Thursday, January 11, 2007

'Munsters' star Yvonne De Carlo dies

'Munsters' star Yvonne De Carlo dies

By BOB THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 17 minutes ago

Yvonne De Carlo, the beautiful star who played Moses' wife in "The Ten Commandments" but achieved her greatest popularity on TV's "The Munsters," has died. She was 84.

De Carlo died of natural causes Monday at the Motion Picture & Television facility in suburban Los Angeles, longtime friend and television producer Kevin Burns said Wednesday.

De Carlo, whose shapely figure helped launch her career in B-movie desert adventures and Westerns, rose to more important roles in the 1950s. Later, she had a key role in a landmark Broadway musical, Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."

But for TV viewers, she will always be known as Lily Munster in the 1964-1966 slapstick horror-movie spoof "The Munsters." The series (the name allegedly derived from "fun-monsters") offered a gallery of Universal Pictures grotesques, including Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, in a cobwebbed gothic setting.

Lily, vampire-like in a black gown, presided over the faux scary household and was a rock for her gentle but often bumbling husband, Herman, played by 6-foot-5-inch character actor Fred Gwynne (decked out as the Frankenstein monster).

While it lasted only two years, the series had a long life in syndication and resulted in two feature movies, "Munster Go Home!" (1966) and "The Munsters' Revenge." (1981, for TV).

At the series' end, De Carlo commented: "It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn't have had otherwise. It made me `hot' again, which I wasn't for a while."

"I think she will best remembered as the definitive Lily Munster. She was the vampire mom to millions of baby boomers. In that sense, she's iconic," Burns said Wednesday.

"But it would be a shame if that's the only way she is remembered. She was also one of the biggest beauty queens of the `40s and `50s, one of the most beautiful women in the world. This was one of the great glamour queens of Hollywood, one of the last ones."

George Barris, who created the ghoulish "Munsters" car, equipped De Carlo's Jaguar with spider web hubcaps, a gargoyle hood ornament and a glossy black sunroof.

"She was a wonderful lady and a car buff. She loved the show so much that she incorporated it into her life, her own car," Barris said Wednesday.

De Carlo sustained a long career by repeatedly reinventing herself. When movie roles became scarce, she ventured into stage musicals. Her greatest stage triumph came on Broadway in 1971 with "Follies," which won the 1972 Tony award for best original musical score.

Over the years, De Carlo augmented her stardom by shrewd use of publicity. Gossip columnists reported her dates with famous men. In her 1987 book, "Yvonne: An Autobiography," she listed 22 of her lovers, who included Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, Robert Taylor, Billy Wilder, Aly Khan and an Iranian prince.

The Canadian-born De Carlo began her career with a parade of bit parts in films of the early 1940s, then emerged as a star in 1945 with "Salome — Where She Danced," a routine movie about a dancer from Vienna who becomes a spy in the wild West.

Universal Pictures exploited her slightly exotic looks and a shape that looked ideal in a harem dress in such "sex-and-sand" programmers as "Song of Scheherazade," "Slave Girl," "Casbah" and "Desert Hawk."

The studio also employed her to add zest to Westerns, usually as a dance-hall girl or a gun-toting sharpshooter. Among the titles: "Frontier Gal," "Black Bart," "River Lady," "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" and "The Gal Who Took the West."

In 1956 she veered from her former image when Cecil B. DeMille chose her to play Sephora, wife to Charlton Heston's Moses in "The Ten Commandments." The following year she costarred with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in "Band of Angels" as Gable's upper-class sweetheart who learns of her black forebears.

De Carlo was born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sept. 1, 1922 (some sources say 1924). Abandoned by her father, she was raised by her mother in poor circumstances. The girl took dancing lessons and dropped out of high school to work in night clubs and local theaters. She continued dancing in clubs when she and her mother moved to Los Angeles.

Paramount Pictures signed her to a contract in 1942, and she adopted her middle name and her mother's middle name. Dropped by Paramount after 20 minor roles, she landed at Universal.

In 1955, De Carlo married Bob Morgan, a topflight stunt man, and the marriage produced two sons, Bruce and Michael. During a stunt aboard a moving log train for "How the West Was Won," Morgan was thrown underneath the wheels. The accident cost him a leg, and for a time De Carlo abandoned her career to care for him. They later divorced.

In her late years, De Carlo lived in semiretirement near Solvang, north of Santa Barbara. Her son Michael died in 1997, and she suffered a stroke the following year.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Avenger to be Dodge's choice for COT chassis

Avenger to be Dodge's choice for COT chassis

Manufacturer will stick with Charger model in non-COT races
By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM

January 9, 2007
11:52 AM EST (16:52 GMT)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dodge's Car of Tomorrow is officially the Avenger.

With Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch and Juan Montoya in tow, DaimlerChrysler officials unveiled the new 2008 Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan Tuesday morning at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Adding another layer of complexity to a season already filled with new manufacturers, new teams, new cars and new drivers, Dodge will join Chevrolet in using different models for different chassis.

So Kasey Kahne's Charger will be racing against Tony Stewart's Monte Carlo at Daytona, but it'll be an Avenger versus an Impala at Bristol in March, when the Car of Tomorrow makes its debut.

"With Nextel Cup racing two distinct cars for 2007, it makes perfect sense to have the Avenger join the Charger in the Dodge racing family," said Mike Accavitti, director of Dodge Motorsports.

The announcement should also lay to rest rumors that DaimlerChrysler may be pulling out of NASCAR.

Senior manager of motorsports Mike Delahanty reaffirmed that position during a Dodge dinner in Daytona Beach on Monday night, saying the manufacturer wouldn't be going to all this trouble if it didn't see a future in the sport.

"We're not going anywhere," he said.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Elvis-Nixon Meeting Has Fans Shook Up

Elvis-Nixon Meeting Has Fans Shook Up

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer
4 hours ago

YORBA LINDA, Calif. - The meeting between two of the most improbable cultural icons of the 1970s lasted all of 30 minutes, but it has fascinated the nation for years.

A photo of a cloaked and bejeweled Elvis Presley solemnly shaking hands with a grim-faced President Nixon remains the No. 1 requested document from the National Archives, nearly four decades after the secret meeting took place on Dec. 21, 1970.

Now, on what would be the King's 72nd birthday, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Birthplace is giving the curious public a good, long look at the relics of the coming together of The King and The President _ and it's got Elvis fans all shook up.

The free exhibit Monday includes the outfit Elvis wore (a black velvet overcoat, a gold-plated belt and black leather boots); Nixon's outfit (a gray woolen suit, tie and size 11 1/2 black shoes); letters; and a World War II .45-caliber Colt revolver that Elvis gave to Nixon.

"The two of them together somehow is almost incomprehensible," said Bud Krogh, Nixon's former deputy counsel who set up the impromptu meeting that day 36 years ago. "The king of rock and the president of the United States shaking hands in the Oval Office doesn't compute for a lot of people."

The chain of events that led to the meeting began when a stretch limousine carrying Elvis pulled up outside the White House. One of his guards handed over a letter from Elvis addressed to Nixon requesting a meeting to discuss how the rock star could help Nixon fight drugs _ including getting credentials as a "federal agent at large."

"I will be here as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent," Elvis wrote. "I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good."

The Secret Service agents alerted Krogh. A self-confessed Elvis fan, Krogh met with Elvis, decided he was sincere and scrambled to get him into a noon meeting with Nixon.

About 2 1/2 hours later, Elvis walked into the Oval Office wearing his flamboyant outfit, as well as sunglasses and two huge medallions. But when Elvis entered the Oval Office, Krogh recalls, he froze.

"I think he was just awed by where he found himself. I ended up having to help him walk across over to the president's desk," he said.

Elvis and Nixon talked for about 30 minutes, during which Elvis showed Nixon pictures of his daughter and a pair of cufflinks given to him by Spiro Agnew. He also showed Nixon police badges from around the country and asked again for a badge from the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Nixon agreed to give him the badge _ but only after learning that the chief of the narcotics bureau had turned down the same request earlier that day and told him the only person who could overrule his decision was the president.

"Oh man, we were set up! But it was fun," said Krogh. "He said all the right words about trying to do the right thing and I took him at his word, but I think he clearly wanted to get a badge and he knew the only way he was going to get it."

At Elvis' request, the meeting remained secret for more than a year _ until The Washington Post broke the story on Jan. 27, 1972.

Since then, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace has more than made up for Elvis' ruse: T-shirts, cups, notepads and watches bearing the famous black-and-white photo remain the top-selling items at the museum's gift shop.

"We've known for years that that photograph is an icon image," said Sandy Quinn, the museum's assistant director. "It is The President and The King."


On the Net:

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Hamilton secured NCTS title in second full season

Hamilton secured NCTS title in second full season

Owner/driver finished 2004 with series high in victories, top-fives

By Jarrod Breeze, NASCAR.COM
January 7, 2007
11:41 PM EST (04:41 GMT)

In 2004, Bobby Hamilton won four times in the Craftsman Truck Series. It equaled his career total in the series, which didn't begin full time until the previous year.

