Harry Dean Stanton Passes Away At 91

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Harry Dean Stanton, the actor with a gaunt, bedraggled look who labored in virtual obscurity for decades until a series of roles increased his visibility, including his breakthrough in Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas,” died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

The actor was also known for his roles in “Twin Peaks,” “Big Love,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Repo Man.”

He had a high-profile role as manipulative cult leader Roman Grant on HBO polygamy drama “Big Love,” which ran from 2006-11, and recently appeared as Carl Rodd in the “Twin Peaks” revival on Showtime.

His most recent film, “Lucky,” about an atheist who comes to terms with his own mortality, is set to be released by Magnolia on Sept. 29.

In 1984, when he turned 58, he not only starred in the Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” — his first role ever as leading man — but in Alex Cox’s popular cult film “Repo Man.” (That year he also had a small role in John Milius’ “Red Dawn,” shouting “Avenge me! Avenge me!” to his sons, played by Charlie Sheen and Patrick Swayze, after being captured by Soviet troops invading America.)

“Paris, Texas,” penned by Sam Shepard, was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival, capturing not only the Palme d’Or, but other juried awards as well. Stanton played Travis, who reconnects with his brother, played by Dean Stockwell, after being lost for four years. Stanton’s performance in the film was not so much powerful as it was intriguingly, sometimes hauntingly, absent.

Roger Ebert said, “Stanton has long inhabited the darker corners of American noir, with his lean face and hungry eyes, and here he creates a sad poetry.”

In the cheerfully bizarre “Repo Man,” he played the boozy repo-biz veteran who takes young punk Emilio Estevez under his wing but provides at-best nebulous guidance: “The life of a repo man is always intense.”

In 1986, Stanton hit the mainstream when he played Molly Ringwald’s unemployed father in “Pretty in Pink.” Later in the 1980s he played a fiery Paul/Saul in Martin Scorsese’s controversial 1988 effort “The Last Temptation of Christ,” but the actor was among those in the film criticized by many as miscast.

Later film roles included a pair of David Lynch films in the early 1990s, “Wild at Heart” and “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”; Bob Rafelson’s “Man Trouble,” with Jack Nicholson; “The Mighty,” with Gena Rowlands and Sharon Stone; “The Green Mile”; Sean Penn’s “The Pledge”; Nick Cassavetes’ “Alpha Dog”; and Lynch’s “Inland Empire.”

Stanton was close friends with Nicholson — Stanton was best man at Nicholson’s 1962 wedding, and they lived together for more than two years after Nicholson’s divorce — and the character actor’s first step in emerging from obscurity was a part written by Nicholson for him in the 1966 Western “Ride the Whirlwind.” Stanton played the leader of an outlaw gang; Nicholson told him to “let the wardrobe do the acting and just play yourself.” “After Jack said that, my whole approach to acting opened up,” Stanton told Entertainment Weekly.

In the early ’70s Stanton appeared in films including “Kelly’s Heroes” and “Two Lane Blacktop”; he also had a small role in “The Godfather: Part II.”

On the shoot for 1976’s “The Missouri Breaks,” starring Marlon Brando and Nicholson, Stanton made a long-term friend in Brando when he courageously dissuaded the increasingly eccentric actor from making a foolish choice in his performance.

The actor played one of the doomed crewmen in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and a crooked preacher in John Huston’s “Wise Blood,” and he had a fairly significant role in John Carpenter’s “Escape From New York” as Brain, who keeps the machines running in the high-security prison Manhattan has become.

In 1983, Shepard got to talking with Stanton at a bar in Sante Fe, N.M., and later offered him the lead role in “Paris, Texas.” “I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing,” Stanton told the New York Times. “I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie.” He also worked with Shepard in the 1985 “Fool for Love.”

In a 2011 review of Paolo Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place,” Variety said, “Like all great directors who make a road movie, Sorrentino captures the physical location as well as the inner transformation, and in keeping with the genre, he also knows Harry Dean Stanton has to be included.”

Stanton did voice work for the Johnny Depp animated film “Rango” in 2011. In a 2010 episode of NBC’s “Chuck,” Stanton reprised his “Repo Man” character.

Stanton was born in West Irvine, Ky. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he attended the University of Kentucky, studying journalism and radio, and performing in “Pygmalion.” He then pursued an interest in acting by heading to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse.

He made his small-screen debut in 1954 in an episode of the NBC show “Inner Sanctum.” In another early TV role, he was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in an episode of “Suspicion” called “Four O’Clock.” (The actor was credited as Dean Stanton in most of his early roles to avoid confusion with the actor Harry Stanton, who died in 1978.)

On the big screen, Stanton’s earliest, mostly uncredited work was in Westerns and war pics, debuting in 1957’s “Tomahawk Trail” and appearing in 1959 Gregory Peck-starrer “Pork Chop Hill.” (He also guested on many TV Westerns, including “The Rifleman,” “Have Gun — Will Travel,” “Bonanza,” and “Gunsmoke”).

Stanton also led his own band, first known as Harry Dean Stanton and the Repo Men and later simply as the Harry Dean Stanton Band, and would play pickup gigs in L.A. area clubs. Bob Dylan, with whom he worked on Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” was a friend. Another friend was Hunter S. Thompson, and Stanton sang at his funeral.

The character actor was the subject of two documentaries: 2011’s “Harry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mulholland” and Sophie Huber’s 2013 “Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction,” which featured interviews with Wenders, Shepard, Kris Kristofferson, and Lynch.

He never married, though he has said he has “one or two children.”

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by variety.com

Artie Lange Admits To Using After Hospitalization

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‘Sometimes I have to use. I have to get to the point where I don’t have withdrawals,’ he explains to Radar.

After Artie Lange was caught bleeding from his nose in a shocking new video, the troubled comedian is finally coming clean about his current drug use.

“Sometimes I use. But not every day,” he told RadarOnline.com in an exclusive interview. “I have to get to the point where I don’t have withdrawals.”

The former Stern Show sidekick, 49, was hospitalized with heart problems in July after years of admitted cocaine and heroin abuse. Lange collapsed on stage in Chicago, and underwent emergency surgery to repair his heart.

Though he vowed to stay on the straight and narrow after his hospital stint, it appears the pressures of taping the second season of HBO’s hit Crashing, completing his third book, a rigorous stand-up schedule and the new podcast he co-hosts with Anthony Cumia have taken their toll.

Despite his setbacks, Lange remains hopeful and optimistic about his recovery.

“I have too much to live for. My career and life will end the way it wants. I’m going to keep waking up in the morning, afternoon or evening and see what’s up. That’s all I can do,” he said.

Podcast cohost Cumia continues to stand behind Lange.

“I love Artie and back him 100%,” he told. “He’s an amazing comic and a great guy. Whatever he’s gotta do to get through the day isn’t my business. We all have our demons and I’m no one to be judging anybody else.”

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by radaronline.com

TIFF, Towers And Taylor

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TIFF –Toronto International Film Festival – 911 – Remembered

As this is the 16th anniversary of the horrific events of 911, I find it hard not to remember that morning for 2 main reasons: one devastating and one joyous.

