Tag Archives: obituary

Actress Carrie Fisher dies at age 60

Carrie Fisher, who rose to fame as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films, died on Tuesday aged 60, her family said.

Fisher, a mental health advocate who spoke about her own struggles with bipolar disorder and cocaine addiction, had suffered a heart attack on Friday as she flew into Los Angeles.

The daughter of actor Debbie Reynolds and the late singer Eddie Fisher had been returning from England where she was shooting the third season of the British sitcom “Catastrophe.”

“Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter,” Reynolds said on Facebook. “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop.”

Fisher’s friend and former Star Wars’ co-star Mark Hamill, who played Leia’s brother Luke Skywalker, said in a tweet: “No words. #Devastated”

Fisher was met by paramedics and rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after suffering the heart attack during the flight on Friday.

She made headlines last month when she disclosed that she had a three-month love affair with her “Star Wars” co-star Harrison Ford 40 years ago.

Fisher revealed the secret to People magazine while promoting her new memoir, “The Princess Diarist,” just before it went on sale. The book is based on Fisher’s diaries from her time working on the first “Star Wars” movie.

Harrison said in a statement Fisher was funny, emotionally fearless and one-of-a-kind. “She lived her life, bravely…We will all miss her.”

Fisher said the affair started and ended in 1976 during production on the blockbuster sci-fi adventure in which she first appeared as the intrepid Princess Leia. Ford played the maverick space pilot Han Solo.

“It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend,” Fisher told People. She was 19 and Ford was 33 at the time.

“How could you ask such a shining specimen of a man to be satisfied with the likes of me? I was so inexperienced, but I trusted something about him. He was kind,” she wrote of Ford in the memoir, the latest of several books Fisher authored.

Fisher reprised the role in two “Star Wars” sequels. She gained sex symbol status in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” when her Leia character wore a metallic gold bikini while enslaved by the diabolical Jabba the Hutt.

She returned last year in Disney’s reboot of the “Star Wars” franchise, “The Force Awakens,” appearing as the more matronly General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance movement fighting the evil First Order.

Filming was completed in July on Fisher’s next appearance as Leia in “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” which is set to reach theaters in December 2017.

Fisher’s Princess Leia makes a surprise appearance at the end of “Rogue One,” the latest blockbuster, which opened this month, in the “Star Wars” series.

Shortly after news of her death was made public, her dog Gary, who has his own Twitter account, said goodbye: “Saddest tweets to tweet. Mommy is gone. I love you @carrieffisher.”

She is survived by her mother, Reynolds, her daughter, Billie Lourd, and her brother Todd Fisher.

EARLY SHOWBIZ START

Fisher also played a memorable supporting role in the 1989 hit film “When Harry Met Sally,” as a friend of Meg Ryan’s character who falls for and marries the best pal of Billy Crystal’s character.

More recently, Fisher played the American mother-in-law on “Catastrophe.”

Born in Beverly Hills, Carrie Fisher got her showbiz start at age 12 in her mother’s Las Vegas nightclub act. She made her film debut as a teenager in the 1975 comedy “Shampoo,” two years before her “Star Wars” breakthrough.

But her life was also at times mired in drug abuse, mental illness and tumultuous romances with other entertainment figures, all of which she laid bare in her books, interviews and a one-woman stage show titled “Wishful Drinking.”

She was once engaged to comic actor Dan Aykroyd, later married, then divorced, singer-songwriter Paul Simon, and had a daughter out of wedlock with Hollywood talent agent Brian Lourd.

After undergoing treatment in the mid-1980s for cocaine addition, she wrote the bestselling novel, “Postcards from the Edge,” about a drug-abusing actress forced to move back in with her mother. She later adapted the book into a film that starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

She told Reuters in a 2011 interview that tabloid exposure of her private life could be trying.

“‘Carrie Fisher’s tragic life.’ That was one that hurt,” she said, quoting a headline. “‘Hey, how about Carrie Fisher? She used to be so hot. Now she looks like Elton John.’ That hurt.”

She also acknowledged being briefly hospitalized in 2013 due to a bout with bipolar disorder.

However, Fisher told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview published last month she was happier than she had ever been.

“I’ve been through a lot, and I could go through more, but I hope I don’t have to,” she said. “But if I did, I’d be able to do it. I’m not going to enjoy dying but there’s not much prep for that.”

Summing up the showbiz legacy she expected to leave behind in her 2011 memoir “Shockaholic,” Fisher wrote in self-deprecating style: “What you’ll have of me after I journey to that great Death Star in the sky is an extremely accomplished daughter, a few books, and a picture of a stern-looking girl wearing some kind of metal bikini lounging on a giant drooling squid, behind a newscaster informing you of the passing of Princess Leia after a long battle with her head.”

Janet Reno, 1st woman U.S. attorney general, has died at age 78

Janet Reno, the first woman U.S. attorney general who served eight years with President Bill Clinton, has died aged 78.

Reno’s goddaughter, Gabrielle D’Alemberte, said she succumbed to complications of Parkinson’s disease early on Monday in Miami.

