It would appear that ABC anchorman Peter Jennings has had the guts to take a stand in an area where a lot of other people in television have rolled over and played dead. The Country Music Times network says that music star Toby Keith has been "dis-invited" to participate in an upcoming Jennings-hosted Fourth of July program because of the coarseness and bluntness of the lyrics of a patriotic song he performs. Even though Keith has performed the song on both the CBS-broadcast Academy of Country Music awards and this week's CMT-broadcast Flameworthy Video Music Awards, Jennings could feel that a certain phrase in the song has no place being performed in front of families on the most sacred secular holiday of the year. It seems that at one point in "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" Keith uses a three-letter word that rhymes with "gas" when he mentions the spot where Americans will stick their boots, when aimed at anyone who messes with this country. Additionally, the song is very rough and revengeful in tone. Ironically, the single is the fastest rising in Keith's history as a country star and is now at the No. 12 spot on the Hot Country ratings. Keith reportedly told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the song simply didn't sit well with Jennings and he has opted out of the show. It would appear that some TV producers don't realize that patriotism does not give a person open license to be offensive. At least Jennings -- in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow, the godfather of broadcast journalism -- realized that.
FASHION WORLD MOURNS LOSS OF BILL BLASS
For over 40 years designer Bill Blass created some of the most understated clothing on upscale American store racks. Now, in the wake of his death this week, a flood of tributes and perspective pieces is washing through the national press. For example, A. Scott Walton, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says that Blass was a man with a charming personality. Blass "infused clothes meant to be worn in the most glamorous of settings with a down-to-earth femininity and no contrivance." It was his way of decorating without decadence, organization and elegance without ostentation that gained the respect of fellow designers around the world. Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., Blass was the son of a hardware store owner. His mother, though, was a dressmaker. Before his death he would lend his name to not only clothing but bed linens, car interiors, paint colors and even chocolates. Bill Blass was just a week away from turning 80.
MANILOW NOW IN SONGWRITERS HALL
The singer-songwriter famous for the song "I Write the Songs" -- which he did not write -- Barry Manilow, is now officially in the national Songwriters Hall of Fame. At ceremonies Thursday night in New York, Manilow told reporters that the honor was the highlight of a career that has stretched into four decades. First known nationally, though not by name, as the creator of a ton of popular radio and TV advertising jingles, Manilow parlayed a great writing style and acceptable voice into international stardom. Ironically, though, most of his hits were not his own creation. "I Write the Songs" was penned by the Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston. The only no-show of the evening was Michael Jackson. Among those who did make it to accept their personal honors were Randy Newman and the husband-and-wife team of Ashford and Simpson. According to the hall's Web site, the black-tie event was the 35th recognition dinner for songwriters.
MAYBE ELVIS ISN'T REALLY IN HILLBILLY HEAVEN
With the release of a redone version of a little-known Elvis song in the United Kingdom, Presley may soon eclipse the Beatles as the act that copped the largest number of No. 1 records on local charts. Published reports indicate that a dance mix of "A Little Less Conversation," from a 1968 film, was released this week and is already being heard on nearly every dance and rock station in the British Isles. There are projections that the song will be No. 1 on next week's charts. Both Elvis and the Beatles are currently tied for the most single No. 1 hits in Britain, with 17 each. When the Elvis ditty was originally released in the late '60s it was a near bomb in the States and never even placed on British charts. The new remix is pure Elvis, but reportedly with a cocktail of electronic effects and rhythms thrown in.
RONNIE MILSAP TO GET SPECIAL AWARD
The folks at the American Federation for the Blind say they will honor country legend Ronnie Milsap with a special award this coming fall. Milsap, who has had 40 No.1 RCA records in his career and remains one of the selling-est artists in the history of country music, will receive the 2002 Helen Keller Achievement Award. The honor is to be given to Milsap in late September. The news provider country.com reports that the singer-songwriter will be given the award for his personal achievements and because he has been an "exemplary" model for other blind or visually impaired artists. The ceremonies will be held during a special dinner at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan. Milsap continues to be a top concert draw and, for the past year or so, has hosted his own hour-long nostalgia program on the YesterdayUSA Radio Network, where he volunteers as a guest disk jockey.
TOTAL STRANGERS UNITE TO HELP MOTORIST
When 18-year-old Adrienne Hayes's car flipped out of control on a Washington state highway this week, it came to rest upside-down, with Hayes partially pinned underneath. She was face down in the mud, unconscious. She might have died had not a group of passing motorists, total strangers who met at the crash site at the same time, taken action to save her life. Their first concern was getting her to a hospital. But one of her arms was trapped under the overturned car. There were, of course, fears that the car might burst into flames or even explode. Working together, the group of quick-thinking motorists and residents near the site lifted the car off Adrienne's arm and pulled her to safety. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital. One of the rescuers, 61-year-old Mike Rosoto, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the car "wasn't heavy at all. We just worked together."
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 355
Here's today's question: "Are you the kind of person who consistently arrives early, on time or late for appointments? Got any interesting anecdotes?" Put TIMING in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 350 (FRED)
Last week, in response to a rather negative reaction on the Dartmouth College campus about the announcement that Fred Rogers would be the commencement speaker, we asked what you thought about the flap. In the meanwhile, Rogers went ahead with his address. It lasted only 10 minutes. The students were polite. Fred was eloquent, talking about the value of the individual, the importance of the human spirit and the beauty of kindness. Here are some of the replies: Ali says that the students should show some respect to Rogers. "I'm sure every one of those self-centered students watched him at some point in their childhood. I'm only 25 and would like to hear him speak ... he's an icon." DAJU61 says that Rogers contributed both to children and to their parents, citing a case in which children learned from Fred that they can't be sucked down the drain when water is let out of a bathtub. Cindy describes the students as being "conceited and stuck up." Rick H brings up an interesting point. "Students should remember that propriety is the last obligation before graduating ... until the first solicitation arrives from the alumni association." NEXT: Your personal heroes. GBA.