The actor you loved to hate, Richard Widmark, is being given a lifetime achievement award this weekend in Rochester, N.Y., by the George Eastman House. Over his long career, Widmark had the incredible ability of showing more evil in his smile and laugh than any other actor in Hollywood history. In the movie "Kiss of Death" he carries out one of the most memorable of all nasty scenes in the movies. Playing unrepentant thug Tommy Udo, he shoves a woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs while cackling in glee. He also excelled in radio drama, often playing the same type of character. He was great at portraying men who had "lost it," falling off the emotional edge into insanity. His role of a man hunting down a tiger in the snows of the American Northwest in "The Track of the Cat" is one of the high points in radio drama. A native of Minnesota, he grew up in Illinois. He was persuaded to drop his college plans of being a lawyer to take up acting. Although typecast in "psycho" roles, he broke out of that stereotype to play the level-headed U.S. public health officer in Elia Kazan's "Panic in the Streets." In that movie, he has the unenviable job of finding out whether plague has spread from a corpse found on the New Orleans waterfront into the general population without starting a riot among the citizens there. By the way, that 1950 film featured the turgid music of Alfred Newman and the major acting debuts of Jack Palance and Zero Mostel. (It is considered by many reviewers to be among the best film noir classics, though it remains a seldom-seen film today, for some strange reason. Go out and rent it and the opening credits will convince you to stay for the next 94 minutes of this remarkable movie.) Widmark is now 87 and, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, he's still as handsome and dashing as ever. A pat on the back to the Eastman people for recognizing the career and talents of one of Hollywood's most enduring actors. For more on the George Eastman House and its projects, check out eastman.org on the Internet.
REBA BEGINS SHOOTING SECOND SEASON
She's back ... the diminutive country singer who set Broadway on its ear in her portrayal of Annie Oakley in "Annie Get your Gun," and who mesmerized TV fans for her natural acting style in her own sitcom. CMT says that Reba McEntire has begun taping the second season of the show. The series, "Reba," is a staple on the WB Network. Additionally, she will take part in a photo session, posing for the cover of a future issue of Rosie magazine and taking part in an interview to be conducted by O'Donnell for the issue. And Family Circle will feature McEntire in its October issue. The CMT Network says that when the second season of "Reba" begins to air on WB this fall, it will be permitted to show episodes from the first season ... beginning on Sept 14.
'CHAIN OF LOVE' WRITER DIES
Jonnie Barnett will always be remembered as the co-writer of the monster hit "The Chain of Love." It helped make Clay Walker a major star and brought Barnett to the attention of the Nashville song-writing establishment. Now, according to country.com, Barnett has died at Baptist Hospital in the Tennessee capital. The cause of death was listed as a stroke. In 1997, Barnett composed one of his last major song hits, "One Foot in the Blues." It was recorded by Johnny Adams and was nominated that year at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards show for blues song of the year. Before turning his attentions to song writing, Barnett was a solo act, often appearing on the same stage with Frank Zappa, Tom Waits and Cheech and Chong. He also had small parts in the movies "Nashville" and "Cheech & Chong's Next Movie." He composed many short inspirational stories. One appeared in "Chicken Soup For The Country Soul." It was based on "The Chain of Love." Jonnie Barnett was only 56.
'GROSS-OUT' RADIO STUNT RESULTS IN ARRESTS
There was a time when radio was a quiet refuge. On many stations, only subdued music was played on Sundays. On Good Friday, some stations didn't play commercials for a three-hour period beginning at noon. But that was a long time ago. Derugulation of the industry and a wave of younger, toilet-minded disk jockeys and talk show entrepreneurs has led to radio becoming, in many cities, a worse gutter than CB. Now police in Manhattan have put a stop to what may be the most outlandish, disrespectful stunt ever pulled on the airwaves. The New York Post says that the radio team of Opie and Anthony have been "exorcised" from Big Apple radio. It seems that the pair broadcast live a stunt by two listeners who were pretending to engage in sex in the sanctuary of St. Patrick's Cathedral ... in front of tourists and others kneeling in prayer. The show has been canceled. The FCC has launched a formal investigation of the stunt, carried live on 19 radio stations around the country and heard by an audience estimated to be in excess of 10 million. The question now is what to do with the $30 million contract negotiated with Opie and Anthony just last year by Infinity Broadcasting. We've come a long way since Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden uttered the first words ever spoken on radio on Dec. 24, 1906: "Merry Christmas."
