MDA has officially killed the Labor Day telethon.
As a young man, I realized the fraud while watching a show designed to convince me otherwise. David Hartman did a two hour special – my memory is it was an episode of Medical Center, but that may not be right.
Hartman became involved with the MDA telethon in 1970 – this special episode was after he joined Good Morning America in 1975, where he promoted the special show. The basic message was trying to give an accurate sense of what it is like for young boys to know they are going to die an awful death, eventually succumbing to lung problems when they lost the ability to cough. Catching a cold meant death.
But what it also explained – which I already suspected – is that MD is a generation skipping sex gene linked recessive defect. Mothers transmit the gene, male children get the disease. Since the children usually don’t survive to puberty, female victims are extremely rare.
That being the case, finding a “cure” for MD as Jerry Lewis implored was as preposterous as finding a cure for blue eyes. Over the years, the funds were being directed toward buying wheelchairs and sending the kids to one final summer camp before they died. The best you could hope for was to mitigate symptoms and maybe prolong death for a year or two. As the truth became more obvious, “other neuromuscular diseases” were added to the scope.
A few years later, I ventured to the MD telethon at the then brand new Eastland Mall in Charlotte. WBT-TV had set up a studio in the public area of the mall for the local cutaway portions where they wheeled out the local victims, many of whom were brothers or cousins I learned two important things that day and lost a lot of media virginity.
Despite there being a big supportive crowd on hand, especially near the end, the audience applause was prerecorded sound tracks being played over loud speakers directed toward the audience. The other thing was I watched the person who had the job of manually updating the tote board display (back before computer displays). That person was updating the numbers without any communication with anyone else keeping an actual total. He was just adding random amounts to make the number bigger. Much of the donated funds were collected ahead of time, and the number was no more than a way to induce people to call in to give money. Then again, people would give money to Gene Scott and PTL and homeless people that everyone knows are scamming them. We humans are an odd bunch.
Now we can get back to the original purpose of Labor Day – celebrating the great accomplishments of the International Socialist Workers movement.