The blunt-spoken lawyer worked as the top U.S. law enforcement official under Clinton from 1993 to 2001, becoming the longest-serving attorney general of the 20th century.

Just weeks into the job, she authorized the deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian cult compound at Waco, Texas.

Reno later authorized federal agents to seize six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from relatives in Miami in 2000, and headed the Justice Department during the government’s huge antitrust case against Microsoft.

The former Miami prosecutor, picked by Clinton after his first two choices for the job ran into trouble at the confirmation stage, exhibited an independent streak and a brusque manner that often upset the White House.

Reno weathered White House complaints that she was not a team player and that she sought too many special prosecutors to investigate cases, including the Whitewater investigation involving the finances of the president and first lady Hillary Clinton.

She always said she made decisions based on evidence and the law.

WACO, GONZALES

Reno was only 38 days into the attorney general’s job when she approved the April 19, 1993, FBI raid that led to the deaths of about 80 people, including many children, at the Waco cult compound.

Federal agents had earlier tried to serve a warrant on the cult’s leader, David Koresh, who said he was the Messiah, for stockpiling weapons. Four agents and six cult members were killed in an ensuing shootout, leading to a 51-day standoff.

With negotiations at an impasse, Reno gave the go-ahead for the raid after hearing reports of child abuse in the compound. The raid on the heavily armed cultists ended in an inferno that engulfed the site.

“I made the decision. I’m accountable. The buck stops with me,” a grim-looking Reno told a later news conference.

Reno took a personal interest in the political tussle over Elian Gonzalez, the young shipwreck survivor whose mother drowned fleeing Cuba.

Reno met the boy and his Miami relatives who battled to keep him from returning to communist Cuba, and his father and grandmothers, who wanted to raise Gonzalez in his homeland.

Reno argued that Elian belonged with his father and acted after the Miami relatives defied a U.S. government order to hand him over. She authorized armed agents to take the boy from his relatives’ home in a pre-dawn raid in April 2000 and re-unite him with his father, who took him back to Cuba.

The raid infuriated Miami’s Cuban exile community, whose members picketed her home and denounced her as a “witch” and lackey of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

MICROSOFT, OKLAHOMA

In 1998, Reno’s Justice Department brought a huge antitrust case against Microsoft. Two years later, a federal judge ordered the breakup of the software giant because it had ignored his ruling that it had used unlawful monopolistic practices.

The case was settled in 2001 by the administration of George W. Bush, Clinton’s Republican successor, in terms seen as favorable to Microsoft.

Reno appeared with Clinton after the 1995 truck bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people, and vowed to seek the death penalty for the perpetrators.

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001 become the first federal prisoner executed since 1963. McVeigh said he carried out the attack to punish the U.S. government for the Waco cult raid and another raid in Idaho.

Some comedians made fun of Reno during her time in office, lampooning her appearance and height, around 6 feet 2 inches, among them Will Ferrell who impersonated her on “Saturday Night Live.”

Shortly after leaving office in January 2001 she appeared on the show next to Ferrell, both wearing identical outfits, in a sketch called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party.”

She was diagnosed in 1995 with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system that caused trembling in her arms. “All it does is shake and you get used to it shaking after a while,” she told a TV interviewer.

Reno was attorney general throughout Clinton’s two terms as president and was in the job longer than anyone except William Wirt, who held it from November 1817 until March 1829.

After leaving Washington, Reno returned to Florida and ran for governor in 2002, but lost in the Democratic primary.

Reno was born on July 21, 1938, in Miami to parents who were newspaper reporters. She attended public schools in Miami and earned a chemistry degree at Cornell University in 1960.

She received her law degree from Harvard three years later and worked as a lawyer in Miami.

 

Statement on Janet Reno’s death

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today released the following statement on the passing of former Attorney General Janet Reno:

“With the passing of Janet Reno, the Department of Justice has lost one of the most effective, decisive and well-respected leaders in its proud history.  From her years in state law enforcement to her long and eventful tenure as Attorney General, Janet Reno always strove, as she put it, to do her ‘level best.’  She led the department in a time of turmoil and change, confronting issues ranging from international and domestic terrorism to fair competition in the emerging technology sector.  In meeting these challenges, she was guided by one simple test: to do what the law and the facts required.  She accepted the results of that test regardless of which way the political winds were blowing.  She never shied from criticism or shirked responsibility, earning her the affection of her subordinates, the respect of her critics, and the esteem of the American people.  And of course, as the first woman to serve as attorney general, she was an inspiration and a trailblazer for so many women working in law enforcement and government — including me.  The United States is a stronger, safer and more just place because of Janet Reno’s leadership, and she will be dearly missed.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno greets the media next to a caricature of a journalist and fisherman with the the saying in spanish "A reporter lives here," at the back porch of her home in Miami, September 4, 2001. REUTERS/Colin Braley
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno greets the media next to a caricature of a journalist and fisherman with the the saying in spanish, “A reporter lives here,” at the back porch of her home in Miami, September 4, 2001. REUTERS/Colin Braley
Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida Janet Reno speaks to supporters at the Sheraton Bal Harbor in Miami, Florida September 11, 2002.  REUTERS/Marc Serota
Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida Janet Reno speaks to supporters at the Sheraton Bal Harbor in Miami, Florida September 11, 2002. REUTERS/Marc Serota
President Clinton, accompanied by Attorney General Janet Reno July 19, 1993. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo
President Clinton, accompanied by Attorney General Janet Reno July 19, 1993. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Getting it right: Writing your own obituary

When Edna Briggs dies, she doesn’t want a well-meaning loved one to whitewash the ups and downs of her life. To avoid that, she is writing her own obituary.

