Here's what's new and interesting in entertainment and the arts:


Morgan Freeman to receive Life Achievement honor at SAG Awards

Morgan Freeman will receive a lifetime achievement honor at the SAG Awards next year. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles)
Morgan Freeman will receive a lifetime achievement honor at the SAG Awards next year. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles)

With almost 100 film credits under his belt, Morgan Freeman is being honored for his body of work by the Screen Actors Guild.

On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA announced that the 80-year-old is set to receive its 54th Life Achievement Award at the SAG Awards on Jan. 21.

Freeman, who was last seen in April's "Going in Style," has already earned recognition from nearly every other prominent organization in Hollywood. He won an Oscar in 2005 for his supporting turn in "Million Dollar Baby"; SAG also honored him for his performance in that film. He's also been the recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s Cecil B. DeMille Award, an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. 

"Some actors spend their entire careers waiting for the perfect role. Morgan showed us that true perfection is what a performer brings to the part," SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement.

“He is innovative, fearless and completely unbound by expectations. As a chauffeur, convicted murderer, boxing gym attendant, pimp or president, Morgan fully realized every character, baring their souls and showcasing their humanity. It has been a privilege to see his genius at work.”

Last year, actress Lily Tomlin took home SAG's Life Achievement Award. Other recent honorees include Carol Burnett, Debbie Reynolds, Rita Moreno and Dick Van Dyke.


Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen get shady during the eclipse

Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen took time out from shooting the 2018 movie "Book Club" on Monday to take in the eclipse, goofy glasses and all. 

While Bergen was rocking Instagram, however, Fonda actually posted less-than-perfect pics on Twitter that busted on the former "Murphy Brown" star. 

"Watching eclipse on set of BOOK CLUB," the "Grace and Frankie" star wrote. "Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and I are rapt. Candice Bergen could care less#SolarEclipse2017."

Don't laugh, people. We all looked like this Monday. We simply didn't look as stylish doing it.


Chrissy Teigen is done boozing it up — and now she's being hated on for talking about it

 (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

"I don't know how to go to an awards show and not drink."

So said Chrissy Teigen about her recent decision to cut back on alcohol consumption, especially while she's taking medication for postpartum depression and has the IVF process looming again as she and John Legend try to have another child. 

Given her celebrity lifestyle, the Sports Illustrated model told Cosmopolitan, she had simply gotten used to having alcohol available everywhere she went — something that's not good for a person who "can't have just one" and who has a family history of problem drinking. 

She would have a glass of wine while getting her hair and makeup done before awards shows, where Legend has been quite in demand in recent years. Then she'd have another before the show, and a bunch when she got there. 

The results? No bueno.

Though it helped her build her quirky, free-speaking reputation, Teigen said she didn't like "making an ass" of herself in front of people she respected.

"I knew in my heart it wasn't right," she said, even though she'd be fine the next day. "It makes you very short with people. People think it's cutesy and fun to go on these boozy brunches, but there's more to it. I've never once been like, 'I'm sure glad I had that boozy brunch!' "

After a wellness retreat in Bali, she said she's feeling great, sans alcohol. 

But after the article was published Monday, she tweeted screen grabs of comments from people calling her "ignorant," "unpolished and crass" and "overly melodramatic again, about her depression." Also, her and her husband's decision to implant a female embryo during the IVF process was tagged "the creepiest part of the story." 

Said Teigen: "I dunno how you can be this mean."


Morrissey announces new album, Hollywood Bowl date

Morrissey performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Morrissey performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Morrissey — recent novelist, biopic subject and perpetual Coachella reunion rumor — will be back on album shelves with a new record this fall.

Moz has announced "Low in High School," a new LP slated for a Nov. 17 release on his own new Etienne Records. The album was recorded with Joe Chiccarelli in France and Rome. It's his first LP since 2014's "World Peace Is None of Your Business."

"On his 11th studio album, Morrissey's talent for combining political statements and beautiful melodies is more prevalent than ever as he captures the zeitgeist of an ever-changing world," a news release for the album stated Tuesday.

It's not the only Moz-related release coming this fall. The Smiths, the beloved band he fronted in the 1980s, have a deluxe reissue of their landmark 1986 album, "The Queen Is Dead," due Oct. 20.

