News Roundup, Jan. 20: Actor Richard Crenna Dies

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Actor Richard Crenna, better known as Sylvester Stallone’s former commander in the Rambo movies, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Crenna, 76, died of heart failure resulting as a complication of pancreatic cancer. The actor first gained attention as a squeaky-voiced juvenile on radio serials, including A Date with Judy and Burns and Allen, and as the dimwitted lovesick teen Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks. He grew up to star in such TV series as The Real McCoys and Slattery’s People. Crenna moved into feature film in the early ’80s, starting with the steamy film noir remake Body Heat and later in The Flamingo Kid and First Blood. Crenna had beaten cancer once already, but was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about five years ago and was struck by fatal pancreatic cancer late in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Penni, daughters Seana and Maria, son Richard and three granddaughters.


Robert Downey Jr., who was at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend to promote the dark comedy The Singing Detective, told reporters that his bouts with cocaine addiction and subsequent jail time have not only made him older and wiser, but a better actor. “My frequent appearances on Court TV have brought me to another level than just always ‘the acting guy’… I think I’ve become very, I don’t want to say real, but I’m very tangible to people…because of my fallibility.”

Actor Steven Seagal may testify in a racketeering trial targeting the mob and is expected to eventually take the stand in the prosecution of Peter Gotti, brother of the late mob boss John Gotti, and other alleged members of the Gambino crime family, The Associated Press reports. The star’s troubles began when he had a falling-out with his former business partner, Julius Nasso, whom authorities allege was a Gambino associate who turned to the crime family to help him settle the score.


The Directors Guild of America will honor Gangs of New York‘s Golden Globe-winning director Martin Scorsese with a lifetime achievement award during its 55th annual awards ceremony March 1, the AP reports. Scorsese‘s directing career spans more than four decades and his work includes Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino, Mean Streets and Goodfellas. Scorsese, 60, is being honored for nurturing young filmmakers and his fight to preserve the legacy of motion picture.

Filmmaker Spike Lee, who was a keynote speaker Saturday at two events in Lauderhill, Fla., told teens at the Boys & Girls Club that he didn’t laugh at jokes aimed at civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in last year’s comedy Barbershop. “To me, some things aren’t funny,” Lee said. “If our young children grow up thinking this, and that’s all they know about (Parks and King), then we’re in trouble.”


The NBC news magazine Dateline will dedicate a special edition next month to pop oddity Michael Jackson‘s face and how it has dramatically changed over the years along with the highs and lows of his career. Jackson‘s Los Angeles publicist told Reuters she is outraged at the concept. “I think it’s horrible that NBC is planning on doing a special on Michael Jackson‘s face,” she said. “The network should focus on more important issues in the world.”

NBC president Jeff Zucker said the network’s hit comedy Friends, now in its ninth season, will positively, absolutely end its run after its upcoming 10th season. “Yes, that will be the final season. Even I acknowledge that–the 10th and final year of the best comedy on television,” Zucker said at NBC’s winter showcase for television critics. “The door is not open after that.” NBC struck a deal last month with Warner Bros. Television to bring the show back in the fall of 2003 for 18 more episodes for a reported license fee of $10 million per episode.

Fox has officially picked up the drama pilot Skin, which uncovers the adult film industry. According to Reuters, Skin, is described as a “modern-day Romeo and Juliet” set in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the world of Boogie Nights. It centers on the daughter of a porn industry mogul who falls in love with the son of a district attorney, whose quest is to take the porn king down. The project comes from Jerry Bruckheimer and Jim Leonard, whose TV credits include Thieves and Night Visions.


A record collector in London says he has found a previously unknown recording–a jam session between Beatle John Lennon and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger–which he plans to auction off next month, Reuters reports. Auction house Cooper Owen said the old blues song, Too Many Cooks, features Jagger on vocals with Lennon singing backup. It was recorded during Lennon‘s so-called “lost weekend,” an 18-month period he spent in 1974-75 estranged from wife Yoko Ono when he made few recordings of his own and occasionally with such rocker friends as Elton John and David Bowie.