By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Sept. 19, 2002 at 4:51 PM
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We knew her as the Bible-thumping Aunt Esther on the 1970s TV series "Sanford and Son." LaWanda Page had been a high school friend of Redd Foxx. When Foxx was given the starring role in the trend-setting sitcom he asked producer Norman Lear if he could bring Page on board. The rest -- as they say -- is television history. After the end of the run of "Sanford" she re-emerged in several other Redd Foxx projects. In her later years she was often seen on TV commercials for Church's Fried Chicken. According to her bio she was born in Cleveland and raised in St. Louis (where she met Foxx). LaWanda Page, though trained as a dancer, knew from early on that her forte was comedy. She was one of TV's most memorable characters. LaWanda Page was 81.


The four daughters of the late Tammy Wynette have given a huge number of artifacts and memorabilia from their mother's life to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. According to, Jackie Daly, Tina Jones, Gwen Nicholas and Georgette Smith made the official presentation at the museum in front of a large audience. A highlight of the evening was the performance of Nicolette Hart and Jim Lauderdale. They portray Wynette and George Jones in the Nashville-based stage presentation "Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story." The production is being mounted at the Ryman Auditorium. Wynette died in the spring of 1998. One year later she was inducted into the hall.


It seems that every time you turn around someone is putting out a tribute album to honor Johnny Cash. Among the latest are rather avant garde collections of Cash hits performed by a disparate group of Nashville musicians. According to United Press International's Nashville correspondent Crystal Caviness, the independent record company Dualtone Records has just released "Dressed In Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash." And there's a second project, "Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash," will be released Sept. 24 by Columbia/Lucky Dog Records. Caviness says that the producers of "Dressed In Black" assembled an unlikely cast of 18 singers ranging from Hank Williams III and Rosie Flores to Dale Watson and Chris Knight. "Those are the people I know and those are the people I like," said Dave Roe, who co-produced "Dressed In Black" with Chuck Mead. Roe and Mead, Nashville-based musicians for more than two decades, brought this project to Dualtone simply because they loved Cash's music. "I walked in off the street," Roe said about presenting the project to the record label. "Everybody knows they're the coolest guys in town," he said of the label executives.


The popular movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is headed to television as a series. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie -- the result of a forward-thinking one-woman show that was seen by Tom Hanks and his wife and funded as a movie -- has become a slow-but-successful film, mainly because of "word of mouth" advertising. Now Hanks and his production company have approached CBS about taking the concept to the small screen. CBS has ordered seven episodes, but the publication says that producers are pushing for a full 13-week season. (Funny, the TV production season for new shows used to be 39 weeks). The scenario of the movie involves a Greek woman falling in love with a non-Greek man who is then inculcated into the Greek culture as if he is a foreigner.


The latest American symphony orchestra to tell its patrons that it's having financial problems is the world-famous Houston Symphony. The Houston Chronicle says that the orchestra is in the midst of a major restructuring to try to reduce the flow of red ink. The current budget shortfall for the HS is more than $1.5 million. Directors say that the planned cuts could save half a million dollars a year ... not much, but a start. The orchestra says that its main concert series will not be touched nor will the popular pops concert series be cut back. The salaries of the orchestra members will also stay the same. Ironically, the orchestra was one of the most financially healthy of any large American symphony until the last two years. Bad weather in Houston had an effect on the economy and then the events of Sept. 11, then the collapse of Enron ... and suddenly the surplus became a deficit.


For a decade Catholic priest Fr. Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was a prisoner of the Communists in Vietnam. After his confinement he wrote eloquently of his time behind bars, much of it in stone-silent solitary confinement. A nephew of the assassinated president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, he was singled out by the North as a symbol of religion and resistance that had to be silenced. Unlucky to have been appointed a bishop in Saigon just days before the city fell to the forces of the North, he was quickly found and thrown into jail. During his confinement his legend increased. Not only Catholics, but all freedom-loving people in the South kept his memory alive -- all the time wondering what was happening to him at the hands of his captors. Eventually he was released and went into exile (mostly for his own safety) behind the walls of the Vatican. Now Vatican Radio says that the crusading priest, now elevated to the status of cardinal, has died. During the last decade he was in charge of the Vatican office that deals with the financial problems of Third World nations. Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thaun was 74.


Prompted by a conversation with a friend in Texas about this year's state fair in the Lone Star state, here is today's question: "What are your memories of county or state fairs?" Put FAIR in the subject line and send to on the Internet.


Last week we asked about your recycling practices ... if you have any. From a random dip into the e-mail inbox here are some of your responses: First of all, nearly 80 percent of those responding noted that they did some kind of recycling. MH says that in California it's possible to get about $1.05 a pound for aluminum cans. "That's why," he says, "you never see cans on the street in California." (As an aside, here in Nevada, the reward is only about 30 cents a pound so cans are everywhere.) NH reports that his neighborhood has recycle bins that are emptied every two weeks. Like many urban areas, Sydney (Australia) is running out of landfill space and is seeking alternatives that might require long trips. Shellie (who has not responded for a while -- Welcome back!) says that her family recycles EVERYTHING. They even do composting, which is a lost art. Janice C proudly notes that "I am from Seattle -- the recycling capital." She says that most people in that city participate. It's the thing to do. Finally, Pam W says that as a grade school teacher she "preaches recycling." TOMORROW: An open forum. GBA.

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