Morrissey has long made Los Angeles his spiritual home base (locals recently created a stage series based around him), and he has booked a homecoming date headlining the Hollywood Bowl on Nov. 10, with more tour dates expected soon. On-sale dates were not immediately released.

The singer is likely looking for a fresh start after canceling a number of U.S. dates last year over what he claimed was mismanagement following medical issues in the band. His last album launch was rocky as well, with the label pulling it from shelves in response to Moz's complaints about the label.


Nude photos of Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn and others remain up after legal threats

Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn in April 2015. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn in April 2015. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Tiger Woods has threatened to sue a celebrity smut site and the as-yet-unidentified person who stole and leaked nude photos of ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and a full-frontal image of the pro golfer.

Looks as if that threat is not yet getting the job done. 

As of 9:30 a.m. PDT Tuesday, photos and a video of Vonn, the photo of Woods and dozens of shots of additional victims — Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Katharine McPhee and Stella Maxwell — remained live on a website that was cited by TMZ in its Monday report of the breach and the legal threat. 

Olympic medalist Vonn's phone was the one that was compromised, not Tiger's, said TMZ, which also reported McPhee had sent a similar legal threat to the website, which features hardcore sex ads supporting its naked celebrity images. 

“It is an outrageous and despicable invasion of privacy for anyone to steal and illegally publish private intimate photos," a representative for Vonn told the Big Lead. "Lindsey will take all necessary and appropriate legal action to protect and enforce her rights and interests."

The most notorious celebrity-photo compromise so far has been referred to as "Celebgate," where Jennifer Lawrence was among the victims, along with Kaley Cuoco, Amber Heard and others. While incidents like this are commonly called "hacking," Celebgate and others have turned out to be phishing operations, where victims are tricked into giving up usernames, passwords and other personal information via fraudulent emails. 

In that case, Google itself was threatened with a $100-million lawsuit if it didn't purge the pics from its search results. 

A Pennsylvania man was convicted and sentenced in 2016 to 18 months in prison for stealing the pictures that prompted the FBI's Celebgate investigation. 

The photos of Vonn and Woods were reportedly taken several years ago, when the two were a couple. They dated for nearly three years before she announced their breakup in May 2015.

For the record, 9:34 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said the photos had been taken down. They remain live on the website in question. 


George and Amal Clooney's justice foundation gives $1-million grant to combat hate groups

 (Guillaume Horcajuelo / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Guillaume Horcajuelo / European Pressphoto Agency)

Those glamorous do-gooders are at it again.

In the wake of the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., George and Amal Clooney's Clooney Foundation for Justice has given a $1-million grant to help topple domestic hate groups.

The actor/producer and his wife, an international human rights attorney, have partnered with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center to "increase the capacity of the SPLC to combat hate groups in the United States," according to a statement from the center.

"We are proud to support the Southern Poverty Law Center in its efforts to prevent violent extremism in the United States," the couple said in a statement. "What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate."

The couple, who wed in 2014 and welcomed twins this summer, established the Clooney Foundation for Justice in 2016 to advance justice in courtrooms, classrooms and communities around the world. They also serve as its presidents.

What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate.

George and Amal Clooney

The SPLC is a nonprofit, civil rights organization that monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists. It has won court judgments against 10 major white supremacist organizations and 50 individuals who led them or participated in violent acts, according to the center. It is currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups operating in the U.S. 

"Like George and Amal Clooney, we were shocked by the size, ugliness and ferocity of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "It was a reflection of just how much Trump’s incendiary campaign and presidency has energized the radical right. We are deeply grateful to the Clooney Foundation for standing with us at this critical moment in our country’s fight against hate."

In July, the Clooney Foundation for Justice partnered with UNICEF to open seven public schools for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Amal Clooney also launched a scholarship program in 2015 aimed at helping girls in her native Lebanon.


A Star Is Born: Kristen Wiig turns 44 today

 (Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)
(Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)

All my characters are someone you don't want to talk to at a party. ... It's always that person who's being too loud, doesn't have any social boundaries or says the wrong thing.

