Wilford Brimley, ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Natural’ actor, dies at 85

By LYNN ELBER

LOS ANGELES  — Wilford Brimley, who worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included “Cocoon,” “The Natural” and “The Firm,” has died. He was 85.

Brimley’s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died Saturday morning in a Utah hospital. He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments, she said.

The mustached Brimley was a familiar face for a number of roles, often playing characters like his grizzled baseball manager in “The Natural” opposite Robert Redford’s bad-luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford in “Brubaker” and “The Electric Horseman.”

Brimley’s best-known work was in “Cocoon,” in which he was part of a group of seniors who discover an alien pod that rejuvenates them. The 1985 Ron Howard film won two Oscars, including a supporting actor honor for Don Ameche.

Brimley also starred in “Cocoon: The Return,” a 1988 sequel.

For years he was pitchman for Quaker Oats and in recent years appeared in a series of diabetes spots that turned him at one point into a social media sensation.

“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” Bensky said in a statement. “He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.”

Barbara Hershey, who met Brimley on 1995′s “Last of the Dogmen,” called him “a wonderful man and actor. … He always made me laugh.”

Though never nominated for an Oscar or Emmy Award, Brimley amassed an impressive list of credits. In 1993’s John Grisham adaptation “The Firm,” Brimley starred opposite Tom Cruise as a tough-nosed investigator who deployed ruthless tactics to keep his law firm’s secrets safe.

John Woo, who directed Brimley as Uncle Douvee in 1993′s “Hard Target,” told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the part was “the main great thing from the film. I was overjoyed making those scenes and especially working with Wilford Brimley.”

A Utah native who grew up around horses, Brimley spent two decades traveling around the West and working at ranches and race tracks. He drifted into movie work during the 1960s, riding in such films as “True Grit,” and appearing in TV series such as “Gunsmoke.”

He forged a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to seek more prominent acting roles, according to a biography prepared by Turner Classic Movies.

Brimley, who never trained as an actor, saw his career take off after he won an important role as a nuclear power plant engineer in “The China Syndrome.”

“Training? I’ve never been to acting classes, but I’ve had 50 years of training,” he said in a 1984 Associated Press interview. “My years as an extra were good background for learning about camera techniques and so forth. I was lucky to have had that experience; a lot of newcomers don’t.”

“Basically my method is to be honest,” Brimley said told AP. “The camera photographs the truth — not what I want it to see, but what it sees. The truth.”

Brimley had a recurring role as a blacksmith on “The Waltons” and the 1980s prime-time series “Our House.”

Another side of the actor was his love of jazz. As a vocalist, he made albums including “This Time the Dream’s On Me” and “Wilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio.”

In 1998, he opposed an Arizona referendum to ban cockfighting, saying that he was “trying to protect a lifestyle of freedom and choice for my grandchildren.”

In recent years, Brimley’s pitchwork for Liberty Mutual had turned him into an internet sensation for his drawn out pronunciation of diabetes as “diabeetus.” He owned the pronunciation in a tweet that drew hundreds of thousands of likes earlier this year.

Brimley is survived by his wife Beverly and three sons.

___

AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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John Lewis, lion of civil rights and Congress, dies at 80

By CALVIN WOODWARD Associated Press

ATLANTA >> John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died. He was 80.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ passing late Friday night, calling him “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”

“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi said. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”

Lewis’s announcement in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer — “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” he said — inspired tributes from both sides of the aisle, and an unstated accord that the likely passing of this Atlanta Democrat would represent the end of an era.

Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

At age 25 — walking at the head of the march with his hands tucked in the pockets of his tan overcoat — Lewis was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. His skull was fractured, and nationally televised images of the brutality forced the country’s attention on racial oppression in the South.

Within days, King led more marches in the state, and President Lyndon Johnson soon was pressing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. The bill became law later that year, removing barriers that had barred Blacks from voting.

“John is an American hero who helped lead a movement and risked his life for our most fundamental rights; he bears scars that attest to his indefatigable spirit and persistence,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said after Lewis announced his cancer diagnosis.

Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.

A 23-year-old firebrand, Lewis toned down his intended remarks at the insistence of others, dropping a reference to a “scorched earth” march through the South and scaling back criticisms of President John Kennedy. It was a potent speech nonetheless, in which he vowed: “By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in an image of God and democracy.”

It was almost immediately, and forever, overshadowed by the words of King, the man who had inspired him to activism.

Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940, outside the town of Troy, in Pike County, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools.

As a boy, he wanted to be a minister, and practiced his oratory on the family chickens. Denied a library card because of the color of his skin, he became an avid reader, and could cite obscure historical dates and details even in his later years. He was a teenager when he first heard King preaching on the radio. They met when Lewis was seeking support to become the first Black student at Alabama’s segregated Troy State University.

He ultimately attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He began organizing sit-in demonstrations at whites-only lunch counters and volunteering as a Freedom Rider, enduring beatings and arrests while traveling around the South to challenge segregation.

Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was named its chairman in 1963, making him one of the Big Six at a tender age.

The others, in addition to King, were Whitney Young of the National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph of the Negro American Labor Council; James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality; and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. All six met at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York to plan and announce the March on Washington.

The huge demonstration galvanized the movement, but success didn’t come quickly. After extensive training in nonviolent protest, Lewis and the Rev. Hosea Williams led demonstrators on a planned march of more than 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, on March 7, 1965. A phalanx of police blocked their exit from the Selma bridge.

Authorities shoved, then swung their truncheons, fired tear gas and charged on horseback, sending many to the hospital and horrifying much of the nation. King returned with thousands, completing the march to Montgomery before the end of the month.

Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council.

He won his seat in Congress in 1986 and spent much of his career in the minority. After Democrats won control of the House in 2006, Lewis became his party’s senior deputy whip, a behind-the-scenes leadership post in which he helped keep the party unified.

In an early setback for Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Lewis endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination. Lewis switched when it became clear Obama had overwhelming Black support. Obama later honored Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and they marched hand in hand in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack.

Lewis also worked for 15 years to gain approval for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Humble and unfailingly friendly, Lewis was revered on Capitol Hill — but as one of the most liberal members of Congress, he often lost policy battles, from his effort to stop the Iraq War to his defense of young immigrants.

He met bipartisan success in Congress in 2006 when he led efforts to renew the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court later invalidated much of the law, and it became once again what it was in his youth, a work in progress. Later, when the presidency of Donald Trump challenged his civil rights legacy, Lewis made no effort to hide his pain.

Lewis refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, saying he didn’t consider him a “legitimate president” because Russians had conspired to get him elected. When Trump later complained about immigrants from “s—hole countries,” Lewis declared, “I think he is a racist … we have to try to stand up and speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug.”

Lewis said he’d been arrested 40 times in the 1960s, five more as a congressman. At 78, he told a rally he’d do it again to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.

“There cannot be any peace in America until these young children are returned to their parents and set all of our people free,” Lewis said in June, recalling the “good trouble” he got into protesting segregation as a young man.

“If we fail to do it, history will not be kind to us,” he shouted. “I will go to the border. I’ll get arrested again. If necessary, I’m prepared to go to jail.”

In a speech the day of the House impeachment vote of Trump, Lewis explained the importance of that vote.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us ‘what did you do? what did you say?” While the vote would be hard for some, he said: “We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”

Lewis’ wife of four decades, Lillian Miles, died in 2012. They had one son, John Miles Lewis.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Warren contributed to this report.

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Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy dies from coronavirus at 75

LAS VEGAS — Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers, has died. He was 75.

Horn died of complications from the coronavirus on Friday in a Las Vegas hospital, according to a statement released by publicist Dave Kirvin.

“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Siegfried Fischbacher said in the statement. “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.”

He was injured in October 2003 when a tiger named Montecore attacked him on stage at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. He had severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood and later suffered a stroke. He underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production.

