'POTTER' PREMIERE PROVES PICTURE PERFECT
Reviewers are giving rave ratings to the first Harry Potter movie. It opened in London amid great hoopla and a ton of media interviews for 12-year-old Daniel Radcliffe, star of the film. According to movies.com, a cadre of heavyweights showed up for the premiere. In the audience were Sting, Cher, the Duchess of York and actress Cate Blanchett. One reviewer called it "Willy Wonka for the new millennium ..." The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye predicts that the movie will out-gross "Titanic." It's set to open here in the States in less than two weeks. Get your tickets early.
PIONEER TV FRIGHT-MASTER DIES
When TV was in its infancy, a man with the impressive name of Raymond C. Sparenberg donned a gothic costume and became the "son of Catwoman and Wolfman" on Indianapolis TV. Sparenberg appeared for a decade as Selwin, the host of "Fright Night" on Channel 8. He first donned the costume in the mid 1950s. WISH-TV says that he set the tone for hundreds of local TV "fright hosts" who introduced classic horror films from the 1930's and '40s, usually on Friday or Saturday nights. When he began his live weekend show there were only a few similar hosts around the country. Some areas of the nation still didn't have television. He did the show live; no tape back then. With el-cheapo props and scratchy black-and-white films he slowly attracted what was indeed a cult following. He covered his face with "deathly white" makeup, upswept his eyebrows, made his cheeks look sunken and wore a cape. If that sounds familiar it should. He generated a thousand look-alikes at other stations. His departure from TV in Indiana prompted a flood of sad fan mail. After his pioneering stint on TV Sparenberg moved to Atlanta and worked in sales in television there. His later years were spent out of the electronic media spotlight, operating an upscale cheese store in the Georgia capital. He then worked as a cab driver. But, for tens of thousands of baby boomers in the Midwest he'll forever be Selwin, costume and accent and all. Sparenburg was 72.
SELZNICK HEIRS STILL WANT A PIECE OF TARA
Some of the surviving heirs of producer David O. Selznick are still fighting to get what they say is their share of the still-churning profits of the classic movie "Gone With the Wind." News reports have said the heirs are engaged in a lawsuit with Turner Entertainment Co., seeking a share of the profits in the amount of about $10 million. The Turner company bought the film in 1986 when it purchased the M-G-M film library. Selznick's heirs claim that the producer's brother Myron -- a Hollywood agent -- gave them a 5 percent share of the movie before he died. Over the years the classic Civil War movie has grossed an estimated $1 billion.
COUNTRY'S MALO NEARLY CALLED IT QUITS
After leaving the country group the Mavericks, singer Raul Malo nearly threw in the towel. According to the news provider country.com, Malo was entwined in confusing contracts and was not sure that a solo career was possible or even legal. Now, with the release of his first single effort, Malo is the "golden boy" of country music. His first effort, "Today," was released just last week. Malo's singing style is described as being "soaring." His 11 original songs are all winners. He also wrote some of the songs in Spanish and incorporates a multi-cultural texture into his music. He does one classic song, "It Takes Two to Tango," in both Spanish and English. Look for the name Raul Malo to become more and more visible as his unique style is heard on more and more stations -- not just country ones.
STUDENT FROM NEPAL FOILS SECURITY
He says it wasn't meant to be anything illegal or nefarious, but the fact that a visiting student from Nepal made it through United Airlines' security in Chicago with an amazing seven knives (one with a four-inch blade), a stun gun and pepper spray in his carry-on luggage has stunned a lot of people. Transportation Sec. Norman Mineta was furious. There is talk that United could be slapped with a huge fine. The question remains: How could it have happened? The discovery of his "arsenal" was only made when a second security checkpoint picked up the fact he had a Swiss Army knife. Further examination showed the other weapons. USA Today says the diminutive 27-year old man, clad in an orange jumpsuit, was hustled off to a federal magistrate. If convicted he could get heavy jail time. By the way, the man told a Chicago radio station that he was carrying the stun gun for his personal protection.
AN OBIT WE MISSED: JAY LIVINGSTON
Jay Livingston and his writing partner since college, Ray Evans, made up the longest-running songwriting team in American music. Two weeks ago
Livingston died of pneumonia. Somehow we missed the obit. For more than 60 years Jay and Ray wrote for Broadway, Hollywood and TV. Their collaboration resulted in some of the most memorable songs of the past century. Few can't sing "Tammy" or recite the lyric. Close your eyes and hear Nat Cole singing "Mona Lisa." At Christmastime their "Silver Bells" -- introduced by Bob Hope in "The Lemon Drop Kid" (1951) -- is everywhere. Add to the list: "Que Sera, Sera," "Buttons and Bows" (another Hope song), and the lyrics to "Peter Gunn" and "Mr. Lucky." Livingston also gave us the theme from "Mr. Ed" and "Bonanza." Yes, the theme from "Bonanza" does have words: "Oh here we come with a gun on the run, Bonanza ..." He also contributed a jillion songs to Disney and Warner Bros. and provided much of the music heard at the Disney theme parks. He was a funny, gregarious man with a love of the language. Jay Livingston was 86.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
One of my fondest memories of my days doing weekly interviews for UPI's radio network was a visit with Jay and Ray on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of their partnership. I went to Livingston's home in the Hollywood Hills. I took with me a sheet cake I had baked. On it I had drawn in cake icing a treble clef and put the notes: C, E, G, B, E, G, C, A, C, G. I showed it to lyricist Livingston; he handed it to pianist Evans. Ray put the cake on the music rack of his grand piano and played the notes ... the beginning of "Tammy." He turned to me and said: "I've played a lot of sheet music but I've never played a sheet cake before!" What a pair.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 197
With the realization that lyricist Jay Livingston has died, here comes today's question: "Can you recite the lyrics to the song 'Tammy' without looking them up?" Put TAMMY in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 192 (TASTE)
A week ago we asked if there were any foods or products that just don't seem the same with the passage of time. Here are some of the replies: Amanda says she used to enjoy milk, but now it doesn't taste the same. She wonders if there's something wrong with today's cows. Maybe they are not contented anymore! Amanda, yes, start taking calcium or eating more ice cream. IMTU says that Spam has changed. He loves the Hormel product that made Austin, Minn., famous and hates the fact that people laugh at the mention of the word. IMTU, I'll call Hormel and see if the formula has been changed. Are you sure you're not buying Spam Lite? Aeye9Cute says that Chinese food doesn't taste the same to him. Maybe he's eating too much of it. Finally, MIKEE says that as a smoker he can't answer that question because -- like many who smoke -- he's lost his sense of taste. Personally, even though I now drink diet drinks, Classic Coke is NOT the original. When they brought it back they invented an imitation. Calling it "classic" is, to me, a joke. GBA.