John Lennon’s Phantom V: Psychedelic Beatle-Mobile

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As the late icon’s famed Rolls-Royce returns to public view, we look back at how it served both as a safe haven and a souped-up plaything

“You swine! How dare you do that to a Rolls-Royce!” So screamed an outraged Englishwoman as John Lennon’s Phantom V cruised past on London’s posh Piccadilly promenade in the summer of 1967. The ornately decorated limousine, sprayed an electric yellow and bedecked with colorful floral tendrils, Romany scrolls and zodiac symbols like a hallucinatory gypsy caravan, so offended her sensibilities that she briefly attacked it with an umbrella – or at least that’s the way Lennon always told the story.

Much as the length of the Beatles’ mop-tops had done, Lennon’s choice to express himself through his automobile triggered a generational clash, enraging those who felt the tripped-out paintjob had subverted a British icon. “I can imagine this lady felt, ‘How dare you?! This is one of those things you cannot do!'” Giles Taylor, design director for Rolls-Royce, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s like putting graffiti on Buckingham Palace. You’re getting close to the nerve of British elegance, British politeness and good British manners.”

In the 50 years since it outraged the Establishment, Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V is now embraced as a masterpiece of design and a jewel of the Swinging Sixties. After nearly four decades spent in North America, where it was housed in a number of museums, the one of a kind vehicle is making its grand English homecoming as part of Rolls-Royce’s new exhibition, “The Great Eight Phantoms.” Between July 29th and August 2nd, Phantoms owned by the likes of Queen Elizabeth II and Fred Astaire will be on display at Bonhams flagship saleroom and galleries in London to celebrate the launch of the Phantom VIII, the latest incarnation of the 92-year-old model.

Despite the illustrious company, the wild car once owned by a guy from Liverpool has arguably earned the most attention. “It’s pure art,” Taylor says of the ride, since nicknamed the “Psychedelic Rolls” for obvious reasons. “John Lennon chose an automotive piece as his canvas, using all the symbols of wealth and other messages that go along with the Rolls-Royces of that period. He was certainly getting fed up with conforming at that time. It was a classic artistic statement.” In a fitting nod to Lennon’s individuality, the Phantom VIII will come equipped with a full-length glass dashboard, allowing owners to customize their ride with art of their choice. “We’ve opened a door to allow the license to ‘subvert,’ which goes back to where Lennon went originally. It’s a license to express yourselves.”

Lennon bought his first Rolls-Royce, a secondhand two-toned maroon-and-black limo, in July 1964 to shuttle him to London from Kenwood, his newly purchased estate in the rural Surrey village of Weybridge. But that December he decided to upgrade this comparatively modest car for a coach that matched his fab status, and submitted an order for the most exclusive (read: expensive) Rolls-Royce model. Rumor has it that John had wanted to one-up his manager, Brian Epstein,” says Dr. Lorne Hammond, the curator of Human History at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Canada, where the car has permanently resided since 1993. “On a return in 1964, the Beatles were picked up by Brian at the airport in a new Bentley, material proof of their success. John’s choice of a Phantom V showed the people back home in Liverpool, all of London, and the world, that he had made it. He bought ‘the best car in the world’ with every factory option and extras. The delicious humor of one-upping his manager would have also have appealed.”

Commissioned from R.S. Mead Ltd., a retailer based in nearby Maidenhead, the custom-made Phantom V would take six months to complete. Its chassis was manufactured at the Rolls-Royce factory in Crewe, Cheshire, and in late January 1965 work began on the bespoke limousine carriage at Mulliner Park Ward in Willesden, Northwest London. For all of the paperwork accumulated during the car’s construction, the total price of the vehicle is not recorded. An educated guess from historian Steve Clifford, who profiled the car in an extensive 1999 article for Beatleology magazine, put the figure at around 11,000 pounds (nearly $240,000 in today’s value). However, with publicity at a premium and Lennon being one of the most famous people on the planet, odds are good that he received some sort of Beatle discount.

Ironic considering the significant expenditure, Lennon was unable to drive when he first ordered the Phantom V. He wouldn’t pass his “L-test” until February 15th, 1965 at age 24, becoming the last Beatle to do so. “I’d never bothered because I wasn’t very interested in driving, but when the others passed I thought I’d better do it or I’d get left,” he said at the time. That same day the Beatles began work on a new song, “Ticket to Ride,” a prophetic title considering the number of citations Lennon eventually racked up during his road hours. By all accounts – including his own – he was a horrendous driver, far too myopic to read signs, too distracted to recall routes, and too impractical to troubleshoot even the simplest mechanical issue.

An untold number of fenders were spared when he employed the services of a six-foot-four Welsh guardsman named Les Anthony, whose large frame made him an effective bodyguard as well as driver. On permanent call for 36 pounds a week, Anthony doffed a braided chauffer’s cap whenever “Mr. Lennon” rang. It was likely he who was on hand to receive the finished Phantom V on June 3rd, 1965, at R.S. Mead. Bearing the registration plates “FJB 111C,” the enormous vehicle measured an astonishing 19 feet, 10 inches long, and six feet, seven inches wide. Tipping the scales at nearly three metric tons, it didn’t roll so much as glide down the blacktop. Not yet emblazoned with the distinctive Romany paintjob, the exterior was finished in a somber “Valentine Black” shade. “John’s Rolls was all black – even the wheels,” Anthony later told author Phillip Norman. “The only bit of chrome on it was the radiator. He told me he’d wanted that to be black as well, but the Rolls people wouldn’t do it.”