The darker-haired of the flashy duo, Horn was credited with the idea of introducing an exotic animal — his pet cheetah — to the magic act.

“Roy was a fighter his whole life including during these final days,” Fischbacher said. “I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Mountain View Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.”

The two became an institution in Las Vegas, where their magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year.

They returned to the stage in February 2009 for what was billed as their one and only comeback performance, to raise funds for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The brief performance, which included Montecore, became the basis of an episode of the ABC television show “20/20.”

Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher, both natives of Germany, had first teamed up in 1957 and made their Las Vegas debut a decade later. Siegfried & Roy began performing at the Mirage in 1990.

When they signed a lifetime contract with the Mirage in 2001, it was estimated they had performed 5,000 shows at the casino for 10 million fans since 1990 and had grossed more than $1 billion. That comes on top of thousands of shows at other venues in earlier years.

“Throughout the history of Las Vegas, no artists have meant more to the development of Las Vegas’ global reputation as the entertainment capital of the world than Siegfried and Roy,” Terry Lanni, chairman of MGM Mirage, the casino’s parent company, said after the attack.

The pair gained international recognition for helping to save rare white tigers and white lions from extinction. Their $10 million compound was home to dozens of rare animals over the years. The white lions and white tigers were the result of a preservation program that began in the 1980s.

“The good news is that the white tigers and white lions are going into the 21st century,” Horn said in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “The bad news is that if we don’t do something about the tigers in the wild, they will disappear.”

Siegfried & Roy’s show, incorporating animal antics and magic tricks, included about 20 white tigers and lions, the number varying depending on the night. The show also had other exotic animals, including an elephant.

“Their show is so fast-paced the viewer has time only to gasp before the next dazzlement,” an Associated Press reviewer wrote in 1989 when they brought their act to New York.

“A white car drives on stage — as Liberace used to do — bringing a mother white tiger and three cubs. Roy rides an elephant, which disappears, then reappears. At the end, a 650-pound white tiger climbs atop a globe. With Roy on his back, they’re pulled into the air.”

“It’s a Las Vegas show and it’s nonstop entertainment. New Yorkers aren’t too sophisticated for this.”

A later spectacular developed for the Mirage opened with a flashy “Star Wars” scenario and Horn and Fischbacher arriving in their own mini space capsules. Another segment had Horn sitting atop a 30-foot (9.1-meter) pyramid that was “destroyed” by an explosion and fire, leaving him levitated high above the stage.

It was halfway during a performance Oct. 3, 2003, when Horn was alone on stage with the tiger that it suddenly lunged at him.

Horn, who had turned 59 that day, had never been injured during a show before, “not a scratch, not by an animal,” Bernie Yuman, the pair’s longtime manager, said at the time.

He said he thought Montecore, a 7-year-old male, got distracted by something in the audience and Horn was trying to calm him. Horn himself said later that he fainted and the tiger was trying to help him by dragging him offstage, though animal experts disputed that possibility.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture explored a variety of theories but was unable to reach a conclusion on what caused the tiger to attack. In its final report, the USDA also said the show’s producers had failed to protect the audience because there was no barrier separating the exotic animals from the crowd.

In October 2006, three years after the attack, Horn and Fischbacher attended their induction into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. Horn’s speech was sluggish at times and he walked a bit slow, but he called the event “a deeply emotional experience.”

Born in Nordenham, Germany, Horn met Fischbacher on a cruise ship in 1957. Fischbacher performed the magic tricks, while Horn became his assistant, eventually suggesting using the cheetah in the act.

They honed their animal-magic show in small clubs in Germany and Switzerland in the mid-1960s. Their break came in a Monte Carlo casino when an agent in the audience invited them to Las Vegas. The pair made their debut at the Tropicana hotel-casino in the late 1960s.

The illusionists became popular in the 1970s, receiving their first star billing in 1978 as headliners of the Stardust’s “Lido de Paris.” Their show “Beyond Belief” opened in 1981 at the Frontier and played to thousands over seven years.

