August 30, 2007

So, You Want to be in Pictures by Tommy L. Garrett

My review of the book:

Mr. Garrett has written a winner that's a must-read for anyone who's a true fan of classic movies, television and celebrities. Tommy's tome is filled with a plentitude of fascinating facts and inside information that will please the serious vintage film fan, and enough dish to please the casual fan as well. I just finished this first in a planned series of four books and am already looking forward to the second one.

August 28, 2007

Indiana 93, Connecticut 88, OT

INDIANAPOLIS - With her team comfortably ahead, Connecticut's Katie Douglas started talking trash to a group of Indiana Fever supporters.

"Y'all quiet over here today," she yelled in the midst of about 6,000 fans, who had little to cheer about for the first three quarters of Monday's Eastern Conference playoff game.

The fans weren't quiet for long. The Fever rallied to force overtime, then completed the biggest comeback in WNBA playoff history by defeating the Sun 93-88 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Fever overcame a 39-17 second-quarter deficit to win the first-round series 2-1. The previous biggest deficit overcome was 21 points, by Minnesota in a 74-72 win on Aug. 28, 2003, against Los Angeles.

Tamika Catchings, who led the Fever with 30 points and 13 rebounds, said her team never lost confidence.

"We did a great job as far as chipping, chipping, chipping," she said. "That's one thing coach talked about. We're not going to get 22 points in one possession."

Tamika Whitmore scored 24 points and Anna DeForge added 18 for the Fever.

Douglas led Connecticut with 27 points and Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones both added 21.

The Sun won their first five games against the Fever this season, but lost the two that mattered most. The final score was the same as their first playoff game at Connecticut, which lasted three overtimes.

Indiana outscored Connecticut 45-33 in the fourth quarter and overtime on Monday.

"They just got up and pressured us a little bit more," Douglas said. "They just got stops. We just kind of went cold. You can't expect to be on fire all night.

"When they got stops, they were doing what we were doing to them the first three quarters. They were running it down our throats in transition, getting easy baskets and getting confidence."

In overtime, Catchings hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left to give the Fever an 89-86 lead. Douglas missed a 3-pointer, and Indiana rebounded with 15.1 seconds left.

Whitmore made the first of two free throws with 14.4 seconds left to bump Indiana's lead to 90-86.

Nykesha Sales scored on a layup with 5 seconds left to cut the Fever's lead to 90-88.

Catchings was fouled on a dead ball and made the one shot. By rule, the Fever were given possession, and Catchings was fouled again. She made both free throws with four seconds left to seal the win for Indiana.

Connecticut led 64-48 in the fourth quarter when the Fever went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by five points from Sheri Sam, to cut their deficit to 64-59 with 6:40 to go.

Indiana chopped the lead to 66-64 on a 3-pointer by Whitmore with 3:05 left, then took the lead on a 3-point play by Whitmore with 2:30 to go.

Indiana took a 73-72 lead on two free throws by Catchings with 45.5 seconds left. Connecticut took possession, but Indiana tipped the ball out of bounds with 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Whalen shot an airball on a fadeaway jumper with the shot clock winding down, and Indiana rebounded with 21.5 seconds to go.

Catchings made two free throws with 20.3 seconds left to give Indiana a 75-72 lead.

Douglas missed a 3-pointer, but Connecticut got the loose ball, and Sales made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75.

Douglas fouled Catchings as she brought the ball upcourt, and Catchings made two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to give the Fever a 77-75 lead.

Connecticut quickly moved the ball downcourt, and Douglas redeemed herself with a layup with 1.5 seconds left that forced overtime.

"I was thinking if I could dunk it, I'd love to," Douglas said. "I was so frustrated with myself for making a silly foul."

Catchings averaged 19.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in the series, her first three games back after missing 13 games with an injured left foot. DeForge averaged 25 points per game in the series after averaging 8.7 points in the regular season.

Douglas was upset that Connecticut continued its pattern of losing big leads, but she said the Fever had a lot to do with it on Monday.

"Give credit to Indiana," she said. "They didn't hang their heads."