Among the Phantom V’s more traditional amenities were the 6.23-litre V8 engine, black leather upholstery, cocktail cabinet with fine wood trim, writing table, reading lamps, a seven-piece his-and-hers black-hide luggage set, and a Perdio portable television. Slightly more novel was the refrigeration system contained in the trunk of the car, perfect for chilling champagne or, more often, cola for Scotch and Cokes. The most unusual feature was the one-way passenger windows made of darkened Triplex Deeplight glass. Lennon’s Phantom V was among the first automobiles in England to be outfitted with tinted windows, shielding riders from any unwanted gawking. More valuable than privacy, for Lennon it created the effect of a mobile discothèque that never closed. “People think they’ve got black windows to hide. It’s partly that, but it’s also for when you’re coming home late,” he admitted in 1965. “If it’s daylight when you’re coming in, it’s still dark inside the car – you just shut all the windows and you’re still in the club.”

In those early morning hours, while being ferried home from hotspots like the Ad Lib Club or the Scotch of St. James, Lennon surely took pleasure knowing that he was riding in the same car owned by his hero, Elvis Presley. But the King of Rock was far from the only royal who favored the Phantom V. Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother both used the model as their official state vehicles, occasionally leading to some disappointing mix-ups with mistaken Beatle fans. Perhaps it provided a conversation starter when the Beatles took Lennon’s Phantom to Buckingham Palace on October 26th, 1965, to collect their MBE honors from Her Majesty.

In December 1965, a simple maintenance checkup spiraled into a major overhaul as Lennon submitted a seven-page list of alterations to be carried out at a cost of more than 1900 pounds. The splurge transformed the deluxe ride into an Austin Powers–like shag-wagon, beginning with a modified backseat that converted into a double bed – with oversized ashtrays added to the armrests. On-demand music was available from a state of the art Philips Auto-Mignon AG2101 “floating” record player, boasting an ingenious suspension system that prevented the needle from jumping when the car was in use. A Philips tape player was also added in a specially built cabinet, as well as a Sterno Radio Telephone assigned with the number WEYBRIDGE 46676. “The telephone packs and batteries were so large in those days that they took up almost the entire boot,” recalled Lennon’s housekeeper, Dot Jarlett. “John also had the hooter changed so that when you honked, it played ‘Lilli Marlene.'”

The television set was upgraded to a more modern Sony TV 9-306 UB, but the reception was poor and it rarely worked. Instead, Lennon derived much of his entertainment from the “loud hailer” public address system. Speakers mounted in the front wheel wells allowed occupants to communicate with the world outside via microphone. “You could ask people to cross the road a bit faster which scared the daylights out of them,” Beatles associate Tony King told author Mick Brown. The car’s stereo could also be switched to these outdoor speakers, and Lennon enjoyed blasting sound-effect recordings of trains and jet engines to confuse bystanders.

Lennon’s bandmates often got in on the vehicular mischief. “After recording sessions, at two or three in the morning, we’d be careening through the villages on the way to Weybridge, shouting ‘wey-hey’ and driving much too fast,” Paul McCartney remembered during the Beatles’ Anthology documentary. “George would perhaps be in his Ferrari – he was quite a fast driver – and John and I would be following in his big Rolls-Royce. John had a mic in the Rolls with a loudspeaker outside and he’d be shouting to George in the front: ‘It is foolish to resist, it is foolish to resist! Pull over!’ It was insane. All the lights would go on in the houses as we went past – it must have freaked everybody out.”

No one was safe, not even members of their rock star coterie. “I remember being in Hyde Park, coming back from John’s house in his big chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. … We were driving through the park, and ahead of us was Brian [Jones’] Austin Princess,” McCartney told biographer Barry Miles. “We could see his big floppy hat and blond hair and we could see him nervously smoking a ciggie in the back of the car. So John got on the mic and said, ‘Pull over now! Brian Jones! You are under arrest! Pull over now!’ Brian jumped up. ‘Fucking hell!’ He really thought he had been busted. He was shitting himself! Then he saw it was us. And we were going, ‘Fuck off!’ giving V-signs [the British equivalent of flipping the middle finger] out of the car window.”

Lennon ramped up use of the car in 1966, piling on nearly 20,000 miles by the end of the year. When his first solo acting turn in director Richard Lester’s How I Won the War required him to shoot on location in Spain for six weeks that autumn, he had Anthony make the 1,400-mile drive south to meet him with the Phantom V. “We were in Almería, which was very sandy, and the local kids would write ‘el Beatle’ on the car,” Anthony remembered. The large black saloon was a conspicuous prescience in the provincial town, and soon earned the nickname “El Funebre” (“The Hearse”) from the locals.

The filmmaking process – to say nothing of the 6 a.m. call times – quickly proved tedious and unfulfilling for Lennon, and the Rolls served as a comfortable cocoon that he, according to McCartney, “virtually lived in. It had blacked-out windows so it was perfect. John didn’t come out of it – he just used to talk to the people outside through the microphone: ‘Get away from the car! Get away!'” To stave off boredom between takes, he would while away the hours in the backseat, smoking marijuana that had been smuggled into the country inside boxes of candy, and tinkering with lyrics for a melancholic new song provisionally called “It’s Not Too Bad.” After a lengthy process of finessing, the composition took its final, better known title: “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

The groundbreaking Beatles single would be the silver lining for what proved to be an overall disappointing trip. Lennon lost interest in becoming a movie star, Anthony detested the bugs and heat, and the primitive roads badly damaged the Phantom V’s undercarriage and exhaust system. Mechanical repairs were made in short order, but the southern-Spanish sand and dust had all but ruined the car’s elegant matte black finishing. With a new paintjob required, and Lennon’s creativity unleashed by the fruitful sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he began to consider something a little more colorful.