CraftsmanTruck Series
2004 Driver Standings
Pos. Driver Make Behind

1. B. Hamilton Dodge --
2. D. Setzer Chevy -46
3. T. Musgrave Dodge -70
4. C. Edwards Ford -131
5. M. Crafton Chevy -245

Stats (25 starts)
Pos. Driver W T5 T10

1. B. Hamilton 4 12 16
2. D. Setzer 2 8 16
3. T. Musgrave 2 11 16
4. C. Edwards 3 9 17
5. M. Crafton 0 6 17

The year's second race produced one of its most dramatic finishes as Hamilton and Mike Skinner raced side-by-side on the final lap at Atlanta. The two trucks bumped, sending Skinner sideways as Hamilton crossed the finish line first.

"We sorta ran outta room on that last lap but I wasn't going to let up," Hamilton said after the race. "I was saying to myself, 'Just hold the bottom, baby.'"

Hamilton stumbled the following week at Martinsville. A season-worst 31st-place finish dropped him from third to ninth in points.

From there, however, he would complete all but 15 of the next 3,743 laps. A run of five consecutive top-10s, including wins at Memphis and Kentucky -- the latter a dominating performance in which Hamilton led 133 of 153 laps, catapulted him to second in points after 11 races.

Hamilton took the points lead following a third-place run at Indianapolis two weeks later, and strengthened it by winning at Nashville the next time out. He held the top spot for 11 of the season's final 12 weeks.

But Setzer, who led the points for the majority of the first half of the season, retook the lead when Hamilton again found trouble at Martinsville. He finished 26th, 18 laps down, and Setzer grabbed a one-point lead.

Hamilton finished seventh the next week in Phoenix to regain the top spot by seven on Setzer, who finished ninth. Hamilton went into the next-to-the-last race of the season at Darlington bound and determined.

Hamilton finished second, and increased his points lead to 70. But it came at the expense of his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr.

On the final restart with two laps left, the younger Hamilton missed a shift and was bumped to the wall by his father. He then caromed into the waiting path of David Reutimann, who slammed hard into the left-front of the truck, near the driver's side door.

"I wish it would have been me," a visibly shaken elder Hamilton said after the race. "It's tough ... he's my son.

"He told me he missed a shift. I heard it, but you're right up each other's tail here. It happens a lot here, seems like. He was probably going to win his first Truck race."

Hamilton went into the season finale at Homestead needing only to finish 12th to secure the championship. And he raced that way.

"We heard a lot of strange noises in the truck," Hamilton said after finishing 16th. "I just decided not to listen to that anymore and stay focused on winning the championship. Man, that was tough.

"I chickened out, fell to the rear and did what we had to do."

Hamilton won the title by 46 points in his self-owned No. 4 Dodge, the manufacturer's first championship in the series.

"I guess it's what every driver is after, deep down," said Hamilton, who at 47 became the oldest NCTS driver to win a title. "Winning is what it's all about, whether it's races or championships."

Inside the Numbers
Bobby Hamilton in 2004
Site Start Finish Points

Daytona 10 11 10
Atlanta 12 1 3
Martinsville 5 31 9
Mansfield 6 4 4
Charlotte 5 10 4
Dover 7 19 5
Texas 12 7 5
Memphis 3 1 3
Milwaukee 3 6 3
Kansas 3 2 3
Kentucky 3 1 2
Gateway 2 17 2
Michigan 2 5 2
IRP 2 3 1
Nashville 15 1 1
Bristol 13 12 1
Richmond 24 26 1
Loudon 23 15 1
Las Vegas 8 5 1
Fontana 33 5 1
Texas 32 3 1
Martinsville 1 26 2
Phoenix 8 7 1
Darlington 5 2 1
Homestead 9 16 1

Hamilton, 49, dies after battle with neck cancer

Hamilton, 49, dies after battle with neck cancer

By Ryan Smithson, NASCAR.COM
January 8, 2007
12:01 AM EST (05:01 GMT)

Bobby Hamilton, the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion and a four-time winner in the Cup Series, died Sunday. He was 49.

Hamilton, a native of Nashville, Tenn., had been battling cancer for nearly a year. He announced in March 2006 that he was undergoing treatment for neck cancer. He immediately turned over his driving duties in the Craftsman Truck Series to his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr.

"He will be greatly missed as a husband, a father, a grandfather, an owner and a friend," Hamilton's family said in a statement. "We want to thank everyone for their love and support of our racing operation and the outpouring of care and concern during his cancer battle. One of Bobby's greatest loves in life was racing and we will continue on in his honor."

