By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  March 6, 2003 at 2:00 PM
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One of the greatest hosts in the history of television, Jack Parr, is in a Connecticut hospital. Published reports indicate Parr, 84, had a quadruple heart bypass operation about five years go. USA Today reported Wednesday he had suffered a stroke. The hospital in Greenwich where Parr was taken told reporters he had been in the facility's care for more than a week. The intelligent, impish, urbane, delightful comedian hosted "Tonight" between the runs of Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. Since leaving late night TV he has become increasingly reclusive, seldom doing interviews. He might be best remembered for walking off the set of "Tonight" in a snit over a comedy routine that was censored by NBC. He said: "There has to be a better way to make a living." Then he walked out. One New York Paper ran the headline: PARR FIRES NETWORK. During the weeks he stayed away his second banana, Hugh Downs, ran the show from the couch, never taking Parr's seat. The night of his return had TV's highest rating to that time.


The 200th episode of "The Drew Carey Show" is going to see the light of day, but not until summer. When ABC took the avant garde show from its regular schedule the sitcom had racked up 199 episodes. Would No. 200 ever air? Well, according to the network and TV writer Mark Dawidziak, the series, set in Cleveland, will re-emerge June 25. It has been learned writers have prepared some summer-themed shows for the follow-up broadcasts. Carey's show was a strong ratings leader until ABC moved its position on the schedule to, as some pundits said, "broadcast limbo." By the way, Dawidziak writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


One of the unique entertainers of all time, George Jones, is getting the National Medal of Arts. The ceremonies were slated for the White House, with the president and first lady bestowing the honors in the Oval Office. Jones is among a group of nine Americans from various walks of life being honored. Others, according to the White House Web site, include Florence Knoll Bassett, a designer and architect based in Miami; Phillippe de Montebello, a New York museum director; Uta Hagan, New York thespian and educator; Lawrence Halprin, San Francisco environmental planner; Ming Cho Lee, painter and stage director; and, singer William Robinson Jr. We know him as "Smokey" Robinson. The late artist Al Hirschfeld will be honored posthumously.


It's tough to do a road presentation of a major musical, and the cast of "Beauty and the Beast" may be worse for wear. A reviewer for the Nashville Tennessean, Kevin Nance, says the troupe appearing in Music City this week is showing signs of fatigue. The roving stage version of the Disney animated classic has been touring the nation for some time. It's considered to be a real original. The animation for the movie broke new ground. One of the ballroom scenes, where the viewer is raised and twirled and moved by the computer-generated drawings, was heralded at the time as opening a new door in animation realism. But the long-touring road show, according to the publication, is losing its energy. The singing, in particular, is wearing thin. Nance gives some of the performers only a "C" rating, which is disappointing for a major Disney effort. There is some excitement and zip, but for the most part, the best word to describe the version is, sadly, "tired." There is one bright spot. The singer who plays the lead, Monica Wemitt, is compared to Jo Anne Worley in her enthusiasm and squeaking good fun.


The Los Vegas Police Department launched a manhunt Wednesday for R&B singer Alfonso Blake. The 33-year-old artist calls himself "Slinkey" on stage. He is being sought in connection with what police tell local media is the "execution-style" slaying of two women and the wounding of a third. The incident apparently happened in the desert, just outside the gaming capital. Police went to the scene in response to a 911 emergency call. Although Slinkey has not reached much national fame, several of his songs have been regional hits. It is thought the singer was last seen driving a large black sport-utility vehicle, possibly a Ford Expedition or a Lincoln Navigator.


Cleveland-based composer Dennis Eberhard has fulfilled a long-held dream, going to Russia for the premiere of his latest work. The creation is called "Shadow of the Swan." It's described as a moody piece that pays tribute to a group of fallen heroes. In the case of "Shadow," the heroes are Russian submariners who went down with the Kursk in 2000. The shuttle Challenger crew's death also was an inspiration for the piece. Eberhard has been crippled since a childhood battle with polio. His trip to St. Petersburg was not an easy one. But published reports indicate he was able to go there with soloist Halida Dinova -- a Russian-born pianist, now based in Cleveland. The major work was played for a live, enthusiastic audience, then recorded. Meanwhile, a filmmaker is working on a documentary about the composer's trip to Russia, particularly because much of that country is not accessible to the handicapped. No date has been set for the release of the recording.


Here is today's question: "What is your favorite classical composition or work?" Put MUSIC in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked our readers how they liked their steak cooked. From our usual random dip into the e-mail inbox, here is what we found:

-- Rare, 15 percent

-- Medium-rare, 45 percent

-- Medium, 15 percent

-- Medium-well, 10 percent

-- Well done, 15 percent

TOMORROW: Remembering the man, the fish tank and the sweater. GBA

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