Aug 21, 2017
1:00 am

Dick Gregory, Pioneering Comedian and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 84 (NY Times; Rolling Stone; THR; YouTube)

“Dick Gregory, the pioneering satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to protest and fasting in the name of assorted social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died Saturday in Washington,” reports The New York Times.

The Times continues, “Mr. Gregory [who was 84] had been admitted to a hospital on Aug. 12, his son said in an earlier Facebook post.”

Writes Rolling Stone, “while at the hospital, Gregory suffered ‘a bifurcated thoracic aortic aneurysm,’ the family announced Sunday. ‘For a lifetime, my father took all the hits, however, this hit was too much,’ [Gregory’s son] Christian Gregory wrote.”

The Times story quotes from some of Gregory’s routines: “‘Segregation is not all bad,’ he would say. ‘Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?’ Or: ‘You know the definition of a Southern moderate? That’s a cat that’ll lynch you from a low tree.’ Or: ‘I heard we’ve got lots of black astronauts. Saving them for the first spaceflight to the sun.’”

Says Rolling Stone, “The St. Louis-born Gregory got his start in comedy while serving in the Army in the Fifties, where he worked on his craft in talent shows. After years of performing to predominately black audiences at nightclubs while holding down a day job at the post office, Gregory’s big break came in January 1961, when Hugh Hefner asked him to fill in at the Playboy Club in Chicago.”

Gregory “was invited to perform on ‘The Tonight Show’ in 1962,” notes The Hollywood Reporter, “but Gregory said he wouldn’t go unless he was able to sit down next to host Jack Paar after his routine and be interviewed. A black performer had never done that before.”

The Reporter adds, “After ‘The Tonight Show’ appearance, Gregory noted that his salary jumped from $250 for seven nights of work (three shows a night) at the Playboy Club to $5,000 a night. ‘And the next year and a half, I made $3.9 million,’ he said. ‘That is the power.’”

To read more about Dick Gregory, please click here to read The New York Times obituary, here to read the Rolling Stone piece, and here to read The Hollywood Reporter article.

Here’s Dick Gregory in an appearance on Arsenio Hall’s old late-night talk show that we found on YouTube:

Aug 20, 2017
12:20 pm

He was the King of Slapstick and a TV Institution Hosting the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethons: Jerry Lewis Dies at 91 (Las Vegas Review Journal; NY Daily News; LA Times; YouTube)

“Very sad to report entertainment legend #JerryLewis has died today at 9:15 a.m. at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.” Thus read a tweet earlier today by John Katsilometes, a columnist for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Lewis, who died of natural causes, “turned himself into an American entertainment institution, first as a maniacal slapstick comedian and then as the 45-year host of tear-jerking annual TV telethons that raised a staggering $2.6 billion for muscular dystrophy research,” writes TV critic David Hinckley in the New York Daily News.

The obituary adds, “Inside the comedy world, Lewis was revered as a genius. The 2011 Lewis documentary “Method to the Madness” featured comedians from Billy Crystal to Eddie Murphy to Chevy Chase praising his singular style of comic lunacy and pathos.”

“‘If you don’t get Jerry Lewis,’ Jerry Seinfeld said in ‘Method,’ ‘you don’t understand comedy.’”

Daily News piece adds, “For American audiences, Lewis’ career had three major segments: his early television, stage and movie collaboration with Dean Martin, which ended in 1956; his solo movie career, which peaked in the 1960s; and his return every Labor Day for the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, which he hosted until 2010.

“His tearful pleas for ‘Jerry’s Kids’ and his rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ became television signatures.”

Notes the Los Angeles Times, with singer Dean Martin, Lewis was “half of what has been called the most successful comedy duo in history.

“They teamed on stage for the first time in 1946, in a boardwalk nightclub in Atlantic City, N.J. Audiences had never seen anything like them: Martin, the handsome Italian crooner with the laid-back style; Lewis, the skinny, animated ‘kid’ with the shrill, adolescent whine.”

The Times story adds, “‘I have been in the business 55 years, and I have never to this day seen an act get more laughs than Martin and Lewis,’ comedian Alan King once recalled in the New Yorker, decades after seeing the team perform at New York City’s fabled Copacabana nightclub in 1948. ‘They didn’t get laughs — it was pandemonium.’”

Lewis and Martin also had a successful run on TV’s ‘Colgate Comedy Hour” in the 1950s.

