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Friday, May 22, 2009

Sammy Davis discusses significance of BoJangles

Sammy Davis describes how the song Mr Bojangles relates to himself, with montage footage of his life. From 60th anniversary tribute.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jose Carreras announces retirement from opera

MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish opera singer Jose Carreras, one of the famed "Three Tenors" along with Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, announced his retirement from opera in a newspaper interview published on Friday.

Carreras, 62, who thrived as a performer after surviving leukemia, told the British newspaper The Times that he could no longer withstand the rigors of performing principal roles, unamplified, to opera houses.

"If I can do concert recitals, adapting the repertoire to my needs, then no problem, that's good enough," Carreras told The Times. "But with operas, unless the right circumstances come up, my career is done."

In the early 1990s, Carreras formed "The Three Tenors" with fellow Spaniard Domingo and Italy's Pavarotti. Their recordings and concert tours opened up opera to a larger audience and were a huge commercial success.

Pavarotti died in 2007 after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. With Carreras's retirement, Domingo is the sole opera performer left in the original trio, whose first performance was for soccer's World Cup in Italy in 1990.

"We were, without being presumptuous, the most popular tenors of the day. We did (Italia 90) in a very genuine and spontaneous way. We thought, let's get together. We were all football fans," Carreras said in the interview.

The tenor said his diagnosis of leukemia in 1987 was very difficult to handle.

"I have been very lucky to overcome this very serious disease with not many chances to survive. I remember this every day. The help from above is very important," he said.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, translation by Mary Milliken)

Friday, May 8, 2009

'Munchkin' Mickey Carroll dies at 89

By Joe Holleman

Mickey Carroll, one of the last surviving Munchkins from the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz," died this morning of natural causes at a caretaker's home in Crestwood. He was 89 and had lived in Bel-Nor for seven decades.

Mr. Carroll, whose real name was Michael Finocchiaro, was born July 8, 1919 in north St. Louis.

He, his twin sister and four other siblings grew up in a row house just north of downtown, at Eighth Street and O’Fallon Avenue, in what was then an Italian neighborhood.

One of his grandfathers was a stone carver who immigrated to this county and went into the cemetery monument business.

While in elementary school, Carroll danced at the Muny Opera. When Carroll’s father, Joseph Finocchiaro, died when Carroll was in his teens, he helped support his family by working in vaudeville at the newly opened Fox Theatre.

He then traveled to Chicago and worked in clubs and on the Orpheum Theater vaudeville circuit. It was while on the Orpheum circuit in the early 1930s that Carroll met Judy Garland in a vaudeville act. That friendship led to his only movie role — the violin-playing munckhkin in the 1939 classic film.

Of his film experience, Carroll once said: "When we were making the movie, we were singing ‘Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead’ and ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road.’ We didn’t know what we were saying, it was like gibberish, but I knew it was going to be a hit because of Judy Garland. She was so sweet as a teen-ager."

When the "Wizard of Oz" appeared on television in the 1960s, he found a new career at charity and movie-related events.

Locally, Carroll became active in raising money for chairities and once claimed that he had raised more than $1 million for worthy causes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

RIP Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp and his wife Joanne wave before boarding their plane in Portland, Ore. during his 1996 campaign as Sen. Bob Dole's running mate.

WASHINGTON -- Jack Kemp, the ex-quarterback, congressman, one-time vice-presidential nominee and self-described "bleeding-heart conservative," died Saturday.
[Republican Jack Kemp and his wife Joanne wave before boarding their plane in Portland, Ore. during his 1996 campaign as Sen. Bob Dole's running mate.] Associated Press

Jack Kemp and his wife Joanne wave before boarding their plane in Portland, Ore. during his 1996 campaign as Sen. Bob Dole's running mate.

Mr. Kemp died after a lengthy illness, according to spokeswoman Bona Park and Edwin J. Feulner, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser. Ms. Park said Mr. Kemp died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, a Washington suburb.

Mr. Kemp's office announced in January that he had been diagnosed with an unspecified type of cancer. By then, however, the cancer was in an advanced stage and had spread to several organs, Mr. Feulner said. He didn't know the origin of the cancer.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Mr. Kemp "one of the nation's most distinguished public servants. Jack was a powerful voice in American politics for more than four decades."

Former President George W. Bush expressed his sorrow after hearing of Mr. Kemp's death. "Laura and I are saddened by the death of Jack Kemp," he said. "Jack will be remembered for his significant contributions to the Reagan revolution and his steadfast dedication to conservative principles during his long and distinguished career in public service. Jack's wife Joanne and the rest of the Kemp family are in our thoughts and prayers."