Briggs, who is 69 and lives in Los Angeles, wants her farewell to offer insights into why her life turned out the way it did. Her two children might not understand how certain events — her father forbidding her from trying for a scholarship to Howard University, for example, or the pride of earning a prestigious internship — affected her path, so she’s handling it herself.

“I will describe my life the way I want it described,” says Briggs, a health care administrator and passionate genealogist. “I believe in having the final say.”

It’s an idea with which many Baby Boomers can identify, says Katie Falzone, spokeswoman for Legacy.com, a website that partners with newspapers and funeral homes to publish obituaries.

“Baby Boomers are comfortable talking about themselves in a way that previous generations never did,” says Falzone. “They’re used to defining their lives,” and to challenging the status quo.

While less than 1 percent of the obituaries on the site are self-written, the number is growing, she says.

Last year, the site ran about 525 self-penned obits, compared to only about 165 a decade ago.

The number has doubled in the last five years.

Who better to recount your story than yourself, says Sarah White, a writing coach in Madison, Wisconsin, who teaches a “selfie obituary” writing class online and at senior centers and libraries.

“Who knows all the parts of your life? Your children know you as a parent. Your co-workers know you professionally. Your spouse probably knows very little about your life at work. They say your siblings are the people with you your whole life,” she says. “I wouldn’t leave this up to my siblings. They don’t know anything about me.”

Kerry Kruckmeyer, who died unexpectedly in April, wrote the obituary that recently appeared about him in the Arizona Daily Star.

“I thought this would be different, amusing and enjoyable,” he wrote. He concluded that he had lived “a very good and blessed life for which I am most thankful.”

Kruckmeyer had distributed the document to his family about a decade ago, says his brother, Korey Kruckmeyer of Tucson, Arizona. “It’s typical of him,” Korey says. “It reflects his sense of humor.”

And the self-written obituary struck a chord with readers. “I’ve gotten a bunch of calls from people who don’t know me or Kerry just wanting to talk about it,” Korey Kruckmeyer says.

Writing such an essay — whether or not it’s actually published someday as an obituary — can be “very affirming,” White says. “It always seems to add up to more than the person realized.”

The writing process got Jim Weber of Tumwater, Washington, thinking about his future as well as his past.

“You may find you have some unfinished business,” says Weber, 60. “It may cause you to make decisions about how you want to spend the rest of your life.”

In his self-written obituary, he notes a strained relationship that he would like to see healed. He also pokes fun at his life, connecting his pursuit of a law degree to hours spent watching “Perry Mason” with his mother, and pointing out that he met his “third and final wife” in the freezer section of the local grocery.

White’s own selfie obituary highlights her love of traveling with her husband, her career as a commercial artist and writer, and her passion for her pets and the outdoors. “She also camped frequently in Wisconsin’s north woods,” she writes, “but would not reveal her favorite campsite even upon her deathbed.”

Putting your life down on paper is also an opportunity to share family history with future generations, she said. “I think people should leave a record of their life,” she says. “Be the ancestor you wish you had.”

Taking White’s class made Pattie Whitehouse of Victoria, British Columbia, realize she had a lot she wanted to say. She ended up with a document of more than 900 words, and intends to continue editing until she meets her ultimate deadline. Whitehouse injected some humor in the piece, which focuses on her passion for the environment. For now, the final line reads: “As she wished, Pattie’s remains were chipped and used as mulch.”

“Which tells you a lot about me,” the 65-year-old says. “The people who know me will recognize me in it.”

She plans to give the document to her partner, Robert, and her sisters to distribute upon her death.

Briggs, a widow, is putting everything in writing because her daughter doesn’t want to discuss the matter, she says. As a genealogist, Briggs says, she has seen too many erroneous obituaries. She also knows that handling the task now will make things easier for her daughter when she passes.

Alan Gelb, 66, of Chatham, New York, began thinking about preparing his final words when he started attending more funerals.

“When I would go to services, I found myself missing the voice of the person who was not with us,” he says.

Gelb, who helps high school students draft college entrance essays, decided that older adults could benefit from a similar task. In his book, “Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story” (Tarcher Books, 2015), he encourages readers to write a story that captures some of their core values, to pass it on to future generations. Gelb recommends having the story read at your funeral. The exercise is a good segue into obituary writing, he says.

“Writing your own obituary is sort of like voting for yourself whenßyou run for office,” he says. “It may be a bit self-serving but it is fully warranted, and it can make all the difference.”