Exactly how Lennon decided on the lurid Romany floral/zodiac hybrid is subject to some debate. Anthony recalls Ringo Starr planting the seed of the idea during a drive in early 1967. “We were passing the fairground one day and they were admiring the fairground decorations and gypsy caravans. Ringo said why not have the Rolls painted the same way. John thought it was a great idea.” However, others say the idea was suggested by Marijke Koger of the Dutch design collective the Fool – who would also paint Lennon’s piano that summer – after Lennon commissioned a refurbished 1874 gypsy caravan as a present for his young son, Julian. Either way, the chance to indulge his eccentric taste, while simultaneously delivering a massive “V-sign” to the staid British high society, proved too tempting to resist.

Doubtful that Rolls-Royce themselves would ever submit to such a drastic makeover of one of their prized vehicles, Lennon paid a visit to private coach makers J.P. Fallon Ltd. in Chertsey on April 8th, 1967, to discuss the design. After spraying the body of the car yellow, local artist Steve Weaver was tasked with painting the red, orange, green and blue art nouveau swirls, floral side panels and Lennon’s astrological symbol, Libra, on the roof. On May 24th, Weaver submitted an invoice for 290 pounds, and the following day the car was ready for pickup. Predictably, the unveiling of the way-out Rolls drew the world’s press. “The first time I drove it, I was followed by hordes of photographers and Pathé news,” said Anthony.

Reactions were mixed, depending on which side of the generation gap you happened to stand. The Daily Mail reported that the “shrieking yellow” vehicle elicited jeers from the assembled crowd, and the July 1967 issue of Beatles Book Monthly claimed that a local traffic official feared the loud colors would be a dangerous distraction to drivers on the road. And, of course, there was the angry elderly woman who took an umbrella to the car as it cruised down Piccadilly. “Naturally, John was delighted and repeated the story everywhere he went,” friend Tony Bramwell wrote in his 2006 memoir, Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with the Beatles.

Predictably, Lennon and his compatriots adored the new and improved car. Delivered days before the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was issued, its official maiden voyage took place on May 28th, leading a fleet of friends to Epstein’s new country home for a combined album release party and housewarming. Lennon somehow managed to cram in the back with eight others: his wife Cynthia, George Harrison and his wife Pattie, Koger and fellow Fools Simon Posthuma and Josje Leeger, as well as Derek Taylor – the Beatles’ former (and future) press officer who had just flown in from Los Angeles for the event – and his wife Joan. All but the visiting Taylors were decked out in colorful silk and satin garb adorned with flowers, bells, scarves and amulets. Led by balloon bouquets tied to sign posts to guide the way, the friends sipped LSD-laced tea and played Procol Harum’s gentle psychedelic lullaby “A Whiter Shade of Pale” endlessly on the record player.

“John and friends floated in on his gaudy yellow Rolls, through bucolic country lanes adrift with clouds of May blossoms, as if in a magic pumpkin on the way to the ball,” Bramwell writes of the idyllic scene. It was a harbinger of the season, kicking off the semi-mythical Summer of Love. “The party had a soft, dreamlike quality to it,” wrote Beatle confidant Peter Brown in his book, The Love You Make. “The prophets were here, the masters were in control, there was good food and liquor and friends. ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale,’ interspersed with Sgt. Pepper, played all afternoon and into the evening.”

It couldn’t last. The magic summer came to an abrupt end on August 27th, when Epstein was found dead of an accidental barbiturate and alcohol overdose in his London home. The times changed as the weather grew colder. That autumn the Beatles rallied together to film their directorial debut, Magical Mystery Tour, which proved to be only slightly less miserable for Lennon than his experience filming How I Won the War a year earlier. The Phantom can be seen in various production stills for the film, which are among the last known images of the car in active Beatle duty.

From 1968 onward, an additional Phantom V, with the license plate EUC 100, became Lennon’s primary ride. The all-white model seemed to signal a sea change in Lennon’s life, drifting away from psychedelic whimsy and towards conceptual minimalism – due at least in part to his blossoming relationship with artist Yoko Ono. The kaleidoscopic collage of the Sgt. Pepper cover was replaced with the stark White Album sleeve, the vibrant kaftans replaced with immaculate white suits, and Kenwood was replaced with the imposing white Georgian country house, Tittenhurst Park.

The precise whereabouts of the flower-power Phantom remain sketchy for the remainder of the Sixties, but Steve Clifford theorizes that it was shipped to the United States in early 1968 for Lennon to use during New York meetings for Apple Corps, the Beatles’ new record label established in the power vacuum following Epstein’s death. Whatever the case, he joined the car in September 1971, leaving his native England for what would prove to be the last time. Though it made an appearance at Lennon’s 31st birthday celebration in Syracuse, New York – attended by fellow guests George Harrison and Ringo Starr – the Phantom V was mostly put to use being loaned out to other musicians. Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues and even members of the Rolling Stones all reportedly got a lift throughout the early Seventies.

ennon, apparently facing difficulties from the IRS, decided to donate it to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in exchange for a $250,000 tax credit. It served as a highlight of the “Ornament in the 20th Century” exhibit, held from October 1978, to January 1979. Lennon was greatly amused by the spectacle, and particularly by the souvenir postcards depicting with his old car available for purchase in the gift shop. He couldn’t resist sending one to his Uncle Norman just before the show closed.

