Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

March 28, 2002 at 7:37 AM
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The world may never again know an entertainer such as Milton Berle.

The legendary comedian was diagnosed with colon cancer last year and had been under hospice care for several weeks when he died Wednesday at the age of 93.

Berle was one of the last of the burlesque comics to span the eras of vaudeville, movies, radio and television. He also headlined in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J., wrote several books, and helped found the Hollywood branch of the Friars Club.

Bob Hope once said Berle's career spanned every area of show business -- "television, film, radio, vaudeville ... the Crusades."

The cigar-chomping comic was known for his shamelessly mugging, ribaldry, cross-dressing and theft of other comedians' material. Fellow comedians called him "The Thief of Bad Gags."

During the early days of television, Berle wasn't the biggest star -- he was the ONLY star. His instant popularity made him "Mr. Television." He gained a second nickname one night when he signed off by telling children to "listen to your Uncle Miltie."

Berle's "Texaco Star Theater" was so popular that on Tuesday nights, families and viewers across the country crowded in front of their TV sets. Movie theaters were half-full and restaurants empty as people stayed home to watch "Uncle Miltie."

It was said that Berle's show sold more TV sets than any advertising campaign.

"The Texaco Star Theater" soon became "The Milton Berle Show," which ran on NBC for more than a decade.

In recent years, Berle lived quietly in Beverly Hills, Calif., with his wife, Lorna. But he remained active in the show business community, visiting the Friars Club and frequently attending parties. In 1995, he provided the voice for the character Illuzor in the animated adventure "Storybook." He performed his act on stage in Atlantic City and Florida in the fall of 1997. In 2001, he appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards.

As he approached his 89th birthday, Berle remarked, "Our theme is 'We Drink, We Smoke, We Gamble,' Throw in a lotta laughs and that's not a bad formula for longevity is it?"


Funeral services and a memorial service are being planned for actor-composer Dudley Moore, who died Wednesday at his home in New Jersey. He was 66.

Michelle Bega, a publicist for Moore, said the star of "Arthur" and "10" died of pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, with which he was diagnosed in 1997. He was surrounded by friends, his nurse and medical aides at the time of his passing, Bega said.

Moore began his entertainment career in his native England in 1960, when he joined Peter Cook in the cast of the sketch-comedy review "Beyond the Fringe." Moore and Cook -- who died in 1995 -- subsequently worked together on several other projects, including the 1965 BBC comedy series "Not Only ... But Also."

"Fringe" played on Broadway in 1973, earning Cook and Moore a special Tony award for their "unique contribution to the theater of comedy."

In Hollywood, Moore made the most of a featured role as an orchestra conductor in the 1978 Chevy Chase-Goldie Hawn comedy "Foul Play." He became an international star the following year in the sex-comedy "10."

A versatile entertainer, Moore also wrote the music for several films. He starred in made-for-TV movies and two sitcoms for CBS in the early 1990s.

Last year, Moore was honored by Queen Elizabeth with the Commander of the British Empire, one of the United Kingdom's top honors for service in entertainment. He attended the ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Also last year, he hosted a gala birthday concert at Carnegie Hall to raise money for Dudley Moore Research Fund for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which he established as a fund-raising effort for research into the disease that cut short his career.


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has named six new inductees for its Hall of Fame -- including three key players on the legendary CBS variety series, "The Carol Burnett Show."

Comic actors Harvey Korman and Tim Conway and costume designer Bob Mackie, will go into the hall, along with Jean Stapleton, John Frankenheimer and Bud Yorkin.

Korman won Emmys for his work on "Burnett" in 1969, 1971, 1972 and 1974. Conway won Emmys for the show in 1973, 1977 and 1978. Mackie has won eight Emmys for his designs for specials starring Burnett, Cher and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Stapleton won three Emmys (1971-72, '78) playing Edith Bunker on "All in the Family." She was nominated five other times. Frankenheimer directed more than 150 live programs during the 1950s and won Emmys for directing in 1994 ("Against the Wall"), 1995 ("The Burning Season"), 1996 ("Andersonville") and 1998 ("George Wallace"). Yorkin and his partner Norman Lear produced such classic TV comedies as "All in the Family," "Maude," "Good Times" and "Sanford and Son."


Billy Bob Thornton -- who co-stars with best actress Oscar-winner Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball" -- is gearing up for an eight-city U.S. concert tour, kicking off May 17 in Los Angeles and continuing through May 28 in New York. Plans call for stops in San Francisco, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, Toronto and Philadelphia.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the star of "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Bandits" said he wants his concerts to recreate the feeling he used to get going to concerts "and feeling like you were actually a participant in the show."

On his debut album, "Private Radio," Thornton turned his Oscar-winning writing talents ("Sling Blade") to songwriting. "These songs are incredibly personal to me," said Thornton, "and I think the best way to share them with an audience is in an intimate setting where they can really feel the emotion in them."

(The above two items thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


Robert De Niro has teamed up with the surviving members of Queen for a rock opera.

The actor and Jane Rosenthal, his partner in Tribeca Productions, are bankrolling the London production of "We Will Rock You," a revue-like musical featuring many of the band's greatest hits, E! Online reports. De Niro was in London Tuesday to catch a preview of the stage production, scheduled to open May 14. Playwright Ben Elton, who wrote the musical's book, describes the plot as "The Matrix" meets the King Arthur legend meets "Terminator 2."

The idea for the show was first bandied about years ago, when De Niro attended the Venice Film Festival and a series of short films on Queen was screened before the actor's "Sleepers." De Niro found himself chatting with Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor afterwards, and they discussed the possibility of developing a musical.

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