PRANKSTER, 'CUCKOO'S NEST' AUTHOR KESEY DIES
Critics liked his book "Sometimes a Great Notion" the best. But, to the masses, author Ken Kesey will always be remembered as the man who wrote book that became the award-winning movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Hospital officials in Grants Pass, Ore., say that Kesey died over the weekend of complications following liver surgery. The operation took place two weeks ago. Even though the movie was a box office success and copped many top awards at the Oscars -- winning best picture, best director and both the best actor and best actress honors -- Kesey sued the producers of the Milos Foreman film, claiming it was not true to the intentions of the novel. In the '60s, Kesey led a band of Merry Pranksters in a cross-country bus trip. The junket was immortalized by author Tom Wolfe in his book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." Kesey was 66.
MARVELOUS MARK WON'T GO FOR NO. 600
Baseball's Mark McGwire likely would have hit his 600th home run during the next baseball season, but the physically weakened superstar says he's hanging it up. In an official statement, replayed by espn.com, the 38-year-old Cardinal slugger noted that he had just completed the first year of a two-year contract extension consummated in a verbal agreement with the team's owner, William DeWitt. McGwire says he's decided not to put ink to paper, but to simply say, "Thanks, but goodbye." The superstar says he never played for fame or fortune, but for the love of the game. He told fans that he was "walking away from the game that provided me the opportunities, experiences, memories and friendships to fill 10 lifetimes."
McGwire is the third stellar player to end his career in MLB. He was preceded by Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Guinn. He also paid tribute to the fans that supported him in college in Los Angeles and during his years in Oakland. His final four in St. Louis peaked with his "home run" season. Disappointingly, though, he hit only a .187 this year.
HARRISON UNDERGOING EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENTS
Beatle George Harrison is reportedly undergoing highly experimental treatments for cancer. Published reports indicate that Harrison, now 58, took treatments at Staten Island University Hospital. Several Big Apple papers have given more details. The Post says Ringo Starr visited Harrison during his hospitalization and that Harrison has was discharged some days ago. The Times reported that he was in a private suite. If you remember, last summer there were reports that Harrison was at death's door.
GYMNAST CONNOR ON THE ARTHRITIS INFO TRAIL
Olympic gymnast Bart Connor is traveling the country talking about ways to beat arthritis. Few realized that while in his early 20s the international star was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. In spite of the worsening ailment he won the gold and has stayed active. Connor is involved in a project called "B.E.A.T. Arthritis." It's sponsored by Pharmacia Corp. and Pfizer. Connor tells USA Today that the word "arthritis" is an umbrella term. More than 100 different diseases fall under that umbrella. Connor is now 42 and recently developed a painful condition in his lower back. He says that life is still worth living and wants other sufferers to know about modern treatments.
COUNTRY AWARDS WATCHED BY MILLIONS
If you are not a country music fan and can't figure out why the genre has so many fans, it may be impossible to adequately explain why this past week's 35th Annual CMA Awards Show did so well in the ratings. The event's promoters report that the broadcast was watched in nearly 9 million homes. The broadcast's first hour did the best; the second hour was overshadowed in the ratings by NBC's popular "West Wing." By the way, country radio stations say that listeners have been ringing their phones off the hook wondering why they are not playing Alan Jackson's new song "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" Jackson debuted the song on the broadcast. His Web site was immediately flooded with positive fan mail. But his record company has no plans to release it as a commercial single ... at least not yet. ADDITIONALLY: The Western band Riders in the Sky, one of the most popular acts at the Grand Ole Opry, received the entertainer of the year award at this year's Western Music Association Awards. The popular group has been reviving the old "Country and Western" sound that was made famous in the late 1940s and early '50s by such groups as the Sons of the Pioneers. Some call it the "Roy Rogers sound." The news provider country.com says the group Sons of the San Joaquin was named traditional group of the year. Their CD "Sing One for the Cowboy" was honored as album of the year.
SKIN-TIGHT BRITNEY STILL SEARCHING FOR 'SELF'
The singer USA Today calls "the world's most famous ex-Mouseketeer," Britney Spears, is out with a third CD and a new tour but some reviewers say she's still without a real image. Reviewer Elysa Gardner says that Spears, whom many feel is sending a too-adult image to her largely barely pubescent audience, appears on stage in "painted on" pants and a halter top, certain of her physical image but uncertain of most everything else. In addition to finding exception with her physical manner, many adults find watching her on videos uncomfortable. One pundit describes her dancing and singing as "so mechanical it appears that she is seeing the material for the first time and can't wait for the end of her shift." Spears' tour visited Long Island this past week. The publication gave the performance two out of four stars.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 201
This week we are throwing the forum open to your comments about anything you wish. So many of you have submitted such wonderful "slice of life" comments that I thought it would be fun to have a free-for-all week. So, put THOUGHTS in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 196 (BOOTH)
Last week we wondered if any of you had seen a real, honest-to-goodness pay phone booth -- the kind with the door -- lately. In preparing this question, a memory from the old UPI Radio Network came flooding back. For a time we had an executive named John Wilkes. We immediately called him John Wilkes Booth ... but I guess we weren't the first to do that. Well, here is a quick sampling of the replies from your BOOTH question: AEB says that there actually is one still being used in San Antonio. She reports, though, that the last time she saw one in person was during a trip last spring to France. She says that in Europe they are everywhere and "pretty cool." Janet lives in western New York State and says that in her neck of the woods they are still commonly used. She says the doors on some, though, are in pretty bad shape. Well, Janet, if I had to stand out in the weather in western New York, I'd be in pretty sad shape also! Rose B brings up an interesting point. "If you want to see a phone booth, rent a movie." Well, hopefully not all of them will be phased out. Superman won't have a place to change clothes. GBA.