The yellow Phantom V took on a new significance in the wake of Lennon’s murder on December 8th, 1980, transforming the automobile into a vivid relic of one of the 20th century’s most unique figures. When the Cooper-Hewitt chose to put the car up for auction at Sotheby’s on June 29th, 1985, it sold for $2,299,000 – nearly 10 times the estimated amount. The buyer was Jim Pattison, a Canadian business magnate and billionaire, who beat out a St. Louis–area Rolls-Royce dealership for the honor of securing what had become the most expensive car in history.

Pattison also owned the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum franchise, and for a time the Phantom V was on display at the South Carolina branch. It was loaned to the Expo ’86 World’s Fair in Vancouver (also chaired by Pattison), before being presented as a gift to the Canadian government and displayed at British Columbia’s Historic Transportation Center in 1987. Following the institution’s closure in 1993, it was installed in its longtime permanent home at the Royal B.C. Museum.

Too large to fit in the museum’s regular collection, the vehicle spends the majority of the time in storage. The Sony television, Phillips tape player, and spare tire have mysteriously vanished over the years, and the sound system is no longer functional, but it still offers a smooth ride. Every six months a representative from Bristol Motors takes the car on a brief spin to keep everything in working order, bringing the total mileage to just under 35,000 miles. “The biggest challenge with this artifact is preserving the unique paint on the exterior of the car,” says conservation manager Kasey Lee. “It did not bond well with the metal and original factory paint. We keep the car operational only so that we can move it from storage to display when required. The vehicle is incredibly heavy, and since the paint is fragile, it is difficult to push without damaging the paint.”

According to Dr. Hammond, Lennon’s car has been appraised at $5.2 million, but its true worth is impossible to calculate. “With a work of art like this, one only knows when it goes to auction. Given the increased stature of John Lennon and collectability of all things associated with him and the Beatles, we can only assume that in the future it’s value will only grow. However, its value as a piece of cultural history has become priceless.”

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by rollingstone.com

 

Sam Shepard Passes Away At 73

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He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, ‘Buried Child,’ was nominated for an Oscar for his role in ‘The Right Stuff’ and recently appeared on Netflix’s ‘Bloodline.’

Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist and Oscar-nominated actor Sam Shepard, has died at 73, a spokesperson for his family confirmed.

Shepard died at his home in Kentucky on Thursday, July 27 from complications from ALS. He was with his family at the time of his death.

“The family requests privacy at this difficult time,” spokesman Chris Boneau said. Funeral arrangements remain private, and plans for a public memorial have not yet been determined.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in The Right Stuff as Chuck Yeager. He was in a relationship with Jessica Lange from 1982 to 2009.

In 2015, he appeared in Netflix’s dark family drama Bloodline as patriarch Robert Rayburn, which marked his final on-camera appearance.

His first New York plays, Cowboys and The Rock Garden, were produced by Theatre Genesis in 1963.

For his playwriting, Shepard won the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Outer Critics CircleAward in 1986 for his play A Lie of the Mind. He won 11 Obie awards for the off-Broadway plays La Turista, Forensic and the Navigators and Melodrama Play, The Tooth of Crime, Action, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, Fool for Love and the trilogy Chicago, Icarus’ Mother and Red Cross.

True West and Fool for Love were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Revivals of Buried Child (1996) and True West (2000) were both nominated for Tony awards. His final play, A Particle of Dread, premiered in 2014 at New York’s Signature Theatre.

He made his screen acting debut in Bob Dylan’s movie Renaldo and Clara. His film acting credits also include Steel Magnolias, playing the husband of the beauty shop owner; Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven, for which his movie career took off; Resurrection; Frances; Country; Fool for Love; Crimes of the Heart; Baby Boom; Bright Angel; Defenseless; Hamlet; The Notebook; Black Hawk Down; Don’t Come Knocking; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Brothers; Safe House; Mud; August: Osage County; Cold in July; Midnight Special; Ithaca; In Dubious Battle; and You Were Never Here.

He wrote the screenplays for Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, which won the Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival; and Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking. He also directed for film, including Far North and Silent Tongue in 1988 and 1992.

Shepard also played drums in a band he formed called The Holy Modal Rounders, who were featured in Easy Rider, and he accompanied Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

Two volumes of his prose and poetry were published, Hawk Moon and Motel Chronicles. Hisnovel, The One Inside, was published in February by Knopf.

Shepard directed his plays at San Francisco’s Magic Theater and at the Royal Court in London. He was also active in the University of California, Davis Drama Workshop.

Samuel Shepard Rogers III was born in Illinois on Nov. 5,1943 and grew up in Cody, Wyo and Duarte, Calif. After a brief try at college, he dropped out to join a theater troupe. He began writing plays when pursuing an acting career in New York. Cowboys was based on his roommate and himself. His Western persona — jeans, boot, western shirt — bespoke his upbringing.

Shepard taught playwriting, leading classes and seminar at workshops and universities, including a turn as a Regents Professor at University of California, Davis.

He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986 and received the Gold Medal for Drama from the academy in 1992. In 1994, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. In 2009 he received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist.

In 1999 he received Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations for his performance in Dash and Lilly.

Shepard is survived by his children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard, and his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by hollywoodreporter.com

June Foray Passes Away At 99

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June Foray, the voice of “The Rocky and  Bullwinkle Show’s” Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his nemesis Natasha Fatale of Boris and Natasha fame in the early 1960s and a key figure in the animation industry, died Thursday. She was 99.

Her close friend Dave Nimitz, confirmed her death on Facebook, writing “With a heavy heart again I want to let you all know that we lost our little June today at 99 years old.”