Some of Lewis’ many movies include: “The Bellhop,” “The Errand Boy,” and “The Nutty Professor” (1963). He also had a critically-acclaimed co-starring role in Martin Scorsese’s 1982 “The King of Comedy.”

To read much more about Lewis’ life and career, please click on the links above, which will take you to pieces in the New York Daily News and Los Angeles Times, respectively.

Here’s a terrific full episode of Martin and Lewis on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” which was presented live on NBC sixty-five years ago in 1952. We found this kinescope on YouTube.

Aug 18, 2017
4:29 pm

Actor Who Co-Starred in ’48 Hours,’ ‘Predator’ Dies (AP, TVWeek, YouTube)

An action-movie actor known for his co-starring roles in “Predator” and “48 Hours” has died. The AP reports that Sonny Landham died Thursday in a hospital in Lexington, Ky., of congestive heart failure. He was 76.

“Landham was a brawny, deep-voiced actor and stunt man who played a bit part in Walter Hill’s 1979 street-gang thriller ‘The Warriors’ before the director cast him as the trigger-happy criminal Billy Bear in 1982’s ’48 Hrs,'” the story reports. “Landham, who was part Cherokee and Seminole, was perhaps most known for playing the Native American tracker Billy Sole in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Predator.'”

Landham reportedly moved into the mainstream movie business after a stint in the porn industry in the 1970s. He went on to appear in about 50 movies, including “Southern Comfort” and “Poltergeist.”

Here’s a short video from YouTube about Landham’s health issues that includes footage of Landham earlier this year delivering his “Predator” catchphrase, “We are all gonna die” …

Aug 18, 2017
4:01 pm

Roman Polanski Court Bid Rejected (AP)

Even with his victim delivering an impassioned plea in court to end a four-decade-old sexual assault case against fugitive moviemaker Roman Polanski, a judge in Los Angeles today ruled against Polanski, effectively keeping him in exile from the U.S.

“Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski must return to California if he expects to resolve charges of sexually abusing a teen. The Oscar winner fled the country on the eve of sentencing in 1978,” the AP reports. “Gordon’s ruling follows a fervent request by Samantha Geimer to end a ’40-year sentence’ she says was imposed on both perpetrator and victim. It was issued on Polanski’s 84th birthday and blamed the director for the fact that the case was still alive.”

Gordon wrote in his ruling: “Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and defendant’s refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life.”

The report notes: “Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with Geimer when she was 13. She has said he drugged, raped and sodomized her.”

Geimer, now a longtime supporter of Polanski’s efforts to close the case, “told the judge that she was deeply disappointed Polanski had not been able to resolve the case with prosecutors and implored Gordon to ‘bring this matter to a close as an act of mercy to myself and my family,'” the report adds.

Aug 18, 2017
3:51 pm

Details Surface on Death of ‘Deadpool 2’ Stuntwoman (AP, TVWeek)

The first official account of the accident on the set of “Deadpool 2” in which stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris died was released by British Columbia’s workplace safety agency. As we reported previously, Harris was killed in a motorcycle crash during filming in Vancouver.

“The report says SJ Harris had been rehearsing a stunt that involved driving a motorcycle out the open doors of a building, across a concrete pad and down a ramp that had been built over three stairs before coming to a stop,” the AP reports. “It says during the first shooting of the scene, she continued driving beyond the planned stopping spot, continued down a second ramp and across the road.

“The motorcycle struck a concrete sidewalk curb and Harris was thrown off and propelled through a plate glass window.”

The report was released today by WorkSafeBC, and essentially confirms what eyewitnesses had said previously.

Harris, who hailed from Brooklyn, was a rookie stunt rider with experience in motorcycle road racing. A pioneer as an African American woman licensed as a motorcycle road racer, she had been racing professionally since 2014.

She was reportedly doubling for actress Zazie Beetz, who plays Domino in “Deadpool 2.”

Aug 18, 2017
3:49 pm

Rapper Arrested Over Alleged Instagram Video (NY Daily News, YouTube)

A popular rapper was arrested Thursday after authorities reportedly determined from an Instagram video that he had been doing some illegal dirt bike riding. The New York Daily News reports that Meek Mill was arrested Thursday night on reckless endangerment charges.

An attorney for Meek Mill says he was targeted by authorities because of his celebrity.

Authorities said the rapper, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was seen in the Instagram clip riding without a helmet and popping wheelies in Inwood, in Nassau County, N.Y.

