Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So that's 6

Okay, so in most places they say that death comes in 3s. Well, we skipped straight to 6 today. That's what's been in the news' mind the last few days. Morbid, but...

Karl Malden dead

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2004 file photo, actor Karl Malden accepts the life AP – FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2004 file photo, actor Karl Malden accepts the life achievement award at the …

LOS ANGELES – Karl Malden, the Academy Award-winning actor whose intelligent characterizations on stage and screen made him a star despite his plain looks, died Wednesday, his family said. He was 97.

Malden died of natural causes surrounded by his family at his Brentwood home, they told the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He served as the academy's president from 1989-92.

While he tackled a variety of characters over the years, he was often seen in working-class garb or military uniform. His authenticity in grittier roles came naturally: He was the son of a Czech mother and a Serbian father, and worked for a time in the steel mills of Gary, Ind., after dropping out of college.

Malden said he got his celebrated bulbous nose when he broke it a couple of times playing basketball or football, joking that he was "the only actor in Hollywood whose nose qualifies him for handicapped parking."

Malden won a supporting actor Oscar in 1951 for his role as Blanche DuBois' naive suitor Mitch in "A Streetcar Named Desire" — a role he also played on Broadway.

He was nominated again as best supporting actor in 1954 for his performance as Father Corrigan, a fearless, friend-of-the-workingman priest in "On the Waterfront." In both movies, he costarred with Marlon Brando.

Among Malden's more than 50 film credits were: "Patton," in which he played Gen. Omar Bradley, "Pollyanna," "Fear Strikes Out," "The Sting II," "Bombers B-52," "Cheyenne Autumn," and "All Fall Down."

One of his most controversial films was "Baby Doll" in 1956, in which he played a dullard husband whose child bride is exploited by a businessman. It was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for what was termed its "carnal suggestiveness." The story was by "Streetcar" author Tennessee Williams.

Malden gained perhaps his greatest fame as Lt. Mike Stone in the 1970s television show "The Streets of San Francisco," in which Michael Douglas played the veteran detective's junior partner.

During the same period, Malden gained a lucrative 21-year sideline and a place in pop culture with his "Don't leave home without them" ads for American Express.

"The Streets of San Francisco" earned him five Emmy nominations. He won one for his role as a murder victim's father out to bring his former son-in-law to justice in the 1985 miniseries "Fatal Vision."

Malden played Barbra Streisand's stepfather in the 1987 film "Nuts;" Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr. in the 1988 TV film "My Father, My Son;" and Leon Klinghoffer, the cruise ship passenger murdered by terrorists in 1985, in the 1989 TV film "The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro."

He acted sparingly in recent years, appearing in 2000 in a small role on TV's "The West Wing."

In 2004, Malden received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award, telling the group in his acceptance speech that "this is the peak for me."

Malden first gained prominence on Broadway in the late 1930s, making his debut in "Golden Boy" by Clifford Odets. It was during this time that he met Elia Kazan, who later was to direct him in "Streetcar" and "Waterfront."

He steadily gained more prominent roles, with time out for service in the Army in World War II (and a role in an Army show, "Winged Victory.")

"A Streetcar Named Desire" opened on Broadway in 1947 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle awards. Brando's breakthrough performance might have gotten most of the attention, but Malden did not want for praise. Once critic called him "one of the ablest young actors extant."

Among his other stage appearances were "Key Largo," "Winged Victory," Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," "The Desperate Hours," and "The Egghead."

Malden was known for his meticulous preparation, studying a script carefully long before he stepped into his role.

"I not only figure out my own interpretation of the role, but try to guess other approaches that the director might like. I prepare them, too," he said in a 1962 Associated Press interview. "That way, I can switch in the middle of a scene with no sweat."

"There's no such thing as an easy job, not if you do it right," he added.

He was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago on March 22, 1912. Malden regretted that in order to become an actor he had to change his name. He insisted that Fred Gwynne's character in "On the Waterfront" be named Sekulovich to honor his heritage.

The family moved to Gary, Ind., when he was small. He quit his steel job 1934 to study acting at Chicago's Goodman Theatre "because I wasn't getting anywhere in the mills," he recalled.

"When I told my father, he said, `Are you crazy? You want to give up a good job in the middle of the Depression?' Thank god for my mother. She said to give it a try."

In 2005, the U.S. Postal Service honored Malden by putting his name on a post office in Los Angeles to honor his achievement in film and his contributions to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which meets to discuss ideas for stamp designs.

Malden and his wife, Mona, a fellow acting student at the Goodman, had one of Hollywood's longest marriages, having celebrated their 70th anniversary in December.

Besides his wife, Malden is survived by daughters Mila and Cara, his sons-in-law, three granddaughters, and four great grandchildren.


Associated Press writer Polly Anderson in New York contributed to this report.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jackson life and death

June 30, 2009

Jackson's Life - and Death - a Spectacle

Confusion Over Singer's Will and Estate, As Well As Future Of Three Children

Michael Jackson's life became a bizarre spectacle in his later years. In death, nothing has changed, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker. Family, associates, attorneys, publicity seekers all gearing up to do battle over Jackson's money and his legacy - while the whole world watches.

"I wish Michael could be here to see all this," Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father, has said.

The headliner in "all this:" a brewing, complicated, sordid mud fight over what, and how much, the "King of Pop" left behind - and to whom. The greatest confusion centers on Jackson's will - or wills. The singer's attorney says he has one. The singer's family says one will be filed in court- and that others are likely to come out of the woodwork.