KRAVITZ LEADING 'FLOWER POWER' RESURGENCE
For some people, rocker Lenny Kravitz has been locked in time, a memento from an era of "flower power and bell bottoms." Now, according to the Houston Chronicle, it would seem that after nearly two decades of music making, the world has finally caught up to Lenny and Kravitz has become the poster boy of the "retro look." Appearing in a new tour, his love of the simpler (though flashier) past has come full circle. New artists, including Roots, D'Angelo and Maxwell, are taking a cue from the past master, reinventing live R&B and rock and turning them into whirling stage presentations -- something that has been a hallmark of Kravitz throughout his career. But in spite of this holding on to the past, his latest album, "Lenny," is, like it's title, spare and lean and shows a real maturity in the artist. The current Kravitz tour is his first major national circuit in three years. For more, check out lennykravitz.com on the Internet.
THE LAST OF THE SMALL-TIME FARMERS
If you think the concept of "the American family farm" is dead, you need only go California's Wine Country. And when you get there, head north to a special place. A spot where time runs slower than it does in the more-commercialized grape-growing and wine-making sectors of southern Napa and Sonoma Counties. The region is called the Russian River. Although the official boundaries of that wine-making region were drawn by the government decades ago, they aren't quite right. As a matter of fact many locals are petitioning to have then redrawn. This time the lines won't follow roads and man-made boundaries, but the limits of the region will be defined by how far the fog flows into the lowlands and sit there until noon. Sounds silly, but it's the presence of morning fog and constant half-day moisture that give the Russian River's wines their special favor. Near Sebastopol, there's a small vineyard that is a labor of love for a man named Peter Fanucchi. His father owned the vineyard. Now Peter is carrying on the tradition. His eyes sparkle with pride as he talks about his grape plants ... much being grown on root stock that was first planted in 1906! His wines have won tons of blue ribbons at the California state fair. Nearly singlehandedly he tends the vines, often tilling with a Caterpillar tractor his father bought in 1947. If you want to meet a man who believes in the soil and hard work, a man who exemplifies the traditions of the small farmer and who succeeds because he's doing what he loves best, talk to Peter Fanucchi in California's Wine Country at the Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 400
Maybe today's question should be: How did we think up this many questions? But, it's not. Today is another "Free-For-All Friday." We've opened up the forum for discussion of whatever you want to talk about (except for religion and politics). Put FORUM in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 395 (HERO)
Last week we asked about your sports heroes and got an interesting set of replies. From a quick dip into the e-mailbox, here are some: Jon says that he'd like to have supper with Andy Van Slyke, the former Pirates outfielder. Sweet Peaches was among several who remembered the late Roberto Clemente. "He was a wonderful human being and cared for those less privileged than himself," she writes. (Clemente died on New Year's Eve, 1972, while taking relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was angered that many other supplies were not getting through and elected to personally escort the materiel. He was cautioned that the weather was too bad and the plane was overloaded, but elected to go anyway. The world mourned his passing. He is still widely respected. Check out robertoclemente21.net on the Internet.) Terry says that she respects skater Scott Hamilton and would like to meet him. Pamela Marie wants to meet Meadowlark Lemon, the retired Globetrotters player. She describes him as a "very nice man who still lives in Little Rock." Brenda would love to do dinner with several in the world of sports, many in tennis, including Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Several also noted the late Dale Earnhardt. My favorite comment came from Lwiree who notes that it would be a hoot to have supper with the Series-winning 1908 Cubs ... but only if Harry Caray were there. (The year 1908 was the last time the Cubs won the Series. The team beat Detroit for the second year in a row in the Fall Classic.) NEXT: Have a glass of wine. GBA.