, born on March 23 that year. 

They had refused to give up hope on having a child together and began investigating adoption. In 1991, the couple discovered a young pregnant woman willing to give up her child.  

The pair chose the unborn baby because it had been confirmed through amniocentesis to be a girl. When their daughter eventually arrived, they were present at the hospital.  

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Jerry Lewis poses with SanDee Pitnick and daughter Danielle at his Hand and Footprint ceremony held at the TCL Theater on April 12, 2014 in Hollywood, California. / Source: Getty Images

They named their bundle of joy Danielle Sarah after Jerry's departed father and grandmother. The proud dad recalled the special moment he held his baby girl in his arms: 

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"The tears streamed down my cheeks from complete joy. I've cried before out of sheer happiness but never out of ecstasy. I'd wanted her for so long." 

Jerry Lewis with daughter Danielle Sarah Lewis and wife SanDee Pitnick arriving at the "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" premiere at Paramount Theater on the Paramount Studios lot on December 7, 2011 in Hollywood, California. / Source: Getty Images

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Because of his sheer pride, Jerry always showed off his daughter wherever he went. He raved about Danielle like she was the only child he had ever raised, saying he was having the time of his life with her: 

"She's an incredible baby. She's a miracle baby. I tell everybody, 'All other children before this birth are inauthentic children. They're not real children. This is the real child.'" 

Jerry treated Danielle like royalty and was a hands-on father for her, unlike his sons, who were cared for by nannies and housekeepers. He always had time for his daughter, and by the time she was a year or so old, the father and daughter had a whole routine together.  

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Producer Jerry Lewis and daughter Danielle attending Broadway Stars 'First Ball' Benefit on May 4, 1995 at Central Park in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

The New Jersey native revealed he changed little Danielle's britches, bathed her, and put her in new britches and her little shoes. He took her to salons, watched kids' shows with her, and they even had cereal together.  

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Jerry would then feed his child and bond for two and a half hours with her. Notably, young Danielle used to accompany her dad on cruise ships. The now 29-year-old also appeared on a magazine cover when she was just a toddler.  

Jerry Lewis holding his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award Oscar statuette alongside his daughter Danielle during the 44th annual Labor Day Telethon at the South Point Hotel & Casino on September 6, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / Source: Getty Images

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NO LOVE LOST BETWEEN FATHER & SONS 

On the other hand, Jerry's first family had no idea that he had adopted a child and were "affronted" by the news. After he welcomed his precious daughter, the humanitarian seemed to have cut off his sons from his life.  

When he passed away, Jerry died while on bad terms with his five sons and made it clear that he did not want them to inherit anything from his estate when he was gone.  

In his last will, executed in 2012, Jerry stated he wanted to intentionally exclude sons Gary, Ronald, Anthony, Christopher, Scott, and Joseph from benefitting from his estate in any way, per The Blast. 

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Jerry Lewis captured at home being playful with his four sons in 1956 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

The funnyman died at age 91 of natural causes on August 20, 2017, at his Los Angeles home. He left his massive estate to his widow Pitnick and the will states that his next in line would be their adopted daughter Danielle.  

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His oldest son Gary, 75, a musician who was the frontman of Gary Lewis & the Playboys band, once called his father mean and evil and said Jerry was never loving or caring of his sons.  

He said that his younger brother Joseph who died from a drug overdose on October 24, 2009, passed away after feeling abandoned by their dad.  

Musician Gary Lewis, frontman of the band Gary Lewis and the Playboys on September 15, 1965. / Source: Getty Images

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As a result, the pop star blamed his father for his sibling's death, saying that he gave up on him when he discovered that he had his growing drug addiction.  

The month Joseph died, he suffered a sudden seizure and passed on in Utah. However, Gary claimed that his health would not have deteriorated to such a drastic extent if he had the support of their dad. Moreover, he admitted that Joseph had issues his whole life: 

"Joe had problems his entire life, and I blame our father." 

Christopher Lewis wearing a blue shirt with his arms folded on July 17, 1986 in Montreal, Canada. / Source: Getty Images

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Gary also heavily criticized their father, name-calling him and accusing him of not caring or loving him and his siblings as he should have.

"Jerry Lewis is a mean and evil person. He was never loving and caring toward my brothers or me. I don't know if Joe's death is drug-related. I believe he partly died of a broken heart. My father doesn't care. He's more worried about his career and his image than his own family," he noted.

Jerry Lewis at home with his wife, Patti Palmer, and their sons pictured for Person To Person on September 26, 1958 in Los Angeles. / Source: Getty Images

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GUILT OVER HIS YOUNGEST SON'S DEATH 

While Jerry was over the moon being a loving father to his daughter, his youngest son Joseph was suffering by himself. He was already twice divorced by age 35, arrested for burglary and theft in 1990, and faced terms in prison.   

In March 1992, Joseph changed his not-guilty plea to one of no contests to one count and faced a possible prison term of five years, eight months. Only years later did Jerry admit that he was still beating himself up and carried the guilt for his son, who took his own life at age 45.  

Humanitarian and director Jerry Lewis wearing a blazer paired with a white shirt and a black tie in 1965. / Source: Getty Images

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Speaking on Joseph's death, he said he could not comprehend it because it was unfair to his child while noting that he made an irrational decision by committing suicide: 

"But he was my son, and he's gone, and there's not a lot I can do about that. I beat myself a thousand times." 

Jerry Lewis during an interviewed before the 41st annual Labor Day Telethon on August 22, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / Source: Getty Images

Jerry shared his wife Pitnick told him that he should not blame himself for what happened to Joseph because he was an adult who made his own choices.  

Still, he said that he could not get over his death, saying, "I've worked under the most painful conditions any man has ever felt in his life, but when I walk out on that stage, the pain goes away."

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