When Horn and Fischbacher became U.S. citizens in 1988, an elated Horn said, “Being an American means all the things we believe in.”

Horn once hand-fed a white lion cub born prematurely, starting with an eyedropper. But when a cub was donated to a zoo, Horn said he was heartbroken.

“When you love something, the hardest thing is to let it go,” he said. “But this is what Siegfried and Roy do. We live our dreams, and we fulfill our destiny.”

Funeral service will be private, with an expected public memorial.

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Singer, actor, ‘The Gambler’: Kenny Rogers dies at 81

By KRISTIN M. HALL

Actor-singer Kenny Rogers, the smooth, Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on record and on TV died Friday night. He was 81.

He died at home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, representative Keith Hagan told The Associated Press. He was under hospice care and died of natural causes, Hagan said.

The Houston-born performer with the husky voice and silver beard sold tens of millions of records, won three Grammys and was the star of TV movies based on “The Gambler” and other songs, making him a superstar in the ‘70s and ’80s. Rogers thrived for some 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.

“You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better, or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison,” Rogers told The Associated Press in 2015. “And I chose that way because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon at what they did. So I found something that I could do that didn’t invite comparison to them. And I think people thought it was my desire to change country music. But that was never my issue.”

A true rags-to-riches story, Rogers was raised in public housing in Houston Heights with seven siblings. As a 20-year-old, he had a gold single called “That Crazy Feeling,” under the name Kenneth Rogers, but when that early success stalled, he joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player.

But his breakthrough came when he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group, in 1966. The band reformed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Rogers and First Edition mixed country-rock and folk on songs like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” a story of a Vietnam veteran begging his girlfriend to stay.

After the group broke up in 1974, Rogers started his solo career and found a big hit with the sad country ballad “Lucille,” in 1977, which crossed over to the pop charts and earned Rogers his first Grammy. Suddenly the star, Rogers added hit after hit for more than a decade.

“The Gambler,” the Grammy-winning story song penned by Don Schlitz, came out in 1978 and became his signature song with a signature refrain: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ’em.” The song spawned a hit TV movie of the same name and several more sequels featuring Rogers as professional gambler Brady Hawkes, and led to a lengthy side career for Rogers as a TV actor and host of several TV specials.

Other hits included “You Decorated My Life,” “Every Time Two Fools Collide” with Dottie West, “Don’t Fall In Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes, and “Coward of the County.” One of his biggest successes was “Lady,” written by Lionel Richie, a chart topper for six weeks straight in 1980. Richie said in a 2017 interview with the AP that he often didn’t finish songs until he had already pitched them, which was the case for “Lady.”

“In the beginning, the song was called, ‘Baby,’” Richie said. “And because when I first sat with him, for the first 30 minutes, all he talked about was he just got married to a real lady. A country guy like him is married to a lady. So, he said, ‘By the way, what’s the name of the song?’” Richie replies: “Lady.”

Over the years, Rogers worked often with female duet partners, most memorably, Dolly Parton. The two were paired at the suggestion of the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who wrote “Islands in the Stream.”

“Barry was producing an album on me and he gave me this song,” Rogers told the AP in 2017. “And I went and learned it and went into the studio and sang it for four days. And I finally looked at him and said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore.’ And he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.’ I thought, ‘Man, that guy is a visionary.’”

Coincidentally, Parton was actually in the same recording studio in Los Angeles when the idea came up.

“From the moment she marched into that room, that song never sounded the same,” Rogers said. “It took on a whole new spirit.”

The two singers toured together, including in Australia and New Zealand in 1984 and 1987, and were featured in a HBO concert special. Over the years the two would continue to record together, including their last duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” which was released in 2013. Parton reprised “Islands in the Stream” with Rogers during his all-star retirement concert held in Nashville in October 2017.

