Friday, December 22, 2006

Former 21 Club owner dies at 99

Former 21 Club owner dies at 99

By PAT MILTON, Associated Press Writer
Thu Dec 21, 9:38 PM ET

NEW YORK - Jerry Berns, the affable host to New York's rich and famous during a half-century connection with the celebrated 21 Club, died Thursday, restaurant officials said. He was 99.

Berns — or Mr. Jerry, as he was known — was a familiar face at the club, warmly greeting guests, grinning, shaking hands and making certain that both friends and strangers were treated royally.

"He was a goodwill ambassador," said Bryan McGuire, general manager of the club. "Over the 50 years that he was associated with the 21, Jerry met more people than most people could meet in 10 lifetimes."

The 21 Club, in a four-story townhouse in midtown Manhattan, served as a glamorous speakeasy in the Prohibition era. Despite police raids, its owners were never caught operating an illegal bar because of an ingenious system of levers used to tip the shelves of the bar down a chute.

Berns left his job as a theater critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1938 to join his older brother, Charlie Berns, and partner Jack Kriendler, who opened the club on New Year's Eve 1929.

Jerry Berns and Kriendler's cousin Pete Kriendler became co-owners of the club in 1970 after both co-founders died. Pete Kriendler died five years ago on the same date as Berns — Dec. 21.

Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has dined at the 21. Authors John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra had favorite tables there. Humphrey Bogart proposed to Lauren Bacall there.

Berns sold the club in 1985 — for $21 million.

Rudd returning to Cup, Yates full time in 2007

Rudd returning to Cup, Yates full time in 2007

RYR announces sponsorship with Masterfoods USA on second car
December 21, 2006
04:46 PM EST (21:46 GMT)

After a one-year hiatus, The Rooster returns. Ricky Rudd has signed to drive the 2007 Cup Series season for Robert Yates Racing, an organization with which Rudd already has a solid history.

Rudd, 50, replaces 1999 series champion Dale Jarrett, who has signed to drive with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Rudd will be sponsored by several Masterfoods USA brands, primarily Snickers and also including Pedigree dog food and Combos snacks. Pedigree and Combos will hold the primary sponsorship for a combined seven events.

"It's good to be back and it's really good to be back in the Snickers Ford Fusion and to team back with Robert Yates Racing," Rudd said at a Thursday teleconference officially announcing the deal. "In today's market, you have to have a multi-car organization to be competitive and win races and with Masterfoods' support I believe we have the ability to do both of those next year.

"I'm really looking forward to the new season and can't thank the Masterfoods company enough for participating and stepping up and sponsoring both cars at Robert Yates Racing and, again, thanks to Robert Yates and all of his family for having me back."

Yates will team Rudd with David Gilliland, who replaced Elliott Sadler last season.

"I look forward to working closely with David and Todd [Parrott, crew chief of the No. 38 team] next season," Rudd said. "Having a teammate to work with is something that I haven't had the luxury of in quite some time. We've already practiced a couple times and hit it off real well.

"David has shown tremendous talent in his time behind the wheel of a Nextel Cup car and with the resources we will share at RYR, our goal is to put Robert Yates Racing back on top."

The 38 car is sponsored by M&M's, another brand of Masterfoods USA, making it the only sponsor to have two brands from the same company on one team.

"The sponsorship of a second team will strengthen Robert Yates Racing and will define it as a multi-car Nextel Cup team in the coming season," said William Clements, director of sponsorships and sports marketing for Masterfoods USA.

"When I took a break from racing at the end of 2005, I knew that I would return to competition if the right opportunity presented itself."
- Ricky Rudd

"The addition of Ricky Rudd, who provides 30-plus years of experience, will bring added leadership for the entire organization as well as assisting in the continuing development of David Gilliland. We feel that veteran Ricky Rudd and Snickers is a perfect complement to David Gilliland and the M&M's racing team."

A Yates-prepared car failed to win a race for the first time since it began racing in 1989 with Davey Allison, and the organization has been the center of speculation from everything between closing its doors to merging with other race shops.

"It's time to go, but this is Christmas and this is a wonderful deal for Masterfoods to support us in this way," Yates said. "We are excited to welcome Ricky back to the team. We all realize Ricky's talent and to have him return to the organization is a huge plus for us."

Rudd previously drove for Yates from 2000-02, accumulating three wins, 34 top-five finishes and 53 top-10s in 106 starts.

"Hopefully we can start off equally or better than we were and we're looking forward to that," Yates added. "I think we have the strength and the depth. We certainly have the desire. Ricky has that and we have the desire and we have the belief that we can go out and have a great year, so we're excited about this."

Rudd originally planned to retire after the 2002 Cup Series season, however, he signed on with the Wood Brothers and drove the No. 21 Ford from 2003-05 and ended his streak of 788 consecutive starts.