Foray was also the voice behind Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel, Nell from “Dudley Do-Right,” Granny in the “Tweety and Sylvester” cartoons and Cindy Lou Who in Chuck Jones’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among hundreds of others.

The first lady of voice acting, one of the original members of animation organization ASIFA-Hollywood and founder of the annual Annie Awards, was also instrumental in the creation of the Oscars’ animated feature category.

“We are all saddened by the news of June’s passing,” said ASIFA-Hollywood executive director Frank Gladstone, who noted that she would have celebrated her 100th birthday in September. “Although it didn’t come as a shock, it has really taken us back a bit.”

Gladstone noted her instrumental role in starting the Annie Awards. “It was part of her legacy and a testament to her enduring love for animation and the animation industry.”

Said ASIFA president Jerry Beck: “On behalf of ASIFA-Hollywood, of which June was a founder, we are mourning the passing of animation’s best friend. She has touched so many lives: with her voice that of so many classic cartoon character, her efforts to create ASIFA, to maintain the Academy’s Oscar for Best Animated Short and her leadership in crafting the category of Best Animated Feature. She was one of a kind. A trailblazer, a great talent and a truly wonderful person. We will never forget her.”

Recently elected Academy board member and animation veteran Tom Sito said of Foray: “She was a mainstay of the animation community in Hollywood and the queen of voice talent.”

Foray continued to work late in life, reprising her role as Rocky in director Gary Trousdale’s short “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” released by DreamWorks Animation in 2014. In a 2013 interview with Variety, Foray said: “I’m still going. It keeps you thinking young. My body is old, but I think the same as I did when I was 20 years old.”

Foray is credited with coming up with the idea for the Annie Awards, which started out as a dinner honoring the year’s best in animation in 1972, and she presided over what has become a gala event in the animation industry every year since. The Annies created a juried award named for Foray in 1995 that honors individuals who have made significant or benevolent contributions to the art and industry of animation, and she was its first recipient.

Foray told Variety that she had been working in the animation business for about 20 years before the group that would eventually become ASIFA-Hollywood casually came to be. “We never did anything. Sometimes we’d have lunch together and call each other on the phone,” she said. Foray was a founding member of what was then called ASIFA West Coast in the early 1960s with fellow animation professionals Les Goldman, Bill Littlejohn, Ward Kimball, John Wilson, Carl Bell and Herbert Kasower.

In the early 1970s Foray pitched the idea for an awards show. “I was thinking that there were the Grammys, the Tonys, the Oscars, but nobody recognizes animation,” Foray said. So she suggested the board host a dinner, and though other board members said no one would show up to such an event, they rented space in the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the San Fernando Valley to honor animation pioneers Max and Dave Fleischer. “And 400 people showed up,” boasted Foray.

A longtime cheerleader for the animation industry, Foray lobbied for many years to have animated films recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. “I was on the board of governors for 26 years and I tried for 20 years” to convince the Academy to have a category for animated features, she told Variety. Finally the Academy created the category in 2001, and DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek” won the first Oscar for animated feature. Afterward, Foray said, “Jeffrey Katzenberg called me to thank me because he was aware of what I had done.”

Though not a superstar in the traditional sense, Foray had an impressive list of fans, as Leonard Maltin relayed in his forward to Foray’s 2009 autobiography “Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?” He wrote: “When I was fortunate enough to attend the Oscar nominees’ luncheon in 2007, I asked director Martin Scorsese who he was excited to have met that day, among the hundred-or-so contenders and Academy guests. He smiled and said, ‘June Foray.’”

Foray was born June Lucille Forer in Springfield, Mass., and she was doing vocal work in local radio dramas by the time she was 12. She continued working in radio after her family moved to Los Angeles after she graduated from high school, following her dream of becoming an actress. She even had her own “Lady Make Believe” radio show that showcased her vocal talents, and she appeared regularly on network shows such as “Lux Radio Theater” and “The Jimmy Durante Show.”

She met her future husband, writer and director Hobart Donavan, while working on “Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Show,” then moved on to work with Steve Allen on morning radio show “Smile Time,” in which she’d play “everyone and everything. It was there that I perfected my Spanish accent and where my booming Marjorie Main-type voice got a good workout,” she recalled in her autobiography.

After “Smile Time,” Foray found work with Capitol Records, where she recorded many children’s albums and where she first met and worked with Stan Freberg and Daws Butler, with whom she recorded several comedy records, including “Dragnet” parody “St. George and the Dragonet.” Later she was a regular cast member of “The Stan Freberg Show” on CBS Radio.

Foray got her start in the animation business when someone from the Walt Disney studio called her to ask if she could do the voice of a cat. “Well, I could do anything,” recalled Foray in an interview with Variety. “So he hired me as Lucifer the cat in ‘Cinderella,’ and then I started to work for Disney.” Much of her work for Disney was uncredited, including work as a mermaid and squaw in “Peter Pan.” But she starred as the voice of Hazel the Witch in the 1952 Donald Duck short “Trick or Treat,” using a voice that would later morph into “Looney Tunes” character Witch Hazel. She would often say that she voiced a long litany of cartoon witches, many of them named Hazel.

About the same time, the 1950s, Foray worked on a series of cartoons by such animation pioneers as Tex Avery and Walter Lantz. For Warner Bros., she became Granny in the “Tweety and Sylvester” cartoons and Alice Crumden in the cartoon parody of “The Honeymooners,” “The Honey-Mousers.” At Warner Bros. she met Chuck Jones, for whom she worked on several “Looney Tunes” cartoons, starting with “Broom-Stick Bunny” in 1956. She would later star as Cindy Lou Who in Jones’ cartoon adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

She also voiced Mother Magoo in the “Mister Magoo” series.