Rogers invested his time and money in a lot of other endeavors over his career, including a passion for photography that led to several books, as well as an autobiography, “Making It With Music.” He had a chain of restaurants called “Kenny Rogers Roasters,” and was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Missouri. He was also involved in numerous charitable causes, among them the Red Cross and MusiCares, and was part of the all-star “We are the World” recording for famine relief.

By the ’90s, his ability to chart hits had waned, although he still remained a popular live entertainer with regular touring. Still he was an inventive businessman and never stopped trying to find his way back onto the charts.

At the age of 61, Rogers had a brief comeback on the country charts in 2000 with a hit song “Buy Me A Rose,” thanks to his other favorite medium, television. Producers of the series “Touched By An Angel” wanted him to appear in an episode, and one of his managers suggested the episode be based on his latest single. That cross-promotional event earned him his first No. 1 country song in 13 years.

Rogers is survived by his wife, Wanda, and his sons Justin, Jordan, Chris and Kenny Jr., as well as two brothers, a sister and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, his representative said. The family is planning a private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency,” a statement posted early Saturday read. A public memorial will be held at a later date.

___

Associated Press journalist Mallika Sen contributed from Los Angeles.

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Actor, singer, ‘The Gambler’: Kenny Rogers dies at 81

By KRISTIN M. HALL

Actor-singer Kenny Rogers, the smooth, Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on record and on TV died Friday night. He was 81.

He died at home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, representative Keith Hagan told The Associated Press. He was under hospice care and died of natural causes, Hagan said.

The Houston-born performer with the husky voice and silver beard sold tens of millions of records, won three Grammys and was the star of TV movies based on “The Gambler” and other songs, making him a superstar in the ‘70s and ’80s. Rogers thrived for some 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.

“You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better, or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison,” Rogers told The Associated Press in 2015. “And I chose that way because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon at what they did. So I found something that I could do that didn’t invite comparison to them. And I think people thought it was my desire to change country music. But that was never my issue.”

A true rags-to-riches story, Rogers was raised in public housing in Houston Heights with seven siblings. As a 20-year-old, he had a gold single called “That Crazy Feeling,” under the name Kenneth Rogers, but when that early success stalled, he joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player.

But his breakthrough came when he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group, in 1966. The band reformed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Rogers and First Edition mixed country-rock and folk on songs like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” a story of a Vietnam veteran begging his girlfriend to stay.

After the group broke up in 1974, Rogers started his solo career and found a big hit with the sad country ballad “Lucille,” in 1977, which crossed over to the pop charts and earned Rogers his first Grammy. Suddenly the star, Rogers added hit after hit for more than a decade.

“The Gambler,” the Grammy-winning story song penned by Don Schlitz, came out in 1978 and became his signature song with a signature refrain: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ’em.” The song spawned a hit TV movie of the same name and several more sequels featuring Rogers as professional gambler Brady Hawkes, and led to a lengthy side career for Rogers as a TV actor and host of several TV specials.

Other hits included “You Decorated My Life,” “Every Time Two Fools Collide” with Dottie West, “Don’t Fall In Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes, and “Coward of the County.” One of his biggest successes was “Lady,” written by Lionel Richie, a chart topper for six weeks straight in 1980. Richie said in a 2017 interview with the AP that he often didn’t finish songs until he had already pitched them, which was the case for “Lady.”

“In the beginning, the song was called, ‘Baby,’” Richie said. “And because when I first sat with him, for the first 30 minutes, all he talked about was he just got married to a real lady. A country guy like him is married to a lady. So, he said, ‘By the way, what’s the name of the song?’” Richie replies: “Lady.”

Over the years, Rogers worked often with female duet partners, most memorably, Dolly Parton. The two were paired at the suggestion of the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who wrote “Islands in the Stream.”

“Barry was producing an album on me and he gave me this song,” Rogers told the AP in 2017. “And I went and learned it and went into the studio and sang it for four days. And I finally looked at him and said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore.’ And he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.’ I thought, ‘Man, that guy is a visionary.’”

Coincidentally, Parton was actually in the same recording studio in Los Angeles when the idea came up.

