For years William T. Orr ran television production as the Warner Bros. studios. His stewardship of TV features at the studio came at a vital time ... the early years when movie houses were seeking a niche in the new medium. Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Orr has died in his Los Angeles home. Media historians credit Orr with being largely responsible for the move of TV production from studios in New York to new headquarters in Los Angeles, in separate studios and on movie lots. Early in his career at Warner, he refined the way that Westerns were produced for television, creating an assembly line that literally cranked them out. Westerns were omnipresent in early TV. Orr's credits include "Maverick" and "Cheyenne." He also was a force behind the non-Western detective show "77 Sunset Strip." At one time he also worked for ABC and was involved in numerous independent productions. By the way, he had started his career as an actor, famous for his comedic impersonations of famous people and stars. He helped produce movies for the war effort, working in the Pentagon's movie unit. He worked with such patriotic stars as Ronald Reagan and Alan Ladd in making training films. His move to Warner Bros. came a decade after marrying the stepdaughter of Jack Warner. He was head of production for TV at the studio for a decade. William T. Orr was 85.
2ND GENERATION DIRT BANDERS ON 'TONIGHT'
We've talked about the way that two of the offspring of members of country's venerable Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are trying to go it alone. Well, it would appear that the duo -- friends since childhood -- will get the chance to go "big time." The news provider country.com says that Jonathan McEuen and Jamie Hanna have been invited to join their dads when the Dirt Band performs on Friday's edition of "Tonight," with Jay Leno. The pair helped participate in the taping of the band's latest album, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken III." True to its name, this album is the third in a series of major compilations by the band in which they have enlisted the help of some of country's icon-level stars. The song in which the band and the offspring will team is "Lowlands." The younger McEuen and Hanna say they are looking for a record label and hoping for a contract and trying to decide what to call their act. The exposure on NBC can't hurt.
'GRITTY' LENSMAN HERB RITTS REMEMBERED
He was only 50, but he became one of the world's best-known celebrity photographers; now Herb Ritts has died. Officials at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles tell local media that Ritts died of complications from pneumonia. During his brief but meteoric career Ritts saw thousands of his photos published. Many graced the cover of Rolling Stone. One of his last shoots was with singer Justin Timberlake for an impending Stones cover. He became famous for shooting the stars "at their worst." He was allowed to snap photos of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Elizabeth Taylor, in situations from which other photographers might be excluded. The reason seemed to be that he earned their trust. Ritts photographed Cindy Crawford for a famous Playboy layout. His last assignment was for the March cover of Vanity Fair. It features a nearly bare photo of Brittany Murphy. Many of those who submitted to his camera knew that his work might be unflattering, but it was honest and there was no malice in his shooting. Much of his work was in stark black and white. Additionally, he directed award-winning music videos. His body of work was an eclectic one ... from shots of Madonna and Christopher Reeve to the Dalai Lama.
CANADIAN ANTHEM TO BE SUNG BY BRANT
Singer Paul Brant has been tapped to sing the Canadian national anthem before an upcoming National Hockey League game. The event is a big one for the NHL. It's the syndicate's All-Star game. The contest will take place in Sunrise, Fla., on Feb. 2. Several other musical acts will be participating, singing and performing before, during and after the clash of teams. Country Music Television says that Sheryl Crow will perform between the second and third periods of the game. Additionally, there will be a free concert prior to the match. The Goo Goo Dolls will participate.
HATS OFF TO THE TOW TRUCK DRIVERS
A lot of men and women will be out in the coming day, operating tow trucks in some horrible weather. They seem to be our worst enemy when we see them slithering through traffic at high speed with a 2,000-pound vehicle strapped to the back of their truck. But when we need them, they are knights in shining armor. In California many of these drivers will be carrying out special missions in the coming days, working with AAA there in a project called "Tipsy Tow." The auto club says that anyone who calls a special toll-free number in the Golden State, from suppertime on New Year's Eve through much of New Year's Day, will get up to 7 miles of free towing at no charge. Even non-drivers are asked to call. People who deal with drunk drivers, such as bartenders, are being told about the project. The automobile association says it took the step because of the alarming number of drunk driving accidents registered every time the calendar changes to a new year. It's estimated that between now and next Thursday as many as 275 people, in California alone, will either be killed or badly hurt in alcohol-related accidents.
WAS THAT A REEFER OR NOT?
Speculation is high as to whether a recent photo of actor Ryan Phillippe shows him smoking a tobacco cigarette or one made with marijuana. The New York Post says that Phillippe, married to actress Reese Witherspoon, might be sabotaging his future and his career if the accusations are correct. Last week a tabloid printed a photo of Phillippe, now 28, lighting up with a friend in the parking lot of a Los Angeles-area burger joint. When shown the photos, one narcotics expert told the publication that during his 40 years in law enforcement he's "never seen anyone smoking tobacco like that."
THIS JUST IN ...
During this happy season we don't want to overload the world with bad news, but there's another obituary to report. Maverick director George Roy Hill has died. The Oscar-winning director was at the helm of two acclaimed Paul Newman and Robert Redford movies, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting." We'll have more to say about him in our next report. George Roy Hill was 81.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 485
Today we are asking you to play psychic. Or, if your personal beliefs won't allow you to play that role, at least be a good guesser: "What things do you think will come to pass in 2003?" Put EVENTS in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 480 (DUMB)
Last week we asked for a list of the dumbest things you did in 2002. Because some of them are either too personal or too embarrassing to detail, here are some types of things, by order of mention, from our very random survey:
1 ... Made a bad investment, either on Wall Street or a local project
2 ... Began dating the wrong person
3 ... Bought a real lemon of an automobile
4 ... Didn't take care of medical or dental problems soon enough
5 ... Followed through on NONE of the resolutions made last New Year's Eve
6 ... Caused grief or hardship to a loved one or friend
7 ... Spent money on needless or stupid things
8 ... Didn't save any money
9 ... Made the wrong friends
10 ... Let someone die without contacting them in their later years.
NEXT: Your resolutions this time around.
THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS HONOREE
On this, the Third Day of Christmas, we are continuing to honor unsung heroes in your life. DK in Los Angeles writes to tell us about his high school driver's education instructor. He also taught some science classes. DK says that he was a genuine mentor, "a man who always had time to deal with your special problems. He was always in a good mood. I never saw him angry. When I was a sophomore in high school I pledged to myself that I wanted to be very much like him. Every time I get into bad traffic or see someone driving badly I know that the person behind the wheel was not ever one of his students. Recently, some 20 years later, I met him while visiting a doctor's office. I was saddened to see how much he had aged, but happy that he still had his smile ... and, remarkably, he called me by name." DK, thanks, and hats off to your former teacher. GBA.