I had been hired as I had for several years as an audio person to participate in Interviews for ‘press’ junkets involving Actors and Directors for various movies being showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival. I always liked this gig because you were surrounded by the movers and shakers…high rollers…the famous…and always good food. Now the work was the same as anything else but the surrounding players is what made this more enjoyable. I had worked the Festival for many years and stories relating to it I have and will continue to include in these articles however, September 11, 2001 was obviously different.

Usually the job I was hired to do would be for maybe 2-3+ days. Interviews all day which started at around 9:00am so therefore we would all need to be on site at around 7:00am. This day was no different. I arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel which was our location, entered the Suite we had converted to a mini studio and checked all my equipment which had been set-up by others (another nice perk of this particular job) and really just talked to my colleagues and waited for the day to begin.

As I and my colleagues were waiting for the Industry personnel to arrive in our room, you couldn’t help but hear commotion out in the hall. The sound of people rushing about which just didn’t sound right. We kind of looked at each other with a collective, what’s going on out there expression on our faces. I opened the door and saw people frantically passing around looking somewhat dazed, being out in the hall now, I could hear crying as well. I immediately went into the suite which was our control room and saw for myself on the television set the reason for this odd behavior, the 1st Tower was burning. The room filled as we all listened to what was going on and BOOM, the second plane hit the 2nd Tower. As you could imagine everyone was stunned, scared and in complete disbelief as to what we just witnessed. Being the Film Festival, there were many Americans involved and they instantly got on their phones and called friends, colleagues and loved ones in New York to see if they were alright. Shock and disbelief was the obvious reaction by all.

Despite the horrific events that were happening ‘live’ in front of or eyes, we had a job to do here, as superficial as it was, there were many Interviews scheduled. The question my bosses kept saying to each other was, “what do we do now?”

The organizers of the Festival felt, and rightly so, everything should come to a halt and these ‘junket’ Interviews would be cancelled. Once the word filtered to us, we began the process of tearing down and packing all the gear…my 2001 TIFF experience was now over before it really began.

At around 11:00 am when we were finished packing up still dazed and really feeling quite sad and mad over the events of the morning my telephone rang. It was my sister calling to inform me that my Niece Carly had just delivered a beautiful little baby girl. My Sister just became a Grandmother and I a Great Uncle.

Devastation and Joy

Let us remember those who lost their lives that day and happy sweet 16 Taylor.

Written by Elliott Cowan

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ The Early Years

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Seventeen years ago, Larry David almost accidentally created a comedy legend. Now David and the cast dish on the humble origins of the HBO hit, the lines that made them stars and discovering the science behind the awkwardness: “I had no idea I had that effect on people.”

Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm returns to HBO for its ninth season on Oct. 1. Author James Andrew Miller (Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live) dove into the history of the hit HBO comedy for the first chapter of his new podcast, Origins, about beginnings in film, television, music, sports, tech, relationships and more. Miller talked with David, the show’s creator, and many of the its stars and crew and others who worked behind the scenes about how the show came to be, how it was cast and the blurring of art and real life. THR presents an excerpt from Origins’ five-episode look at Curb.

Larry David I finished Seinfeld, then I did a movie. My state of mind was fine. I started to focus on stand-up because I had not done it in 10 years, and I thought it was time that I should give it another shot. And Jeff Garlin was in the office next door, and I would go in there, and we would always talk. Jeff said, “What are you working on?” I said, “Well, I think I am going to do some stand-up.” And he said, “You should film it.” That idea did not really appeal very much to me. I did not really want cameras in there, following me around. He said, “You should do it as a documentary, and I will direct it.” I said, “No, I do not think so.”

Cheryl Hines The first I heard about Curb, it was actually just being called Larry David Special on HBO. So it started out as a one-hour special, and the idea was Larry returning to stand-up comedy, and they wanted to do sort of a mockumentary of his return to stand-up.

Bob Weide, director We saw a lot of actresses for that part. I remember Nia Vardolos came in; this was before My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I’m sure if I looked at the tape now I’d see a lot of other recognizable names. I got an invitation one night for an actors showcase. Lo and behold, one of the actresses was Cheryl Hines, who was unknown to all of us. But I remember the bit that she did to this day: It was some sort of employee training meeting, where they had some guy advising about what to do in a disaster at the workplace. He would say, “OK, so there’s been an earthquake and the water is cut off, there’s no running water in your office and you can’t escape. You’re thirsty, what do you do?” Cheryl pipes up, “Well, I suppose if push came to shove you could drink your own urine.” The room just goes real quiet, and everybody stares at her. And the guy stares at her and says, “Well, OK, I was thinking more about having water stored in the room or, you know, possibly detaching a hose from the back of the refrigerator and drinking the water that way.” Cheryl goes, “Oh, well, yeah.” And then I remember the line that really killed me: “Well, I did say if push came to shove.” I just said this girl’s really, really funny. And that line, “I did say if push came to shove,” gave Cheryl a career.

From season one: Mary Steenburgen, Cheryl Hines, Larry David and Ted Danson.

Hines I didn’t know what I was auditioning for, because it was all very vague. And I met Larry, and I really sparked with him. There were no sides. There have never been sides for actors to read, because there’s no script. So even when it started out, even the one-hour special, it was all improvised.

Chris Albrecht president, original programming and chairman, HBO, 2002-07 Originally Larry was going to do one-third the making of and half to two-thirds the stand-up act. As he started to get into it and started to shoot the making of, that was really the connection he made. What ended up happening was that the making of became the dominant thrust of it. Not surprisingly, the first part was funnier than the second part because what Larry really was was somebody who had learned to take his point of view and translate it through a dramatized version of characters. In this case, himself rather than a stand-up form.

Ted Danson My wife, Mary, and I met Larry on Martha’s Vineyard. They were renting a home there, and he had just shot the pilot. He showed a group of us in this little rental house. We were all crowded around this hot room and looked at the pilot. I’m overjoyed to tell you this: A couple of people fell asleep.

David You know, when people told me after the show started airing that they had to leave the room for some scenes because they were cringing and they couldn’t bear to watch — it was like a horror movie — I had no idea it was having that effect on people. That was a complete surprise to me, and I liked it. I liked that they couldn’t see it. But I never really gave it that much thought. I was just trying to do funny shows. I never felt I was going too far. I felt I was doing what I wanted to see.

Susie Essman It was this slap-dash operation. We had no budget, nothing. We didn’t have our own dressing-room trailers. We were all running around whatever house we were in finding a bathroom and changing and getting makeup done in the half dark. It was such a low-budget operation. And then finally, in season three or four, we got one trailer that we all shared. Cheryl, Larry, Jeff and me, we all shared the trailer together. We liked it when it was like that.

David When I drove home every day, because we were improvising it, I’d think, “Would this scene be better if I’d written it?” And 98 percent of the time, I’d thought “No.” It was better improvised. You could just get to places that you couldn’t get to writing. But the editing is really hard. Compared to a written show, where you’re doing two to three takes and they’re all the same. For this show, every take is different.