But her greatest fame came with Jay Ward’s satirical “Rocky and His Friends,” which would later become “The Bullwinkle Show,” eventually known collectively as “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” which ran from 1959 through 1964. Foray did most of the female voices for the show, including the voice of Russian villain Natasha Fatale, as well as that of Rocket J. Squirrel. She also voiced characters for other Jay Ward cartoons, such as “Dudley Do-Right” (Nell Fenwick), “George of the Jungle” (Jane) and “Tom Slick” (Marigold).

It wasn’t only in animation that Foray got to use her myriad vocal talents. She voiced the demonic doll Talky Tina in “The Twilight Zone” episode entitled “Living Doll” in 1963.

Despite her prolific career, she had to wait until 2012 for an Emmy nomination; she went on to win a Daytime Emmy for her performance as Mrs. Cauldron on Cartoon Network’s “The Garfield Show.”

A documentary about her life, “The One and Only June Foray,” was produced in 2013.

Foray was married to Bernard Barondess from 1941 to 1945. She was married to Donavan from 1954 until his death in 1976.

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Written by variety.com

Tracy Morgan Talks TBS Comedy And Post-Accident Life

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Tracy Morgan Morgan headlines the forthcoming TBS comedy ‘The Last O.G.’ which marks his first series role since ’30 Rock.’

It’s been four years since Tracy Morgan’s last series regular role, but a lot has changed since the 30 Rock grad graced the small screen on a regular basis.

Morgan was famously several injured in a fatal 2014 multi-car crash that took the life of his friend and fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.

After an intense recovery process, Morgan returns to TV with the new TBS comedy The Last O.G., which also stars notable names like Cedric the Entertainer as well as rising stars like Tiffany Haddish, who comes fresh off a breakout role in the hit film Girls Trip. (“My bank account don’t show movie star yet,” Haddish said with a laugh about her rising profile. “They say nine months, it’s like a baby. I’m waiting for the delivery.”)

When asked Thursday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour why he opted not to do a solo star vehicle, Morgan became contemplative about his post-accident life and career.

“Maybe I’m just a better man now since the accident. Maybe I’m just a better man. It ain’t about me, it’s bigger than me. I’m fortunate to have these folks around me,” Morgan said. “We just lucked up and got who we wanted with the folks that could do it. I’m just a better man now. I know it ain’t about me. It’s bigger than me and I thank God for that.”

In the comedy, Morgan stars as Tray, an ex-con who is released from prison after 15 years only to find that world has drastically changed since he went inside. In addition to his newly gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood, he is shocked to learn he is father to twins with his former girlfriend (Haddish), who has since moved on and married a successful white man. In order to provide for them, and himself, Tray must once again lean on skills he honed in the clink to get by.

“This isn’t a black show,” Morgan said when asked about the show’s appeal. “This is a show about humanity. This is a show about second chances. This is a show about redemption.”

When asked about his own second chance, Morgan simply said “thank God,” and discussed how the cast and crew of The Last O.G. have helped him on set. “They don’t ask me, they make me sit down for a little while,” he said. “I’m good, I’m taking care. And thank you for thinking about that. I’m taking care.”

While Morgan endured a lengthy recovery process following his accident, he said it was ultimately for the best in the closing moments of the panel.

“I had to get hit by the truck,” Morgan said at the end of the panel. “If I didn’t get hit by that truck, I wouldn’t be making the impact on the world I’m making right now.

The Last O.G. premieres Oct. 24th on TBS.

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

HBO Finally Announces Jon Stewart’s Official Return

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Several months ago, HBO and Daily Show alum Jon Stewart announced that their planned multi-platform animated series was dead on arrival. But that wasn’t the end of the partnership between the two media giants. In 2015, Stewart signed a four-year overall deal with HBO, and the team will be leaning on their shared history for a pair of new specials—including Stewart’s first stand-up special since HBO’s Jon Stewart: Unleavened in 1996.

On Wednesday afternoon during the Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour, HBO Programming President Casey Bloys announced Stewart’s return to stand-up and . . . little else. The date and location of the program have yet to be determined. “I’m really thrilled to be able to return to stand-up on HBO,” Stewart said via statement. ”They’ve always set the standard for great stand-up specials. Plus, I can finally use up the last of the Saddam Hussein jokes left over from my first special.”

Stewart’s second project with HBO is not an entirely new one. The autism benefit Night of Too Many Stars, which has partnered with Stewart’s old network, Comedy Central, since 2006, will move to his new home, HBO, this fall. The star-studded evening will be broadcast live from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday, Nov. 18, with “performances, sketches, and short films.” Stewart will serve as the evening’s host, with proceeds going to Robert Smigel’s NEXT for AUTISM, an organization that “supports innovative programs to improve the lives of people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Neither announced special will be the regularly scheduled Daily Show follow-up that some Stewart fans have been crying out for. But it does mark Stewart’s first project of his own—as opposed to his several surprising on-air guest appearances—since his exit from The Daily Show in 2015. Then again, that position is already ably filled at HBO by Stewart’s old employee John Oliver. Still, as Bloys points out, “We’ve all missed [Stewart’s] uniquely thoughtful brand of humor.” If sporadic appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert aren’t enough to fill the daily-dose-of-Stewart-shaped hole in your heart, perhaps these specials will help.