Milwaukee-born actor Gene Wilder dies at age 83

Gene Wilder, whose wild curls and startling blue eyes brought a frantic air to roles in the movies “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles,” died on Aug. 29 at the age of 83, his family said.

Wilder, whose best work included collaborations with director-writer Mel Brooks and actor-comedian Richard Pryor, died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, the family said in a statement.

Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said the actor had chosen to keep his illness secret so that children who knew him as Willy Wonka would not equate the whimsical character with an adult disease.

Wilder’s barely contained hysteria made him a go-to lead for Brooks, who cast him in “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” and “The Producers” in the 1960s and ’70s.

“Gene Wilder – one of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship,” Brooks said on Twitter.

Besides his classic collaborations with Brooks, Wilder paired memorably with comedian Richard Pryor in hits “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy.”

Wilder also was active in promoting ovarian cancer awareness and treatment after his wife, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner, whom he married in 1984, died of the disease in 1989.

He helped found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founded Gilda’s Club, a support organization that has branches throughout the United States.

Born Jerome Silberman to Russian immigrants in Milwaukee, Wilder studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in Bristol, England, and then studied method acting at the Actors Studio.

A leading role in a play that also starred Anne Bancroft, who was dating her future husband Brooks, led to Wilder becoming a top member of Brooks’ stock company of crazies, some of whom branched out with Wilder into other film ventures.

Wilder’s first movie role was a small part as a terrified undertaker who was abducted by Bonnie and Clyde in Arthur Penn’s 1967 film of the same name.

The following year he was panic-stricken Leo Bloom to Zero Mostel’s conniving Max Bialystock in Brooks’ “The Producers,” picking up an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

While it initially got a tepid response, the movie with its over-the-top song “Springtime for Hitler,” went on to become a cult favorite and, years later with a different cast, a monster hit on Broadway.

Wilder was a last-minute fill-in as the “Waco Kid” in Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” in 1974, and with Brooks wrote the screenplay for “Young Frankenstein” released later that year, also to big box office returns.

The two were nominated for best screenplay Oscars, but lost to Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo for “The Godfather Part II.”

With Brooks alumni Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman, Wilder made his directorial debut with 1975’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother,” and directed several other movies with uneven results.

Wilder’s title role in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” earned him a Golden Globe nomination in 1971, and he was nominated again in that category in 1976 for “Silver Streak.”

He won an Emmy in 2003 for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for appearances on “Will and Grace.”

Wilder’s memoir, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art,” was released in 2005 and he collaborated with oncologist Steven Piver on the book “Gilda’s Disease” in 1998.

He was hospitalized in 1999 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma but was said to be in complete remission in 2005.

Wilder lived in Stamford in a house built in 1734 that he had shared with Radner, writing and painting watercolors with his wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991.

American actor Gene Wilder (L) performs alongside compatriot Rolf Saxon, October 2, during the rehearsal of a scene from Neil Simon's 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor'.
American actor Gene Wilder (L) performs alongside compatriot Rolf Saxon, October 2, during the rehearsal of a scene from Neil Simon’s ‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor’.

A day with Prince at Paisley Park

In September 2014, Associated Press Global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody spent a day with Prince at Paisley Park.

The following story was originally published on Sept. 29, 2014:

Nightfall is fast approaching at Paisley Park.

There are few lights on in the cavernous compound, and unseen doves (of course there would be doves) are cooing up a racket before twilight fades to darkness. But even their collective noise takes a back seat once Prince — sitting in the dimmest bit of light — goes to his Mac, cues up a track and hits play.

A melodious instrumental track floods the room, the lush orchestration compliments of the Minnesota Orchestra, whom Prince tapped to perform. Its inspiration has come from a little-heard Dionne Warwick song, “In Between the Heartaches,” which he also played moments earlier.

The track remains a work in progress; Prince has written no lyrics yet. But it’s music like this that keeps him going — to still, after all these years, take music to the next level.

“If you don’t try, how will you get another ‘Insatiable?’” he says, referencing his classic bedroom groove.

Over the next few moments at Prince’s computer, he goes to YouTube to play an array clips that get his musical heart thrumming, dipping from old James Brown clips to the relatively new U.K. singer FKA Twigs.

Prince isn’t always pleased about what he hears from today’s crop of entertainers — “The quality of the music, everyone would agree is not the gold standard,” he muses about today’s mainstream pop universe.

But when it comes to his world, what he’s hearing ranks among the best that he’s heard in ages. On Tuesday, he will release his first album in four years, “ART OFFICAL AGE,” along with music from his latest protege act, 3RDEYEGIRL, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM.”

“I’m completely surrounded by equal talent,” an energized Prince says. “To me it feels like heaven.”

***

It’s not just the music that’s taking his Royal Badness to new heights: For the first time, he is releasing his music with complete freedom. The man that once wrote “slave” on his face in protest of not being in control of his own music and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., is now back with the label — under his own terms.

“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” says Prince. “I was just trying to get here.”

In the spring, Prince, 56, finally gained what he had sought for more than two decades — control of his musical masters, and, in a larger sense, his musical legacy. In the past, Warner Bros. held the rights to Prince’s music, even long after he left, as part of the contract he signed as a new artist.