Rudd, who was named one of NASCAR's "Top 50 Drivers of All Time" in 1998, stepped away after the '05 season with 23 victories, 194 top-five finishes and 373 top-10s in 875 starts. His highest points finish was second to Dale Earnhardt in 1991.

A 31-year Cup Series veteran, Rudd made his debut on March 2, 1975, at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. He was the 1977 rookie of the year and went on to win at least one race in 16 consecutive seasons (1983-98), an honor he shares with Rusty Wallace.

"When I took a break from racing at the end of 2005, I knew that I would return to competition if the right opportunity presented itself," Rudd said. "Returning to Robert Yates Racing and partnering with Snickers was the ride to get me back into competition full time."

It is not known what the car number will be. Rudd previously drove the No. 28 for Yates, but the car was re-numbered to its current 38 when Sadler took over in 2003. The 88, driven by Jarrett since 1996, is still a possibility.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NASCAR, ESPN join search for title sponsor

NASCAR, ESPN join search for title sponsor

By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
December 18, 2006
04:54 PM EST (21:54 GMT)

NASCAR considers the title sponsorship of its No. 2 series to be "a significant opportunity for brand exposure," so it's going to the unusual step of asking broadcast partner ESPN to join in the search to replace Anheuser-Busch at the end of the 2007 season.

Anheuser-Busch officials confirmed Monday that the company will not renew sponsorship of the Busch Series when the contract expires next season, which allows NASCAR to search for a replacement title sponsor at what industry analysts believe is worth between $35-$40 million per year, which is estimated to be at least three times the current deal.

"We didn't feel like we needed to make a big announcement on it, but we felt it was important to alert NASCAR that we were not going to renew after '07 as a courtesy of our long-term relationship," said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch. "We wanted to give them time to consider and look for a new sponsor."

With that in mind, NASCAR and ESPN will be doing something unique: they will be combining efforts to replace the Busch brand over the next 12 months, according to NASCAR's director of business communications, Andrew Giangola.

"No one could come up with another example of league and broadcast partner selling a sponsorship," Giangola said. "We will be enjoined to find the right series sponsor to support our efforts and elevate the series."

With the growth of the Busch Series in recent years, coupled with the brand loyalty shown by NASCAR fans, Giangola said it makes sense that NASCAR and its broadcast partner be involved in the title sponsorship process.

"The Busch Series will have more of a presence on ESPN, so we're going to be looking for a national brand that's going to promote the series," he said. "The Busch Series is an extremely strong motorsports property. It's a significant opportunity for a company to gain $100 million in brand exposure. It's a unique situation, because the company is literally branded to the sport."

Giangola said there's no specific timeline to the process, which is in initial stages.

"Clearly, we hope to have somebody in place before 2008," he said. "We'll go out with ESPN and begin meeting companies across a range of categories."

Giangola said there is constant communication between prospective sponsors and NASCAR. In some cases, companies have inquired about future title sponsorship. In others, NASCAR has initiated talks.

For now, Giangola doesn't believe the current economic situation will have any bearing on NASCAR's ability to find a replacement for Busch.

"We don't think that's going to be much of a factor," he said. "You could make the argument that when economic times are tighter, the cream tends to rise to the top. In good times and bad, NASCAR remains a great choice.

"Our fans are very passionate about the sport. There is an extremely high level of awareness about the sport."

There's a good possibility that the new sponsor may not be one traditionally connected to auto racing, like when Sprint-Nextel replaced Winston as title sponsor of NASCAR's premier series in 2003.

The key, according to Giangola, is finding the right fit, especially when it comes to exposing new fans to the sport.

"The Holy Grail seems to about bringing in the casual sports fan, no matter what the property," he said. "When you look at ESPN, it's a gathering place for a lot of casual sports fans, that's for sure."

NASCAR's Late Model Sportsman Division was renamed the Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series in 1982, with the Busch brand taking over as title sponsor in 1984.

Barry Gibb Plans Country Record in Tenn.

Barry Gibb Plans Country Record in Tenn.

By Associated Press

Sat Dec 16, 6:04 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If former Bee Gee Barry Gibb was looking for some inspiration for the country album he plans to record here, he couldn't have picked a more hallowed piece of ground to put down stakes.

Gibb bought and is restoring the lakefront house belonging to the late Johnny and June Carter Cash.

"It's going to be nice," Gibb said Wednesday during a reception in his honor by the performance rights organization BMI. "We'd like to use it as our second home. I would like to come here and write songs. I am planning on making a country album. That is really who I am."

Gibb, known for Bee Gees disco hits including "Staying Alive," said he and his two sons have about three completed songs and several others in the works.

"I am a country artist, always have been a country artist, and this is my chance to get some self-expression out because the group is no longer the group," he said. The Bee Gees disbanded after the 2003 death of his brother, Maurice.