J.B. Smoove Oh man, it’s such a crazy, crazy ride man. When I worked for Saturday Night Live, everybody loved the show. We would come in on write days and spend the first 15 minutes talking about Curb. I said to my wife, “Baby, I love this damn show so much. I love this dude Larry David. I would love to be on this show one day.” And my wife said, “You know what, you’re going to be on that show one day.” She said some of the craziest stuff. She said, “You’re going to be on that show one day.”

Weide J.B. was so funny. He came in with his character of Leon fully formed.

Smoove So I go in there as Leon. They said, “OK, J.B., you’re going to improv with Larry directly.” And I had no idea I was going to be improving with Larry directly. Larry is standing in the middle of the room. I thought I was going to go on tape, you know how they put you on tape, they review the tape. You know, you actually improved directly with Larry — I had no idea. So, Larry is standing in the middle of the room, and this is exactly what I said to Larry, verbatim: I walk up to Larry as Leon, I said, “OK, Larry, let’s do this, baby.” You know, this is improv, right? I said, “OK, let’s improv.” And since this is improv, I said, “I don’t know Larry, I might fuck around and slap you in the face.” And that’s exactly what I said to him, and Larry looked at everybody else like, “What the, who the hell is this guy?”

Essman The only scene that I think I ever preplanned what I was going to say, and there was a reason for that, was the restaurant opening. You know, where everybody is cursing, and Paul Sand plays the Tourette’s chef. And I walk in while they’re all in the middle of this crazy cursing, and Cheryl says something like, “God damn, son of a bitch.” And I think she’s talking to me. So I actually planned my response, which is one of my most famous quotes: “Fuck you, you car-wash cunt. I had a dental appointment.” When I first met my husband, he had never seen Curb, so I was very happy about that, you know? He got to know me before he ran the other way. But years ago, when I first put my website up, I had a contact thing on it. And I was getting these crazy S&M guys contacting me. You know, just really weird, sexually perverse, and wanting me to like tie them up and scream at them. So I got rid of the contact, because it was gross.

Bob Einstein My whole life I did this character called Super Dave, and it was all ad lib. I hate pontificating about how we create things. My relationship with Larry developed very differently from the other characters. I had some things happen to me that were amazing: My father dies. Larry opens the casket because he left his 5-wood [golf club] in there, and then my mother dies. The place where she was hit in her wheelchair became a monument there and they put flowers there, and Larry steals the flowers and gives them to his wife so he could fuck her. My daughter was a lesbian who went straight, and Larry turned her back into a lesbian. Jeff [Garlin] fucked my mentally ill sister. And this year something else happens, which I can’t tell you.

Richard Lewis I needed a colonoscopy a couple of years ago. I’m waiting for the car. Everything is valeted in L.A., you know, little stores, little delis, the whole thing is a joke. Well, this was a medical building. So I valet, and the guy says to me, “Are you going to have a colon fight with Larry?” [The pair fight over who has a cleaner colon in season six.] I go, “You know what? Just do me a favor. I could be dying. Let me get my colonoscopy.” So then I get the car, and some other guy is walking to his car, and he goes, “Richard, is your kidney OK?” I go, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “Well, you’ve got Larry’s kidney.” I go, “No, no.” I said, “Please, please.” And it gets to the point where, because we’re playing our own names and our own people, our own persons, people do believe it. And I sort of take pride in that because I guess it’s very real. I might be unraveling in some scenes, and Larry might be upset and angry but funny. But I felt it was like doing a Cassavettes movie, but as a comedy. Because it’s so real, and it gets really intense sometimes. Our fights are almost no different on the show except maybe in how loud they are in real life.

Albrecht The woman I’m married to now, I met 15 years ago, we became engaged. The first night I met her, she was extraordinarily beautiful, very, as the Jews would say, shiska woman, blonde. And we were talking, and I told her I work at HBO, trying to impress her, the CEO of HBO, and she said, “Oh, HBO.” She says, “My DVR is jammed with all the episodes of one of your shows. And I said, “Oh, Sex in the City. And she said, “No, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I live for Larry David.” And I thought, “OK, first of all, who looks like you that says, ‘I live for Larry David?’ ” But [it] also told me how broad and accessible Larry had become as a comic voice.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by hollywoodreporter.com

Ringo Starr Keeps Going

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Where Ringo Starr the kind of guy to delve deep into the blues, he might well have taken a stab at Willie Dixon’s classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” on his forthcoming album, “Give More Love.”

Perhaps not in the original context of being unable to escape a toxic relationship with a romantic partner, but more a heartfelt expression of his attitude about continuing to play music at age 77.

“I decided at the end of November last year that I’m taking 2017 off,” Starr said from his perch in a regal-looking upholstered chair in the luxury suite of a Beverly Hills hotel where he’d just arrived to handle a few interviews about his new album, which arrives Sept. 15, and the fall tour that will follow close on its heels.

“On the 12th of January, I said ‘Yes’ to the October tour — so that didn’t last long,” he said with a hearty laugh. That new run of shows for Starr and his All-Starr Band opens with an eight-night residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas and continues with nearly a dozen more dates into mid-November.

He won’t be stopping in Southern California this time out because, as he pointed out, “Last year we did a tour in May and June and finished at the Greek on the 2nd of July. After that I did an awesome tour in Japan and Korea — and Thousand Oaks,” he quipped, laughing.

That is yet another manifestation of the undiminished passion he has for writing, recording and performing.

“I only ever wanted to play — that was my aim from 13,” he said. “I worked in factories and on the railway, but I played at night and made decisions that got me where I was. I didn’t know I was going to get there [into the Beatles]. But I knew I wanted to play. So I got into a Liverpool band, then I got into Rory [Storm & the Hurricanes], then I got into the biggest band in the land.

“I just always wanted to play, and to play with good people,” he said. “I’m sitting here, at 77, still talking about it. And I’m still playing.”

His passion is immediately evident on “Give More Love,” which opens with high-energy rocker “We’re On the Road Again,” a song he wrote with Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. It expresses a sentiment similar to Willie Nelson’s longtime concert favorite with the similar title, but it’s sonically miles apart.

It allows the band to flex its muscles, and an audience to sing along. “Yes, that is Paul McCartney on bass, and on screams too,” Starr writes in notes accompanying the album. His former band mate also shows up on “Show Me the Way,” his ode to his wife of 37 years, Barbara Bach.

Among numerous other guests on the album are Starr’s brother-in law, guitarist Joe Walsh, and fellow Eagles singer-bassist Timothy B. Schmit, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, saxophonist Edgar Winter, guitarist-producer Jeff Lynne, guitarist Dave Stewart, bassists Nathan East and Don Was, and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz.

Although Starr insisted that “I’m not that political,” social and political issues do come to the fore in “Laughable” and “Standing Still.”

The former he wrote with another long-standing English rocker, Peter Frampton, about taking in turbulent events of the world on a daily basis and feeling that “It would be laughable if it wasn’t sad.”

He consciously avoided naming names.

