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Tuesday, 15 April 2014 13:19

Former Cardinal Hal Smith dies

Former St. Louis Cardinal's catcher Hal Smith has died.  Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Smith, Arkansas says he died Saturday at age 82.  Smith first signed with the Cardinals in 1949. He played for the Redbirds from 1956-61 and was named to three National League All-Star teams.  He later played briefly for Pittsburgh in 1965 before becoming a scout and coach for several teams.  He's survived by his wife and three adult children.

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 12:32

Missouri Rep. Rory Ellinger dies

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri House member Rory Ellinger, of St. Louis County, has died after a battle against liver cancer.
   Ellinger's death Wednesday was announced in the House by Minority Leader Jake Hummel and in the Senate by Sen. Joe Keaveny, who had been Ellinger's roommate in Jefferson City.
   Ellinger was 72 years old.
   The Democrat had announced last month that he would not seek re-election because of his health, and he had not been at the Capitol recently. Ellinger's failing health sparked quick action by lawmakers to pass his legislation preventing nursing mothers from being penalized for breast feeding in public places.
   Nixon signed the bill into law last Thursday during a ceremony with Ellinger in his home town of University City.
   Ellinger first was elected to the House in 2010.
Published in Local News
Monday, 07 April 2014 03:37

Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney's approach to life was simple: "Let's put on a show!" He spent nine decades doing it, on the big screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.
 
A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood's top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the "show" part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.
 
Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible — perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland's musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in "Night at the Museum" and "The Muppets."
 
Rooney died Sunday at age 93 surrounded by family at his North Hollywood home, police said. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office said Rooney died a natural death.
 
There were no further details immediately available on the cause of death, but Rooney did attend Vanity Fair's Oscar party last month, where he posed for photos with other veteran stars and seemed fine. He was also shooting a movie at the time of his death, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde," with Margaret O'Brien.
 
He was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie "Bill" and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash "Sugar Babies."
 
"I loved working with Mickey on 'Sugar Babies.' He was very professional, his stories were priceless and I love them all ... each and every one. We laughed all the time," Carol Channing said.
 
A small man physically, Rooney was prodigious in talent, scope, ambition and appetite. He sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays and married eight times, siring 11 children.
 
His first marriage — to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner — lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later — "I'm 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava" — summed up the man's passion and capacity for life.
 
Rooney began as a toddler in his parents' vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short "Not to Be Trusted," and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.
 
"I always say, 'Don't retire — inspire,'" Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. "There's a lot to be done."
 
This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.
 
Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of "Mickey McGuire" kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early '30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach's "Our Gang" flicks.
 
After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable's character as a boy in "Manhattan Melodrama." A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.
 
Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as "Riff Raff," ''Little Lord Fauntleroy," ''Captains Courageous" and "The Devil Is a Sissy."
 
Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy "A Family Affair," a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.
 
"I knew 'A Family Affair' was a B picture, but that didn't stop me from putting my all in it," Rooney recalled.
 
Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw "A Family Affair" as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included "The Courtship of Andy Hardy," ''Andy Hardy's Double Life" and "Love Finds Andy Hardy," the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.
 
He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938's "Boys Town" and Mark Twain's timeless scamp in 1939's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
 
Rooney's peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as "Babes on Broadway" and "Strike up the Band," musicals built around that "Let's put on a show" theme.
 
One of them, 1939's "Babes in Arms," earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for "bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement."
 
He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943's "The Human Comedy," adapted from William Saroyan's sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney's finest.
 
"Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with," ''Human Comedy" director Clarence Brown once said.
 
Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944's horse-racing hit "National Velvet," but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.
 
They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.
 
When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.
 
"I began to realize how few friends everyone has," he wrote in one of autobiographies. "All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren't friends at all."
 
His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. "The Bold and the Brave," 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as "Off Limits" with Bob Hope, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" with William Holden, and "Requiem for a Heavyweight" with Anthony Quinn.
 