But after savvy legal maneuvering, he owns the rights to all of his vast collections of hits, including archival music that Prince fans have been longing to hear for decades. Prince also gained control of the publishing rights to his compositions and has performance rights — which means he completely controls his own musical destiny.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who works closely with Prince on legal, business and financial matters, calls it his “fight for justice” and an enormous game-changer for the industry.

“It’s magnificent, and what’s important for him, he wants all musicians to have (this),” she said. “This is just something that he feels incredibly passionate about.”

Long a trailblazer for artists’ rights, and for coming up with innovative approaches to break away from the label-structure that he’s viewed as unfair to artists, he sees the way the industry has unfolded as the ultimate “I told you so”: disappearing labels, a streaming system that some music acts say nets them even less profit for the music they made, and increasing challenge to make money just off of making music.

He scoffs at the image of him that had long been defined by others; a technology-phobe who resisted what was to come in the industry, like that persistent notion that he once declared the Internet dead.

“We were saying it was dead to us — dead energy,” he explains.

***

For Prince, the old Tribe Called Quest rhyme still rings true: “Industry rule number four thousand and eighty, record company people are shady.” He speaks passionately of his disdain for traditional record contracts and publishing agreements that he believes give most of the power — and profit — to other entities, not the creator of the music.

He considers it not only bad business, but also against God: “The Bible says you’re not supposed to sign your inheritance away.”

The entry of Apple as the major player in music hasn’t helped, in his view. When asked about U2’s much analyzed venture with Apple _ in which the company paid them for their latest album, then released it in its customers’ iTunes libraries for free _ Prince simply says. “That’s a designer deal. … Of course they got paid. But what about the others?”

***

Prince is hoping to show artists that there is an alternative to the standard way of doing business. Paisley Park is not just a place for Prince, but also a creative sandbox for other artists.

Liv Warfield is one: The boisterous soul singer with the big band and dynamic stage act worked under Prince’s tutelage for her latest album, and has opened for Prince on tour; “The Voice” contestant Judith Hill has come through. At one point, he plays a track by a powerful female voice that turns out to be Rita Ora. Jennifer Hudson will be making a Paisley Park pilgrimage soon, he says.

“How we make music is in a collective,” he says, with the motto: “Best idea wins.”

This spring, he launched NPG Publishing; besides administering his own music, it will do so for other acts.

But he’s quick to note that he doesn’t have artists signed to him.

“We don’t do (record) deals,” says Prince. “I don’t want anything from anybody.”

Joshua Welton, a young producer who is married to drummer Hanna Ford Welton of 3RDEYEGIRL (Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen round out the trio), is one of the fresh new talents that Prince marvels at; he refers to him as a “Steve Jobs” and marvels not only at his musical might, but also his spiritual strength.

His faith in Welton is so strong that he shares productions with him on the album, and says for the first time, there are tracks where Prince doesn’t even play an instrument, leaving it to Welton.

“Who would have predicted that I would let a 22-, 23-year-old produce me?” says Prince (though he’s actually 24). “He’s supertalented.”

***

For Prince, success today is about audience impact and, as always, taking success to the next level.

He’s not looking for a repeat of 1984: “I don’t need another gold record,” he says matter of factly (though for the record, that was the year of many platinum records).

Nor does he care about charting No. 1 songs or hits. When he explains why he isn’t, he takes it back to Africa and says that’s not the community’s way of thinking: “You don’t quantify success by numbers.”

He’s working on a rerelease of the epic “Purple Rain” album for its 30th anniversary, but when asked if he’s excited about it, he flatly says no.

“Same album, just state-of-the-art sound,” he says. “It’s nice that it sounds better for the fans but I live in the now. I don’t have to go backwards to celebrate.”

He had no hesitation about working with Warner Bros again (after entering what Lamkins-Ellis called an “amazing deal”): “I don’t deal in history nor should they,” he says. “It’s not the entity that’s the problem.”

Prince isn’t stopping with the two new albums and the “Purple Rain” rerelease: His song “Funknroll” is being used by NFL network, and he’s excited about new avenues for his music.

You’ll find his new music on iTunes, and Spotify, but he doesn’t see anything contradictory in that. “It’s about the deal. Anything I’m doing now it’s equitable. I’m happy.”

He adds: “I just thank God that I’m here now.”

Prince dies at age 57

Prince, the innovative music superstar whose hits included “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” and whose songwriting and eccentric stage presence electrified fans around the world, died on April 21 in Minnesota, his publicist said. He was 57.

“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died,” said publicist Anna Meacham.

Prince was found dead at his home at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, a Minneapolis suburb, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. The office said it was “investigating the circumstances of his death.”

The local medical examiner declined to comment on the cause of Prince’s death, which was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.

Shocked fans gathered with media crews outside Paisley Park Studios’ gates to mourn the award-winning singer and musician, whose genre-defying music combined jazz, funk and disco, and influenced other musicians. His hit songs also included “Raspberry Beret,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Kiss.”