"You don't know, there could be competing wills here," said Andrew Katzenstein, a lawyer with expertise in estate management. "In California, if you write something out on a piece of paper and sign your name to it, that can count as a will."

"What we know is that a will apparently does exist that was written up for Michael, and we understand by his lawyer John Prank in 2002," said J. Randy Taraborrelli, a Jackson biographer." What we're hearing is that Michael made provisions for his mother, for his children and for certain charities. And we're also hearing that his father is not mentioned in the will."

All this confusion, a continuation of the bedlam set loose over the last six days by Jackson's sudden death: the spontaneous crowds, the instantaneous controversy over two as-yet inconclusive coroner's reports - one by the county, one for the family, and controversy over the singer's alleged prescription drug abuse, reported as fact in tabloids around the world.

"I think it's safe to say that since the 1980s, Michael Jackson has been addicted to different prescriptions off and on at different times," Taraborrelli said. "You know, he's been under a lot of stress, under a lot of pain for a long time."

Q&A: Taraborrelli On Jackson's Illnesses

And now controversy over his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who was with Jackson when he collapsed. The LAPD called Dr. Murray in for questioning over the weekend. They say he's not a criminal suspect. The family says the promoter of Jackson's planned concerts in London hired Dr. Murray. The promoters insist he was Michael Jackson's choice.

"Michael said to me that my body is the body that fuels the business," said Randy Phillips, an AEG promoter. "I want a doctor 24-7 like President Obama."

But now the court is center stage. On June 29, Jackson's mother, Katherine, got a judge to appoint her special administrator of her son's estate. Court documents outline a tangled legal mess: numerous bank accounts that are in the control of third parties, confusion over who controls Jackson's stake in the Sony-ATV music publishing catalogue, including works of the Beatles said to be of "tremendous value." But Jackson also had tremendous debt, $500 million by some accounts - plenty to keep the courts busy for years figuring it all out.

"There are going to be legal struggles on a number of levels," Katzenstein said. "His estate would pass equally to his three kids. The thing that is so interesting about that to me is the kids would get it when they are 18 years old, so there could be a significant amount of money landing in the hands of 18-year-old kids, which for those of you that are parents, you know that's not always a great idea."

Another court battle looms over custody of Michael Jackson's three young children. Jackson's mother also got the court to grant her temporary custody of 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr.; Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and 7-year-old Prince Michael, ll. Attorneys for Jackson's former wife, Debbie Rowe, the mother of the older two children, say she is considering challenging Katherine Jackson for custody.

"This is where they belong," Joe Jackson has said. "We are the parents … We love those kids, too."

"All we can really know is that this promises to be a big drama in weeks and months to come if Katherine Jackson and Debbie Rowe both decide that they want those children," Taraborelli said.

Michael Jackson was rehearsing for his big comeback the night before he died. Now, the London promoters and the Jackson family are talking about staging a huge tribute concert for the "King of Pop," with performances by his brothers who shot to fame with him four decades ago in the Jackson 5, and his one-time superstar sister, Janet Jackson.

But the biggest show is likely to be the funeral for Michael Jackson, reportedly shaping up to be a several day event with a motorcade from Hollywood to Neverland, a private service and a public service.

"When I suggested to someone in the family that there might be 100,000 people, the answer was 'What are you talking about? We're hearing that there might be as many as one million people,'" said Brian Oxman, a former Jackson attorney. "When you hear those astronomical numbers that there might be a million people turn out, you just kind of go, 'Whoa, is that possible?' And lo and behold, for all we know, it's highly possible."

For Michael Jackson, the show must go on. His family and the public demand it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Billy Mays Dead

'Infomercial King' Billy Mays Found Dead in Home

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Television pitchman Billy Mays — who built his fame by appearing on commercials and infomercials promoting household products and gadgets — died Sunday.

Mays, 50, was found unresponsive by his wife inside his Tampa, Fla., home at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Tampa Police Department.

Police said there were no signs of forced entry to Mays' residence and foul play is not suspected. Authorities said an autopsy should be complete by Monday afternoon.

"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days. Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times," Mays wife, Deborah, said in a statement on Sunday.

Mays was well known for his numerous television promotions of such products as Orange Glo and OxiClean. He was also featured on the reality TV show "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel, which followed Mays and Anthony Sullivan in their marketing jobs.

Born William Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, Mays developed his style demonstrating knives, mops and other "as seen on TV" gadgets on Atlantic City's boardwalk. For years he worked as a hired gun on the state fair and home show circuits, attracting crowds with his booming voice and genial manner.

After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning products on the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network.

Commercials and informercials followed, anchored by the high-energy Mays showing how it's done while tossing out kitschy phrases like, "Long live your laundry!"

Recently he's been seen on commercials for a wide variety of products and is featured on the reality TV show "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel, which follows Mays and Anthony Sullivan in their marketing jobs. He's also been seen in ESPN ads.

His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Mays plenty of fans. People line up at his personal appearances for autographed color glossies, and strangers stop him in airports to chat about the products.

"I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "I think it shows."

Mays was on board a US Airways flight that blew out its front tires as it landed at a Tampa airport on Saturday, reported.

US Airways spokesman Jim Olson said that none of the 138 passengers and five crew members were injured in the incident, but several passengers reported having bumps and bruises, according to the station.

Authorities have not said whether Mays' death was related to the incident.

Discovery Channel spokeswoman Elizabeth Hillman released a statement Sunday extending sympathy to the Mays family.

"Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth," Hillman's statement said. "Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend."

Click here to read more on this story from

The Associated Press contributed to this report.