Liz Allison, a family friend who co-hosted a radio show with Hamilton, said he was at home with his family in Mount Juliet, Tenn., when he died.

In addition to Bobby Jr., Hamilton is survived by wife Lori and a granddaughter.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for communications, saw first-hand the unlikely procession of Hamilton's career from Nashville short track champion to multiple winner in NASCAR's top series.

"He meant an awful lot. He was old school and one of those guys that did it his way," Hunter said. "He was very popular in the garage area and in the industry because he worked real hard. He didn't believe anyone was owed anything."

Hunter said the news hit the sanctioning body especially hard.

"It came as a real shock. We knew [the cancer] was serious, and we knew he was fighting it, but you just never know these things," Hunter said. "He will be missed. He was a tough, tough guy."

Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan recalled a day last fall when Hamilton took him aside and asked him to drive for his team.

"It floored me," said Gaughan, who eventually decided to turn down the offer. "He asked me to drive for his team, and it was quite an honor. That day will always sit in my head.

"He was a great driver and a great owner. My heart goes out to the BHR organization."

Hamilton was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in February after a malignant growth was found when swelling from dental surgery did not go down.

He raced in the season's first three events, with a best finish of 14th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, before turning over the wheel to his son.

"I love what I do; I love this business," Hamilton said when he disclosed that he had cancer. "NASCAR has been good to me, and I just don't feel comfortable when I am not around it."

Hamilton quit driving in the Cup Series after the 2002 season to focus on his thriving Craftsman Truck Series team. He went on to win the Truck Series title in '04.

"It is a terrible loss to us," said Larry McClure, Hamilton's team owner from 1998-2000. "I will miss him. I always thought of him as my friend."

McClure said he had talked to Hamilton just a few weeks ago.

"I asked him how he was dong and he said, 'Pretty good,' " McClure said. "Just amazing how it can turn like that."

Jeff Purvis, a fellow Tennessean and a close friend of Hamilton's, was shocked at the news of Hamilton's death. A longtime Busch Series regular whose career was curtailed by a 2002 crash, Purvis visited with Ken Schrader on Friday and they had discussed Hamilton's progress.

"We went to lunch and talked about Bobby," Purvis said. "[Schrader] had just left Bobby's shop and came from there to my house.

"[Hamilton] was kind of what racing was supposed to be about. He was a racer's racer. You could talk to him about chassis. He understood racing and the racecars, the event. He really understood racing itself."

Nextel Cup driver Sterling Marlin, a fellow Tennessee native, said a lot of people didn't know Hamilton well even though he was generous enough to give someone the shirt off his back.

"He always had a good vision," Marlin said in Daytona where testing begins Monday. "He always wanted to do things his own way, so he became his own boss, got into the trucks, and it worked out well for him."

Though he made his Cup debut in 1989 -- a one-race deal at Phoenix on Nov. 5 -- Hamilton probably is best known for the unusual way he broke into NASCAR's top series. He served as a stunt driver for the 1990 movie Days of Thunder, performing so well that he was soon hired to run the Cup Series full-time. He went on become rookie of the year in 1991.

His big break, however, came in 1995 when Hamilton was hired to drive the No. 43 of Petty Enterprises. He resurrected the ailing team with 10 top-10 finishes in 1995, and in '96, he won at Phoenix, which helped him finish a career-best ninth in points.

After winning at Rockingham in 1997, Hamilton moved to Morgan-McClure Motorsports for the 1998-2000 seasons. His only win during that time came in '98 at Martinsville.

"He was a good driver and a good businessman," McClure said. "We spent three years with him and it was great. He got us our last win. It was probably the last time the team was competitive, and he kept getting better and better."

Hamilton wrapped up his Cup career with a two-year stint driving for Andy Petree. Hamilton won at Talladega in 2001 -- a thrilling race that went green the entire way -- for Petree's first victory as a car owner, and Petree celebrated by diving across the hood as Hamilton drove into Victory Lane.

"He definitely raced hard," Gaughan said of Hamilton. "I remember that race when he won at Talladega when everyone was falling out of the seat [from the oppressive heat]. That was a testament to how tough he was."

Allison, the widow of former NASCAR star Davey Allison, said, "The thing I loved about Bobby Sr. so much is that he treated everybody the same. It didn't matter if you were one of the drivers he competed against or a fan he'd never laid eyes on before.

"He didn't have a pretentious bone in his body. I think that's why people were drawn to him. He was just very real and had a way of relating to everyone."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.