“From the moment she marched into that room, that song never sounded the same,” Rogers said. “It took on a whole new spirit.”

The two singers toured together, including in Australia and New Zealand in 1984 and 1987, and were featured in a HBO concert special. Over the years the two would continue to record together, including their last duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” which was released in 2013. Parton reprised “Islands in the Stream” with Rogers during his all-star retirement concert held in Nashville in October 2017.

Rogers invested his time and money in a lot of other endeavors over his career, including a passion for photography that led to several books, as well as an autobiography, “Making It With Music.” He had a chain of restaurants called “Kenny Rogers Roasters,” and was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Missouri. He was also involved in numerous charitable causes, among them the Red Cross and MusicCares, and was part of the all-star “We are the World” recording for famine relief.

By the ’90s, his ability to chart hits had waned, although he still remained a popular live entertainer with regular touring. Still he was an inventive businessman and never stopped trying to find his way back onto the charts.

At the age of 61, Rogers had a brief comeback on the country charts in 2000 with a hit song “Buy Me A Rose,” thanks to his other favorite medium, television. Producers of the series “Touched By An Angel” wanted him to appear in an episode, and one of his managers suggested the episode be based on his latest single. That cross-promotional event earned him his first No. 1 country song in 13 years.

Rogers’ family is planning a private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency,” a statement posted early Saturday read. A public memorial will be held at a later date.

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Robert Mugabe, longtime Zimbabwe leader, dies at 95

By Farai Mutsaka and Christopher Torchia, The Associated Press

Harare, Zimbabwe — Robert Mugabe, the former leader of Zimbabwe forced to resign in 2017 after a 37-year rule whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil, disputed elections and human rights violations, has died. He was 95.

His successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed Mugabe’s death in a tweet Friday, mourning him as an “icon of liberation.” He did not provide details.

Mugabe, who took power after white minority rule ended in 1980, blamed Zimbabwe’s economic problems on international sanctions and once said he wanted to rule for life. But growing discontent about the southern African country’s fractured leadership and other problems prompted a military intervention, impeachment proceedings by the parliament and large street demonstrations for his removal.

  • FILE – In this Tuesday, March 18, 2008 file photo, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses party supporters at a rally in Gweru, about 250 kms. (155 miles) south of Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, file)

  • FILE – In this Wednesday, Nov. 10, 1976 file photo, leaders of the Black National Front Joshua Nkomo, left, and Robert Mugabe make a no progress statement after their informal meeting with British chairman Ivor Richard at the Palais of Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Dieter Endlicher, file)

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  • FILE – In this Sunday, July, 29, 2018, file photo, Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace pose for a photo after a press conference at their residence in Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

  • FILE – In this Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, file photo Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe arrives for the burial of a prominent member of his party, Misheck Chando, in Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

  • FILE – In this Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 file photo Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, center, arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

  • FILE – In this Wednesday, April 18, 2012 file photo Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, lights a flame at celebrations to mark 32 years of independence of Zimbabwe, in Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/File)

  • FILE – In this Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 file photo Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe clenches his fists as he delivers his speech at his party’s 13th annual conference, in Gweru about 250 Kilometres south west of the capital Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

  • FILE – In this Wednesday, May 22, 2013 file photo Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after he signed the new constitution into law at State house in Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

  • FILE – In this Saturday, Dec, 17, 2016 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses people at an event before the closure of his party’s 16th Annual Peoples Conference in Masvingo, south of the capital Harare. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

  • FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died.
    (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, FILE)

  • FILE — In this Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe officiates at a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor Robert Mugabe, age 95, has died. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

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The announcement of Mugabe’s Nov. 21, 2017 resignation after he initially ignored escalating calls to quit triggered wild celebrations in the streets of the capital, Harare. Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power and reflected hopes for a better future.

On Feb. 21, 2018, Mugabe marked his first birthday since his resignation in near solitude, far from the lavish affair of past years. While the government that removed him with military assistance had declared his birthday as a national holiday, his successor and former deputy Mnangagwa did not mention him in a televised speech on the day.