In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" as Audrey Hepburn's bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
 
Rooney's starring roles came in low-budget films such as "Drive a Crooked Road," ''The Atomic Kid," ''Platinum High School," ''The Twinkle in God's Eye" and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini."
 
But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979's "Black Stallion," the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue "Sugar Babies," which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.
 
"I've been coming back like a rubber ball for years," Rooney wisecracked at the time.
 
In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in "Bill." He found success with voice roles for animated films such as "The Fox and the Hound," ''The Care Bears Movie" and the blockbuster "Finding Nemo."
 
"He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn't do. Singing, dancing, performing ... all with great expertise," Margaret O'Brien said. "I was currently doing a film with him, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde." I simply can't believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever."
 
Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: "The Mickey Rooney Show" (1954); "Mickey" (1964); and "One of the Boys" (1982). A co-star from "One of the Boys," Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on "Saturday Night Live," mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn't stop boasting he once was "the number one star ... IN THE WO-O-ORLD!"
 
A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: "i.e., an Autobiography" published in 1965, and "Life Is Too Short," 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, "The Search for Sonny Skies," in 1994.
 
In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1½ and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.
 
The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.
 
Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents' act by the age of 2, singing "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.
 
While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of "Pal o' My Cradle Days." During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926's "Not to Be Trusted."
 
The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother's suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.
 
After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)
 
His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.
 
The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.
 
A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett — another divorce after five years and one daughter.
 
In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth — and apparently last — time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.
 
After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.
 
"I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated," Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. "But above all, when a man feels helpless, it's terrible."
 
That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, "this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney — it's from his conservators who are stealing from him." The New York Times reported that the suit was settled last year.
 
___
 
Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York, and writers Lynn Elber and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Published in National News

   St. Louis County Councilwoman Kathleen Burkett has died.  After a nearly year-long battle with cancer, the 68 year old Burkett passed away at her Overland home Sunday morning.  

   Burkett had represented the 2nd Council District since 2002.  She had been a longtime fixture of the St. Louis County Democratic Party, and had chaired the County's Democratic Central Committee through most of the 1990s.  

   During her tenure, she was a fierce opponent of the anti-smoking ban and was well known for her outspoken demeanor.  

   County Executive Charlie Dooley issued a statement Sunday praising Burkett as someone who took care of her constituents "like they were her own family."  

   A special election to fill her seat will be held as part of the November 4th general election.

Published in Local News
   CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois are among those celebrating the life of gay rights activist Vernita Gray, who died Tuesday at age 65.
   Gray and her partner, Patricia Ewert, wed in the state's first same-sex marriage in November. Her terminal cancer and her wish to marry convinced a federal judge to order an expedited marriage license. That allowed the couple to get married before the June 1 effective date of Illinois' new same-sex marriage law.
   Gray had worked for gay rights for decades.
   Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Gray's work for equality and civil rights in a statement Wednesday, calling her "an inspiration to all who crossed her path."
   Gov. Pat Quinn says Gray "fought for what she believed in and made a difference for people across Illinois."
Published in Local News
Monday, 17 February 2014 08:23

Former Mo. State Rep. Ron Casey dies

   Funeral arrangements are set for a former Missouri state representative from Crystal City who died over the weekend.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Ron Casey died early Sunday morning at the age of 61.

   Casey had suffered a head wound the week before when he fell on a concrete floor at his brother's home.

   Casey represented part of Jefferson County for 12 years in the state House.  

   Visitation will be held at the Second Baptist Church in Festus on Tuesday from 2-to-8 p.m.  Funeral services will also be at the church at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 06 February 2014 04:22

St. Louis pops conductor Richard Hayman dies

   ST. LOUIS (AP) - Richard Hayman, longtime pops conductor for the St. Louis Symphony and other symphonies around North America, has died.
   The St. Louis Symphony says Hayman died Wednesday. He was 93 and had been recently placed in hospice care in New York, but a cause of death was not released.
   Hayman became the symphony's principal pops conductor in 1976. He held similar posts in Detroit, Hartford, Conn., and in Calgary and London in Canada.
   Hayman was chief arranger for the Boston Pops Orchestra for more than 30 years, under both Arthur Fiedler and John Williams. He also worked in Hollywood, orchestrating and arranging for films such as "Girl Crazy," `'Meet Me in St. Louis," and others.
   Funeral arrangements are not complete.
 
