Los Angeles, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — Actor Peter Fonda, the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counter-culture classic "Easy Rider," has died. His family said in a statement that Fonda died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.
The official cause of death was lung cancer.
"I am very sad," Jane Fonda said in a statement. "He was my sweet-hearted baby brother. The talker of the family. I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days. He went out laughing."
Born into Hollywood royalty as Henry Fonda's only son, Peter Fonda carved his own path with his non-conformist tendencies and earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the psychedelic road trip movie "Easy Rider." He would never win that golden statuette, but he would later be nominated for his leading performance as a Vietnam veteran and widowed beekeeper in "Ulee's Gold."
Fonda was born in New York in 1940 to parents whose personas were the very opposite of the rebellious images their kids would cultivate. Father Henry Fonda was already a Hollywood giant, known for playing straight-shooting cowboys and soldiers. Mother Frances Ford Seymour was a Canadian-born U.S. socialite.
He was only 10 years old when his mother died. She had a nervous breakdown after learning of her husband's affair and was confined to a hospital. In 1950, she killed herself. It would be about five years before Peter Fonda learned the truth behind her death.
Fonda accidentally shot himself and nearly died on his 11th birthday. It was a story he told often, including during an acid trip with members of The Beatles and The Byrds during which Fonda reportedly said, "I know what it's like to be dead."
John Lennon would use the line in The Beatles song "She Said She Said."
Fonda went to private schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut as a child, moving on to the University of Nebraska in his father's home state, joining the same acting group — the Omaha Community Playhouse — where Henry Fonda got his start.
He then returned to New York and joined the Cecilwood Theatre, getting small roles on Broadway and guest parts on television shows including "Naked City" and "Wagon Train."
Fonda had an estranged relationship with his father throughout most of his life, but he said that they grew closer over the years before Henry Fonda died in 1982.
"Peter is all deep sweetness, kind and sensitive to his core. He would never intentionally harm anything or anyone. In fact, he once argued with me that vegetables had souls (it was the '60s)," his sister Jane Fonda said in her 2005 memoir. "He has a strange, complex mind that grasps and hangs on to details ranging from the minutiae of his childhood to cosmic matters, with a staggering amount in between. Dad couldn't appreciate and nurture Peter's sensitivity, couldn't see him as he was. Instead he tried to shame Peter into his own image of stoic independence."
Although Peter never achieved the status of his father or even his older sister, the impact of "Easy Rider," which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, was enough to cement his place in popular culture.
Fonda collaborated with another struggling young actor, Dennis Hopper, on the script about two weed-smoking, drug-slinging bikers on a trip through the Southwest as they make their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
On the way, Fonda and Hopper befriend a drunken young lawyer — Jack Nicholson in a breakout role — but raise the dander of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.
Fonda's character Wyatt wore a stars-and-stripes helmet and rode a motorcycle called "Captain America," re-purposing traditional images for the counter-culture.
Actress Illeana Douglas tweeted her condolences Friday with the hashtag "RIPCaptainAmerica."
"'Easy Rider' depicted the rise of hippie culture, condemned the establishment, and celebrated freedom," Douglas wrote. "Peter Fonda embodied those values and instilled them in a generation."
Fonda had played bikers before "Easy Rider." In the 1966 Roger Corman-directed "Wild Angels," in which he plays Heavenly Blues, leader of a band of Hells Angels, Fonda delivers a speech that could've served as both a personal mantra and a manifesto for the youth of the '60s.
"We wanna be free!" Fonda tells a preacher in the film. "We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man! And we wanna get loaded!"
Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time.
The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best screenplay Oscar nomination for Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave its official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
In 1969, he told The Associated Press that, "As for my generation, it was time they started doing their own speaking. There has been too much of the 'silent majority' — at both ends of the generation gap."
He did reflect later in a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter that it may have impacted his career prospects: "It certainly put a nail in the coffin of 'the next Dean Jones at Disney.' "
Fonda's output may have been prolific, but he was not always well-regarded, which he was acutely aware of. But he said that "Ulee's Gold," which came out in 1997, was the "most fun" he'd ever had making a movie. He wore the same wire-rimmed glasses his father wore in "On Golden Pond," although he said beyond that he was not channeling Henry Fonda in the performance. He lost out on the Oscar to Nicholson, who won for "As Good as It Gets."
Nicholson said in his acceptance speech that it as an honor to be nominated alongside "my old bike pal Fonda."
He remained prolific for the rest of his life with notable performances as the heel in Steven Soderbergh's "The Limey," from 1999, and in James Mangold's 2007 update of "3:10 to Yuma." He'd even play himself in an episode of the spoof documentary series "Documentary Now!" about life as "an Oscar Bridesmaid."
