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By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International   |   July 9, 2002 at 5:17 PM
SENSITIVE, COMPLICATED ROD STEIGER DIES

Sometimes it was painful to watch actor Rod Steiger being interviewed. He wore his heart on his sleeve. In one encounter with a reporter in his later years he spoke openly of his depression, his search for a way to end it all that would cause the least pain and embarrassment for his surviving family. Now Steiger no longer has that worry. MSNBC is reporting the he has died. He was, indeed, one of the most unique, respected and honored actors of our time. He was an Oscar-winner for his portrayal of the Southern police chief in the 1967 movie version of "In the Heat of the Night," (a role reprised by the late Carroll O'Connor in the long, successful TV run of the concept). His first major acclaimed role was opposite an also-young-at-the-time Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront." His conversation with Brando in the back of a taxi (Brando: "I could have been a contender.") is one of the high points in American cinema. Rod Steiger was so emotional at times that you thought he would burst a blood vessel, but his acting was never over the top. It was always right on. Few American actors or actresses have been able to harness the human psyche as did Steiger and then, on cue, send it into the camera in such a raging torrent of emotion. My favorite Steiger moment was not in a movie, it was in a live TV performance. Writer Paddy Chayefsky was honored during the 1982 Emmy Awards show. After a statement about the career of the recently departed author by actor Peter O'Toole, Steiger came to the stage holding a clipboard. On it was a passage written by Chayefsky for the movie "Network," spoken in the film by actor Peter Finch, as Howard Beale -- the news anchorman nicknamed "The Mad Messiah of the Medium." Steiger began to read the famous "mad as hell" scene from the movie. Veins popping on his forehead, Steiger read the scene that ends with ... "I want you to go to the window. I want you to open the window and stick your head out and I want you to yell ... 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!'" When he finished -- his voice still echoing through the hall -- there was at least two seconds of silence. His fellow actors were immobilized by his ability to totally captivate them ... simply by READING. Then, lightning hit. A shockwave of applause and shouts filled the room. Steiger stood there, drained of emotion, nearly crying. He was that kind of guy. He was Mussolini, Rasputin, Pope John XXIII, Napoleon, Al Capone and even W.C. Fields. Rod, rest well. Rod Steiger was 77.


SHELTON TAPES IN-PRISON MUSIC VIDEO

Popular country singer Blake Shelton has gone behind bars for the taping of a music video for his latest song "Ol' Red." According to country.com, Shelton switches from his signature cowboy hat and Western garb to don the outfit of a prisoner. He spent two days on the project, inside the walls of a former Tennessee state prison. According to those at the taping, Shelton quickly began to look the part of a man behind bars. The prison had not been used for a while. It had to be cleaned to look normal. At one point producers found a dead cat in the room that housed the old electric chair. Shelton was scared about going into long-abandoned parts of the crumbling facility. By the way, he was first introduced to the song "Ol' Red" eight years ago by the late Hoyt Axton.


CLASSIC HALL ESCAPES TEXAS FLOODING

If you've ever lived in southeast Texas or visited the Uvalde County area, you've likely heard about Gruene Hall. It's the oldest dance hall in the Lone Star State. It's considered to be a shrine to that kind of nightlife. Now, according to Country Music Television, the much-visited building has escaped the floods raging through the area ... but barely. Gruene (pronounced as is the color "green") has been a popular nightspot since it was first built in the 1880s. Luckily, the venue was built on higher ground than many buildings in the tiny city of the same name. Many musicians and singers who would later achieve national stardom spent many hours on the Gruene stage, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Pat Green and Jack Ingram. Gruene is near New Braunfels, that German-ancestry city with so much good food, festivals and white water rafting. Sadly, the waters are not white any more and Texas Gov. Ricky Perry has declared a 27-county area a disaster because of the incredible flooding there.


SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN? ... LOOK OUT!

Imagine a plot where Superman takes on Batman. Or for fans of the Caped Crusader, Batman takes on Superman. Well, according to officials at Warner Bros., that's going to happen soon. The studio confirms to media that its two superheros will meet in a movie to be titled "Batman vs. Superman." In less than a month we may know who will be cast in the two major roles, along with the supporting cast members. The Hollywood Reporter says that no firm timetable for the film, being billed as "Battle of Titans," has been announced. A first draft of a screenplay has been penned by Andrew Kevin Walker. In some ways the title may be a little misleading, advance information about the scenario of the movie reveals that the two actually team up to fight an international menace.


ANNA NICOLE TO GET 'REALITY' SHOW

Controversial model-heiress Anna Nicole Smith has been tapped by the E! Entertainment network to take part in her own reality-based show. The debut date has been set for Aug. 4 -- the 40th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe. Gossip columnist Liz Smith says that advance promotion for the show included some really sad footage of Smith squealing about someone following her. Liz wonders, though, what kind of show it will be. The beauty seems to be attractive, until she starts talking. During a recent encounter with Larry King, the model proved, at least in the columnist's view, that she does not do well in interviews and becomes very vulnerable. It may not be comfortable to watch the upcoming show with Anna Nicole, if she is that prone to drowning in her own malaprops.


FEINSTEIN TO APPEAR WITH SYMPHONY

The popular preserver of all that was right and good about the era of American music of the '30s-'50s -- Michael Feinstein -- is branching out into symphonic music. His publicist tells this columnist that Feinstein, one of today's prime interpreters of the American popular song, will appear with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra during an eight-city tour of this country next month. Stops are scheduled in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The tour follows the release of a major CD compilation, featuring Feinstein and the orchestra. It's just been released on the Concord label. The play list for the concert sounds wonderful, with the singer-pianist belting out versions of songs such as "How Deep is the Ocean?" and "Somewhere," with full concert-level backing. By the way, at the two California venues, Zubin Mehta will add the overture to "Die Fledermaus" to the program.


UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 367

In recognition of the death of Rod Steiger, here's today's question: "What actor or actress do you feel is or was able to convey the strongest emotion? Do you have any special movie scenes as testimony to your claim?" Put MOVIE in the subject line and send to comments@upi.com via the Internet.


CATCHING UP ON PAST RESPONSES

A week or so ago we asked what three foods you would be willing to eat at every meal, day after day, for the rest of your life. Here are some of the more interesting choices: Huggiepoo suggests that since Thanksgiving dinner is a real favorite that turkey with gravy, stuffing and candied yams would be best. YUM. LD514 suggests: Oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch and pizza for dinner. That doesn't exactly fit the sequence we had in mind, but might not be bad. Margaret D suggests steak and lobster tail, sweet potato casserole and pudding. Ali is a big fan of salad, lobster and shrimp. Btrflybabe suggests pasta, peanut butter and banana sandwiches and asparagus. Hmmm. TIB suggests vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding and a Twinkie. Talk about a sugar rush. TOMORROW: More of this. GBA.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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