Jerry Lewis has died. According to TMZ, the legendary filmmaker and comedian passed at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday. He was residing in his home in Las Vegas, where he lives with his wife Sandee Pitnick. He was 91.
Lewis had been in failing health the past few months, and was admitted to a hospital earlier this year for what was later said to be a urinary tract infection, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is survived by his wife and six of his seven children.
Here’s what you need to know about Lewis’ personal life and his children:
1. He Had 6 Children With Ex-Wife Patti Palmer & 1 With Sandee Pitnick
Lewis married singer Patti Palmer in 1944. During their marriage, they welcomed Gary Lewis in 1946, Ronald “Ronnie” Lewis in 1949, Scott Lewis in 1956, Christopher Lewis in 1957, and Anthony Lewis in 1959. Their relationship eventually came to an end in 1980, however, with Palmer citing Lewis’ complete “disregard for our marriage” and the fact that she “has no money of her own”, according to People Magazine.
Anthony is a professional videographer, according to Las Vegas Backstage Talk. The site stays that he is well-versed in all facets of film-making, as he learned from watching his father direct when he was a kid.
Lewis married a second time in 1983, to Pitnick. They never had any children biologically, but they did adopt daughter Danielle Sarah Lewis in 1992. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lewis says that he completely “adores” Danielle.
2. His Eldest Son Gary Lewis is a Rock & Roll Singer
Gary Lewis had his reservations about going into show business. In an interview with The Washington Times, he spoke on how he came to break onto the music scene: “I knew that I didn’t want to the same kind of work as my dad, because I just didn’t feel like being compared– having people say ‘Let’s see if he’s as good or as funny.’ I just didn’t want to even take that chance.”
Lewis founded the band Gary Lewis & The Playboys in 1964, and it didn’t take long before they found success. Their single “This Diamond Ring” soared to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965, and they would remain a pivotal force throughout the decade, scoring additional hits “Everybody Loves a Clown”, “Green Grass” and “Sure Gonna Miss Her.”
Gary Lewis & The Playboys disbanded officially in 1970, though they have occasionally performed since. Gary also released a solo single, titled “You Can’t Go Back” in 2012.
3. His Youngest Son Joseph Committed Suicide in 2009
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lewis’ most complicated relationship with his son Joseph. THR reports that Joseph, the youngest child of Lewis and Patti Palmer, became a drug addict later in his life, and would take his own life in 2009. When asked about his son’s tragic path, Lewis told THR “To this day I don’t understand it because it’s unfair– not unfair to me, but unfair to him.”
“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. I beat myself a thousand times. Sam will come to me and say ‘Are we beating ourselves up again?’ I will say ‘A little bit.””
Lewis added “You sent him [Joseph] out into the world when he was 25. You sent what you thought was a perfect human being. What he did with his time away from you is what the end result showed. But I’ll tell you this: You never get over that.”
4. Joseph Accused Lewis of Being an Abusive Father
Joseph was estranged from his father at the time of his death, and much of this estrangement stemmed from that fact that he considered him to be “a vicious man.” In a 1995 report by the NY Daily News, Joseph was quoted as saying that Lewis “left him an emotional cripple” and that he physically abused him along with the rest of his brothers.
Lewis has adamantly denied these accusations.
Gary spoke frankly about his father’s parenting in the 1999 book Tabloid Baby. “He was never loving and caring toward me or my brothers,” he said. “I don’t know if Joe’s death is drug related, but I believe it could have been prevented if he and my father had been on better terms. I believe he partly died of a broken heart. [My father] doesn’t really care. He’s more worried about his career and his image than his own family.”
5. Suzan Minoret Claims to Be Lewis’ Illegitimate Daughter
In 2008, Suzan Minoret caused a stir when she claimed that she was the child of Lewis and Lynn Dixon. According Philadelphia Weekly, Dixon was a fashion model in the 1940s who met Lewis through comedian Milton Berle. Minoret states that the two would have an affair that lasted three years, and though he allegedly wanted to divorce Patti Palmer, he refused to do so because she was Catholic.
Suzan was born on February 3, 1952. Two years after she was born, however, Dixon married nightclub owner Hy Uchitel. She told Philadelphia Weekly that she had numerous encounters with Lewis when she was a child. “He was very affectionate. He gave me gifts, dolls. I loved dolls. He wanted a daughter but he could never tell anyone he already had one.”
Lewis never acknowledged or denied that Suzan was his biological daughter. Suzan also had a close relationship with Lewis’ son Gary.