Prince, who was on a U.S. tour last week, was briefly hospitalized with the flu after his plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, last week, TMZ reported. A representative told TMZ that Prince had performed in Atlanta even though he was not feeling well and felt worse after boarding the plane for a flight back to Minnesota.

Prince first found fame in the late 1970s, and over the next three decades became known as one of the most inventive and eccentric forces in American pop music.

Often making a statement with bold fashion choices, the diminutive star sometimes appeared on stage sporting ruffled shirts and tight pants or elaborate costumes, including chain mail covering his face, a shimmery orange tunic or bikini briefs.

Prince was regarded as a perfectionist who from 1993 to 2000 changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in what was seen as a protest against his record label at the time.

For a while, he was dubbed “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”

‘PRIVATE PERSON’

An intensely private person, Prince sold more than 100 million records during his career, won seven Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

His most recent album, “HITnRUN: Phase Two” was released in December 2015.

Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness about 15 years ago, and was a strict vegan. In 2009, he spoke in a PBS television interview about being born an epileptic and suffering seizures as a child.

He said he was also teased in school, and that “early in my career I tried to compensate by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”

Prince won an Oscar for best original song score for “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie whose music was based on his album of the same name. He also starred in the movie.

In 2007, he played the Super Bowl in one of the most celebrated such performances.

While he was more accustomed to performing to arena audiences, two years ago Prince played perhaps his most intimate gig in the living room of British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas’ London home with his band, 3rdeyegirl, Billboard said.

“We’ll work our way up, if people like us, to bigger venues,” Prince quipped at the time.

‘EXPLOSIVE PERFORMANCES’

Born in Minneapolis as Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, he is said to have written his first song at the age of 7. As well as singing and writing, he played multiple instruments, including guitar, keyboards and drums.

His music was marked by sexually charged lyrics and explosive live performances, while his private life was marked by a string of romances linking him with the likes of Madonna and actress Kim Basinger and Carmen Electra.

Prince was married twice: to his backup singer, Mayte Garcia, in 1996 and then to Manuela Testolini in 2001. Both marriages ended in divorce, and a son he had with Garcia died a week after birth in October 1996.

Music TV channel MTV said it was changing its logo to purple for the day in honor of Prince. Twitter lit up with reaction from dismayed friends and fans.

“And just like that … the world lost a lot of magic ✨ Rest in peace Prince! Thanks for giving us so much,” tweeted pop star Katy Perry.

Film director Spike Lee said on Twitter: “I Miss My Brother. Prince Was A Funny Cat. Great Sense Of Humor.”

“This is what it sounds like when doves cry.. Prince R.I.P.,” tweeted actress and TV personality Whoopi Goldberg.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, and Frank McGurty, Amy Tennery and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis.

Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files
Musician Prince gestures on stage during the Apollo Theatre’s 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files
U.S. singer Prince watches the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files
U.S. singer Prince watches the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files
U.S. singer Prince leaves the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files
U.S. singer Prince leaves the French Open tennis tournament in Paris June 2, 2014. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files
U.S. musician Prince performs on stage at Yas Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Jumana El-Heloueh
U.S. musician Prince performs on stage at Yas Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Jumana El-Heloueh
U.S. musician Prince performs for the first time in Britain since 2007 at the Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, southern England July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
U.S. musician Prince performs for the first time in Britain since 2007 at the Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, southern England July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. REUTERS/Kyle Carter/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL’s Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. REUTERS/Kyle Carter/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL’s Super Bowl XLI football game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in Miami, Florida, February 4, 2007. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Prince performs on the main stage during Budapest's Sziget music festival on an island in the Danube River August 9, 2011. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Prince performs on the main stage during Budapest’s Sziget music festival on an island in the Danube River August 9, 2011. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Prince attends the NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center in Los Angeles December 25, 2008. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Prince attends the NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center in Los Angeles December 25, 2008. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Jorge Drexler greets Prince after winning best original song for "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" at the 77th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 27, 2005. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
Jorge Drexler greets Prince after winning best original song for “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” at the 77th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 27, 2005. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
Prince and wife Manuela Testolini arrive at the 77th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 27, 2005. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Blake MM
Prince and wife Manuela Testolini arrive at the 77th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 27, 2005. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Blake MM
"The Artist" formerly known as Prince gives his acceptance speech after being named Male Artist of the Decade at the 14th annual Soul Train Music Awards March 4, 2000. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
“The Artist” formerly known as Prince gives his acceptance speech after being named Male Artist of the Decade at the 14th annual Soul Train Music Awards March 4, 2000. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada May 19, 2013. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Remembering David Bowie, who has died at 69

Politicians, musicians and fans around the world — from the Vatican to the International Space Station — paid tribute to David Bowie on Monday, following his death at 69 from cancer.

Taking to Twitter or Facebook, many praised Bowie’s groundbreaking music and offered their own recollections of the singer, known for a string of hits such as “Space Oddity” and “Let’s Dance”.