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Written by variety.com

 

Beatles Win Shea Stadium Lawsuit

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Apple Corps, the company founded by members of The Beatles, on Wednesday won the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking the rights to the master tapes of the band’s celebrated 1965 concert at New York’s Shea Stadium.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Sid Bernstein Presents LLC, named for the concert’s promoter, failed to show it deserved sole control over the Aug. 15, 1965, footage and deserved damages reflecting its many subsequent uses.

Daniels said the company, which said it had been assigned Bernstein’s rights, could not claim to be the “author” of a copyrightable work even if Bernstein were the driving force behind the sold-out concert because he did not film it.

“The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert; rather, it is the extent to which he ‘provided the impetus for’ and invested in a copyrightable work – e.g., the concert film,” Daniels wrote. “The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein.”

Donald Curry, a lawyer for Sid Bernstein Presents, said in an interview his client would review the decision, and that “based on a preliminary review, I believe there are grounds to appeal.”

Lawyers for Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apple is based in London and has been controlled by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, and the estate of George Harrison.

Sid Bernstein Presents had filed its lawsuit last September, claiming that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had taken custody of the master tapes without permission.

It said footage was later used in many documentaries such as “The Beatles at Shea Stadium” in 1966, “The Beatles Anthology” in 1995, “The Last Play at Shea” in 2010 about Billy Joel’s final concerts there, and the Ron Howard-directed “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” in 2016.

Sid Bernstein was a promoter and producer for many other recording artists including Tony Bennett, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Herman’s Hermits and The Rolling Stones. He died in 1993 at the age of 95.

The case is Sid Bernstein Presents LLC v Apple Corps Ltd et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-07084.

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Billy Joel To Guest DJ, Reflect On Every Beatles Album

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“I’m going to go through their albums and talk about some of the songs that have stayed with me the rest of my life,” singer says

Billy Joel will reflect on every song on every Beatles album as part of the singer’s stint as a guest DJ on SiriusXM’s new Beatles Channel.

Joel, who is touring all summer, shares hard-won wisdom about fatherhood and marriage, and tries to make sense of being a stadium act

“Just like you, I love the Beatles,” Joel said in a statement. “I still think that they were the best band that ever was. And I’m going to go through their albums and talk about some of the songs that have stayed with me the rest of my life.”

The first installment of the guest DJ session, which airs July 21st at 5 p.m. on the Beatles Channel, finds Joel going track-by-track on the Beatles’ first two Capitol-released American LPs, Meet the Beatles and The Beatles’ Second Album.

As evidenced by the below clip, wherein Joel reminisces about “This Boy” and school dances, the singer also performs parts of some tracks on the piano:

Joel has performed upwards of 25 Beatles songs live over the course of his career. Most recently, he debuted his rendition of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” to mark the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“Revisiting The Beatles’ album collection through the eyes of a musical icon is a rare treat, and we are honored to do this with Billy,” President and Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM Scott Greenstein said in a statement. “This series will feel like you’re sitting down with Billy at home listening to tracks on every Beatles album together, and hearing Billy’s rendition of pieces of some songs. The Beatles in the hands and words of Billy Joel is truly something special for our listeners.”

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Written by rollingstone.com

 

John Heard Passes Away At 71

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John Heard, best known as Peter McAllister in the “Home Alone” movies who appeared in a wide range of TV and film roles, has died at 71 in Palo Alto, Calif.

He was found dead in a hotel where he was reportedly recovering after undergoing back surgery. The Santa Clara Medical Examiner’s office confirmed his death.

In the 1990 “Home Alone,” Heard stars as the father who forgets his son, played by Macauley Culkin, when making a business trip to France. After “Home Alone” became a big hit, Heard returned to star in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

He also appeared in “Cat People,” “After Hours,” “Big,” “Beaches,” 1992 boxing film “Gladiator,” and on TV in “Miami Vice” and “The Sopranos,” for which he won an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor.

Born in Washington, D.C., Heard started out acting off-Broadway. His first major role came in the romantic comedy “Chilly Scenes of Winter” in 1979.

His memorable roles in the 1980s included starring in “Cutter’s Way,” playing Nastassja Kinski’s lover in the 1983 remake of “Cat People,” and starring alongside “Home Alone” actor Daniel Stern in 1984’s “C.H.U.D.” In Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours,” he played the bartender Tom Schorr. His other films during that period included “The Trip to Bountiful,” “Heaven Help Us” and “The Milagro Beanfield War.”

In 1988, he starred as Elizabeth Perkins’ jilted boyfriend in “Big” and co-starred with Bette Midler in “Beaches.”

His other roles included “Gladiator,” “Awakenings,” “Radio Flyer,” and “The Pelican Brief,” in which he played an FBI agent.

On television, he played Commander Barry Garner on “Battlestar Galactica” and had recurring roles on “CSI: Miami” and “Prison Break.” More recently he had numerous guest roles on shows including “Modern Family,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “MacGuyver.”

Heard was married to actress Margot Kidder – for just six days — and had a son from a relationship with actress Melissa Leo. He is also survived by a daughter from a later marriage. His son Max died in December, 2016.

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Written by variety.com

Ryan Seacrest Returning As Host Of ‘American Idol’

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After three months of negotiations, Seacrest is returning to the show that made him a star.

Seacrest is very much in.

After many months of negotiations, the longtime host ofآ American Idolآ has finalized a deal to return to the franchise that made him a star. He joins Katy Perry, the only confirmed judge, on the ABC reboot, which is expected to roll out with heavy fanfare this spring.آ He used his other TV platform,آ Live with Kelly and Ryan,آ to make the announcement Thursday. Or rather, his co-host Kelly Ripa used it to make the announcement, but Seacrest insisted it was “absolutely” confirmed, “without a doubt.”