Fonda is survived by his third wife, Margaret DeVogelaere, his daughter, actress Bridget Fonda and son, Justin, both from his first marriage to Susan Brewer.
"In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts," the family said in a statement. "As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy."
New York, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Few performances are as daunting as the one-person play.
That's why Jake Gyllenhaal had to find a way to conquer that fear when he took on the role of Abe in the second half of "Sea Wall/A Life."
"Before I did it, I was terrified," Gyllenhaal said of "A Life," after the play's Broadway opening. Tom Sturridge stars in "Sea Wall," the other half of the pair of one-act monologues.
Gyllenhaal admits that nervousness extended to the rehearsal room. But then he found confidence in an unlikely place. The story of Alex Honnold's 3,000-foot (914-meter) climb of the El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park.
"I was sort of quaking in my boots thinking about it. Then I saw 'Free Solo,' that documentary about the free climber Alex Honnold that won the Academy Award. Amazing, amazing documentary, and I thought to myself, if he can do that without any rope I can do a monologue. And then that was it," Gyllenhaal said.
From then on, it was smooth sailing.
It was a little different for Sturridge. "I feel like weirdly — like before I walk on stage I feel fear. But I feel safest on the stage," Sturridge said.
Both actors say the lack of an onstage partner to play off of can add to the stress; there isn't a safety net if you blow a line. But Sturridge uses the audience.
"Normally when you're on stage you're pretending to be in a room and pretending like you're in Russia in the 1920s and you're pretending the audience don't exist. But with this, I'm having a conversation with real people who are different every night. And if I blow a line, then we just change the conversation," Sturridge said.
"Sea Wall/A Life," a pair of plays written by Nick Payne and Simon Stephens, respectively are tragic comedies that deal with love and loss.
Gyllenhaal says the emotional value shifts with each audience.
"It's very emotional through all of it. But it changes every night. It's different. Sometimes I'm telling the story, I'm just telling it. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes I hear someone in the audience have an emotional response. He was laughing or crying, and it makes me feel something," he said.
"Sea Wall/A Life" plays on Broadway at the Hudson Theater until Sept. 29.
Detroit, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Regardless of her reputation as a performer, Aretha Franklin's cancer doctors say she was no diva as a patient.
As the anniversary of her death approaches, two of her doctors tell The Associated Press that the Queen of Soul handled the diagnosis and treatment with grace — and the grit to keep performing for years with a rare type of cancer.
"As a person, she was extremely kind, she was respectful, she was funny — she treated people like me and my team members as her friends," said Dr. Manisha Shah of Ohio State University. "There is no phone call that would end without her asking about us. Most of the time she would ask about us first. ... It's because who she was: She was really down-to-earth."
Franklin, who died in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2018, at 76, had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, which starts in the pancreas but is far different and much slower developing than the more common, aggressive type of pancreatic cancer known as adenocarcinoma. Franklin's kind is exceedingly rare: Neuroendocrine cancers comprise about 7% of cancers originating in the pancreas, according to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation .
Shah said she first saw Franklin after her 2010 diagnosis, surgery and treatment at Detroit's Karmanos Cancer Center.
"I think she had her priorities very clear in her mind. ... She would ask me how long this treatment would go for, what would be her restrictions," Shah said. "As far as I can see, she was able to live that dream, or her plan."
Of course, her illness meant some cancellations, which was to include performing on her 76th birthday in March of last year in Newark and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April. But she gamely carried on as her illness progressed: Performances of note included closing a gala in November 2017 for Elton John's 25th anniversary of his AIDS foundation, and bringing President Barack Obama and many others to tears in 2015 with a triumphant performance of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at a Kennedy Center tribute for the song's co-writer, Carole King.
"How can the same person who is going through this cancer journey continue to do what she did all her life? It's amazing how she went through it so gracefully," Shah said. "She wasn't afraid."
Both Shah and Dr. Philip Agop Philip, a professor at Karmanos and Wayne State University, recalled how she wanted to continue her life as normally — and positively — as possible.
"She was full speed — she wasn't even complaining," said Philip, who first saw Franklin in early 2011 and was her doctor of record at the time of her death. "That was different than what I expected. ... She never showed signs that she was close to thinking that she may give up ... until the end, close to the end."
In the public eye, she even embraced the "diva" tag, once saying, "What do YOU think?" when an AP reporter asked Franklin if she thought she was the ultimate diva while discussing a VH1 Divas concert honoring her music. Still, Philip also saw a patient who didn't demand star treatment, saying she never made him or his staff "feel that we need to treat her as a celebrity." Of course, given her fame, some accommodations were made: She came and went through a side door and there were more frequent changes in appointments because of her performing schedule. While there, however, she was keen on doing whatever needed to be done, he said.
"She knew her body, she knew herself," he said. "A lot of patients will ask for treatment that doesn't really make much difference to her body. She didn't do that."