August 26, 2007

Park opens dedicated to Dennis Weaver

RIDGWAY, Colo. - A new park that features fly-fishing, scenic trails and a huge bronze eagle was dedicated Saturday to the late "Gunsmoke" actor Dennis Weaver on 60 acres of land his wife donated to the town.

Weaver moved to Ridgway in 1988, building a home made up of recycled tires and cans on 175 acres along the Uncompahgre River.

The centerpiece of park opened in his name is a 2,800-pound bronze eagle with a 21-foot wingspan.

"The eagle is a sign of power. He was a very quiet, strong, powerful person," said Gerry Weaver, widow of the actor-environmentalist.

Weaver, who died last year at the age of 81, first became famous as Chester, the limping sidekick of Sheriff Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke," which first aired in 1955.

He was taken more seriously in later TV and film roles during a six-decade career, including the lead in Steven Spielberg's 1971 "Duel." He also played a canny New Mexico deputy solving New York City crime in "McCloud."

Dennis Weaver's humble beginnings instilled a love of the environment in him, Gerry Weaver added. Mayor Pro Tem John Clark said many residents came to know and admire the star.

"Those of us over 40 remember him from his 'McCloud' TV show and his older movies," he said. "He cared about the land and the area he chose to settle. It's really appropriate that this park is here."

"His favorite word was passion. If you don't have passion, what do you got?" said Gerry Weaver.

August 13, 2007

New stamp will honor Jimmy Stewart

INDIANA, Pa. — A stamp honoring Jimmy Stewart will be released Friday by the U.S. Postal Service at ceremonies in Indiana, Pa., and Hollywood, Calif.

The photo on the stamp is based on a portrait of Stewart as he appeared in a publicity photo for 1949's The Stratton Story.

Stewart, who died in 1997, starred in more than 80 movies including It's a Wonderful Life,Vertigo,Rear Window and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He won an Oscar in 1941 for The Philadelphia Story.

The Pennsylvania ceremony will be held at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, the actor's hometown. The other will be held at Universal Studios in Hollywood.

August 12, 2007

So, You Want to be in Pictures by Tommy L. Garrett

Letters from a Known Woman by Tommy L. Garrett

Entertainer, businessman Merv Griffin dies

LOS ANGELES - Merv Griffin, the big band-era crooner turned impresario who parlayed his "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire, died Sunday. He was 82.

Griffin died of prostate cancer, according to a statement from his family that was released by Marcia Newberger, spokeswoman for The Griffin Group/Merv Griffin Entertainment.

From his beginning as a $100-a-week San Francisco radio singer, Griffin moved on as vocalist for Freddy Martin's band, sometime film actor in films and TV game and talk show host, and made Forbes' list of richest Americans several times.

"The Merv Griffin Show" lasted more than 20 years, and Griffin said his capacity to listen contributed to his success.

"If the host is sitting there thinking about his next joke, he isn't listening," Griffin reasoned in a recent interview.

But his biggest break financially came from inventing and producing "Jeopardy" in the 1960s and "Wheel of Fortune" in the 1970s. After they had become the hottest game shows on television, Griffin sold the rights to Coca Cola's Columbia Pictures Television Unit for $250 million in 1986, retaining a share of the profits.

"My father was a visionary," Griffin's son, Tony Griffin, said in a statement issued Sunday. "He loved business and continued his many projects and holdings even while hospitalized."

When Griffin entered a hospital a month ago, he was working on the first week of production of a new syndicated game show, "Merv Griffin's Crosswords," his son said.

Griffin was also a longtime friend of former President Reagan and his wife, Nancy.

"This is heartbreaking, not just for those of us who loved Merv personally, but for everyone around the world who has known Merv through his music, his television shows and his business," Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

She said Griffin "was there for me every day after Ronnie died" in 2004.

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak said he had lost "a dear friend."

"He meant so much to my life, and it's hard to imagine it without him," Sajak said.

For several years, Griffin was frequently seen in the company of actress Eva Gabor, who died in 1995.

"I'm very upset at the news. He was a very close friend of ours, a good friend of mine and a good friend of Eva's," Gabor's sister, Zsa Zsa Gabor, told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. "He was just a wonderful, wonderful man."

