MAURICE GIBB REMEMBERED AS 'NICE GUY'
Private invitation-only services have been held for the late Bee Gee Maurice Gibb. The services took place in south Florida. Family, close friends and several fellow musicians were on hand to eulogize the singer who was remembered as having a great sense of humor. Sadly, Maurice often expressed the feeling that he was the "black sheep" of the brothers Gibb, possibly not as handsome as the others and maybe not as good a singer. But it was Maurice's voice that often rose above the rest that gave the group its distinctive sound. Amid all of this there are reports in Miami media that some members of the family have been critical of the way that the hospital handled Gibb's treatments, deciding on intestinal surgery after the singer had a coronary attack. An autopsy revealed that his intestines had become twisted, restricting the flow of blood to the area. Mega-stars in the '70s, cast into limbo in the '80s, resurrected in the '90s, the Bee Gees rode a roller coaster of emotion during the past few decades. The music industry finally recognized them as great songwriters when they were finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
ZELLWEGER WAXES AND WANES FOR FILM ROLES
We all saw what Tom Hanks had to do to be in "Castaway" ... the same can be said for Renée Zellweger. It would seem that few actresses in modern times have been as able to be a true chameleon -- when it comes to gaining and losing weight -- as has Renée. Gossip columnist Liz Smith pays tribute to the actress's ability to bulk up then slim down. In "Bridget Jones' Diary" Zellweger had to add poundage to look like a young woman struggling with a weight problem. Then for "Chicago" she appeared as a sleek, formless dancer ... sexy, but nearly a "beanpole." Now, after vacillating between the extremes, we're happy to report that she's back to normal, with all the necessary geography in the right places.
ROWLING'S LATEST 'POTTER' DUE IN JUNE
The latest in the mega-successful "Harry Potter" books will hit store shelves sometime in June ... and readers can't wait. The book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," is another creation of the very talented J.K. Rowling. Publishers Scholastic and Bloomsbury tell us that the book is more like a "tome," a full one-third longer in text than previous incarnations of the popular character. Just to show you the tone of the latest Potter epic, here's a snippet from the opening paragraph: "The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four." As mentioned, it's quite a book. Proving that is the fact that Rowling has written it in 38 chapters with more than a quarter of a million words. By the way, the interest in the Potter books has brought young people back into libraries. That's quite an achievement in a world so full of "batteries required" temptations.
ROCKABILLY STAR BACK FOR MORE
The ever-busy Wanda Jackson has decided to do another CD. This time she's enlisted the help of the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis, Raul Malo and Dave Alvin. The singer, who is often referred to as "The Queen of Rockabilly," is best known for her previous hits "Let's Have a Party" and "Right or Wrong." Additionally, in that recent listing of the "40 Greatest Women of Country Music," Jackson placed at No. 35. The roster was part of a Country Music Television project last year. While many country singers have always sought to be "cross-over" artists, placing songs on both the country and mainstream Billboard charts, Jackson has crossed over into a variety of music genres. She has scored hits on the country, rockabilly, rock 'n' roll and gospel charts. Her Web site -- wandajackson.com -- notes that she's a native of Oklahoma. Her talents were first recognized by Hank Thompson. She even spent some time working with another struggling entertainer ... Elvis (in the early days). Wanda's newest CD will be recorded in Los Angeles.
'UNKNOWN' SISTERS PUSH THEIR MOVIE
Five sisters from Upstate New York are trying to convince Hollywood to distribute their first movie. The Five Burton Sisters have put together a movie called "Manna from Heaven." But, because of their limited finances, they didn't have the clout for a nationwide, multi-theater premiere. Instead, they have been taking the movie around, opening it in one city at a time. They went to Branson, Mo., with the film, then to both Kansas Cities, finally to theaters in the suburbs of the nation's capital. Now they are back in New York, kicking off the latest showings in Buffalo. Publicist Christina Abt tells us that the sisters are relying on traditional western New York generosity in moving their project into the "big time." It seems that the girls have been told that if they can sell out eight movie houses during the Buffalo run a national distributor will give it showings in New York and Los Angeles ... and the rest might be "history." So far sales have been brisk and word of mouth publicity has been great for the project. If the film does get national distribution (and many say it's low-budget, but amazing), it would mark an important achievement in the world of independent filmmaking. Good luck, Burton Sisters. Keep us posted.
ALABAMA, STRAIT HEADED FOR RODEO
The planners of the annual massive rodeo in Houston say that George Strait and the group Alabama have signed on to perform. The event, to be held late next month, is officially called the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It will be the 71st time the rodeo has been held. In recent years it's been able to snag some high-level talent, most, of course, from the world of country music. Already saying "yes" to invitations is an incredible list. (Sit down, it's a long one). According to country.com, here goes: Brooks & Dunn, Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Clay Walker and ZZ Top. Additionally, there's Ray Charles appearing with Ronnie Milsap, Lynyrd Skynyrd with Jerry Jeff Walker, Phil Vassar with Jamie O'Neal, Keith Urban with Cross Canadian Ragweed and the Rockin' Roadhouse Tour with Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence. Gosh, everyone but Patsy got invited. For the first time in recent years the rodeo will not be held in the Astrodome, but in Reliant stadium.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 505
The Houston rodeo story prompts today's question: "Have you ever been to a rodeo or other 'wild West' type of event?" Put RODEO in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 500 (CHILD)
Last week we asked about your favorite children's books, tapes, or other media. From a random dip into our e-mail inbox here are some of the replies: RegLar says that when he was a kid he had a huge collection of 78 rpm records and remembers the little "Golden Book" records. Arcy says that she used to love the Andy Hardy mystery series and the Nancy Drew books. PhilV remembers that much of his childhood enjoyment came from listening to the radio at night. He listened through the static to AM radio and could hear stations from all over his part of the West Coast. (PhilV, I did much the same, growing up in southern Indiana. On a good night I could pick up several of about 15 stations, from Boston to Denver.) HU899 says that her mother gave her a set of nursery rhymes on cassette that she still has. Finally, CLEO in Cincinnati remember a series of 78 rpm records with the story of a little train that had to take a cargo of goodies through a storm. It was called "Chug-Chug in Lollipop Town." What great memories. NEXT: When was the last time you sat down for supper with your family? GBA