Kristen Wiig, 2011

KCON was a blast of joy in ever-darkening times

Astro elevates the crowd at KCON on Sunday. (KCON / MNET)
Astro elevates the crowd at KCON on Sunday. (KCON / MNET)

Hours before America was riveted by the eclipse on Monday morning, another star passed into L.A.’s orbit on Sunday night. Or, rather, a whole bunch of them did.

The South Korean pop-culture festival KCON is the year’s most authoritative gathering of K-Pop luminaries, and the pure shimmering optimism of the festival has made the concert more welcome than ever.

The weekend-long event drew a constellation of otherwise rarely seen acts to Staples Center. Sunday night’s set had a mix of bass-rattling hip-hop from NCT 127, high gloss boy-band dance moves from Astro and GOT7, and, in a culture defined by youthful devotion, a cameo from one of K-Pop's most veteran acclaimed singers, Kim Tae Woo. 

Obviously, the mood is less than optimistic at the moment on the Korean peninsula. But if anything, K-Pop is the most reliable source for unfettered glee in pop music. It’s a world where existential threats almost never intrude. For one night at Staples Center, the K-Pop faithful could block out any bad vibes and revel in devotion.  

K-Pop, once somewhat of an underground phenomenon in America, has now settled into an established, multicultural fan base in Los Angeles and across the country. KCON is its church, as the scene’s top acts only occasionally embark on their own headlining tours here. When they do, the crowds come in force.


Saturday’s set was a bit more of a showcase for K-Pop’s ascendant all-female groups -- Cosmic Girls and Girl’s Day, among them, alongside fixtures such as VIXX and members of Super Junior. On the fest-closing Sunday night, however, the boy bands took over and the mood was riotous.

The young singer-rapper Heize had an insouciant stage presence, and her old-school soul singing and '90s-era rap vibes connected the hyper-digital K-Pop world to a more analog era, as did the mixed-gender group Kard's soulful, sassy modern pop.

Wanna One’s upbeat, EDM-inflected tracks meshed with Astro’s cheeky, irresistibly fun productions. One of the best aspects of K-Pop is the fan-first attitude of the groups, and they made time for fun stunts such as mocking up T-shirts onstage and shooting them into the crowd. 

NCT 127 was a bit more severe and commanding; their squiggly, bass-heavy hip-hop added gravity to a generally fizzy night, and it was a welcome dose of hard knocks. Kim Tae Woo, of the classic boy band g.o.d., was the night’s semi-surprise guest, and the KCON crowd was admirably eager for a backtrack into an older, less digitally saturated era of K-Pop.

Got7 rounded out the night with a vibrant, genre-skipping culmination of the night’s ear-splitting devotionals from the Staples crowd, offering a few hours when everything seemed right.


Matt Shakman, veteran of stage, movies and TV, named artistic director of Geffen Playhouse

Matt Shakman is the new artistic director at Geffen Playhouse. (Geffen Playhouse)
Matt Shakman is the new artistic director at Geffen Playhouse. (Geffen Playhouse)

The Geffen Playhouse has a new artistic director: Matt Shakman, a veteran director with credits on the stage, in movies and on TV. 

Audiences might not know they're already familiar with his work. He directed the fourth and fifth episodes of the current "Game of Thrones" season, “The Spoils of War” and “Eastwatch."

Shakman will work alongside Geffen Executive Director Gil Cates Jr., the Los Angeles theater announced Monday, starting Sept. 20 and getting down to business on its 2018-19 season.

In a statement Monday, Shakman called it "a dream come true to join such a vibrant cultural institution" and praised the Geffen for building a community that includes both artists and audiences.

"His passion for extraordinary storytelling, his strong relationships with artists in theater, film and television, and his commitment to fostering community will be immensely valuable as we continue to advance the mission of the theater," Cates Jr. said in the Geffen statement. 

The theater said in February that Randall Armey, its longtime artistic director, would step down when his contract was up in August. 

Shakman, who founded the Black Dahlia Theatre in 2001 and has been its artistic director, has directed plays for the Geffen in the past, including "Good People" in 2012, "Wait Until Dark" in 2013 and "Bad Jews" in 2015. His film "Cut Bank" premiered in 2015

He'll continue to direct for film and TV while working at the Geffen.