Griffin started putting the proceeds from selling "Jeopardy" and "Wheel" in treasury bonds, stocks and other investments, but went into real estate and other ventures because "I was never so bored in my life."

"I said `I'm not going to sit around and clip coupons for the rest of my life,'" he recalled in 1989. "That's when Barron Hilton said `Merv, do you want to buy the Beverly Hilton?' I couldn't believe it."

Griffin bought the slightly passe hotel for $100.2 million and completely refurbished it for $25 million. Then he made a move for control of Resorts International, which operated hotels and casinos from Atlantic City to the Caribbean.

That touched off a feud with real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Griffin eventually acquired Resorts for $240 million, even though Trump had held 80 percent of the voting stock.

"I love the gamesmanship," he told Life magazine in 1988. "This may sound strange, but it parallels the game shows I've been involved in."

In recent years, Griffin also rated frequent mentions in the sports pages as a successful race horse owner. His colt Stevie Wonderboy, named for entertainer Stevie Wonder, won the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2005.

In 1948, Freddy Martin hired Griffin to join his band at Los Angeles' Coconut Grove at $150 a week. With Griffin doing the singing, the band had a smash hit with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts," a 1949 novelty song sung in a cockney accent.

Doris Day and her producer husband, Marty Melcher, saw the band in Las Vegas and recommended Griffin to Warner Bros., which offered a contract. After a bit in "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," starring Day and Gordon MacRae, he had a bigger role with Kathryn Grayson in "So This Is Love." But after a few more trivial roles, he asked out of his contract.

In 1954, Griffin went to New York where he appeared in a summer replacement musical show on CBS-TV, a revival of "Finian's Rainbow," and a music show on CBS radio. He followed with a few TV game show hosting jobs, notably "Play Your Hunch," which premiered in 1958 and ran through the early 1960s. His glibness led to stints as substitute for Jack Paar on "Tonight."

When Paar retired in 1962, Griffin was considered a prime candidate to replace him. Johnny Carson was chosen instead. NBC gave Griffin a daytime version of "Tonight," but he was canceled for being "too sophisticated" for the housewife audience.

Westinghouse Broadcasting introduced "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1965 on syndicated TV. Griffin never underestimated the intelligence of his audience, offering such figures as philosopher Bertrand Russell, cellist Pablo Casals and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer-philosopher-historians Will and Ariel Durant as well as movie stars and entertainers.

CBS tried to challenge Carson with a late-night show starring Griffin, but nothing stopped Carson and Griffin returned to Westinghouse.

A lifelong crossword puzzle fan, Griffin devised a game show, "Word for Word," in 1963. It faded after one season, then his wife, Julann, suggested another show.

"Julann's idea was a twist on the usual question-answer format of the quiz shows of the Fifties," he wrote in his autobiography "Merv." "Her idea was to give the contestants the answer, and they had to come up with the appropriate question."

"Jeopardy" started in 1964 and "Wheel of Fortune" was begun in 1975.

Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr. was born in San Mateo, south of San Francisco on July 6, 1925, the son of a stockbroker. An aunt, Claudia Robinson, taught him to play piano at age 4, and he soon was staging shows on the back porch.

"Every Saturday I had a show, recruiting all the kids in the block as either stagehands, actors and audience, or sometimes all three," he wrote in his 1980 autobiography. "I was the producer, always the producer."

After studying at San Mateo Junior College and the University of San Francisco, Griffin quit school to apply for a job as pianist at KFRC radio in San Francisco. The station needed a vocalist instead. He auditioned and was hired.

Griffin attracted the interest of RKO studio boss William Dozier and his wife, Joan Fontaine.

At the time, Griffin weighed 235 pounds. "As soon as I walked in their hotel room, I could see their faces fall," he recalled. Shortly afterward, singer Joan Edwards told him: "Your voice is terrific, but the blubber has got to go." Griffin slimmed down, and he spent the rest of his life adding and taking off weight.

Griffin and Julann Elizabeth Wright were married in 1958, and their son, Anthony, was born the following year. They divorced in 1973 because of "irreconcilable differences."

He never remarried.

Besides his son, Griffin is survived by his daughter-in-law, Tricia, and two grandchildren.

The family said an invitation-only funeral Mass will be held at a later date at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.