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By United Press International   |   April 20, 2012 at 4:04 AM
The latest news on today's hottest celebrities ...

LEVON HELM: Arkansas-born musician and actor Levon Helm died in New York Thursday after a long battle with cancer, his family said on his Web site. He was 71.

The online message said Helm "passed peacefully."

"He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul," the message said.

Helm is famous for being a drummer and singer with The Band -- which recorded the hits "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Ophelia" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The Band was perhaps best known for its 1978 album and Martin Scorsese-directed concert film "The Last Waltz."

Helm also acted in the movies "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," "Shooter," "Smooth Talk," "The Right Stuff," "The Dollmaker," "Feeling Minnesota," "End of the Line," "In the Electric Mist," "Fire Down Below," "Staying Together" and "Coal Miner's Daughter."

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and underwent radiation treatments. The treatments damaged his vocal cords, reducing his deeply soulful country-accented voice to a quiet rasp. He continued recording albums and performing Saturday night Midnight Ramble concerts at his home and studio, known as the Barn, in Woodstock, N.Y., and was still making music up until a few weeks ago.

His family said Tuesday the entertainer was in his final stages of his cancer battle and they asked his fans to pray for him.

He is survived by his daughter Amy and wife Sandy.

Helm, born in Marvell, Ark., performed with Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson in The Band.

He had a solo career after The Band broke up in 1976, reunited with a new version of The Band in 1983 and toured with British musician Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in 1989.

His 2007 comeback album "Dirt Farmer" earned a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 91 in a list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time in November of that year.

Helm's 2009 "Electric Dirt" album won the first Grammy Award for Best Americana Album in 2010.

The hero of Elton John's 1971 song "Levon" was named after Helm. John also named his son, born Dec. 25, 2010, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.


'DARK SHADOWS:' Jonathan Frid, who played vampire Barnabas Collins on the 1960s gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows," has died in his native Canada, his family said. He was 87.

Frid died last week of natural causes at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. His death was first reported Thursday by Digital Spy. No specific cause was given.

The actor appeared in the 1973 television movie "The Devil's Daughter" and 1974 horror flick "Seizure." His last acting credit was a cameo in director Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" movie, which stars Johnny Depp in the role of Barnabas, Digital Spy said. It is due in theaters next month.


'AMERICAN IDOL:' Colton Dixon was eliminated from the competition on "American Idol" in Los Angeles Thursday.

Dixon did not secure enough viewer votes to stay on the television talent show after singing "Bad Romance" and "September" on Wednesday's edition of "Idol."

"I need to apologize. I wasn't myself last night and I get it," People.com said Dixon told the judges, who seemed surprised by the development. "And I appreciate what you told me last night. I'll take that when I'm making a record. And I'll choose songs [that are right for me]."

"You'll make many records," judge Jennifer Lopez told him.

"You have a huge career ahead of you," said panelist Randy Jackson.


STEVIE RYAN: VH1 says it has ordered a second season of its U.S. sketch comedy series "Stevie TV."

The show features actress Stevie Ryan sending up over-the top reality shows such as "Mob Wives," "The Real Housewives," "Toddlers and Tiaras," and "Jersey Shore." The first season finale is to air Sunday and the new run of episodes is to begin airing in the fall. Among the celebrity impressions she is famous for are Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Kendra Wilkinson and Lady Gaga.

"We've been so impressed with Stevie's comedic talent and creativity during the first season of her irreverent take on all things celebrity and pop culture. She is a rare example of successful female humor on television, and we're proud to have her as part of the VH1 family," VH1 President Tom Calderone said in a statement. "Fans of 'Stevie TV' continued to grow throughout her first season, which has consistently trended nationally on Twitter since its debut."

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