“We all know what’s happening in the world, and we all know what’s happening in this country, because we are English boys who are living here,” Starr said. “Peter wanted to make it more direct, and I said no, because I think everyone understands the sentiment.

“I don’t need to mention [names of] people that may not even be there by the time the song comes out,” he said. “I’m not that political. I can always do it another way and everyone understands.”

“Standing Still,” which he wrote with Gary Burr, addresses the challenge of maintaining any sense of optimism in the face of what can seem like increasingly dour conditions in the world.

“Whoever I’m writing with, it’s directed by me,” he said. “I don’t have to write all the words, but usually the direction is peace and love. For ‘Standing Still,’ it was even when you’re at the bottom of the hill, you’ve got to get up and take that first step.”

The man born Richard Starkey radiates the same sparkle and boyish Liverpudlian charm that helped propel him, McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison to unprecedented heights shortly after he signed on 55 years ago last month as the fourth pillar of the world’s most popular and influential rock band.

He attributes part of that glow to his vegetarian diet and part to getting sober more than three decades ago after years of alcohol and substance abuse that took the lives of many friends, including fellow drummer Keith Moon and singer Harry Nilsson.

“I have a meditation practice,” he says of his spiritual routine. “I pray to the god of my understanding, and I read spiritual books — day-at-a-time books, things like that that help you get through the day.”

Another major factor in his unflaggingly upbeat outlook is his marriage to Bach, the subject of the glistening rock ballad he also wrote with Lukather, “Show Me the Way.” “After all this time we’ve had to share/The better life I’ve had ’cause your still there/I need to show you just how much I care/There were times It wasn’t always easy, but we got through,” he sings.

One of the things that keeps him coming back to recording, even at a time when fewer and fewer people are buying recorded music, is the surprise factor. These days he serves as his own producer, doing most of the recording at his home studio in Los Angeles, assisted by engineer Bruce Sugar.

By way of illustration, he pointed to the track “King of the Kingdom,” which he wrote with another longtime friend, songwriter, singer, producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Van Dyke Parks.

“I had the [basic instrumental] track, and the first verse,” he said. “While we’re writing this song, we got into Haile Selassie, so we go to the Internet to read about Haile Selassie. All the rastas put him on a high pedestal, they consider him the King of the Rastas or the God of the Rastas, and he’s always said ‘No, I’m not.’

“Anyway, suddenly we’re writing the song, and we get the phrase ‘One love, Haile Selassie, ‘ and we put him in the song. So I said, ‘Let’s go all the way, and I sang ‘One love, one heart, Bob Marley always did it for me.’ That’s what’s great about writing. If it’s my record, it can go anywhere I’m open to.”

It also plays out in one of the bonus tracks on the CD edition of the album that doesn’t appear on the vinyl LP version — a reworked recording of his 1972 hit “Back Off Boogaloo,” one of three older songs he revisits. (The others being “Photograph,” his first solo No. 1 hit from 1973, and “Don’t Pass Me By,” the first song he’d written on his own that the Beatles chose to record — for “The Beatles,” a.k.a. “The White Album.”)

It grew out of the housecleaning and archiving process he and Bach have been engaged in for several years.

“We’ve taken a lot of things out of storage and we’re going through it a box at a time, and we found all these reel-to-reel tapes,” he said. “And on a quarter-[track] two-inch tape, we found this version of me singing ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ and it had a great echo on the [rhythm] guitar. I knew it’s me singing, but I couldn’t figure out who the hell is playing guitar? And it was me! So that’s on this record.

“We lifted the voice from the track that George (Harrison) produced, so it combines me then, and me now. I did it straight, not with the marching rhythm. Just a sideline for you: That rhythm pattern [on the original recording], George said ‘You should do this,’ ” at which point Starr vocalizes a complex syncopated rhythm. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ So I just did it with the snare, and it was great. But it was by accident. So that’s the magic of being in the studio: You don’t know what you’re going to get.”

As to any thoughts of retirement? Starr addressed that unequivocally 10 years ago at the one-year anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles Love” show in Las Vegas, during an interview with veteran broadcaster Larry King for which he sat side by side with the other surviving Beatle, McCartney.

At one point, King suggested to them, “Neither of you has to keep on going — you don’t need it financially.” The man once known as “the funny Beatle” shot back, “Reverse that: You don’t need to do it either. This is what we do. I get asked all the time, ‘You’re still playing?’ Yeah, that’s what I do.”

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by latimes.com


Walter Becker Passes Away At 67

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Steely Dan legend Walter Becker has reportedly died of unknown causes at the age of 67.

The sad news was revealed with a post on his official website, which paired childhood and recent photos of Becker with the caption “Walter Becker Feb. 20, 1950 – Sept. 03, 2017.”

Becker’s longtime bandmate Donald Fagen has also issued a statement confirming Becker’s death, and promising to “keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”

Concern for Becker’s health was raised earlier this summer when he missed both of Steely Dan’s July appearances at the Classic West and Classic East music festivals. During a press conference the following month, Fagen stated that Becker was “recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.” He offered no further specifics on Becker’s ailment or condition.

Together with his longtime Steely Dan collaborator Donald Fagen, Becker brought revolutionary new levels of sophistication to rock and roll songwriting and studio production, incorporating elements of jazz, latin music, R&B, soul and traditional pop.

Becker was born in 1950 in New York City, and grew up there and on Long Island. Although he originally picked up the saxophone, he soon switched to guitar and took lessons from his neighbor and former Spirit member Randy Wolfe.

While attending Bard College, Becker met Fagen, and the two formed and played in several groups — including the Leather Canary, which featured classmate Chevy Chase on drums. Becker soon dropped out of school to focus exclusively on his songwriting partnership with Fagen.

In 1971, the duo left Brooklyn, where they had been working, for California. It’s there that Steely Dan was born. Initially, touring as a full band with Becker on bass, by 1974 they quit the road altogether and redirected their energies to studio work.

A year after the release of their seventh album, 1980’s Gaucho, the duo called it quits. Becker went on to produce albums for Rickie Lee Jones, Michael Franks, Fra Lippo Lippi and China Crisis.

12 years later, Fagen and Becker reunited for a Steely Dan tour. At the time, the pair also produced each other’s solo albums — Fagen’s Kamakiriad in 1993 and Becker’s 11 Tracks of Whack in 1994. 2000’s Two Against Nature, Steely Dan’s first new album in 20 years, earned them four Grammy awards. The following year, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2008, Becker released a second solo album, Circus Money, backed by members of Steely Dan.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by ultimateclassicrock.com

Kathy Griffin Is Now Not Sorry

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Kathy Griffin is sorry she ever said sorry.

The comedian told the Australian talk show “Sunrise” Tuesday that she’s rescinding her apology for the photo that showed her with a fake severed, bloody head made to look like that of President Donald Trump’s. Griffin lost gigs, was investigated by the Secret Service and saw a friendship with Anderson Cooper dissolve in the aftermath.

“I am no longer sorry,” she said in the segment below. “The whole outrage was BS, the whole thing got so blown out of proportion.”