Mugabe’s decline in his last years as president was partly linked to the political ambitions of his wife, Grace, a brash, divisive figure whose ruling party faction eventually lost out in a power struggle with supporters of Mnangagwa, who was close to the military.

Despite Zimbabwe’s decline during his rule, Mugabe remained defiant, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude and urging Africans to take control of their resources, a populist message that was often a hit even as many nations on the continent shed the strongman model and moved toward democracy.

Mugabe enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa who chose not to judge him in the same way as Britain, the United States and other Western detractors. Toward the end of his rule, he served as rotating chairman of the 54-nation African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community; his criticism of the International Criminal Court was welcomed by regional leaders who also thought it was being unfairly used to target Africans.

“They are the ones who say they gave Christianity to Africa,” Mugabe said of the West during a visit to South Africa. “We say: ‘We came, we saw and we were conquered.’”

Spry in his impeccably tailored suits, Mugabe as leader maintained a schedule of events and international travel that defied his advancing age, though signs of weariness mounted toward the end. He fell after stepping off a plane in Zimbabwe, read the wrong speech at the opening of parliament and appeared to be dozing during a news conference in Japan. However, his longevity and frequently dashed rumors of ill health delighted supporters and infuriated opponents who had sardonically predicted he would live forever.

“Do you want me to punch you to the floor to realize I am still there?” Mugabe told an interviewer from state television who asked him in early 2016 about retirement plans.

After independence, Mugabe reached out to whites after a long war between black guerrillas and the white rulers of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known. He stressed education and built new schools. Tourism and mining flourished and Zimbabwe was a regional breadbasket.

However, a brutal military campaign waged against an uprising in western Matabeleland province that ended in 1987 augured a bitter turn in Zimbabwe’s fortunes. As the years went by, Mugabe was widely accused of hanging onto power through violence and vote fraud, notably in a 2008 election that led to a troubled coalition government after regional mediators intervened.

“I have many degrees in violence,” Mugabe once boasted on a campaign trail, raising his fist. “You see this fist, it can smash your face.”

Mugabe was re-elected in 2013 in another election marred by alleged irregularities, though he dismissed his critics as sore losers.

Amid the political turmoil, the economy of Zimbabwe, traditionally rich in agriculture and minerals, was deteriorating. Factories were closing, unemployment was rising and the country abandoned its currency for the US dollar in 2009 because of hyperinflation.

The economic problems are often traced to the violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that began around 2000. Land reform was supposed to take much of the country’s most fertile land — owned by about 4,500 white descendants of mainly British and South African colonial-era settlers — and redistribute it to poor blacks. Instead, Mugabe gave prime farms to ruling party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.

Mugabe was born in Zvimba, 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital of Harare. As a child, he tended his grandfather’s cattle and goats, fished for bream in muddy water holes, played football and “boxed a lot,” as he recalled later.

Mugabe lacked the easy charisma of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and contemporary who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after reconciling with its former white rulers. But he drew admirers in some quarters for taking a hard line with the West, and he could be disarming despite his sometimes harsh demeanor.

“The gift of politicians is never to stop speaking until the people say, ‘Ah, we are tired,’” he said at a 2015 news conference. “You are now tired. I say thank you.”

Torchia reported from Johannesburg.

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KTLA anchor Chris Burrous dead at 43

GLENDALE – KTLA-TV Channel 5 weekend anchor Chris Burrous was found unconscious in a motel room in Glendale this afternoon and later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Police received a call about 1:15 p.m. from a man who said a man he was with at the Days Inn, located at 450 Pioneer Drive, had passed out and was possibly not breathing, according to Sgt. Dan Suttles of the Glendale Police Department.

Glendale firefighters responded to the scene and found Burrous, 43, down inside a room and not breathing, Suttles said. CPR was administered and he was taken to a hospital where he died.