Published in Local News
   NEW YORK (AP) — Pete Seeger, the banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage, died on Monday at the age of 94.
   Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson said his grandfather died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he'd been for six days. "He was chopping wood 10 days ago," he said.
   Seeger — with his a lanky frame, banjo and full white beard — was an iconic figure in folk music. He performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters in his 90s, leaning on two canes. He wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," ''Turn, Turn, Turn," ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his banjo strapped on.
   "Be wary of great leaders," he told The Associated Press two days after a 2011 Manhattan Occupy march. "Hope that there are many, many small leaders."
   With The Weavers, a quartet organized in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival. The group — Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman — churned out hit recordings of "Goodnight Irene," ''Tzena, Tzena" and "On Top of Old Smokey."
   Seeger also was credited with popularizing "We Shall Overcome," which he printed in his publication "People's Song," in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from "will" to "shall," which he said "opens up the mouth better."
   "Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger," Arlo Guthrie once said.
   His musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism, in which he advocated for causes ranging from civil rights to the cleanup of his beloved Hudson River. Seeger said he left the Communist Party around 1950 and later renounced it. But the association dogged him for years.
   He was kept off commercial television for more than a decade after tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. Repeatedly pressed by the committee to reveal whether he had sung for Communists, Seeger responded sharply: "I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American."
   He was charged with contempt of Congress, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.
   Seeger called the 1950s, years when he was denied broadcast exposure, the high point of his career. He was on the road touring college campuses, spreading the music he, Guthrie, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter and others had created or preserved.
   "The most important job I did was go from college to college to college to college, one after the other, usually small ones," he told The Associated Press in 2006. " ... And I showed the kids there's a lot of great music in this country they never played on the radio."
   His scheduled return to commercial network television on the highly rated Smothers Brothers variety show in 1967 was hailed as a nail in the coffin of the blacklist. But CBS cut out his Vietnam protest song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and Seeger accused the network of censorship.
   He finally got to sing it five months later in a stirring return appearance, although one station, in Detroit, cut the song's last stanza: "Now every time I read the papers/That old feelin' comes on/We're waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says to push on."
   Seeger's output included dozens of albums and single records for adults and children.
   He also was the author or co-author of "American Favorite Ballads," ''The Bells of Rhymney," ''How to Play the Five-String Banjo," ''Henscratches and Flyspecks," ''The Incompleat Folksinger," ''The Foolish Frog" and "Abiyoyo," ''Carry It On," ''Everybody Says Freedom" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."
   He appeared in the movies "To Hear My Banjo Play" in 1946 and "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" in 1970. A reunion concert of the original Weavers in 1980 was filmed as a documentary titled "Wasn't That a Time."
   By the 1990s, no longer a party member but still styling himself a communist with a small C, Seeger was heaped with national honors.
   Official Washington sang along — the audience must sing, was the rule at a Seeger concert — when it lionized him at the Kennedy Center in 1994. President Clinton hailed him as "an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them."
   Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence. Ten years later, Bruce Springsteen honored him with "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," a rollicking reinterpretation of songs sung by Seeger. While pleased with the album, Seeger said he wished it was "more serious." A 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden to mark Seeger's 90th birthday featured Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris among the performers.
   Seeger was a 2014 Grammy Awards nominee in the Best Spoken Word category, which was won by Stephen Colbert.
   Seeger's sometimes ambivalent relationship with rock was most famously on display when Dylan "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