Williams, who apparently posted the dirt bike footage himself, also live-streamed video of his interaction with officers on Instagram after he was stopped by police, although that footage generally does not capture much of what was going on. (You can watch it below, for what it’s worth.)

The alleged dirt bike footage could not be found on Instagram, the report notes.

“His lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said he was being singled out because of his celebrity,” the Daily News reports, quoting Tacopina saying: “That level of investigation is normally reserved for heinous crimes, not for petty offenses like doing a wheelie on the street where you’re endangering no one’s life but your own.”

The report adds: “Tacopina claims police saw his client doing the stunt Wednesday but did nothing at the time. Instead, they analyzed the video, then picked him up while he was attending a nearby children’s basketball clinic.”

Aug 18, 2017
2:21 pm

Fallout for Trump After Ouster of Steve Bannon? Now He Has Angered One of His Staunchest Media Allies (CNN)

The White House today announced the ouster of Steve Bannon following a tumultuous tenure as chief strategist, with observers suggesting Bannon’s firing will turn Breitbart News against Trump.

Breitbart, formerly headed by Bannon, has been one of Trump’s most steadfast media allies.

“Bannon, his allies and the site’s staffers have not been subtle about what is likely to happen now,” CNN reports. “Joel Pollak, a senior editor-at-large at Breitbart, tweeted ‘#WAR,’ a reference to the site’s early days and the mission statement of its founder, Andrew Breitbart.”

The report cites a source who recently spoke with Bannon saying the now-former White House chief strategist will not remain quiet.

CNN quotes the source saying: “It will be Bannon the barbarian. He’s not going to go out peacefully.”

The report adds: “Following news of Bannon’s exit, Breitbart started to prepare stories critical of people in the Trump White House, a person at the website told CNN. It’s most likely the site will not — for now at least — directly attack the president, but will focus its fire on people in Trump’s circle who had clashed with Bannon, or who are viewed as Democrats or ‘globalists.'”

Bannon reportedly returned to Breitbart as executive chairman of Breitbart News just hours after his exit from the White House.

Aug 18, 2017
2:17 pm

Fox Chief Blasts Trump (TVWeek, NY Times)

The CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox rebuked Donald Trump over his response to the deadly violence at a white nationalist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

In an email addressed to “friends” and obtained by media outlets, James Murdoch wrote: “What we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.”

Murdoch also wrote: “The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”

Murdoch is the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who remains an informal adviser to Trump. The New York Times notes that the elder Murdoch, an outspoken conservative, recently dined with Trump in the White House residence.

James Murdoch’s email adds that he and his wife, Kathryn, will be donating $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, and encourages others to donate as well.

The full text of the email can be read by clicking here.

Aug 18, 2017
2:09 pm

Talent Agent Mysteriously Disappears (NY Post)

A search is under way for a talent agent who disappeared from his home one day after returning from vacation. The New York Post reports that Manhattan agent Mark Schlegel disappeared from his home in Oradell, N.J., over the weekend.

His disappearance happened Sunday, one day after he and his wife, Chris, returned from a trip to Scotland in celebration of their 33rd wedding anniversary.

He was last seen around 3:30 p.m. Sunday. He reportedly left home without his wallet, ID or phone.

Schlegel, a father of two grown children, has reportedly worked for Cornerstone Talent Agency since 2002. Among his clients are Brandon Flynn of “13 Reasons Why” and Dominic Chianese of “The Sopranos.”

Mark Schlegel (Oradell, N.J., Police)

Aug 18, 2017
8:19 am

Big 4 Broadcast Networks Set Simulcast (TVWeek)

Plans are in place for a simulcast across ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox that will air Friday, Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. “EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live,” put on by the Entertainment Industry Foundation and XQ Institute, will air live in the Eastern time zone and on a tape-delayed basis on the West Coast.

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon will executive produce the one-hour program, aimed at inspiring people to rethink high school and exploring ways to get students prepared for the careers of the future.

In a statement, Davis and Tennon said: “We are excited to team up with EIF and XQ Institute to help bring awareness to the issue of high school education and ensure that our students are receiving an education that prepares them for the future. As executive producers of this live special, we are honored to work alongside some incredible names in the entertainment and education space.”

The program is executive produced by XQ, produced by Done + Dusted, and directed by Hamish Hamilton.

Please click here for additional details on the program and background on XQ Institute and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

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