What's up with that cryptic video Taylor Swift just posted on social media?

 (Nelson Barnard / Getty Images)
(Nelson Barnard / Getty Images)

Taylor Swift's social media cleanse didn't last long.

The "Blank Space" singer, who scrubbed all her accounts on Friday, returned Monday with a cryptic post on Twitter and Instagram featuring what appears to be an animated, metallic cat tail. (Others believe it to be a snake, but given the singer's feline fixation, we're going with cat.)

Swift left it at that, to the delight and deliberation of fans who believed it to be a tease to new music. The post comes just a week after Swift's victory in her groping case against former radio host David Mueller.

Swift hasn't released an album since 2014's "1989," which earned her three Grammy Awards. Her last single, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever." from the "50 Shades Darker" soundtrack, dropped in January.

For the record, 1:28 p.m.: A previous version of this story said "1989" was released in 2015. It was released in 2014.


Gustavo Dudamel's tour with Venezuelan youth symphony canceled by President Maduro

Gustavo Dudamel among students at a 2012 showcase performance of El Sistema students in Caracas, Venezuela. (Mark Swed / Los Angeles Times)
Gustavo Dudamel among students at a 2012 showcase performance of El Sistema students in Caracas, Venezuela. (Mark Swed / Los Angeles Times)

The president of Venezuela has canceled the four-city American tour of that country's National Youth Orchestra, which was to be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

"My dream to play with these wonderful young musicians cannot come true - this time. ... We will continue to play and to fight for a better Venezuela and a better world," the L.A. Philharmonic director, who hails from Venezuela, tweeted Monday. 

The tour was to have included a Sept. 21 date at the Hollywood Bowl. 

"The performance of the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, scheduled for September 17 at the Hollywood Bowl, has been cancelled. The original program of Café Tacvba, La Santa Cecilia and Mon Laferte is still confirmed," reps for the Hollywood Bowl said in a statement Monday. 

On Friday, President Nicolas Maduro went on TV to criticize Dudamel for spending time in Spain and the U.S. while the crisis in Venezuela deepens.

“I hope God forgives you,” Maduro reportedly said Friday. 

“Welcome to politics, Gustavo Dudamel. But act with ethics, and don’t let yourself be deceived into attacking the architects of this beautiful movement of young boys and girls,” Maduro said, referring to Dudamel’s association with El Sistema, a prominent Venezuelan musical education program.

The Youth Orchestra of L.A. is patterned after El Sistema. The National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela is a product of El Sistema. Dudamel has been creative director of Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra since 1999. 

Over the weekend, as the Venezuelan congress on Saturday rejected what it called a government takeover, a source told The Times that Dudamel had been involved in talks that resulted in the release of violinist Wuilly Arteaga last week. 

Arteaga has gained notoriety and a social media following for playing violin during violent street protests against the Venezuelan government.

Dudamel in May wrote a strongly worded Facebook post criticizing his home country's government. In July, he wrote similarly critical editorials that ran in the U.S. and in Spain.

"I urgently call on the President of the Republic and the national government to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Times cannot be defined by the blood of our people. We owe our youth a hopeful world, a country where we can walk freely in dissent, in respect, in tolerance, in dialogue and in which dreams have room to build the Venezuela we all yearn for," Dudamel wrote.

"It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough."

Update, 11:35 a.m.: This story was updated with a statement from the Hollywood Bowl.


John Oliver urges conservatives to condemn Trump's Charlottesville response: 'Say his name'


Although some observers think Stephen K. Bannon's Friday ouster from the White House could be a turning point, John Oliver doesn't see it that way.  

"The truly depressing thing about Steve Bannon’s departure is how unsatisfying it is," he said Sunday on "Last Week Tonight." "One panderer to white nationalists has left the White House, but the one he was working for is still very much there." 

In case there was any doubt, he was referring to President Trump, who on Tuesday once again suggested an equivalence between the white nationalist protesters who gathered in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend and the counter-protesters who opposed them. One of the counter-protesters, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed.

Oliver focused on the Republican politicians and conservative pundits, many of whom he claimed were eager to distance themselves from such overt displays of racism yet unwilling to condemn Trump by name. 