   Witnesses say Seeger became furious backstage as the amped-up band played, though just how furious is debated. Seeger dismissed the legendary tale that he looked for an ax to cut Dylan's sound cable, and said his objection was not to the type of music but only that the guitar mix was so loud you couldn't hear Dylan's words.
   Seeger maintained his reedy 6-foot-2 frame into old age, though he wore a hearing aid and conceded that his voice was pretty much shot. He relied on his audiences to make up for his diminished voice, feeding his listeners the lines and letting them sing out.
   "I can't sing much," he said. "I used to sing high and low. Now I have a growl somewhere in between."
   Nonetheless, in 1997 he won a Grammy for best traditional folk album, "Pete."
   Seeger was born in New York City on May 3, 1919, into an artistic family whose roots traced to religious dissenters of colonial America. His mother, Constance, played violin and taught; his father, Charles, a musicologist, was a consultant to the Resettlement Administration, which gave artists work during the Depression. His uncle Alan Seeger, the poet, wrote "I Have a Rendezvous With Death."
   Pete Seeger said he fell in love with folk music when he was 16, at a music festival in North Carolina in 1935. His half brother, Mike Seeger, and half sister, Peggy Seeger, also became noted performers.
   He learned the five-string banjo, an instrument he rescued from obscurity and played the rest of his life in a long-necked version of his own design. On the skin of Seeger's banjo was the phrase, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" — a nod to his old pal Guthrie, who emblazoned his guitar with "This machine kills fascists."
   Dropping out of Harvard in 1938 after two years as a disillusioned sociology major, he hit the road, picking up folk tunes as he hitchhiked or hopped freights.
   "The sociology professor said, 'Don't think that you can change the world. The only thing you can do is study it,'" Seeger said in October 2011.
   In 1940, with Guthrie and others, he was part of the Almanac Singers and performed benefits for disaster relief and other causes.
   He and Guthrie also toured migrant camps and union halls. He sang on overseas radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information early in World War II. In the Army, he spent 3½ years in Special Services, entertaining soldiers in the South Pacific, and made corporal.
   Pete and Toshi Seeger were married July 20, 1943. The couple built their cabin in Beacon after World War II and stayed on the high spot of land by the Hudson River for the rest of their lives together. The couple raised three children. Toshi Seeger died in July at age 91.
   The Hudson River was a particular concern of Seeger. He took the sloop Clearwater, built by volunteers in 1969, up and down the Hudson, singing to raise money to clean the water and fight polluters.
   He also offered his voice in opposition to racism and the death penalty. He got himself jailed for five days for blocking traffic in Albany in 1988 in support of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager whose claim of having been raped by white men was later discredited. He continued to take part in peace protests during the war in Iraq, and he continued to lend his name to causes.
   "Can't prove a damn thing, but I look upon myself as old grandpa," Seeger told the AP in 2008 when asked to reflect on his legacy. "There's not dozens of people now doing what I try to do, not hundreds, but literally thousands. ... The idea of using music to try to get the world together is now all over the place."
Published in National News
   CLEVELAND (AP) — A political strategist and civil rights activist who helped elect Ohio's first black congressman and managed Jesse Jackson's unsuccessful 1984 presidential campaign has died. Arnold Pinkney was 84.
   His wife, Betty Pinkney, says he died Monday at a Cleveland hospice after a recent hospitalization.
   Arnold Pinkney had a long career in Democratic political campaigns including the 1968 campaign of Louis Stokes, who became Ohio's first black member of Congress. He also advised Jackson, Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes and Gov. Richard Celeste.
   He was special adviser to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which plans a special recognition on Feb. 19. Caucus President Alicia Reece says he leaves a legacy of public service.
   Pinkney was co-founder of Pinkney-Perry Insurance Agency, Ohio's oldest and largest minority-owned insurance company.
Published in National News
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 16:23

Car dealer Lou Fusz Sr. dies at 94

The St. Louisan who built one of the nation's largest automotive networks has died.

Lou Fusz St died from a heart attack at the age of 94 in Palm Beach, Florida. His first auto dealership was opened in Clayton in the early 1950s. His family now runs thirteen car dealerships that employ 900 people.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Martha, as well as 10 children, 35 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren.

Published in Local News
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