“I lost everybody,” she continued in the interview to promote her October tour dates in the country. “I had Chelsea Clinton tweeting against me … I have been through the mill.”

When host Samantha Armytage suggested that even Democrats felt the image was over the line, Griffin good-naturedly took umbrage: “You’re full of crap ― stop  this,” she retorted. “… Stop acting like my little picture is more important than talking about the actual atrocities that the president of the United States is committing.”

“I’ve been talking to Australians who, for the first time, are saying, ‘We’re afraid to go to America,’” she added. “I never thought I would hear that in my lifetime.”

Once more, for emphasis, Griffin said on the show: “I don’t apologize for that photo anymore and I think the outrage is complete BS.”

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by huffingtonpost.com

The Next Hef

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Cooper Hefner has assumed creative control at the brand his father launched 64 years ago as he brings nude images back to the magazine while lamenting the company’s involvement in lowbrow licensing and reality TV: “Nudity hadn’t been the problem — it was how it’d been presented.”

It’s true: Cooper Hefner, youngest son of Hugh and newly ascended chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, did enjoy a youth that was the stuff of teenage wet dreams. Celebrities and scantily clad bunnies wallpapered his life. He and his schoolmates could order anything they could think of, and the Playboy Mansion kitchen would send it right out. There was a private zoo.

Yet the good times came with a Freudian twist. His mom, 1989 Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad, hung in the library, depicted nude in a large portrait frame. “Yeah, that was weird,” Cooper explains over lunch at the mansion. “It was like the elephant in the room.”

The photo’s long been put away. (Dad, now 91, divorced Conrad and dated a harem of blondes before rediscovering monogamy with current wife Crystal Harris.) But his son, 25, insists “the image being up now wouldn’t bother me,” pointing out that he recently requested Conrad pose again. “On Mother’s Day, I asked her if she would be interested in reshooting her original cover,” says Cooper. “Two weeks later we did it.” (The image was published in June.)

Like Cooper, Playboy is grappling with the weight of history — how to refine a heritage brand as that heritage is up for debate across genders, generations and geographies. Cooper is leaning on the past as he plots the future for Playboy, a onetime startup turned conventional conglomerate — and a brand that fuels more than $1 billion in sales and recently was valued at $500 million — that of late has been beset by competitors and corporate malaise.

At the request of then-newly minted CEO Ben Kohn (who says the brand had “gone too wide and lost part of its aspirational quality” by “covering monster trucks and selling air fresheners”), Cooper returned to Playboy in June 2016 following an 18-month exile precipitated by boardroom battles over the company’s direction. A key factor was a 2015 choice by Kohn’s predecessor, Scott Flanders, to forgo nudity in the flagship magazine’s pages in a bid for more mainstream respectability. “There was a lack of understanding of who we are,” says Cooper. (He cites another mistake of the era: the decision to develop 2011’s The Playboy Club as an anodyne NBC drama, which was canceled after three episodes, rather than an edgier version for premium cable.)

The magazine’s March issue marked the return to the bare necessities — or at least to topless spreads. Cooper’s fiancee, actress Scarlett Byrne (The Vampire Diaries), posed in one of them and penned an essay that framed her decision as a feminist act. The pictorials, which used to be kitschy high-gloss extravaganzas, now display an arty naturalism meant to connote a cultivated aesthetic. “Nudity hadn’t been the problem — it was how it’d been presented,” Cooper says.

“The audience was confused,” adds Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi Traverse, the private equity firm that since 2011 has controlled 70 percent of Playboy and whose other investments include SpaceX, Twitter and Snapchat. (In Hollywood, Kohn is best known for tending to Rizvi Traverse’s since-divested interest in ICM.)

Now the polished and self-aware scion, intent on sounding woke and mindful of the brand’s eternal need to provoke (intellectually and sexually), is charting the course for what he hopes will be a more valuable and relevant Playboy. It’s one that doesn’t revolve around his old man (who is ailing and a semi-recluse) or dated totems of lothario living. “Creating something that resonates with my generation and the generation that comes after mine is how I’ll measure my accomplishments,” Cooper says.

“His father, when he started — the business succeeded because he found a way to uniquely speak to the young men of that time,” says board member Dick Rosenzweig, who’s been involved with Playboy for 59 years. “Cooper recognizes his father’s intent, and he has a feeling for going about it as well — in his own way.”

The March issue marked the return of nudity to Playboy.

Cooper is quick to mark distance from his dad’s notorious womanizing, but the two share many similarities, including deeply felt progressive politics. Cooper has thought of running for office but believes his affiliation with an adult entertainment company would likely render him unelectable. And both have a strong affinity for the armed forces. (Hugh served two years in the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II.) “I’m a liberal, and I have a real issue with the conservative side feeling like they own the military,” says Cooper, who joined the California State Military Reserve in January.

Cooper began participating in board meetings as a nonvoting observer while still in college — spurred by anxiety about his father, who in recent years has receded from public view. (Contending with back trouble, the famously virile eponymous playboy doesn’t want to be photographed strolling with his walker and fiddling with hearing aids.) “It’s tough to watch him struggle, but I’m just happy it’s physical and not mental,” says Cooper. His father’s oldest friends still visit for weekly dinners and film screenings, and he provides periodic notes on the magazine. (The elder Hefner was not made available to THR for this story.)

The mansion is quieter now, hosting a few parties a year (like one in April celebrating Amazon’s docuseries about Hugh, American Playboy). Not long ago, the house was maxed out as a revenue generator, hosting a shindig a week, with business partners, potential business partners and random people willing to fork over the $50,000-a-night rental fee.

At an office complex Playboy shares with UTA, Cooper oversees everything from magazine layouts to nightclub launches to licensing deals.

In a highly publicized deal, Daren Metropoulos, the 33-year-old heir to the Hostess Brands fortune, purchased the mansion in 2016 for $100 million, with the stipulation that the elder Hefner remain there until his death. Metropoulos, who has no ownership stake in Playboy, lives next door in a home he previously had bought from Hefner (and where Conrad lived until Cooper was 18).

Cooper, a child of ultra-privilege, is keenly aware of how he navigates his advantage. After attending the elite yet strict Ojai Valley School, he majored in film production at Chapman University in Orange County. He opted to pass on a legacy admission to USC, where his father has donated millions. “It made my heart feel better to go to Chapman,” he says. “It didn’t feel like it was given to me.”

Still, he’s not above working his gold-plated connections. He met Byrne six years ago after crushing on her as Pansy Parkinson in the Harry Potter films and then finagling an only-in-Hollywood introduction put into motion by friend Scout Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. “I thought, ‘Wow, that girl’s really pretty — I’m going to go on a date with her,’ ” Cooper recalls. (They live together in Marina del Rey.)

Not in the picture at Playboy is Hefner’s elder brother, Marston, 27, who was initially positioned as a co-heir apparent. He’s been out of the public eye since a February 2012 domestic violence incident in which Pasadena police were called to the home he shared with his live-in Playmate girlfriend, Claire Sinclair. Recently, he’s been teaching English in Japan. “My dad was public about wanting us to run the organization together, but it became evident as we got older that it was not something that spoke to him,” says Cooper.

