Entertainment Today: Showbiz News

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Feb. 28, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Fred Rogers, beloved host of TV's "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," has died of cancer at the age of 74.

Family spokesman David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the long-running PBS show, said Rogers died at his Pittsburgh home. Rogers had been diagnosed with stomach cancer sometime after the holidays.

"He was so genuinely, genuinely kind, a wonderful person," Newell said of Rogers, who was also an ordained Presbyterian minister. "His mission was to work with families and children for television. ... That was his passion, his mission, and he did it from day one."

Rogers produced the popular children's show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED from 1968 to 2000. The series' final new episode aired in August 2001.

Rogers is survived by his wife, Joanne, a concert pianist; two sons and two grandsons.

Parents looking for help breaking the bad news to their kids should visit pbskids.org/rogers.


Phil Donahue says MSNBC canceled his nightly talk-show after only six months because the views he expressed were too liberal.

"We were hoping to break through the noisy drums of war on cable and become a responsible platform for dissenters as well as administration supporters," Donahue said in a statement after hearing his show was getting the ax.

Donahue's last telecast is scheduled for Friday. MSNBC has said it decided to do away with the show because of low ratings. Although the show didn't do as well as its competitors, Donahue noted his show was the highest rated on the network and MSNBC's best ever at 8 p.m.

"It took almost three years for Fox to overtake CNN," he said. "We had six months. Alas, our numbers and our upward trend were, in the view of management, not good enough or fast enough.

"My wish for the people who replace us is a longer time in the ring and a more patient management team loudly cheering on from the corner. This is the only way for a cable host on MSNBC to have any chance of being a contender," Donahue said.


The first comprehensive U.S. exhibition on Vietnamese life will be at the American Museum of Natural History next month.

"Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind & Spirit" examines Vietnamese culture today, only a few decades after the war and approximately 15 years after Vietnam began opening to the global market.

Organized in collaboration with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, the exhibition focuses on a broad range of cultural beliefs and practices, reflecting Vietnam's diverse population of 54 ethnic groups through the nearly 400 items that are produced and commonly used in Vietnam today.

As part of the exhibition, the Manhattan museum is transforming its 77th Street lobby into a typical Vietnamese marketplace, complete with a Cafe Pho that will serve authentic Vietnamese food.

The exhibition will be at the American Museum of Natural History from March 15 through Jan. 4, 2004.


Starting Monday, you can buy a ticket to one of the hottest new shows on Broadway for less than the price of a cup of coffee. In fact, for the price of a grande at Starbuck's you can buy four.

No, that wasn't a misprint or a cruel joke. Tickets for the first performance of the comedy "The Play What I Wrote" at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre will cost $1. Tickets for the second night will be $2, for the third night $3 and so on throughout the show's first five performances.

The show's producers warn crowd control will be especially tight on West 45th Street Monday when the box office for the eagerly anticipated Bitish import opens.

When asked about the unusual ticket prices, producer David Pugh said, "My co-producer Mike Nichols told me that comedy is all about timing, so I'd rush right out and get tickets."

Starting March 12, ticket prices at all performances except Wednesday matinees will be $80, $70, and $50. At Wednesday matinees, ticket prices are: $75, $65, and $45.

Winner of the 2002 Olivier Award, "The Play What I Wrote" was written by Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and Eddie Braben and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

A sold-out hit during two separate London engagements, the play is about Hamish, who no longer wants to be part of his comedy double-act with Sean. Instead, he wants to see the play that he has written, "A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple," properly mounted on the Broadway stage. But before this can happen he needs a major star to play the supporting role to his lead role. The identity of the surprise celebrity guests for the New York engagement will be a tightly guarded secret.


Oprah Winfrey is reviving her popular book club after nearly a year.

Famed for turning nearly 50 novels into bestsellers with her rave reviews, the queen of day-time television has announced she is bringing her book club back after almost a year's hiatus. This time around, however, the group will read classics like Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Hemingway, instead of contemporary authors.

Three to five selections will be made per year for the new round of reading tentatively titled "Traveling with the Classics." Winfrey also will visit the settings of the authors' works, Winfrey told guests at a dinner for the Association of American Publishers in Washington. Winfrey was honored for her influence in promoting books.

During her original book club's six years, Winfrey discussed and recommended 48 books, including, "The Deep End of the Ocean," "She's Come Undone" and "Sula," all of which became bestsellers. She interviewed the authors on her show and invited readers to discuss the books on the show. Winfrey said she dropped the club because she couldn't find enough new books she was passionate about to discuss.

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