And if Cash's old property doesn't stir his creativity, maybe Roy Orbison's will. Orbison, who died in 1988, lived right next door.

"Do you realize how many hit songs have been written in that 4- or 5-acre area, including Roy Orbison next door? The inspiration, being surrounded by the musical atmosphere that has been there for 35 years, we just had to do it."

Sometimes, Gibb says, he can sense Cash's spirit in the house.

"You feel like someone is watching," he said. "You feel like there is a presence in the house of both Johnny and June. I still haven't seen a tall man wearing black clothes yet, but I am very much into it and hope that I do."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Bill's Comment: Honestly, I am looking forward to Barry Gibb's country album. He has written a couple well-known country hits in the past, such as "Islands In The Stream" (Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton) and "Rest Your Love on Me" (Conway Twitty). If I remember, both songs went to number one on the country charts.

Yogi Bear Creator Joe Barbera Dies at 95

Yogi Bear Creator Joe Barbera Dies at 95

By SUE MANNING, Associated Press Writer
2 hours ago

LOS ANGELES - Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones, died Monday, a Warner Bros. spokesman said. He was 95.

Barbera died of natural causes at his home with his wife Sheila at his side, Warner Bros. spokesman Gary Miereanu said.

With his longtime partner, Bill Hanna, Barbera first found success creating the highly successful Tom and Jerry cartoons. The antics of the battling cat and mouse went on to win seven Academy Awards, more than any other series with the same characters.

The partners, who teamed up while working at MGM in the 1930s, then went on to a whole new realm of success in the 1960s with a witty series of animated TV comedies, including "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "Scooby-Doo" and "Huckleberry Hound and Friends."

Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons." Barbera brought the comic gags and skilled drawing, while Hanna brought warmth and a keen sense of timing.

"This writing-directing team may hold a record for producing consistently superior cartoons using the same characters year after year _ without a break or change in routine," Maltin wrote.

Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer called Hanna and Barbera's characters "not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture."

The team's cartoons spanned "the Stone Age to the Space Age and from primetime to Saturday mornings, syndication and cable," Meyer said. "While he will be missed by his family and friends, (Barbera) will live on through his work."

Hanna, who died in 2001, once said he was never a good artist but his partner could "capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I've ever known."

The two first teamed cat and mouse in the short "Puss Gets the Boot." It earned an Academy Award nomination, and MGM let the pair keep experimenting until the full-fledged Tom and Jerry characters eventually were born.

Jerry was borrowed for the mostly live-action musical "Anchors Aweigh," dancing with Gene Kelly in a scene that became a screen classic.

After MGM folded its animation department in the mid-1950s, Hanna and Barbera were forced to go into business for themselves. With television's sharply lower budgets, their new cartoons put more stress on verbal wit rather than the detailed _ and expensive _ action featured in theatrical cartoons.

Like "The Simpsons" three decades later, "The Flintstones" found success in prime-time TV by not limiting its reach to children. The program, a parody of "The Honeymooners," was among the 20 most popular shows on television during the 1960-61 season, and Fred's shout of "yabba dabba doo!" entered the language.

The Jetsons, which debuted in 1962, were the futuristic mirror image of the Flintstones.

"It was a family comedy with everyday situations and problems that we window-dressed with gimmicks and inventions," Barbera once said. "Our stories were such a contrast to many of the animated series that are straight destruction and blasting away for a solid half-hour."

The show ran just one season on network TV but was often rerun, and the characters were revived in the 1980s in a syndicated show. Barbera said he liked the freedom syndication gave the producers, with none of the meddling from network executives.

"Today, Charlie Chaplin couldn't get his material by a network," he once said.

Even so, the influence of Hanna-Barbera was felt for decades. In 2002 and again in 2004, characters from the cartoon series "Scooby-Doo" were brought to the big screen in films that combined live actors and animation.

Hanna-Barbera, meanwhile, received eight Emmys, including the Governors Award of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1988.

"Joe Barbara was a passionate storyteller and a creative genius who, along with his late partner Bill Hanna, helped pioneer the world of animation," said friend, colleague and Warner animation President Sander Schwartz. "Joe's contributions to both the animation and television industries are without parallel _ he has been personally responsible for entertaining countless millions of viewers across the globe."

Neither Hanna, born in 1910, nor Barbera, born in 1911, set out to be cartoonists. Barbera, who grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, originally went into banking. Soon, however, he turned his doodles into magazine cartoons and then into a job as an animator.

Hanna, who had studied engineering and journalism, originally went into animation because he needed a job.

Although not the hit factory it was in the '50s and '60s, the Hanna-Barbera studio remained active through the years. It eventually became a subsidiary of Great American Communications Co., and in 1991 it was purchased by a partnership including Turner Broadcasting System, which used the studio's library when it launched cable TV's Cartoon Network in 1992. Turner is now part of Time Warner.