"You can mention him; he’s not Voldemort," Oliver said.

"The problem with not mentioning him is that it suggests that he is somehow not a key part of the problem here,” he said.

According to "Last Week Tonight," only 54 of nearly 300 congressional Republicans specifically denounced Trump — or roughly 20%. 

Commentators, such as Fox News host Melissa Francis, also got defensive about their refusal to disavow the president. 

"If you’re getting emotionally overwhelmed and feeling judged for defending Trump in his Nazi-sympathizer phase, stop... doing it," Oliver said. "It’s that simple."

Inspired by the lyrics of Destiny's Child, Oliver urged Republicans to "say his name, say his name, go right onto Fox News, say, 'Donald, I condemn you, if you ain’t running game.'"

Watch the full segment here.


How about a statue of Missy Elliott instead of a Confederate monument?

 (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Rapper Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott has some devout fans in her hometown working to take down white supremacy.

In the wake of the Charlottesville violence following the call to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a change.org petition is calling for the removal of a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Va., in hopes of replacing it with a "new statue of a true Portsmouth native hero."

That hero would be the Grammy-winning artist who burst onto the rap scene two decades ago with her genre-bending music.

Currently, the Civil War monument at the intersection of Court and High streets memorializes figures representing the armed services mounted around a granite obelisk.

"Getting this statue put up will be a lot of work and you may ask yourself is it worth it? I say yes and ask you to join me in letting us work it. Together we can put white supremacy down, flip it and reverse it," Nathan Coflin's petition said, riffing on Elliott's "Work It" lyrics.

The 46-year-old MC (née Melissa Arnette Elliott) was born in the port city known for its naval shipyard.

"She rose to become a platinum recording artist with over 30 million albums sold. All this without even once owning a slave," Coflin said.

She rose to become a platinum recording artist with over 30-million albums sold. All this without even once owning a slave

Petition to replace Portsmouth, Va.'s Confederate monument with statue of rapper Missy Elliott

As of Monday morning, the petition has been signed by upward of 22,000 supporters. Coflin will submit the petition to Portmouth Mayor John L. Rowe, Vice Mayor Paige Cherry and four City council members once it reaches 25,000 supporters.

"Missy is all of us," Coflin wrote. "Missy is everything the Confederacy was not."


On day of solar eclipse, Bonnie Tyler is back in the spotlight with 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'

Bonnie Tyler, who'll sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on a cruise ship during the total eclipse of the sun in a few hours, revealed a sort of secret about the iconic 1983 song Monday morning. 

"To be honest, I do get a bit mixed up in the last verse," the 66-year-old Welsh singer told the "Today" gang from that cruise ship.

"Unlike the eclipse, which is going to last two minutes, 40 seconds, this song was originally almost eight minutes, and Jim Steinman, who wrote the song, had to chop it about to get the single version," Tyler confided.

"So I do two versions — I do the single version, and then when I'm doing live shows. I've got to remember the last verse." 

She'll perform the full version Monday a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida. Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas set sail from Orlando on Sunday. 

Tyler noted enthusiastically on "Today" and CNN that she'll perform with DNCE, a band made up of Joe Jonas, Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle and JinJoo Lee.

The unofficial song of the 2017 eclipse is also a No. 1 karaoke song, she noted. 

"'Total Eclipse of the Heart' is an evergreen song all year through, not just on eclipse. It's a powerful ballad and everybody loves to sing it," she told CNN's John Berman, who asked her for her favorite line. 

"I need you more than ever / And if you only hold me tight / We'll be holding on forever," she sang, working it out dramatically, albeit in a not-quite-awake morning voice.

And yes, she did, with a laugh, note the morning voice herself.

Given the light subject matter on an overhyped morning, Tyler faced some silly questions — "How do you think a total eclipse of the heart differs from a total eclipse of the sun?" "Can you stare into a total eclipse of the heart without glasses?" 

But the best one came from Matt Lauer. 

"Since there hasn't been a total eclipse since 1979, were you thinking ahead?" he asked. "Years ago, did you say, well, wait a minute, 2017, the phone is going to ring off the hook?"

