By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Nov. 5, 2002 at 3:47 PM
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Actor Jonathan Harris has died. He played the evil Dr. Zachary Smith in the '60s science fiction television series "Lost in Space." A spokesperson for the family told Los Angeles media that Harris suffered a fatal blood clot while undergoing treatment for back pain. During his career, he nurtured his ability to speak with incredible precision and used his eloquent talents to gain several high-profile roles. Many assumed, because of his manner of speaking, that he was born in England. That was not the case. He was a native of the Bronx, of all places. Escaping that New York City borough without the usual Bronx accent may have been his greatest achievement. Though out of the media spotlight for decades, in recent years he provided two important cartoon voices: A doll repairman in "Toy Story 2" and a magician in "A Bug's Life." He also co-starred in a "Lost in Space" reunion movie that was viciously panned by some critics. Nonetheless, he'll always be remembered for his unforgettable role in the original TV series as the nasty, prissy, "don't track dirt on my freshly vacuumed carpet" kind of guy you loved to hate. Actor Jonathan Harris was 87.


The classic holiday movie "It's a Wonderful Life" is being made available in a new version in which former President George Bush will provide a type of "narration" that will allow sightless people the chance to better understand what's happening on the screen. The Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation tells United Press International that Bush recently spent four hours in a Houston recording studio voicing the information for the special broadcast. When the Christmastime Jimmy Stewart movie is aired the next time on the network, people with television sets that are equipped to receive what is called the SAP channel will be able to listen as Bush describes what is going on. The initial broadcast on NBC will be on Dec. 7, with additional airings in subsequent days. A group called TheaterVision provides the "second audio channel" service for those who can not see well enough to fully understand the plot of movies. Mr. Bush's participation marks the first time that an American president has participated in such a project. The group RPI has spearheaded efforts to provide this kind of service to people with zero or limited vision. More on the woman behind the concept in a later report.


Just in time for election day, tennis sibling standouts Venus and Serena Williams have teamed up to campaign for Mayor McCheese in a public relations event to hype McDonald's dollar menu items. The pair was recently hired by the fast-food chain as spokes-sisters. Stumping for the Dollar Party, the Williams scheduled a photo-op at the chain's eatery in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Children from a local Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club are participating in the event. The Williams sisters will soon begin appearing in television spots for the chain. The ads will begin showing up on network and local broadcasts in a couple of weeks. The two have signed a three-year contract to appear on behalf of the eateries and also back the company's Ronald McDonald House charities.


Some time ago the classic wooden and glass chamber which the late illusionist Harry Houdini used in his upside-down, water-immersed escape stunt was nearly destroyed in a fire. Now one of the nation's foremost builders of magic tricks and illusions, John Gaughan, has restored the chamber -- officially called the Chinese Water Torture Cell. The device has been displayed at the New York-New York hotel and casino complex in Las Vegas as part of a Halloween promotion to honor the great magician. The device was displayed under the direction of modern-day Houdini historian Sid Radner and was presented at the Houdini Magic Shop. Houdini died on Halloween some 76 years ago. Since that time, acting under his "death wish" orders, people have tried to contact him each year on Halloween in seances around the world. One was held at the magic store in the wee small hours of Halloween morning before a live audience.


It is estimated that Michael Flatley's Celtic-inspired dance revue "Lord of the Dance" has become the most popular show in the world. Millions have seen it around the globe -- in live performances in Las Vegas and other venues and on countless TV shows and tapes. Now, according to Flatley's publicist, he has signed a quarter-of-a-million-dollar deal to continue that show and its spin-offs ("Riverdance" and "Feet of Flames") into additional seasons at major showrooms. By the way, Flatley's shows have played to standing-room-only crowds in many cities. The revue once was seen by an audience of more than 100,000 who packed an arena in Budapest. His legs have been insured for $40 million. His salary is estimated at more than $1.6 million a WEEK. The dance concept he pioneered has become a billion-dollar industry.


Seattle-born soap opera star Barbara Berger was a familiar face on daytime television for decades. Now, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, she has died of pneumonia. Her acting career had begun while in school at the University of Washington. She worked for a while in local theater, then went to New York City to seek her fortune in "the big time." Changing the spelling of her last name from "Berjer" to "Berger," she rapidly found roles on Broadway, finally landing a part in Gore Vidal's "The Best Man." Four years later, she played opposite Sir Alec Guinness in a play about poet Dylan Thomas. Finally she was tapped to play in the soap opera "From These Roots." Roles on "The Guiding Light," "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns" followed. She eventually would spend 11 years on "Another World" as Bridget Connell. She once remarked that her greatest honor was that when she chose to leave "As the World Turns" she was not replaced -- her character was written out of the plot. Barbara Berger (Berjer) was 82.


On this election day we are wondering: "Would you like to be president?" Put PRESIDENT in the subject line and send to, via the Internet.


Last week we asked a series of questions about your favorite entertainers. Here are the answers, in order of popularity, to our question about your favorite actresses:

Julia Roberts

Ingrid Bergman

Olivia DeHavilland

Joan Crawford

Helen Hayes

Meryl Steep

Kim Novak

Loretta Young

Bette Davis

Marilyn Monroe.

TOMORROW: The funny men in your life. GBA

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