Cooper regularly seeks counsel from another sibling, half-sister Christie, 64, who ran the company for more than two decades ending in 2009. “She can relate to the situation more than anyone could,” he says. Christie often urges him to keep a clear head in business discussions: “For me as a 25-year-old, that’s sometimes challenging,” he admits. “My emotions get the best of me.”

Also educational is what he saw as Playboy’s lucrative but demeaning involvement with reality TV and lowbrow licensing. He thinks The Girls Next Door, the E! reality show that ran from 2005 to 2010, damaged the company long-term. “[The show] collected a young audience but didn’t do a good job of conveying how Playboy is both playful andsophisticated,” he says. Kohn adds that the series “brought the company down-market.”

Such thinking has prompted Playboy, a branding vehicle with a magazine as its hood ornament, to terminate $15 million in licensing revenue generated at mall shops like Spencer’s — a relatively small slice of the company’s portfolio — in a bid to go upmarket. “We’re not in the fuzzy dice business anymore,” says CMO Jared Dougherty.

The company is developing two projects with Brett Ratner’s RatPac: a Hugh Hefner biopic (it’s not known who will star) and a reboot of the late-1960s variety-talk mash-up Playboy After Dark. Says Ratner, with a director’s eye, of the elevation of Hefner fils: “It’s obvious, it’s organic. He even has the looks of his dad — so much so it’s bizarre.”

Reality programming is out for now. Cooper claims to have been pushed into starring in a “mortifying” sizzle reel assembled by Gurney Productions (of Duck Dynasty fame) focused on his then-role as a brand ambassador. While MTV was interested, “I couldn’t stand it,” he says, noting the experience precipitated his departure from the company.

Meanwhile, the company’s core video assets, including Playboy TV, which runs X-rated shows like Cougar Club L.A., have after years of management by internet porn behemoth MindGeek been consolidated in-house and will be overhauled for a 2018 reset. “These are areas of the business that are, from a cash standpoint, performing very well that have not been on-brand,” says Cooper. “We need our story to be told with one voice across all platforms.”

Cooper splits his time between content development and revenue opportunities ranging from branded nightclubs (one is in development in Manhattan) to apparel. “In China,” muses Kohn, “we’re viewed as an Americana fashion brand by the up-and-coming consumer; they’ve never truly been exposed to our media products because of censorship restrictions.”

Meanwhile, the company has retooled its new-media efforts, which for a time were ramped up to compete with rivals. (Cooper admits Vice Media captured his demographic’s imagination by feeling fresh and competing aggressively while Playboy was on cruise control, yet he notes that, now that Vice is backed by 21st Century Fox and Disney, “nobody is viewing them as some pirate ship any longer.”) One of Kohn’s first acts was laying off a slew of digital staffers in a turn away from pursuing what he feels were the diminishing returns of online advertising. As the CEO puts it, “the market had changed.”

It’s what hasn’t changed, though, that Cooper sees as his opening. He observes that the country has been reverting to a reactionary cultural conservatism remarkable in its similarity to the Eisenhower years when Playboy was founded. (President Trump is widely known to have venerated Hugh, but the feeling isn’t mutual: “We don’t respect the guy,” says Cooper. “There’s a personal embarrassment because Trump is somebody who has been on our cover.”)

Cooper, sounding a lot like Dad, explains, “Yes, there are lifestyle components to Playboy, but it’s really a philosophy about freedom. And right now, as history is repeating itself in real time, I want Playboy to be central to that conversation.”

On another day, he’s lounging on a sofa in the mansion’s library, ruminating on the blessing and burden of his patrimony. His father is nowhere to be found, likely somewhere in this iconic Gothic Tudor-style manor, essentially finished telling the story he began in 1953.

Now it’s Cooper’s turn. “I suit up in my dad’s pajamas for our Midsummer Night’s Dream party; it’s a nice note to the past,” he says. “It would be a major mistake — ridiculous — to wear them to the office. I think about the Playboy philosophy constantly, but I have my own point of view. It’s what will have to carry me through.”

“We need our story to be told with one voice across all platforms,” says Cooper Hefner, photographed Aug. 3 at the Playboy Mansion.

  • ••


This is Playboy’s biggest revenue driver. The company says a deal with global fragrance giant Coty tops $100 million in annual wholesale sales. Through a partnership with Handong United and Bally’s, Playboy distributes clothing, footwear and fashion accessories globally, with more than a third of global revenue coming from China. Playboy is mulling a $25 million-$50 million capital raise for a renewed push into lingerie and swimwear.

Founded in 1953, Playboy peaked with a circulation of 5.6 million in the 1970s and now distributes about 450,000 copies of each issue.

After years of third-party management, Playboy TV and other video assets are being managed in-house. This year, more than 20 series, including some made by Playboy, were produced for the X-rated network, which is seen in 60-plus countries.

Playboy.com attracts roughly 4 million monthly unique visitors. (By comparison, Esquire.com has 7 million.)

Nightclub and Events
This year, a Playboy Club will open in New York, joining properties in London, Hanoi, Bangkok and multiple cities in India. The Playboy Jazz Festival, held at the Hollywood Bowl since 1979, sells about 35,000 tickets each year.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by hollywoodreporter.com










BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MAY 15: Cooper Hefner (L) and Scarlett Byrne attend the Playboy’s 2014 “Playmate Of The Year” announcement & luncheon held at The Playboy Mansion on May 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Boris Spremo Passes Away At 81

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Few people would have the nerve to straddle a steel beam hanging near the top of the CN Tower, or to shout “Hey, Queen!” in the presence of royalty.

Nothing could stop Boris Spremo from getting his million-dollar photo.

The retired Star photographer made it his business to document history, whether he was shooting a war, or capturing a Canadian prime minister during a lighter moment.

Spremo has died at the age of 81. He had been diagnosed with cancer in February. He took a turn for the worse last week, according to his family.

“He was the light of everyone’s life,” said his granddaughter Jessica Spremo. “He was constantly cracking jokes. He never took anything too seriously. (He was) always looking for an adventure.”

Spremo was born in Yugoslavia and came to Canada in 1957 after a stop in Paris. Following four years at The Globe and Mail, he joined the Star in 1966, where he spent 34 years as a photojournalist. He retired in 2000.

A member of the Order of Canada who was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, Spremo received 285 national and international photojournalism awards in a lifetime of photography.

His work took him to conflict zones including Vietnam, Grenada, Northern Ireland, Israel, Gaza and Iraq. He documented famine and drought in Central Africa in 1983 and the plight of Kurdish refugees in 1991.

“He never lost sight of where he came from,” Jessica said. “Having that perspective, he could relate to people . . . and have them, kind of, be comfortable, if only for a few minutes, in the situations that they were in.

“He treated everyone the same.”

Photos he took in Canada stood out. Known for his dogged pursuit to find the perfect shot, Spremo developed a rapport with politicians, including prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker.