Shah says Franklin's cancer — the same kind Apple co-founder and longtime leader Steve Jobs had — has many treatment options, and her doctors employed both targeted drug therapy and chemotherapy.
Shah said she talked with Franklin about traveling to Europe for a treatment before it was approved last year in the United States. It was then the doctor learned of her patient's famous fear of flying, which anti-anxiety tapes and classes couldn't help.
"She said, 'Oh no, I can't go — I don't fly,'" Shah recalled. "We had several other options for her."
Both Shah and Philip recall Franklin's positivity in the face of cancer, and the positive effect that had on them as well as their colleagues.
"Aretha as a person who was fighting cancer, she was very curious, she was very calm. She was hopeful, she was an optimist. This was kind of her attitude. She didn't let cancer cripple her. She did not have that feeling that cancer was the main center of her life," Shah said. "She lived her life as simply and beautifully and as full as possible every day. For us, it was such an inspiring journey of several years with her."
In tribute to Franklin, Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation CEO Elyse Gellerman has created the Aretha Franklin Fund for Neuroendocrine Cancer Research, with the blessing of the family. It was announced this week.
"We wanted to create this fund so that those who wanted to honor Aretha's memory have a way to support the research," Gellerman said.
Milan, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — While two U.S. opera houses immediately canceled performances by famed tenor Placido Domingo following sexual harassment allegations, European opera houses are taking stances ranging from supportive to wait-and-see.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera immediately announced they would cancel upcoming performances featuring the star and the Los Angeles Opera opened an investigation following an Associated Press story in which numerous women accused the opera legend of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior spanning decades.
In Europe, there were no immediate cancellations of the 78-year-old Domingo's performances and even some words of support for the star. Opera world officials noted that no charges had been brought against Domingo and no formal judicial investigations were underway that might provide legal underpinning to cancel any contractual obligations.
The stark differences in the levels of urgency in the responses underline the differences in the footing of the #MeToo movement on both sides of the Atlantic.
Opera houses in the United States might consider the possibility of damaging protests outside their venues if they maintained the scheduled performances. But, in Europe Domingo's status as one of the most popular and influential figures in the opera world could trigger a backlash against venues if performances were canceled without due process, said one opera official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of lack of authorization to discuss personnel matters.
"Some attitudes, seen in hindsight, risk being misunderstood," cultural journalist Leonetta Bentivoglio wrote Wednesday in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "That he was a Don Juan was something everyone knew, and in the promiscuous theater world he is not alone. We must add that his charm has always attracted a crowd of women, and often it was he who had to defend himself."
Bentivoglio recalled an incident at a Paris hotel during Domingo's "Three Tenors" heyday with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, when he asked journalists to pretend to accompany him in the elevator "to escape to his room without being followed by some beautiful young women," who were in pursuit.
"These are difficult stories to tell in the slippery era of #MeToo," she wrote.
Nineteen of the singer's 24 engagements through November 2020 are on European stages, according to his website. Upcoming performances in Salzburg, Milan, London, Zurich, Cologne, Hamburg and Geneva were still on but some venues said they would monitor the investigation in Los Angeles, where Domingo has been general director since 2003 and previously was artistic director. Other venues postponed comment, citing the summer holiday.
Domingo received support from the Salzburg Festival in Austria, his next scheduled performance on Aug. 31, as well as from some singers who have shared the stage with him.
Salzburg Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler, who said she has known Domingo for 25 years and has long appreciated both his "artistic competence" and "appreciative treatment of all festival employees," said "it would be factually wrong and morally irresponsible to make irreversible judgments at this point."
The Hamburg opera house in Germany also said Domingo's Nov. 27 appearance there was still on, citing the lack of any legal action against the tenor.
"As a public institution we neither tolerate nor trivialize sexual assaults, but we are also bound by the principles of the rule of law in our actions. Valid contracts with the concert promoter exist for the appearance of Plácido Domingo," the opera house said in a statement. "Subject to further developments, the concert will therefore take place as planned."
Domingo did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about specific incidents, but issued a statement calling the allegations "deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate."
"I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone," the statement said. "However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are —and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50-year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards."
Domingo has a reputation for making the rounds of offices when he arrives at theaters to greet employees and workers at every level — a characteristic that has helped make him beloved in a world full of demanding divas and divos. He also founded the Operalia world opera contest, an event attracting 1,000 applicants each year that has helped launch careers for the last 26 years.
Three Spanish sopranos have come to his defense, saying that they have never experienced the sort of behavior described in the AP story, which included accusations that he put his hand down one woman's skirt and forced wet kisses on three others. All of the allegations were related to incidents in the United States, spanning two decades beginning in the late 1980s.