Family spokeswoman Marci Robinson said Mr. Kemp died shortly after 6 p.m. surrounded by his family. "During the treatment of his cancer, Jack expressed his gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of so many friends, a gratitude which the Kemp family shares," according to a family statement.

When he retired from football in 1969, Mr. Kemp, left, had enough support in blue-collar Buffalo and its suburbs to win an open congressional seat.
for the Buffalo Bills, represented western New York for nine terms in Congress, leaving the House for an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988.

Eight years later, after serving a term as President George H.W. Bush's housing secretary, he made it onto the national ticket as Bob Dole's running-mate. With that loss, the Republican bowed out of political office, but not out of politics. In speaking engagements and a syndicated column, he continued to advocate for the tax reform and supply-side policies -- the idea that the more taxes are cut the more the economy will grow -- that he pioneered.

Mr. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a Kemp family friend and his former campaign deputy chief of staff, said Mr. Kemp's legacy will be his compassion. "The idea that all conservatives really should regroup around and identify with is that this is not an exclusive club," Mr. Feulner said. "Freedom is for everybody. That's what Jack Kemp really stood for."

Mr. Kemp's rapid and wordy style made the enthusiastic speaker with the neatly side-parted white hair a favorite on the lecture circuit, and a millionaire.

His style didn't win over everyone. In his memoirs, former Vice President Dan Quayle wrote that at Cabinet meetings, Bush would be irked by Kemp's habit of going off on tangents and not making "any discernible point."

Mr. Kemp also signed on with numerous educational and corporate boards and charitable organizations, including National Football League Charities, which kept him connected to his football roots.

Mr. Kemp was a 17th round 1957 NFL draft pick by the Detroit Lions, but was cut before the season began. After being released by three more NFL teams and the Canadian Football League over the next three years, he joined the American Football League's Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent in 1960. Two years later he landed him with the Buffalo Bills, who got him at the bargain-basement price of $100.

Mr. Kemp led Buffalo to the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championships, and won the league's most valuable player award in 1965. He co-founded the AFL Players Association in 1964 and was elected president of the union for five terms. When he retired from football in 1969, Mr. Kemp had enough support in blue-collar Buffalo and its suburbs to win an open congressional seat.

In 11 seasons, he sustained a dozen concussions, two broken ankles and a crushed hand -- which Mr. Kemp insisted a doctor permanently set in a passing position so that he could continue to play.

"Pro football gave me a good perspective," he was quoted as saying. "When I entered the political arena, I had already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded, and hung in effigy." Longtime football colleague Billy Shaw, a Hall of Fame offensive guard who played for the Bills with Mr. Kemp, said his friend was extremely smart.

"Jack was probably one of the most intelligent men that I've ever been around, and I'm not just talking football," Mr. Shaw said. "He was one of those kind of people that drew you to him because of his ability to communicate and the intelligence that was there.

"He was the kind of politician he was because he wrapped his arms around the people in Buffalo and represented them so well."

Mr. Kemp was born in California to Christian Scientist parents. He worked on the loading docks of his father's trucking company as a boy before majoring in physical education at Occidental College, where he led the nation's small colleges in passing.

He became a Presbyterian after marrying his college sweetheart, Joanne Main. The couple had four children, including two sons who played professional football. He joined with a son and son-in-law to form a Washington strategic consulting firm, Kemp Partners, after leaving office.

Through his political life, Mr. Kemp's positions spanned the social spectrum: He opposed abortion and supported school prayer, yet appealed to liberals with his outreach toward minorities and compassion for the poor. He pushed for immigration reform to include a guest-worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, he proposed more than 50 programs to combat urban blight and homelessness and was an early and strong advocate of special development zones for impoverished areas.

In 1993, along with former Education Secretary William Bennett and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick, he co-founded Empower America, a public policy organization intended to promote economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship.

His choice as Mr. Dole's 1996 running mate was seen as a way for the Republican Party to reach groups of voters that Mr. Dole could not. And it came even after Mr. Kemp endorsed Steve Forbes for the nomination -- a move many considered political suicide -- and declared himself a "recovering politician."

Mr. Dole's more sober demeanor contrasted sharply by Mr. Kemp's high-spiritedness, which was recalled in various accounts, including one by Marlin Fitzwater, Bush's press secretary.

Mr. Fitzwater wrote in his memoirs about a time when Mr. Kemp lunged at Secretary of State James Baker III in the Oval Office. The housing secretary was "nagging, nagging, nagging" Mr. Bush to recognize the breakaway Soviet satellite of Lithuania and Baker, the color rising in his face, screamed an epithet at Mr. Kemp, Mr. Fitzwater recalled. Mr. Kemp bounded across the furniture and grabbed at Mr. Baker's throat.

They were pulled apart to avoid a fistfight.