Below are some of the tributes to Bowie, who released his last album “Blackstar” on Friday, also his birthday:

DUNCAN JONES, BOWIE’S SON, POSTING A PICTURE OF THE SINGER ON TWITTER:

“Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

TONY VISCONTI, MUSIC PRODUCER AND LONG-TERM BOWIE COLLABORATOR:

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

QUEEN OFFICIAL TWITTER ACCOUNT, POSTING A VIDEO OF “UNDER PRESSURE”:

“This is our last dance…”

GARY KEMP, ACTOR AND SPANDAU BALLET MEMBER:

“Shocked to the core.”

“It feels as if the world has suddenly gone out of joint.”

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:

“I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.”

KANYE WEST, RAPPER:

“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

GIANFRANCO RAVASI, CARDINAL AND HEAD OF THE VATICAN’S CULTURE COUNCIL, QUOTING “SPACE ODDITY” LYRICS:

“Ground Control to Major Tom

Commencing countdown, engines on

Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”

TIM PEAKE, BRITISH ASTRONAUT, CURRENTLY ONBOARD INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION:

“Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many.”

RICKY GERVAIS, COMEDIAN:

“I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”

GENE SIMMONS, ROCK SINGER:

“David Bowie, you will be sorely missed. Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and the Ziggy story songs were a major influence for me.”

Activist Grace Lee Boggs dies at 100, leaves lasting legacy

Activist Grace Lee Boggs, 100, died on Oct. 5 in Detroit, leaving behind a long history of humane, revolutionary activism aimed at transforming U.S. society. Her vision of social justice and universal human rights inspired admiration and emulation.

As an activist and writer, Boggs worked closely with husband James Boggs, an African-American autoworker. Their unabashed advocacy of the Black Power movement drew them to Malcolm X, who stayed at their home when he visited Detroit.

The vision of Grace Lee and James Boggs, who died in 1993, was never restricted by race, gender, sexual orientation or class. They focused on building a tolerant, multi-racial society founded on economic and social equality.

In the eyes of the powerful, including the FBI, which compiled an 884-page file on her, Grace Lee Boggs was a dangerous revolutionary. But she was untroubled by the “subversive” label with which she was branded.

“She never, never backed away from the idea of an American revolution,” said Rich Feldman, a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership in Detroit. “For her, revolution meant more creating power than taking power. It meant self-transformation toward becoming broader, more cooperative human beings. She saw people moving from being workers and consumers into becoming self-governing citizens.”

Boggs spread her message through her writings, lectures, extensive and probing conversations with a wide range of people and an indefatigable energy in launching projects to create what she called “a beloved community.”

Boggs was especially noted for her bottom-up efforts to rebuild Detroit — which was devastated when the giant automakers moved many jobs to Mexico and China and then robbed of democracy by Gov. Rick Snyder, who installed his hand-picked “emergency manager” Kevyn Orr to displace elected officials and run the city.

Boggs thus found herself operating in a city stripped of its right to democratic self-rule and beleaguered by high unemployment, rampant crime, a falling population, decaying housing stock and collapsing infrastructure.

At the same time, corporate planners sought to impose their vision for the city’s future, stressing gentrification and massive public subsidies for projects like a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Privately owned by billionaires, the arena will be built with $450 million in public funds.

Boggs responded by initiating and consolidating a number of grassroots projects that represented a vastly different vision of Detroit’s future. She promoted urban agriculture on the vast acres of land left empty by torn-down factories and housing. That effort provided meaningful, community-building work and a plentiful supply of healthy food to residents, who otherwise lived in “food deserts” where fast-food restaurants and corner groceries supplied limited diets.

Her experiments in urban agriculture helped reinforce similar efforts in other cities, such as Milwaukee’s Walnut Way and Growing Power project, led by Will Allen, said longtime Milwaukee activist James Godsil.

Boggs also spawned annual Detroit Summer programs involving teenagers and other young people in art, music, dance, rebuilding homes and urban agriculture. Godsil recalled Boggs’ remarkable rapport as she circulated among discussion tables filled with teenagers talking about the possibilities of a new Detroit rebuilt from the bottom up.

Godsil remembers being impressed by Boggs at a 2006 conference, where “she broke down complex ideas simply.” Always insistent on re-evaluating and rethinking the goals of those seeking to radically restructure America, “She quoted Martin Luther King on the ‘bitter but beautiful’ struggle for the new world we’re conceiving.”

Boggs continued her outspoken advocacy throughout her life. In poor communities, she aided in fighting the “crack houses” proliferating in vacant, abandoned homes. She was prominent in fighting the widespread water shut-offs of poor people imposed by the municipal water authority at the direction of Orr, who at the same time let major corporations rack up massive overdue water bills.

Boggs saw her activism and community projects as building a “beloved community” that represented a radically different version of the new Detroit promoted by Snyder, Orr and corporate interests. In her eyes, she was creating on a small scale a new society within the shell of the old.

Boggs spread her influence with her writing, as well as activism. She and James Boggs co-authored Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century. She wrote Living for Change: An Autobiography (1998) and The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century (2011) with Scott Kurashige.

Boggs’s staying power eventually produced widespread recognition and fame. She became a much sought-after lecturer across the nation and abroad because of the energy and imagination she displayed even as she grew older. She was the subject of a memorable 2007 interview by Bill Moyers and was featured in Grace Lee’s (no relation) PBS documentary  American Revolutionary: Grace Lee Boggs.