Spain's Europa Press news agency on Wednesday quoted Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez as saying she "never felt the least indication of what they accuse the maestro of," adding that Domingo had always shown her and theater workers "the maximum of respect, with the humbleness and generosity that characterizes him."
Fellow Spanish soprano Pilar Jurado said that Domingo had always behaved "as a perfect gentleman" with her and Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta expressed shock at the allegations, saying she considered Domingo and his wife to be family.
"I have no idea if he might have flirted and scored. That sort of thing went on before and still does now, but I know he is not a harasser, I'd put my hand in the fire on it," Arteta told the Spanish daily El Pais.
New York, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — Lizzo's breakthrough hit "Truth Hurts" is a two-year-old song, but it still has a chance at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Typically older songs that become hits long after their initial release — from Pharrell's "Happy" to John Legend's "All of Me" — can compete at the Grammys when a live version of the song, released during the current Grammys eligibility period, is submitted.
But "Truth Hurts," which was released as a stand-alone single in 2017, qualifies for the 2020 Grammys because the song was never submitted for contention in the Grammys process and it appears on an album released during the eligibility period for the upcoming show. Songs and albums released from Oct. 1, 2018 through Aug. 31, 2019 qualify for next year's awards, and "Truth Hurts" appears on the deluxe edition of her album "Cuz I Love You," released this year.
So far, the platinum-selling "Truth Hurts" has peaked at No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has reached at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs and Hot rap songs charts, respectively.
Normally if an artist submitted an older song — that appeared on an older album — it would not be allowed into the Grammys' process. But "Truth Hurts" has the go-ahead and its fate will be decided when the Recording Academy and a group of music industry players meet in September at an annual gathering to choose what makes it on the ballot, what genres certain songs belong to, who really qualifies for best new artist and more.
A representative for the Grammys didn't reply to an email seeking comment.
It's part of a streak of good luck for Lizzo, who has dominated the music scene this year, appeared on dozens of magazine covers and earned praise for promoting body positivity and denouncing fat shaming. Though 2019 has served as her breakthrough, she released her debut album, "Lizzobangers," in 2013. Her team has had that album and its follow-up, 2015's "Big Grrrl Small World," removed from streaming services because Lizzo wanted her musical journey to begin with 2016's "Coconut Oil," her debut EP on Atlantic Records.
In the past, acts have won Grammys with live versions of their songs because their songs have become hits long after its release. Pharrell's Oscar-nominated anthem "Happy," which appeared on the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack and was released in mid-2013, eventually topped the charts in 2014. At the 2015 Grammys, a live version of the song competed for in the best pop solo performance category, and won the honor.
That same year John Legend's "All of Me," which also hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart long after its release, competed in the same category with a live version of the tune. "All of Me" appeared on Legend's 2013 album, "Love In the Future."
At the 2012 Grammys, Adele won album of the year with "21" as well as record and song of the year with "Rolling In the Deep." The following year she submitted a live version of "Set Fire to the Rain" — the third No. 1 single from "21" — and won best pop solo performance.
Beyoncé nabbed best female pop vocal performance at the 2010 Grammys with "Halo"; the following year a live version of the pop ballad competed in the same category.
Train's megahit "Hey, Soul Sister" was featured on their 2009 album "Save Me, San Francisco," but the song took off in 2010. It won the band their first-ever Grammy when a live version of the song was awarded best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals at the 2011 Grammys.
Because Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" had not appeared on an album that qualified for previous Grammy eligibility, it could still compete at the 2020 show though it has been widely available for two years. Because Train, Pharrell, Legend and Adele's songs were featured on albums that qualified for previous Grammy inclusion, their songs were disqualified unless a live version was submitted.
At the 2020 Grammys, Panic! at the Disco — whose song "High Hopes" set a new record as the longest-running No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot rock songs chart this year — are likely submitting a live version of the track since the song and the album it appears on, "Pray for the Wicked," qualified for the 2019 Grammys. "High Hopes" peaked at No. 4 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart.
It wasn't clear if Drake's new compilation album of previously released songs — featuring tracks like 2013's "Girls Love Beyoncé" and 2010's "I Get Lonely" — would qualify at the Grammys. The album, titled "Care Package," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums chart this week.
Representatives for Drake and Panic! at the Disco didn't immediately reply to emails seeking comment.
Though Lizzo released the singles "Juice" and "Tempo" from her latest album, "Truth Hurts" has become her most successful song. The track got a major boost after it was featured in the Netflix film "Someone Great," released on April 19, the same day Lizzo dropped her album, "Cuz I Love You." ''Truth Hurts" wasn't originally featured on the 11-track "Cuz I Love You," but her record label released a deluxe version of the album — featuring three more songs including "Truth Hurts" — on May 3. "Truth Hurts" marked Lizzo's first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Nominees for the Grammy Awards will be announced on Nov. 20 and the show will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2020 on CBS.