In 1976, he captured Diefenbaker in silhouette working on his post-retirement memoirs while at a summer cottage in Barbados. The photo of Canada’s prime minister, resting in a lounge chair as the sun peaked out from the clouds following a rainfall, secured Spremo one of his many National Newspaper Awards.

Spremo was lauded for his photo of Trudeau the day after the latter won the 1980 federal election. It was one of the most recognizable photos of the former prime minister.

Camped outside Trudeau’s office until his staff finally let Spremo in, the photographer urged him, “Do something for me! Give me a picture!”

Trudeau decided to fire off an elastic from a paperclip.

“That to me is the quintessential Boris picture, right there, because it sums up his personality, his style,” said Star photographer Richard Lautens.

“Who else is going to get a sitting prime minister to sit there behind the desk on Parliament Hill firing elastics?

“He was willing to talk anybody into anything.”

Having known Spremo for 40 years, Lautens considered him a mentor. He was a “mythic figure, this larger-than-life character” with a personality “you could barely fit in a room,” he said.

“He had this personality, this drive. He would get in anywhere. He would never take ‘no’ for an answer,” Lautens said. “He would step on his own mom for a picture, especially an exclusive. I always figured he’d be around as long as Mt. Rushmore.

“His face should be up there somewhere.”

Said former Star photographer and senior editor Fred Ross: “He worked his ass off” to get the right shot.

It was important to Spremo to get his photo on the Star’s front page the following day.

Ross recalled how the photographer would keep track of all his front-page pictures and how he’d grow restless, even to the point of nudging Ross for better assignments, when he went a while without one.

“He never took any pictures. He made pictures. Big difference,” Ross said. “First class is probably not a definitive enough term for him. He lived and loved to make pictures.

“That was his whole being.”

Lautens said Spremo “would just kind of own the paper whenever he was working.

“He would see me or anybody else in this place as much competition as anybody else,” he said. “Then he’d give you that big smile and everyone would go, ‘Well, that’s Boris.’ ”

Torstar chair and former Star publisher John Honderich referred to Spremo as a “giant” – although “I’m not sure that even ‘giant’ does justice to his career,” Honderich said.

“Boris definitely knew what he wanted in life and the chain of command was not something he felt was particularly relevant. He would just come and knock on my door all the time and say this is what he wanted to do. He was full of stories, full of life, vivacious.

“This man lived every inch of his life and every inch of his career.”

Spremo’s photographic style differed from many of the techniques used by his competitors, according to Lautens.

To him, it was about capturing a moment from the perfect spot at the perfect time.

“Most of the stuff you see of his has got a humorous little twist to it, but extremely personal,” he said. “The style he shot in is very much kind of the way your eye might see things, whereas most photographers would always try and do something visually different, use certain lenses or certain lighting. He was willing to put himself in the line of fire. He was willing to risk pretty much everything to get himself in that position to make that image.

“It was that kind of intimate approach that, kind of, sold the deal.”

Spremo was not afraid to take readers to the highest of heights. On one occasion, he shot a CN Tower ironworker at 440 metres above ground.

“He was very famous for climbing up on skyscrapers and doing crazy stunts to get the best angle,” said Ken Faught, a former Star photographer and photo editor. “He was just a bulldog. It was his way or the highway.”

His sense of humour also had an edge.

Tasked with covering a Papal visit in 1984, Spremo was on Pope John Paul II’s train, which ran from Sherbrooke to Trois-Rivières, Que.

As the pope sat in the fourth car of the train by a window, with a light on him so that people at the stations could see him as the train passed by, media set up camp in the first car.

But they grew bored during the long trip, prompting Spremo, partially as a result of some egging on from fellow media, to fold up one of the blow-up cushions into a shape similar to the pope’s mitre, throw on a table cloth and hold a monopod as a staff. The impression was complete with a papal wave.

“People started taking photos of him instead of the actual pope,” said Jessica Spremo. “When the pope actually went by, all these people were walking away.”

The stunt landed him in hot water and some media picked up the story.

In another instance, legend has it that Spremo, in attempt to get the attention of a wayward-looking Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to Canada, shouted, “Hey Queen! Look over here!”

“All the protocol guys were, like, ‘You can’t talk to the Queen like that,’ ” Lautens laughed.

When Spremo retired from the Star, it was obvious to everyone that he wasn’t ready to stop shooting.

“It’s inspiring, not just for journalists everywhere, but for anybody in any occupation, to see a guy who has that fire in his belly his entire life,” said Lautens. “Even to this day, I’m still in awe of the guy.

“For the longest time, he was photojournalism in Canada.”

Spremo remained active in retirement, playing tennis five times a week and spending time at his Lake Simcoe cottage, where he loved to be on a boat.

He also got tremendous joy out of his 1959 Cadillac, “my baby,” as he liked to call it, according to his granddaughter.

In retirement, he kept shooting photos.

“He never went anywhere without a camera, whether to the store or on a trip,” Jessica said. “He always said, ‘You never know where you’re going to get that million-dollar photo.’ ”

Spremo is survived by his wife Ika, their four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by thestar.com


Jerry Lewis Passes Away At 91

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He dominated show business with Dean Martin in the 1950s, starred in ‘The Bellboy’ and ‘The Nutty Professor,’ hosted the Labor Day telethon for decades and received the Hersholt award.

Jerry Lewis, whose irrepressible zaniness and frantic creativity vaulted him to stardom as a comic movie star who wielded unparalleled green-light power at Paramount in the 1960s, died Sunday. He was 91.

Lewis, who teamed with Dean Martin in the 1950s as one of the most successful tandems in the history of show business, died at 9:15 a.m. at his home in Las Vegas, John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing a statement from Lewis’ family.

Lewis’ health ailments over the years included open-heart surgery in 1983, surgery for prostate cancer in 1992, treatment for his dependence on prescription drugs in 2003, a heart attack in 2006 and a long bout with pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease for which he took Prednisone, causing his face and body to balloon.

At the peak of their popularity, Martin & Lewis ruled nightclubs, radio and then the box office with their breezy yet physical comedy act, reigning as the top draw at theaters from 1950-56.

After an especially acrimonious break-up with his partner, Lewis remained as the No. 1 movie draw through the mid-1960s on the strength of such classics as The Bellboy (1960) and The Nutty Professor (1963). As Paramount’s biggest star, he had the creative freedom to make the moves he wanted to make.

Lewis also was known for his efforts as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. He devoted more than a half-century to fighting the neuromuscular disease, hosting an annual Labor Day telethon — and raising nearly $2.5 billion — from 1955 until he was ousted before the 2011 telecast. Lewis was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his efforts

Extremely popular throughout Europe, especially in France, Lewis won “best director” awards eight times in Europe, including three in France and one each in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. New Wave critics and filmmakers Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard spurred his popularity in France, where he became known as “Le Roi du Crazy.”

In 1984, Lewis was presented with the French Legion of Honor and in 2009 was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award; he kept the trophy from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on a platform above a TV in his Las Vegas home, where it would rotate at the push of a button.

