celebrities

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

Christopher Lee, the actor best known for defining the role of Dracula on the big screen, died on Sunday at the age of 93.

An official for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London confirmed the death.

For a younger generation, Lee is best known for his role as Saruman, the white-maned villain in the Lord of the Rings franchise. Lee also played Count Dooku, another villain with superhuman powers, in the Star Wars series.

EWILS PHOTO / Creative Commons

Hartford has seen a dramatic rise in homicides this year. Twelve people have been killed so far since the start of 2015 -- more than twice as many as this time last year.

On Saturday, the Reverend Al Sharpton joined a march and rally in Hartford, calling for peace in the wake of this violence.

Public Domain

Veteran character actress Betsy Palmer has died.  

Palmer  achieved lasting, though not necessarily sought-after, fame as the murderous camp cook in the cheesy 1980 horror film "Friday the 13th."

Chris Boland / Creative Commons

It's been more than 40 years since Graham Nash first sung with David Crosby and Stephen Stills.

Bengt Nyman / Creative Commons

Looking every inch a silver-maned patriarch of Biblical grandeur, Sonny Rollins, the 84-year-old genius of the jazz tenor saxophone, was especially elated last weekend to receive an honorary doctor of music degree from the University of Hartford at graduation ceremonies on its West Hartford campus.

Courtesy David Foster

Blue legend B.B. King died Thursday at the age of 89. Connecticut blues singer and former club owner David Foster had a decades long friendship with King, and played with him as recently as last year.

Rev Stan/flickr creative commons

David Letterman reinvented television. He's irreplaceable. He was a comedic revolution. According to President Obama, Letterman is "a part of all of us."

It seemed as if he'd go on forever — and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

Singer Percy Sledge, perhaps best known for his hit "When A Man Loves A Woman," has died, Artists International Management Inc., his talent agency, said.

Sledge died of natural causes a little after midnight at a hospice in East Baton Rouge, La., according to a coroner. The coroner said Sledge was 74, though the Encyclopedia of Music as well as his talent agency says Sledge was 73.

David Shankbone / Creative Commons

Eddie Murphy is this year's winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The prize, given by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has been awarded since 1998. 

Albert Maysles, the father of the contemporary American documentary film who was behind such classics as 1970's Gimme Shelter, has died. He was 88.

Maysles, an Oscar-nominated director, died Thursday in New York, Erica Dilday at the Maysles Documentary Center confirmed.

NPR's Neda Ulaby is reporting on his death for our Newscast unit. She says:

"Albert Maysles with his brother David turned an unflinching cinematic eye on everything from door to door Bible salesmen to the most eccentric members of the East Coast elite. ...

Updated at 1:16 p.m.

Actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Mr. Spock, the logical half-Vulcan, half-human in the original Star Trek series and several movies, has died at his home in Los Angeles, his granddaughter, Madeleine, told NPR. Nimoy was 83.

The cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, she said.

NPR's Neda Ulaby, who is reporting on the story, tells our Newscast unit:

Alan Light / Creative Commons

I get to talk to a lot of remarkable people and still I tell you that you're about to hear a conversation with one of the most remarkable people I've encountered in five years. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

What is it we salute when we salute the flag of Jeopardy?

I really don't know the answer nor do I know how to put it in the form of a question.

There are some obvious answers. Jeopardy celebrates competence. It acknowledges the idea there are things worth knowing and that people who know them deserve a slightly different status than people who don't.

Sky Arts / sadieandthehotheads.com

Elizabeth McGovern doesn't want her role as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, to overshadow her identity as a musician. But she does admit it drives people to come see her band. Sadie and the Hotheads have just released a new album, Still Waiting. They'll be at Hartford's Infinity Hall on December 14.

In the new film Top Five, Chris Rock plays Andre Allen, a standup comedian who has starred in a series of blockbuster comedies as a catchphrase-spewing character called Hammy the Bear.

When Top Five begins, Allen has given up the Hammy movies, given up drinking and is trying to reshape his career with his new dramatic film about a Haitian slave rebellion. Like Allen, Rock says he has had doubts about his own career.

JJ Georges / Creative Commons

Casting is an underrated art. There used to be an Academy Award for it, and there probably still should be. We honor actors, but not the people who pick the perfect actor for the role, so that actor doesn't have to act quite so much.

"Downton Abbey" is immaculately cast, and the choice of Elizabeth McGovern to play Cora, the Countess of Grantham, seems especially nuanced and inspired. Cora is an American Jew, a transplant to English nobility, who wears all the status and tradition comfortably without fully buying into it. McGovern herself is a transplant, married to a British director for 22 years, long enough to slip effortlessly into Cora's skin.

Foxwoods Resort Casino says it has indefinitely postponed Bill Cosby's concert appearance that was scheduled for January.

A TV comedy Bill Cosby had been developing for NBC has been canceled, after new allegations of rape have been made against the comedian. Netflix made a similar move late Tuesday, shelving a comedy special that had been slated to premiere the week of Thanksgiving.

Updated: 12:22 a.m. ET Friday:

Because of a lack of evidence, prosecutors in New Zealand have dropped a murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd. The Associated Press reports the 60-year-old Rudd had been charged Thursday with trying to arrange two killings. He's still facing charges of threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.

Original Post:

Authorities in New Zealand have charged Phil Rudd, the drummer for the legendary hard rock band AC/DC, with trying to have two men killed.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Carlos Santana has won 10 Grammys and sold more than 100 million records. He has become one of the world's most celebrated musicians, a destiny that was difficult to imagine during his childhood in a small Mexican town. His father, also a musician, was Santana's first teacher, but he really learned his craft playing on the street and in strip clubs in Tijuana.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

It's been 40 years since the release of the Mel Brooks' movie Blazing Saddles. I recently went to an anniversary screening and in the audience was one of the movie's stars: Gene Wilder.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers." (Wikipedia)

Some version of the uncanny valley phenomenon is tangled up in the national freak-out this week over actress Renee Zellweger’s post-nip & tuck coming out party. Of course, the uncanny valley usually flows in the other direction — from the artificial toward the almost-natural. Cosmetic surgery can work in reverse. We almost recognize Renee. It’s so close — but also indubitably the result of manufacture — that we are unsettled by it.

Fashion Icon Oscar De La Renta Dies At 82

Oct 21, 2014
Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET.

Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who designed gowns for first ladies and for Hollywood stars died Monday at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

A statement from de la Renta's stepdaughter and her husband, Eliza Reed Bolen and Alex Bolen, did not give a cause of death, though the designer had been treated for cancer.

Cuban-American actress Elizabeth Peña has died at age 55. She played dramatic roles in movies such as La Bamba and Lone Star and appeared in sitcoms including Modern Family.

Peña died Tuesday after a brief illness at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to her agent.

Cinémathèque Française/San Francisco Silent Film Festival

A long lost, feature-length silent film starring Connecticut actor William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes was discovered earlier this month in France.

In the last 20 years, Prince has gotten more attention for his acrimonious spat with Warner Brothers — and the shenanigans surrounding his name — than for the music he's continued to make. And yet, as a performer, Prince is still undeniable, one of the living best.

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