"What do you think? No," Tyler said with a laugh. "But it is, strangely enough."


A Star Is Born: Serj Tankian turns 50 today

 (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

I have hope. I'm a very hopeful, optimistic person. I smile every day, and I don't go around going, 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling.' If I do, I'll probably be thinking, 'The sky is falling. I hope I can see it -- that'll be such a trip.'

Serj Tankian, 2007

Comedians and entertainers show an outpouring of love to the late Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory, the longtime civil rights activist, writer, social critic and comedian, speaks to a crowd attending the MLK Leadership Luncheon at the 16th annual Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival. (Scott Keeler /Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Dick Gregory, the longtime civil rights activist, writer, social critic and comedian, speaks to a crowd attending the MLK Leadership Luncheon at the 16th annual Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival. (Scott Keeler /Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Comedians, activists and entertainers took to Twitter en masse to pay their respects to the late Dick Gregory, not only for his comedic chops but also for his social activism (and seamless blending of the two).

"He was like Moses," tweeted comedian John Fugelsang. "He called the founding fathers 'thugs' before segueing to a Viagra bit. Never lost the edge. God bless Dick Gregory."

Patton Oswalt called him a "planet of a person whose gravitational effect on comedy can't be measured." 

The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson took to social media to laud Gregory's activism. "He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live," Jackson said.

Comedians such as Margaret Cho and George Wallace mentioned the loss of comedy legend Jerry Lewis this morning.

"Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis were two of the funniest, most legendary and prolific entertainers of our generation and I bow to their genius," Cho wrote on Twitter.

"Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis in a 12 hour span?" tweeted Wallace. "That happens in threes. I'm rollin' up in bubble wrap and layin' on the floor & whatnot."


'That fool was no dummy': Comedians and stars react to Jerry Lewis' death

 (European Pressphoto Agency)
(European Pressphoto Agency)

Some of comedy's most well-known personalities, in addition to stars as varied as Russell Simmons and Paula Abdul, took to Twitter today to pay respects to late comedy legend Jerry Lewis.

Robert De Niro issued a statement saying: "Jerry was a pioneer in comedy and film.... Even at 91, he didn't miss a beat ... or a punchline. You'll be missed."

"I am because he was," tweeted Jim Carrey. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" star Rose Marie Mazetta said he "was an angel to me."

And Whoopi Goldberg noted that the recent losses of Lewis and fellow comedy legend Dick Gregory were "a gain 4 heaven, but big loss for comedy."



'Predator' actor Sonny Landham dies at 76

Sonny Landham as Billy Sole in "Predator" (1987). (20th Century Fox)
Sonny Landham as Billy Sole in "Predator" (1987). (20th Century Fox)

Actor Sonny Landham, best known for his roles in the 1980s action movies "Predator," "48 Hrs." and "Lock Up," died Thursday from congestive heart failure in Lexington, Ky. He was 76.

Landham's sister Dawn Boehler confirmed his passing to the Associated Press.

Born in Canton, Ga., the 6-foot-4 actor and stuntman got his start in Hollywood in X-rated films before landing a small role in Walter Hill's 1979 street gang cult classic "The Warriors." 

Hill cast him again two years later in "Southern Comfort," then gave him a meatier role in his 1982 action comedy "48 Hrs." Landham, who was part-Cherokee and part-Seminole, played Billy Bear, one of two outlaws on the run from a San Francisco detective and his reluctant convict accomplice, played respectively by Nick Nolte and "accomplice" Eddie Murphy. 

Landham subsequently appeared in action films such as "Firewalker," "Action Jackson," and "Best of the Best 2," and menaced Sylvester Stallone in the prison drama "Lock Up."

Perhaps his best-known role was as the tracker Billy Sole in "Predator," opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Frustrated by the lack of roles for Native American performers in Hollywood, Landham criticized the industry's lack of inclusion at the height of his acting career. 

"I'm an actor who happens to be an Indian," he told United Press International in 1987. "Not an Indian trying to be an actor."

He would later follow Schwarzenegger into politics, waging unsuccessful campaigns as a Republican for governor of Kentucky and U.S. Senate. In 2008, Landham's anti-Arab comments lost him the Libertarian Party's backing for U.S. Senate.

