. REMEMBERING THE LATE RAY BROWN
Legendary jazz bassist Ray Brown died in his sleep this week in Indianapolis. He was in the Indiana city doing what he loved to do best ... play. At one time he was married to Ella Fitzgerald. During his career he was a sideman with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. You can't get much better than that. Published reports indicate that Brown came to national attention in the 1940s with his driving, undertow beat. Born in Pittsburgh, he first "started cooking" when he moved to New York City. He was a charter member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. Over the years he was constantly picked by fans when polls of jazz musicians were taken. His fingers could move like lightening. Few in the history of recorded music have had such a mastery of their instrument as did Brown. The world of civilized music will never be the same. Ray Brown was 75.
MORISSETTE GOES TO COURT
In the early days of the Internet a lot of enterprising people realized just what was about to happen and gobbled up a lot of domain names they suspected someone would need one day. People and companies who got onto the Information Superhighway late found that their names were already taken by what some called "cybersquatters." Just like many pioneer families who took out deeds to lands in the West, made the long trek there and found that someone else had already staked out the same claim, some have found their dreams of having a place in the Internet named for them dashed by an enterprising person who bought the name on speculation and then will relinquish it only for a huge fee. That's why Canadian singer Alanis Morissette has gone to court. Not only does someone already have alanis.net as a domain name, she claims that the person is selling items without her authorization from the site. Court records confirm that Morissette claims that the Web site name is "alarmingly similar" to her name. She wants the site shut down and damages paid. She is the latest in a long line of stars who have taken the same action. By the way, several companies have been snapping up domain names that companies have forgotten to renew. Try going to the Web site for my old radio station in Indiana, for example, and you're suddenly linked to a porn site.
IN PRAISE OF STUART LITTLE
A lot of people are lining up to praise the second Stuart Little film. Among them is gossip columnist Liz Smith. She's nearly effusive in her praise of the talented people who brought the sequel to life. Among the actors in the cast is James Woods, the voice of the wicked character Falcon. Melanie Griffith, as a little bird named Margalo, is, in Smith's words, "a delightful addition." Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie return in their original roles as Little's adoptive parents. Oh, and I can't forget Michael J. Fox as Stuart and Nathan Lane as Snowbell the cat. The combination of live action and computer-generated characters in the movie is incredible -- a quantum leap from "Roger Rabbit." The world premiere of the movie is in less than two weeks in Los Angeles. Proceeds will benefit two children's health projects.
WILL SPIELBERG BUILD HIS OWN DISNEYLAND?
Some years ago there were reports that Steven Spielberg had been talking to a Las Vegas casino owner about the possibility of using some land in Sin City to build a theme park based on some of his most popular movies. Now, according to the New York Post, there are new indications that the award-winning producer-director has not abandoned the idea -- though Las Vegas may not be the site for construction. The publication says that Spielberg is refloating the idea, using the popularity of his DreamWorks franchises as the basis for the concept. When questioned about the rumors, a spokesman for Spielberg told the paper that although doubtful his boss would go full tilt into such a project, it's possible that he might opt for a joint venture, simply adding his movie themes to an existing facility. Spielberg is also a consultant for several parks. His major hits, "E.T.," "Jurassic Park," "Jaws" and "Back to the Future" are already being used at Universal for successful rides.
SARA EVANS' HOMETOWN LOVES HER
It's your typical "local girl makes good" story. The city of New Franklin, Mo., now greets visitors with a huge sign: "Welcome to New Franklin, Home of Country Star Sara Evans." The sign was unveiled in conjunction with Fourth of July festivities there this week. According to CMT, Evans and her husband returned to the city to be a major part in the Independence Day celebrations. She is not scheduled to perform, though. She told reporters that she's extremely proud of her hometown and being honored is indeed a thrill. Even though she says she now lives elsewhere, she's proud to claim the city as her own. For more on her career and concert plans, go to saraevans.com on the Internet. By the way, New Franklin is in north-central Missouri, about an hour from the state's capitol, Jefferson City.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE SIMPLE ACT
It's funny how we learn things as we get older that we should have learned in school ... and didn't. I've found out something recently that I wanted to share on this most sacred of secular holidays. There's a little something that George Washington did -- that has been nearly lost with the passage of time -- that did more to save the American Revolution than many major battles. It seems that during the two years that Adams and Franklin and Jay were negotiating with the British in Paris, Washington had moved his underpaid, underfed, underclothed army to an encampment at Newburgh, north of New York City. He had been hearing rumors that many in his army were about to "abandon ship," willing to settle for half a loaf of liberty in return for just being home with their families. Washington knew he could not let that happen. It the army disbanded then the American delegation in Paris could not negotiate from a position of strength. One day he received a letter from a member of the Continental Congress promising that the troops would be paid. Armed with that letter he called an emergency meeting of his aides and top officers in the encampment's chapel, the Temple of Virtue. He took the letter from his pocket but faltered ... he could not read it. Not that he feared the reaction of his men, not that the light was bad, but George Washington's eyesight had failed. He then took a tiny pair of glasses from another pocket and put them on. There was a noticeable reaction in the room. No one had seen him wear glasses before. He told his men that while in their service he had not only had he grown old and white-haired, but nearly blind. After reading the letter with difficulty, he walked out -- without saying another word. The seasoned soldiers in the chapel wept. They realized that by humbling himself in their eyes he had shown them that if George Washington was vulnerable and fragile and frail ... so vulnerable and fragile and frail was freedom. There was never again talk of mutiny. Funny. Just a simple act. Largely forgotten. A quiet gesture that saved America. Just thought you'd like to hear that story on this July Fourth. God Bless America.