The original call to police stated Burrous may have overdosed, but detectives will await the Los Angeles County coroner’s office report for a determination of the cause of death, Suttles said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burrous family,” KTLA President and general manager Don Corsini and news director Jason Ball said in a joint statement tonight.

“Chris loved sharing the stories of Southern California and connecting with our viewers. He will be remembered as a great journalist and a wonderful friend to many. He brought a kindness to his work and will be deeply missed by the entire KTLA family.”

KTLA entertainment anchor Sam Rubin tweeted his condolences, calling Burrous death, “heartbreaking and horrible.”

“What Chris Burrous did was connect — with all of us, every day, and most especially on the weekends” Rubin said. “He deeply loved his wife and his daughter; and all of you who watched him. A large community is in mourning tonight.”

Burrous graduated from Chapman University in Orange with a degree in broadcast journalism and began a two-decade career in news which started at KCKC-AM and KCXX-FM in San Bernardino while he was still in school.

He moved on to KNTV-TV and KLIV-AM in San Jose, then KEVN-TV in Rapid City, South Dakota. He joined KGET in Bakersfield in 1999 as a morning news anchor and it was there he met his wife, Mai Do-Burrous. The couple married in 2003 and share a 9-year-old daughter, Isabella, the statement said.

Burrous career led him to KGPE in Fresno, KMAX in Sacramento and KTLA sister station WPIX in New York City. He told the New York Daily News he asked for a transfer to Los Angeles so his daughter could grow up near her grandparents, the station said.

Burrous was credited with helping to extend the “KTLA Morning News” to seven days a week, anchoring weekends and covering breaking news on weekday mornings, the station said. His weekend “Burrous’ Bites” segments, which featured the best hole-in-the-wall eateries Southern California has to offer, were a viewer favorite.

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Racing legend Dan Gurney, who lived in Newport Beach, dies at age 86

NEWPORT BEACH — Dan Gurney, the first driver with victories in each of the Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR Cup series, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 86.

His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers Inc.

FILE - This May 31, 1969 file photo shows Grand Prix racer Dan Gurney. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo)
FILE – This May 31, 1969 file photo shows Grand Prix racer Dan Gurney. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo)

“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today,” said the statement signed by Evi Gurney, the Gurney family and AAR teammates.

FILE - This July 27, 2007 file photo shows legendary race car driver Dan Gurney smiling while signing autographs during an appearance at the Concours d'Elegance historic automobile show in Newport, R.I. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)
FILE – This July 27, 2007 file photo shows legendary race car driver Dan Gurney smiling while signing autographs during an appearance at the Concours d’Elegance historic automobile show in Newport, R.I. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)

“In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say, ‘Godspeed.”

Gurney began racing in 1955 and won in nearly every racing series he attempted. He drove for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham in Formula One, then formed his own team. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in his own car, the first and only time an American won an F1 race in a car of his own design.

Gurney teamed with AJ Foyt that year to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40, and he’s often credited with starting the tradition of spraying the champagne from the podium at that race.

Gurney retired from driving in 1970 with 51 victories.

“When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “His skill in all three areas helped him make an indelible mark and serve as a huge influence in this sport. Dan was a giant in the racing world, in every sense.”

Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only other drivers to win in each of the IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR Cup series. Andretti hailed Gurney in a post on Twitter.

“I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever,” Andretti wrote. “He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001.”

Funeral arrangements are to be private but the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hoag Hospital Foundation in Newport Beach, where Evi and Dan Gurney lived.

A biography on the All American Racers website said Evi and Dan Gurney have two sons. Dan Gurney had four children from his first marriage and had eight grandchildren.

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Chris Cornell of Audioslave and Soundgarden has died at age 52

By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY

According to his representative, rocker Chris Cornell, who gained fame as the lead singer of Soundgarden and later Audioslave, has died at age 52.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Brian Bumbery says Cornell died Wednesday night in Detroit.

Bumbery called the death “sudden and unexpected” and said his wife and family were shocked by it. The statement said the family would be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause and asked for privacy.

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