"Sonny Landham was such a joy to work with on 'Predator,'" Schwarzenegger tweeted Friday. "So talented, so fun to be around. We'll miss him. My thoughts are with his family."


'Hamilton' choreographer on finding the show's pulse: 'You can't dance to the beat, you have to look like the beat'

Music supervisor Alex Lacamoire, left, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and director Thomas Kail from "Hamilton" with The Times' Mary McNamara. (Los Angeles Times)
Music supervisor Alex Lacamoire, left, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and director Thomas Kail from "Hamilton" with The Times' Mary McNamara. (Los Angeles Times)

In most cases musical theater is 95% non-music. The music comes in, says "Hamilton" choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, only when words are no longer strong enough to capture the emotion. But in "Hamilton" the beat never ends, which means the actors have a challenging job.

"I'm always talking to the cast saying you can't dance to the beat, you have to look like the beat," Blankenbuehler said Monday night in a conversation about the creation of "Hamilton."

"And in that way, it takes the common lessons that we go through every day -- life, death, falling in love -- by putting that beat underneath it, it rises everything up," he added. "So nothing is on the ground, everything is immediately heightened." 

Randy Newman reflected on his legacy and new album at an intimate L.A. gig

Randy Newman, photographed at his home in Pacific Palisades, held court for a small audience of music industry guests Thursday in West Los Angeles (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Randy Newman, photographed at his home in Pacific Palisades, held court for a small audience of music industry guests Thursday in West Los Angeles (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

What did Randy Newman glean from rerecording his songs for a recent series of “Randy Newman Songbook” albums, in which he delivered his material solo with just his own accompaniment?

“One thing that struck me was the consistency,” Newman, 73, told an intimate invitation-only gathering Thursday night at the Village recording studio in West Los Angeles.

Many pop musicians, he noted as an ardent student of pop music history, deliver their best work in their 20s and 30s, and often struggle through the rest of their lives to match those youthful creative peaks.

“At least I haven’t gotten appreciably worse,” the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning film composer and songwriter said drolly, eliciting laughter from a couple dozen onlookers. “I think my stuff sounds like it’s from the same person. The things I was writing 50 years ago sound like the same person who’s writing today.”

Newman won his second Academy Award in 2011 for best original song. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Newman won his second Academy Award in 2011 for best original song. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Newman offered a few samples from his widely lauded “Dark Matter” album, which was released Aug. 4, which The Times' Mikael Wood described as “a masterful collection so rich with sonic detail that you almost hope he never gets around to making ‘The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 4.’ ”

Newman opened with the album’s grandly ambitious first track, “The Great Debate,” which runs more than eight minutes, and which Newman said his label, Nonesuch, was reluctant to sequence as the new collection’s opening salvo.

“Where else are you going to put it?” he asked. “It’s like trying to hide an elephant.” 

Besides, he said, “What have I got to lose? It’s not like I’m the Eagles.” 

He also served up a good chunk of the much-discussed song “Putin,” which he again marveled at by saying, “Of course, he’s a terrible person, but it’s really not that critical of him.”

More laughs erupted when he reached the line referencing a widely publicized photo of Russia’s president going shirtless. “When he takes his shirt off/ He drives the ladies crazy/ When he takes his shirt off/ Makes me wanna be a lady.”

He also dipped back to reprise his 2008 song “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” a politically barbed number written with the George W. Bush administration in mind, which he said, “I never expected to be playing again. I thought that was the worst things would ever get.”

Taking a request from the Q&A sessions’s MC — KCRW host and music supervisor Gary Calamar — Newman concluded with “Louisiana 1927,” his song about flooding across that state in the early 20th century. It has become something of an anthem in Louisiana and has been recorded by artists including Aaron Neville, Marcia Ball, Jo-El Sonnier, Bill Wyman and John Boutte.

Newman is launching a late summer-fall tour on Aug. 24, in Jackson, Wyo., and will crisscross the U.S. through November. It will resume with a European leg starting Feb. 16 in Berlin, with additional stops in Scotland, England and Ireland. No L.A. dates have been set.

Here’s “The Great Debate,” which opens Newman’s new album.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World