Funeral arrangements were pending, Miereanu said. In addition to his wife, the animator is survived by three children from a previous marriage, Jayne, Neal and Lynn.


Associated Press Writer Polly Anderson in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gingrich: GOP needs new kind of campaign

Gingrich: GOP needs new kind of campaign

By Beverley Wang, Associated Press Writer | December 15, 2006

MANCHESTER, N.H. --Even Republicans are impressed with the reception of Democratic superstar Barack Obama.

Speaking Friday night in Manchester to a ballroom full of Republicans, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "I do think every Republican ought to look at the reception Barack Obama got a week ago."

Gingrich, who like Obama, is weighing a presidential run in 2008, said, "the interest in him tells you something about Americans more than it tells you about him."

Visiting New Hampshire for the first time on Sunday, Obama, an Illinois senator, acknowledged he's become a symbol of the change Americans want in government.

Gingrich, echoing comments from state Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini before him, urged state Republicans to consider a new kind of campaign in 2007-2008.

Americans, he told about 100 people attending the Manchester Republican City Committee dinner-dance, are tired of negative attack ads. He said state Republicans should invite Democrats to their candidate forums, too.

Voters would be able to compare candidates side by side more frequently, and candidates would have a chance for more genuine dialogue, "for the purpose of discussing solutions for America," he said.

"If the Republican and Democratic parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina would agree to do a series of bipartisan events in 2007, we could create a year of solutions and dialogue," Gingrich said.

When speaking about Iraq, people should understand that "Iraq is a campaign in the real world," Gingrich said. "If this larger war didn't exist, I would say we should leave Iraq this weekend.

"When I look at Iraq, I see Iran. I see Afghanistan. I see Hamas. I see Hezbollah. What's the totality of the war we're dealing with? The answer is not to abandon Iraq."

Americans must maintain a strong presence in Iraq because "when our enemies think we are weak, it gets dangerous everywhere very fast," Gingrich said.

Gingrich is critical of the Iraq Study Group, comparing its findings -- and efforts to use them as an exit strategy from Iraq -- to World War II-era "efforts to appease Nazi Germany" according a posting this week on his Web site,

He opposes reaching out to Iran for help with Iraq. However, "if Bush's promised change of direction isolates Iraq as the only world danger and if he offers only more of the same in fighting that conflict, then Gingrich believes America might as well pull out its troops and quit," according to the same posting.

Gingrich helped Republicans sweep to power in Congress in 1994 with his "Contract with America" which called for a rolling back of federal programs and waste. Yet he proposes a social overhaul in Iraq along the lines of a hybrid New Deal/Marshall Plan to boost safety and stability, according to his Web site. Flood the region with goods and provide resources to create jobs and infrastructure, and Iraqis will be standing on their own feet, he believes.

Potential GOP rivals Rudy Giuliani, Sens. John McCain and Sam Brownback already have formed presidential exploratory committees and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who leaves office Jan. 4., is widely expected to announce his candidacy. Gingrich, meanwhile, has said he won't decide whether to run until September. But he's following the prospective candidate playbook, speaking out on Iraq, courting New Hampshire -- home of the nation's first presidential primary contest -- and making appearances on national news programs. He last visited New Hampshire on Nov. 28.


On the Net:

Newt Gingrich:

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Bill's Comment: While Obama-mania runs wild across America, do not be hoodwinked. Senator Obama is trying to do his best Bill Clinton "centrist" impression. If you look at his voting record, he is a diehard liberal. Besides, he has only been a U.S. Senator for only two years. What makes him qualified? I honestly do not think that Obama will get the nod in 2008, but we shall see.

Apprentice Star E!ngaged

Apprentice Star E!ngaged

Sat Dec 16, 9:13 PM

Forget that Trump character—original Apprentice champ Bill Rancic's found somebody he'd rather partner with: E! News' Giuliana DePandi.

Rancic proposed to DePandi Friday night during a cozy helicopter ride over his hometown of Chicago. He sealed the deal with some deep-dish pizza, champagne, chocolate cake and a generous sprinkling of rose petals.

The couple, who have been dating for nearly a year, are planning a late 2007 wedding in DePandi's native Italy, she says.

It will be the first marriage for both.

Although DePandi and Rancic first met when she interviewed him following his Apprentice hiring in April 2004, they didn't get romantic until earlier this year. During an interview for a Boys & Girls Club charity event, DePandi asked Rancic onair if he was dating anyone. He said no and, when the cameras stopped rolling, asked her out.

Rancic, 35, has worked in various capacities for the Trump Organization since his reality show win, and will again appear as one of Donald Trump's sidekicks during the upcoming season of The Apprentice, which kicks off Jan. 7.

DePandi, 31, anchors E! News opposite Ryan Seacrest.

© 2006 E! Entertainment Television, Inc. All rights reserved.,