Boggs 100th birthday was marked by numerous celebrations, with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center sharing 100 of Boggs’ most memorable quotes, one for each of her years.

In recent years, Boggs accumulated honorary degrees from a number of major universities. But she was at her most joyful, said Rich Feldman, when she saw young people from Detroit’s mean streets take part in community efforts and transform their lives.

“Her greatest honor ever was speaking at the graduation of the Freedom Growers, a group of young people working on an urban farm,” Feldman said. “She’d spoken at graduations at the University of Michigan and other prestigious places, but giving the graduation speech to these young people really made her smile.”

On the Web

To learn more, visit www.boggscenter.org.

Five memorable movies from Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols was a master of self-satire, a man of wealth and education and connections for whom his best targets were those of wealth, education and connections, from the vapid Californians of “The Graduate” to the military brass of “Catch-22.” Here are highlights from the long film career of Nichols, who died on Nov. 19 at age 83:

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) — Nichols was already a top stage director when he made a spectacular film debut by adapting Edward Albee’s play about the bickering, self-loathing spouses George (a history professor) and Martha (daughter of the college president). Filmed in claustrophobic black and white, winner of five Academy Awards, it featured the world’s most glamorous couple, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, very unglamorous and almost unrecognizable — he in glasses and an old sweater, she in a knotty wig and dull, unflattering dresses and blouses. The film was highly profane and sexually explicit for its time, and was among the first releases that barred attendees under 18 who were unaccompanied by an adult.

“The Graduate” (1967) — The movie which brought Nichols his lone directing Oscar, a touchstone for the 1960s that somehow never mentioned Vietnam, civil rights or any issues beyond a general scorn for money, authority and Southern California. “The Graduate” starred Dustin Hoffman, in his breakthrough role, as the aimless, awkward Benjamin Braddock and his disastrous affair with family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Many who saw it once, saw it again, and again, and savored the jump-cuts, the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack and such catchphrases as “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”, spoken by Hoffman, who (in an iconic shot) appears in the back of the frame, dwarfed by the looming close-up of Bancroft’s bent, exposed leg.

“Working Girl” (1988) — The rich — at least the unscrupulous rich _ get theirs in Nichols’ popular fairy tale about a young secretary (Melanie Griffith, in her most famous role);  the financial executive who deceives her (Sigourney Weaver) and the executive (Harrison Ford) who Griffith wins over. Few could forget the voluptuous, baby-faced Griffith, in her low-cut dress, uttering her come-on to Ford: “I have a head for business and a bod for sin.”

“Birdcage” (1996) — In the 1990s, Nichols began working again with his old stage partner, Elaine May, whose screenplay brought a sense of energy and wit that had been missing for several years. The adaptation of the great French farce “La Cage Aux Folles” featured Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a gay couple and, best of all, Gene Hackman as the uptight prospective father-in-law to Williams’ son.

“Primary Colors” (1998) — Another Nichols-May collaboration, this one based on Joe Klein’s roman a clef about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. John Travolta starred as the Clinton stand-in, Gov. Jack Stanton; Emma Thompson played his wife, Susan, modeled after Hillary Clinton. May’s screenplay shifted gracefully, movingly from political satire to tragedy as the Stantons’ hired gun (Kathy Bates) confronts the price of helping such a gifted but unprincipled man.

…And what’s your favorite Mike Nichols’ film?

Annette ‘Polly’ Williams, longtime Wisconsin lawmaker, dies

Annette “Polly” Williams, the longest-serving woman in the Wisconsin Legislature, died on Nov. 9.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement released this afternoon, “Annette ‘Polly’ Williams was a political powerhouse in Wisconsin and throughout the nation, leaving behind a proud, historic legacy of public service. She was fiercely independent, a free thinker whose determination was only matched by her compassion and concern for her constituents.

“I knew Polly not only as a colleague and mentor, but as a cherished friend. Polly, however powerful, perfected the ‘servant leader’ model. She inspired me and other legislators across Wisconsin, demonstrating honest leadership through service. As an example, she prepared meals for bereaved families stricken by tragedy and provided her entire community for the annual free holiday feast. She was an example not only to those who wished to serve, but also to all who shared her eagerness to make a difference in their community.

“Thank you, our beloved Polly, for leaving us with your eternal flame of service that will continue to ignite us as we work with renewed fervor to serve the people.”

Williams, 77, was a Milwaukee Democrat who served in the Assembly for three decades before her retirement in 2010. She also is credited with establishing the African American Education Council, which promoted reform in Milwaukee Public Schools. She helped draft legislation that created the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the nation’s first school choice program. 

Gov. Scott Walker, in a statement, said, “Representative Williams was a dedicated public servant and I am saddened to hear of her passing. I had the honor of serving with her in the State Assembly. She was dedicated to her district, to her community, and most importantly, to the students who benefited from her work on school choice.  Tonette and I send our thoughts and prayers to her family and friends during this difficult time.”

On the Web…

The Wikipedia entry for Annette “Polly” Williams.