The son of a professional entertainers, Lewis was born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, in Newark, N.J. His mother played the piano, and his father was a musical arranger. Lewis made his debut at age 5 at a hotel in the Borscht Belt, the legendary upstate New York show-business breeding ground, by singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” He dropped out of high school, working as a soda jerk and theater usher, all the while cultivating a comedy routine, in which he mimed phonograph records.

It was not until he hooked up with young Italian-American crooner Martin that his career took off. In July 1946, while performing at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, one of the entertainers working with Lewis abruptly quit, and Lewis suggested Martin, who was nine years older, as a replacement. Their ad libs, including insults and off-the-wall jokes, were a sensation, and their salaries skyrocketed from $250 a week to $5,000. When they appeared on the balcony of the Paramount Theater in Times Square, Broadway became so crowded that traffic backed up to 59th Street.

Their shtick was categorized as “free-for-all humor.” Playing up their physical and personality contrasts — Lewis’ monkeyshines and ineptitude against straight man Martin’s sedate, sexy charm — they became overwhelmingly successful. Producer Hal Wallis caught their act and signed them to a deal at Paramount, and their first film, My Friend Irma (1949), in which they were cast in supporting roles, was a hit.

Typically, their movies followed the same formula: Lewis acted like an overgrown 8-year-old, while the suave Martin would break into song at the most unlikely provocation.

Martin & Lewis subsequently starred in such comedies as At War With the Army (1950), Sailor Beware (1952), The Caddy (1953), Living It Up (1954), You’re Never Too Young (1955) — a remake of Billy Wilder’s The Major and the Minor – and Artists and Models (1955). Hollywood or Bust (1956) was the last film of the 16 they headlined.

Martin got tired of Lewis getting most of the attention, and at New York’s Copacabana on July 25, 1956, the duo made their final nightclub appearance together — 10 years to the day of their first engagement. The feud that developed did not publicly end until the MDA telethon of 1976, when Frank Sinatra surprised the host by bringing Martin onstage. Martin died in 1995.

“Other comedy teams never generated anything like the hysteria that Dean and I did, and that was because we had that X factor — the powerful feeling between us,” said Lewis, who wrote about their relationship in the 2005 book Dean & Me (A Love Story). “And it really was an X factor, a kind of mystery.”

After the split, Lewis continued in films, basically playing the same type of manic, naive character. Pacting with Paramount in a then-whopping $10 million deal, he agreed to make 14 films during a seven-year period. At the time, it was the biggest personal deal for the services of one star in Hollywood history. Lewis and his production company were given virtual carte blanche by Paramount head Y. Frank Freeman.

Lewis found his first solo starring role in The Delicate Delinquent (1957) and quickly followed with a string of hits: The Sad Sack (1957), Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958), The Geisha Boy (1958) and Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959).

The manic comedies anchored Paramount: In 1960, when the studio was faced with no Christmas movie, Lewis whipped one up in a month. The Bellboy, the first film he directed, was a slew of blackout gags he concocted around the Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel, where he had just finished a stint performing. In French terms, Lewis had become an “auteur,” co-writing, directing and acting in his films.

He was on a professional roll, playing a series of kind-hearted hyperactive dupes: In 1960’s CinderFella, directed by Frank Tashlin, he offered up a comic gender reversal on the Cinderella tale and danced down an impossibly long staircase to sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra. In 1961’s The Errand Boy, which he directed, he played an inept employee in a studio mailroom.

But it was 1963’s The Nutty Professor that cemented his reputation. Directing himself, Lewis starred as a near-sighted professor and chemistry egghead who dazzles his coeds by becoming the ultra-cool pop singer Buddy Love. The movie also served as the basis for Eddie Murphy’s retooled remake in 1996, with Murphy taking over the nerdy professor role, this time turning into a sharp-tongued comedian. (Murphy presented Lewis with the Hersholt trophy at the 2009 Oscars.)

Throughout the late 1950s and early ’60s, Lewis was constantly in motion, recording several records. His song Rock-a-Bye Your Baby sold nearly 4 million copies, and he hosted the Oscars in 1957 and 1959.

Lewis’ career faltered in the late ’60s, however, but not because of a lack of effort on his part. Indefatigable, he claimed to work every day for a period of seven years and regularly had a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call. Yet critics, as well as moviegoers, decided that Lewis, as director/writer/actor, was too much of a good thing; some felt his ego was out of control.

His films dipped drastically at the box office, and he experienced his greatest disappointment on TV in 1963 when his two-hour Saturday night talk and variety show turned off audiences. His manic mania did not play in this socially minded, ultra-serious era. The fact that the French continued to celebrate his talent became something of a running gag.

For 13 years, Lewis later admitted, he also was addicted to the painkilling drug Percodan, which was prescribed for treatment of a chipped spinal column he received while doing a pratfall in 1965 on The Andy Williams Show.

His 1972 film The Day the Clown Cried — a drama set inside a Nazi concentration camp — was never released. He donated a copy to the Library of Congress in August 2015, with the agreement the film not be shown for a decade.

In 1980, after an absence of nearly 10 years from the screen, Lewis attempted a comeback with the film Hardly Working. More successfully, he followed with a straight role as a talk-show host stalked by an obsessive fan in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982), starring Robert De Niro. Lewis’ dramatic performance as a beleaguered TV star was critically lauded.

He most recently appeared in such films as Cookie (1989), Arizona Dream (1993), Funny Bones (1995) and Max Rose (2016), and he played opposite Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood in The Trust (2016). He performed a cameo as himself in Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and guest-starred on a 2006 episode of Law & Order: SVU.

Lewis also occasionally directed TV shows, including episodes of Ben Casey. TV producers tapped into his unexpected dramatic flair, casting him to appear in such series as Wiseguy in the late 1980s.

He ventured onto the stage in 1995, making his Broadway debut in a revival of the musical Damn Yankees. Playing the devil, he was reportedly paid the highest sum in Broadway history at the time.

As a new generation came to appreciate his work — “Hey, l-a-a-a-d-y,” one of his signature catchphrases, became a favorite of his fellow comedians — Lewis was regularly honored for his achievements.

In 1991, he was presented with the Comic Life Achievement Award at the National Academy of Cable Programming’s ACE Awards. The American Comedy Awards gifted him with a lifetime achievement award in 1998. And the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. presented him with its career achievement honor in 2004.

During the late 1960s and early ’70s, he taught in the Division of Cinema at USC, drawing students from across the country, including future director Robert Zemeckis. He authored The Total Film Maker (1971), based on recordings of 480 hours of classroom lectures. Indeed, Lewis was an innovator, the first filmmaker to use a video-assist device on location.

When Lewis was 18, he met singer Patti Palmer, and they wed 10 days later. During their marriage, which lasted from 1944-82, they had five sons and adopted another child. His youngest, Joseph, became a drug addict and committed suicide in 2009 at age 45.

Lewis married his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, in 1983. They adopted a daughter, Danielle.

Presented by E.Cowan

Written by hollywoodreporter.com

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