By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  March 17, 2003 at 12:00 PM
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The father of actors Stacy and James Keach has died. Over the years Stacy Keach Sr. did more than just sire two very talented sons, however, he also worked tirelessly behind the scenes in Hollywood to provide the nation with some really splendid entertainment. During his long career the Wisconsin native appeared in supporting roles in more than 150 movies, commercials, radio and TV shows. Most people remember him as Professor Carlson on "Get Smart." In recent years he played Judge Webster in "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," opposite his daughter-in-law Jane Seymour, wife of his younger son, James. For a decade he played frozen foods pioneer Clarence Birdseye in television and radio commercials. His biography shows that along the way he played on "St. Elsewhere," "Baretta," "The Incredible Hulk," "Adam 12," "Barnaby Jones" and a raft of other shows.

One reason Keach was called upon so often to play bit parts was he was a consummate actor, always knew his lines and was just a "nice guy." One other reason he knew how to act was his 40 years working as a producer and director of commercials and independent films for industry. Many baby boomers, however, remember him best for his work as the driving force behind "Tales of the Texas Rangers," the highly successful, award-winning 1950s NBC Radio Network series -- a concept he later brought to television. In an interview with United Press International several years ago, Keach mentioned that during the credits of those shows he was simply listed as Stacy Keach. "No need to call me 'senior' at the time," he quipped. "No one knew who Stacy Junior was -- yet." Stacy Keach Sr. was 88.


When a group of background musicians made it impossible for Barbara Walters to deliver a speech recently, she stared them into silence. Gossip columnist Liz Smith says a great number of small ensembles, called upon to provide background or "mood" music at major events, are refusing to stay in the background. The Walters' confrontation came while she was delivering an address at a meeting of the Creative Coalition in Manhattan, N.Y. Although the band in the background was only a trio, it was louder than Walters. Smith says at recent Sondheim-themed suppers attendees were deafened by the orchestra, ostensibly there to provide dance music. Smith notes the musicians might have come out ahead after the recent Broadway strike, but it's no reason to over-play during dinner.


Singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett has told MCA he's in the middle of preparing a major album project for release this fall. Billboard magazine says Lovett, in an interview at the recent South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, announced he and his band have finished a large part of the CD, which is yet untitled. The remaining work will be what they call "sweetening," the cleaning up of minor errors, remixing, equalizing and final post-production. Lovett says he is never happy with the initial recordings and likes tweaking the sessions to get the finished product just where he wants it. Meanwhile, the entertainer says he owes a debt to what he calls "progressive" radio stations that are willing to give his kind of music some airplay.


At age 72 Clint Eastwood could still be considered a "Mama's boy." The New York Post reports the title is a slight overstatement but Eastwood still is intensely loyal to his mom, who is 94. The energetic actor calls home every night to see how his mother is doing. Eastwood often is seen taking his mother to supper. The venue is predictable, Eastwood's own golf club and clubhouse. He tells the publication it was too difficult to book time on the popular course at Pebble Beach, so he built his own layout. By the way, the actor recently told New Yorker magazine he and wife Dina have a pet pig. The only problem with owning a pig, he quipped, is when he and his wife are out of town the pig keeps rearranging the furniture.


"The Man in Black," Johnny Cash is on the mend after yet another bout with pneumonia. Cash, who doctors say has a condition that makes him susceptible to infections, was admitted to a Nashville hospital late last week with a mild case of pneumonia.

Also, 94-year-old Grand Ole Opry "godfather" Bill Carlisle has suffered what doctors say is a mild stroke. A spokesman for the Opry tells he is recuperating at his Tennessee home. He just recently was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and performed at the Opry a week ago Friday.


Today's question is for people who rent their home or apartment: "Are you renting on a yearly contract or month-to-month?" Put RENT in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Today we begin to look at the answers to a week-long series of "cross-country bus trip" questions. Each day we presented two people and asked which one you'd rather have as a seat-mate on a one-week trip. Here's the results of BUS1: Oprah Winfrey, 55 percent, Judge Judy, 45 percent.

TOMORROW: We add more passengers. GBA

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