Following a few minutes spent talking about the New York heat, Ripaآ excitedly revealed that Seacrest would be returning to the storied franchise after checking with him that she could reveal the big news. He suggested going back to the show would be like returning to “a 15-year relationship,” not knowing why the relationship ended. “The show is going, we thought well, and then all of a sudden we broke up,” he said of the end ofآ Idolآ on Fox. “I thought it would be great to get back together at some point.”

Ripaآ praised him for knowing how to deal with contestants who have just received the devastating news that they have been voted off. “You make that show. You are the heart and soul,”آ she told herآ Liveآ co-host of three months. “People really don’t understand how difficult it is to be there, be supportive, keep the show moving at the clip that it moves and then back away when you need to back away … and step away when you need to step in … because you make it look so easy, no one understands how difficult it is. Only you can do it.”

ABC Entertainment president Channingآ Dungeyآ was similarly enthusiastic. “So much ofآ American Idol’s overwhelming success can be attributed to Ryan, whose larger-than-life personality and laudable dedication to creating quality entertainment has made him a true master of his craft,â€‌ sheآ said in a statement. “His talent is limitless, and I can’t think of a more appropriate person to honor theآ Idolآ legacy as it takes on new life than the man who has been there through it all.â€‌

Seacrestآ added in a statement of his own, “It’s genuinely hard to put into words whatآ American Idolآ means to me. I’m so grateful for the show and all the career and life opportunities it’s allowed me to experience. It’s been an incredible journey from day one.آ To be asked to return this year, at my new home at Disney|ABC, is an honor, if not a bit surreal.â€‌

To make it all work, Seacrest is expected to be in Los Angeles for live Idol shows on Sunday evenings, and then fly overnight to appear on Live and then do his iHeartRadio drive-time show on Monday morning. In a bid for increased synergy, Seacrest revealed on Thursday’s Live that eliminated Idol contestants would be stopping by Live after they exit Idol. Auditions for the new iteration of Idol, which spent its first 15 seasons on Fox, will begin in mid-August, though Seacrest will likely only attend a handful.

The news comes nearly three months after ABC executives first suggested Seacrest’s involvement was highly likely, at that time a logical conclusion considering he had recently joined the ABC/Disney family as co-host ofآ Live. That he had also relocated to New York for the latter would certainly complicate things, but logistical complexities had never seemed to get in Seacrest’s way. “I think he can do both; he thinks he can do both, but he’s giving it some serious thought,â€‌ ABC’s reality chief Rob Mills toldآ THRآ in early May. Seacrest seemed similarly if cautiously optimistic when discussing the possibility with Ripa on air around the same time.

Asآ THRآ revealed in aآ recent cover story, the plan was to have Seacrest’s deal closed in time to announce at ABC’s upfront presentation in mid-May. Instead, the platform was used to announce a deal for Perry, whose traffic-stopping $25 million fee, a new talent show record, would soon leak to the press. Multiple insiders say that Fremantle, which suddenly had significantly less give in itsآ Idolآ budget, came back to Seacrest with an offer roughly half the size of its first. The supposed justification — that the new arrangement would require less of its famously busy host — didn’t make it any less insulting.

By early June, Seacrest’s camp had requested his name be withdrawn from the negotiation process. ABC’s top executives, allegedly blindآsided by Fremantle’s low-ball offer, were sent scrambling, according to sources close to the negotiation. Ultimately, Seacrest’s new bosses were able to make it right, or at least considerably more palatable for their newest and biggest star. Their offer included, among other things, a salary north of $10 million, putting him back in the general vicinity that he’d been in at the show’s conclusion. Still, the process dragged on for several more weeks as the many players involved squabbled over other facets of the deal.

Working in ABC’s favor from the outset was Seacrest’s affection for the singing competition, which spent nearly a decade as the No. 1 show on television. “I’ve always loved the show,â€‌ he toldآ THRآ thisآ spring. “And if I could do it forever, I would do it forever.” Lest anyone forgets,آ he closed out the fifteenthآ and then-final season on Fox with the famous signoff, “Good night America … for now,â€‌ in part because he didn’t believe that would or should be it.

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

 

Harvey Atkin Passes Away At 74

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The Canadian actor’s breakout role was Morty in Ivan Reitman’s 1979 comedy, opposite Bill Murray.

Harvey Atkin, best known for playing staff sergeant captain Ronald Coleman on Cagney and Lacey and Judge Ridenour on the NBC crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, has died. He was 74.

His longtime agent Larry Goldhar on Tuesday announced that Atkin died Monday night in Toronto after a long illness. “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved friend, husband, father and grandfather, Harvey, passed away peacefully last night following his battle with cancer,” Goldhar said in a statement.

Born in Toronto on Dec. 18, 1942, Atkin turned in his breakout role as camp director Morty Melnick in Ivan Reitman’s 1979 comedy Meatballs, in which he starred opposite Bill Murray, Kate Lynch and Chris Makepeace. From 1981-88, Atkin also appeared regularly on TV’s Cagney & Laceyopposite Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless.

The CBS drama also starred Al Waxman, with whom Atkin appeared back in Canada on the long-running CBC comedy King of Kensington. Famous for his glasses, nose and mustache combination, Atkin also had film and TV credits that included Ticket to Heaven, Beetlejuice, Silver Streak and Atlantic City.

His voice acting included work on a slew of TV commercials, including a long-running gig as the voice of Leon’s Furniture.

Atkin is survived by his wife, Celia; daughter, Lisa; son, Danny; three sisters; and five grandchildren.

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

 

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