Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jerry Lewis's Flag Day

In 1975 there was much excitement in Usk at the prospect of a visit by zany Hollywood star Jerry Lewis, famed for his comedies with Dean Martin. Lewis was in London doing some cabaret shows and had agreed to perform for a week at the Helmaen International in Usk (see pic). Although the star was well past the peak of his fame, it was still quite a coup for the Gwent nightclub.

In early July Lewis's people contacted City Hall, Cardiff. They thought it would be good for Jerry to visit the city on Independence Day (July 4) for a bit of pre-publicity. What they had in mind was a flag-raising ceremony. Jerry would turn up, meet the Lord Mayor, and the stars and stripes would be run up a flag-pole above City Hall. A nice photo-op for the local press.

One problem - Cardiff's Lord Mayor at the time was staunch Tory, Sir Charles Stuart Hallinan. He refused, point-blank, to celebrate the anniversary of America's two-fingered salute to its then colonial master, Britain. Hallinan would, however, consent to allowing Lewis a courtesy visit to his parlour.

How did the Hollywood legend, and proud American, react? Not only did he decline the Lord Mayor's snooty offer but he instantly cancelled his week of shows in Usk too. If the Welsh weren't prepared to fly the American flag, then he wasn't going to come to Wales. And he didn't.