By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Jan. 15, 2002 at 4:53 PM
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At age 37 one would think that rising young director Ted Demme would have a long and illustrious career ahead of him, particularly in the wake of his films such as "Blow" and "Beautiful Girls." But Los Angeles-area police confirm that Demme has died after participating in a celebrity basketball game. The director was pronounced dead at a Santa Monica hospital after being rushed to the facility in full cardiac arrest. Demme had finished the game, sat down, and then collapsed. He had begun his directorial work on videos for MTV. His first major Hollywood effort was "Beautiful Girls" with Uma Thurman, Matt Dillon and Timothy Hutton. It was a critical success but not a big box office winner. By the way, Demme was the nephew of director Jonathan Demme. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's office will do an autopsy. Demme leaves two children, one 5 years old, the other only 2 months old.


During the past few days several notables have died. Some slipped through the cracks, including: Cyrus Vance, former secretary of State during the Carter years. Vance was only the second person to hold that office to resign because of a disagreement over policy. He and Jimmy Carter did not agree on Carter's plan to try to rescue the American hostages in Iran. Vance died of Alzheimer's disease. He was 84.

Bill McCutcheon, the actor who played the even-tempered Uncle Wally on "Sesame Street" for eight years, has died. He was awarded three Emmys for his part on that PBS show. During his 40 years on the stage and in television, published reports indicate that he was usually cast in a comedic role. His most visible movie role was as Shirley MacLaine's husband in "Steel Magnolias." Early in his career he played a leprechaun on "Howdy Doody." He was 77.

The Rev. W.A. Criswell, a crusader for the literal translation of the Bible, has died. He lobbied for a return to fundamentalism within the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention. He twice served as president of that group. He was one of the most vocal, visible and important leaders of Protestantism in this country. The Dallas Morning News says he was head of that city's First Baptist Church for more than half a century. Criswell was 92.

Lillian Green Caran was a veteran of Broadway, radio and early television. She is best remembered by fans of old time radio for her comedic character roles on "Fibber McGee and Molly." Her career began, though, on Broadway when she was only 3. In her later years she taught acting at her home on Long Island and occasionally voiced radio commercials. She died of heart failure at age 85.


Citizens of the Volunteer State have had a chance to see the Mint's new 25-cent piece with a Tennessee motif on the back. In what the Nashville Tennessean jokingly calls a "Two-Bit Celebration," members of the country music industry were on hand Monday in Nashville for the unveiling of the coin, part of a national series in which all states will be honored, in the order of their addition to the Union. Tennessee was the 16th state to join. Among those on hand at the Country Music Hall of Fame were Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart and Ruby Wilson. The nation's treasurer, Rosario Marin, was also there, as was entertainer Isaac Hayes.


On Christmas Day someone stole actor Nicolas Cage's car. Cage was visiting his parents in a suburb of St. Louis when he discovered his 1989 Porsche Sportster convertible was missing. Now, according to published reports, the car has been found in 12 feet of water in an area known as the Lake of the Ozarks. A 19-year-old has been charged with first-degree auto tampering. The car's expensive stereo system had been removed before the auto was dumped in the lake. Police say that the thief or thieves decided to scuttle the car when they found papers in it indicating that the famous actor was its owner. Ironically, Cage starred in the car-heist thriller "Gone in 60 Seconds" in 2000.


There are reports that controversial, troubled actor Robert Downey Jr. has been tapped to do another film. Variety is reporting that the 36-year-old actor -- whose career was ostensibly ended by recurring drug problems and arrests -- has been in negotiations to star in an upcoming movie called "Six Bullets From Now." The publication says that the modest project ($20 million) will be directed by Stephen T. Kay of "Get Carter" fame. Downey's last big screen role was in "Wonder Boys" in 2000. He receive an Oscar nomination for that performance. His on-again, off-again stint in "Ally McBeal" ended when he was written out of the show after yet another drug arrest.


For some time the sound of American country music has been a mainstay of an event in England called the London Music Festival. This year its promoters have decided not to hold the gathering. The news provider is reporting that organizers claim that the terror events of 9/11 are the main reason, mostly because of many people's reluctance to fly and the downturn in the economy in general. Among those who had made plans to go to the U.K. to participate were Mark Chesnutt, Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw. A major tribute marking the 70th birthday of legendary Johnny Cash was to have been the centerpiece of the event.


Today we are wondering: "In how many houses have you lived during your life and which is or was your favorite?" Put HOUSE in the subject line and send to via the Internet. Just a reminder, go to on the Web and click on the LIFE AND MIND folder at the upper right. You'll see this and many other interesting feature stories there.


Last week we noted the passing of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas and wondered if he was the last of his kind -- a pitchman so associated with his service or product that the two became inseparable. Here are some of your replies: Many mentioned the late popcorn innovator Orville Redenbacher. My friends back home in Indiana are probably wincing that I forgot that one. But, after all, Orville was associated with Purdue and I'm an I.U. alum. Peggy reminds me that Elizabeth Taylor is alive and well and pushing her White Diamonds line. Several mentioned people who appear in local or regional commercials, including local car dealers. Sherry remembers car dealer Cal Worthington and his dog Spot. She also mentions Stuart Anderson of the steak house chain, still alive but no longer doing commercials. And she wonders if the guy who owns the Blimpie's sub shop chain doesn't do his own spots. MALAVAR mentioned Tom Smith. He does the spots for Food Lion, a regional grocery chain in the east. Several mentioned Papa John, of pizza fame. Ginny C says, "don't forget the Block (formerly Bloch) brothers at tax time." Paul Newman got a lot of votes for his various products. GBA.

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