Fred Rogers, who as "Mr. Rogers" delivered life's lessons to children for more than 30 years in quiet soothing tones, has died at age 74. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister who became one of the most recognizable and beloved figures on television, was the host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on PBS from 1968-2000. He died Thursday of stomach cancer. Rogers opened every program of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" with a gentle song -- written by Rogers -- asking the viewer "Won't you be my neighbor?" as he donned a sweater and sneakers. His easy manners, gentle conversation, puppet plays and soothing songs dealt with matters as crucial to a child as a dentist appointment, a death in the family or even the complexities of the Gulf War. Careful never to call his programs "shows," Rogers maintained he was doing minister's work to a congregation of children through television. He wrote every script and each song.
(Thanks to UPI's John Hendel in Washington)
SCREENWRITER DANIEL TARADASH DIES
The ambitious screenwriter who won the Oscar for "From Here to Eternity," Daniel Taradash, has died of pancreatic cancer. Variety is reporting Taradash actually started his career in law, attending Harvard Law School. He soon switched gears and began working on minor Hollywood scripts. After he gained a reputation for his prose, he convinced Columbia he was the right man to bring the controversial James Jones book "From Here to Eternity" to the screen. Along the way he dabbled in directing, helming "Storm Center" in the 1950s. His other film credits include work on "Desiree," "Picnic," "Bell, Book and Candle" and "The Other Side of Midnight." Daniel Taradash was 90.
GROUP TO HONOR THE LATE TY LONGLEY
A foundation is being set up to honor the Ty Longley, guitarist for Great White who died in that tragic Rhode Island nightclub fire. The band's record label Knight Records says the foundation will "contribute to many needy causes, including the funds that benefit the victims." The group will be called the Ty Longley Foundation. Ironically, when the current Great White tour was to have ended, Longley had plans to embark on his first solo CD. In place of that project, Longley's family has given permission for Knight to assemble tracks the guitarist recorded, solo and with others, that have not been released before. The proceeds from sales of the yet-to-be-released album will go to the foundation. The remaining band members say they have no plans to tour again.
EDDY ARNOLD TO BE HONORED BY HALL
Still going strong, the old Tennessee Ploughboy Eddy Arnold is about to receive a special honor in Nashville. According to CMT, Arnold will be honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame at a special event on March 6. The venerable singer, one of the most successful chart-topping performers of all time, recently presented the hall with a group of personal items and music memorabilia. Among those tapped to perform at the event is Bobby Bare. He will be there with Jack Clement and his Cowboy's Ragtime Band with featured vocalist Suzy Bogguss. The event will be open to the public for the normal price of admission to the country hall. Arnold is now in his mid-80s. He did his last public concert at a Las Vegas casino in 1999.
TOM ARNOLD GETS MAJOR PITCHMAN ROLE
Actor Tom Arnold, whose career has been revived as co-host of a popular sports talk show, will be heard more in the coming months. He's been hired by the Arby's restaurant chain to be the voice of its new cartoon "spokesman," Oven Mitt. The character will become a part of Arby's advertising, both in its stores and in the media. The New York Times says the chain has seen flagging sales in recent years and is in the process of changing its image. The character of Oven Mitt is described as being somewhat of a natural ham and very talkative. It would seem hiring Arnold to be the voice makes perfect sense. The ad campaign for Arby's, priced at about $85 million, will kick off in a few days.
DIRECTOR NAMED FOR NEXT 'MISSION' MOVIE
The next installment in the "Mission Impossible" movie series will have as its director Joe Carnahan. His most recent major effort was at the helm of the movie "Narc." Paramount tells media the naming of Carnahan to direct "Mission: Impossible 3" was made after the original project director, David Fincher, withdrew from the film. "Narc," which starred Tom Cruise, played to rather good reviews. Carnahan becomes the third director for the "Mission" franchise. The director of the initial film was Brian DePalma. James Woo directed "Mission" No. 2. Box office records show the two films have a combined gross of about $1 billion worldwide.
RASCAL FLATTS SALES NOT FLAT AT ALL
The latest CD by the hugely popular country group Rascal Flatts has hit platinum. That means more than a million copies have been shipped in the first five weeks of its release. The CD, "Melt," actually has sold about 1.2 million copies. The group's first major album, the self-titled "Rascal Flatts," has only sold 1.5 million in the months it has been on store shelves. A party was held this week at the Nashville headquarters of the group's record label, Lyric Street. According to country.com, the head of the company, Randy Goodman, told guests it is difficult to say exactly what kind of music Rascal Flatts plays. It is "beyond category," he noted.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 534
Today we are asking: "How do you like your steaks cooked?" Put STEAK in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 529 (SNL)
Last week we asked about your favorite "Saturday Night Live" performers. From a random dip into the e-mail, here is what we found:
-- 15 percent said although they liked the "original cast" they thought the change in humor to more controversial topics, as carried out in recent years, make those shows their favorites. They appreciated the work of Al Franken, Martin Short and Dana Carvey.
TOMORROW: Are you staying on track? GBA