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Entertainment Today: Showbiz News

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International   |   Feb. 26, 2003 at 3:00 AM
'GREAT WHITE' GUITARIST DECLARED DEAD

Officials have added the name of Great White's lead guitarist to the list of victims confirmed dead in last week's club inferno.

Ty Longley was one of the 13 people whose names were added Monday to the list of fatalities. Ninety-seven people perished in the fast-moving fire at the Station club in Rhode Island.

Longley, who joined the heavy metal band in 2000, had performed with his bandmates the night of the fire. Investigators and witnesses say the band's use of pyrotechnics caused the blaze that ravaged the building in under three minutes.

The 31-year-old Pennsylvania native was expecting a baby with his girlfriend, E! Online reported.

Almost 100 clubgoers were hurt in the fire and taken to a local hospital. As of Monday, about 80 still were hospitalized, half of those listed in critical condition, E! Online says.


HEARTBREAKERS' BASSIST DEAD AT 47

The rock world mourned the premature loss of another member Tuesday; Howie Epstein died in a New Mexico hospital at age 47.

The death of the long-time bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers was announced on Billboard magazine's Web site.

Epstein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the veteran rock band in 2001, but legal and drug problems caused the Heartbreakers to fire him last year after 20 years with the band.

Although the cause of the musician's death was not immediately known, Billboard.com said Tuesday a female companion who took Epstein to a hospital in Santa Fe told authorities he had been using heroin, as well as taking prescription antibiotics for an illness.

The online report quoted Epstein's former band as saying in a statement they are "deeply saddened" by Epstein's passing.

"It's difficult to put into words how much we loved him and will miss him. The world has lost a great talent and a kind ... soul," the statement read. "We can only take solace in knowing he is now at peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends."


BABY BOY FOR KELLY RIPA

"Live with Regis and Kelly" co-host Kelly Ripa has given birth to a baby boy.

Little Joaquin is Ripa's third child with her soap star husband Mark Consuelos.

Ripa called co-host Regis Philbin from her hospital bed during Tuesday's taping of the ABC morning show to break the good news.

The perky TV personality delivered her 8 pound 5-ounce son by Cesarian section on Monday at 9:31 a.m. in New York while Live was on the air.

E! Online said Ripa tried to call Philbin while giving birth in the delivery room but couldn't find a phone.

"Mark and I are so excited to share our news with everyone," Ripa said in a statement. "We are the proud parents of a health baby boy! We can't wait to bring Joaquin home to meet all of our friends and family."


MSNBC PHIRES PHIL

Poor ratings are being cited as the reason MSNBC fired veteran talk-show host Phil Donahue Tuesday after only six months.

Donohue, who returned to television last summer after a several-year absence, will host his last show Friday night.

"We're proud of the program and we're disappointed that the show was not able to attract the viewership we had hoped for and expected," said Erik Sorenson, MSNBC president. "We thank Phil and his staff for their dedication, commitment and passion."


TOLD YOU SO...

A Tennessee music festival is boasting it discovered Norah Jones long before the jazz diva picked up five Grammys earlier this week.

Noting how many Americans were unaware of the 23-year-old's considerable talent, the organizers of the Bonnaroo music festival proudly point out they invited Jones to perform her seductive jazz-inspired melodies last summer.

Although most fans probably were drawn to the three-day music festival by much more recognizable names, Jurassic Five, Wide Spread Panic and Bela Fleck, to name a few, the organizers contend, musicians such as Jones plugged up the holes during the almost 72 hours of constant live music.

Named "Music Festival of the Year" by Pollstar Concert Industry Awards, the event's organizers have set out to surpass last year's premiere.

Headliners to this year's festival include James Brown, The Dead, Sonic Youth and Ben Harper. But with last year as a guideline, Bonnaroo 2003 should prove most interesting where musicians' names are followed by question marks in

most fans' minds. Surprise performances on stage this June at the Tennessee farm where the concert will take place may lead to surprises on stage at next years Grammys, predicted the show's producers.


MEMORIAL PLANNED FOR LEGENDARY BANJO PLAYER

A memorial to celebrate the life of virtuoso banjo player Tommy Thompson is planned for Thursday in New York.

The legendary founder of the Red Clay Ramblers died last month in Durham, N.C. A memorial has been organized to remember him at Manhattan's West Bank Cafe.

A noted singer/writer/poet/philosopher, Thompson first appeared off-Broadway in "Diamond Studs." He returned to off-Broadway later in Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind" and on Broadway in "Fool Moon" with Bill Irwin and David Shiner. With the Ramblers, he appeared on countless concert stages, as well as on several Prairie Home Companion broadcasts that originated in New York.

For further information, visit redclayramblers.tripod.com/


RUSSELL CROWE MOVIE HELD UNTIL FALL

Twentieth Century Fox is postponing the release of its adventure flick, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

Release of the film, which stars Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, has been pushed back from its previously announced June 6 date to Nov. 14.

In announcing the new date, Fox domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder said: "November is the best time of year to release a motion picture that we believe has the potential to achieve the rare combination of commercial success and award recognition."

Directed by three-time Oscar nominee Peter Weir, the film stars Crowe as "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, who pits his crew of the H.M.S. Surprise against a much better armed and ruthless enemy, in a chase that takes him to the far side of the world.

Rising newcomer Paul Bettany ("A Beautiful Mind") plays the ship's surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin. The film is based upon the acclaimed and best-selling novels by Patrick O'Brian.


STARS CLAMOR FOR 'LA BOHEME' TIX

The best place to see a star in New York City seems to be at the Broadway theater where Baz Luhrmann's "La Boheme" is playing.

Recent celebrity sightings at Luhrmann's production of the Puccini opera include Academy Award nominee Renee Zellweger, Steve Martin, Wendie Malick, Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Joan Cusack, Roma Downey, Donald Sutherland, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Caroline Kennedy, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Krakowski, David Bowie, Martin Scorcese, Jim Carrey, and Bruce Willis, reported the show's producers.

Billed as "the greatest love story ever sung," Puccini's "La Boheme' is the tale of the doomed love affair of the seamstress Mimi and the poet Rodolfo set against the backdrop of bohemian Paris. Set in 1957, the new Broadway production is sung in the original Italian with English subtitles.

For more information about "La Boheme," visit bohemeonbroadway.com

© 2003 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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