Saturday, August 09, 2008

Actor and comedian Bernie Mac dies at age 50

Actor and comedian Bernie Mac dies at age 50

By F.N. D'ALESSIO, Associated Press Writer
51 minutes ago

Bernie Mac, the actor and comedian who teamed up in the casino heist caper "Ocean's Eleven" and gained a prestigious Peabody Award for his sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show," died Saturday at age 50.

"Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital," his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles.

She said no other details were available and asked that his family's privacy be respected.

The comedian suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.

Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.

Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine, Mac joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language. The performance earned him a rebuke from Obama's campaign.

But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.

"Wherever I am, I have to play," he said in 2002. "I have to put on a good show."

Mac worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago's South Side. He began doing standup as a child, and his film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy "Mo' Money" in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama "Get on the Bus."

He was one of "The Original Kings of Comedy" in the 2000 documentary of that title that brought a new generation of black standup comedy stars to a wider audience.

"The majority of his core fan base will remember that when they paid their money to see Bernie Mac ... he gave them their money's worth," Steve Harvey, one of his costars in "Original Kings," told CNN on Saturday.

Mac went on to star in the hugely popular "Ocean's Eleven" franchise with Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

His turn with Ashton Kutcher in 2005's "Guess Who" topped the box office. It was a comedy remake of the classic Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn drama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" — with Mac as the black dad who's shocked that his daughter is marrying a white man.

Mac also had starring roles in "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Transformers."

In the late 1990s, he had a recurring role in "Moesha," the UPN network comedy starring pop star Brandy.

The comedian drew critical and popular acclaim with his Fox television series "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired more than 100 episodes from 2001 to 2006.

The series about a man's adventures raising his sister's three children, won a Peabody Award in 2002. At the time, judges wrote they chose the sitcom for transcending "race and class while lifting viewers with laughter, compassion — and cool."

The show garnered Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Mac.

"But television handcuffs you, man," he said in a 2001 Associated Press interview. "Now everyone telling me what I CAN'T do, what I CAN say, what I SHOULD do, and asking, `Are blacks gonna be mad at you? Are whites gonna accept you?'"

He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001 along with his "The Original Kings of Comedy" co-stars, Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer.

In 2007, Mac told David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" that he planned to retire soon.

"I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit," Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977."

Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the city's South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was the deacon of a Baptist church.

In his 2004 memoir, "Maybe You Never Cry Again," Mac wrote about having a poor childhood — eating bologna for dinner — and a strict, no-nonsense upbringing.

"I came from a place where there wasn't a lot of joy," Mac told the AP in 2001. "I decided to try to make other people laugh when there wasn't a lot of things to laugh about."

Mac's mother died of cancer when he was 16. In his book, Mac said she was a support for him and told him he would surprise everyone when he grew up.

"Woman believed in me," he wrote. "She believed in me long before I believed."


Associated Press writers Caryn Rousseau and Carla K. Johnson also contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Baseball mourns loss of Skip Caray

08/03/2008 9:46 PM ET

Baseball mourns loss of Skip Caray

Beloved Braves announcer continued legacy of excellence
By Mark Bowman /

ATLANTA -- The Braves family lost one of its most beloved members on Sunday, when Skip Caray passed away at his Atlanta-area home.
Caray, who would have celebrated his 69th birthday on Aug. 12, went to take a nap Sunday afternoon and didn't awaken. He is survived by his wife, Paula, two sons, Chip and Josh, two daughters, Shayelyn and Cindy, and seven grandchildren.

"Our baseball community has lost a legend today," said Braves president John Schuerholz. "The Braves family and Braves fans everywhere will sadly miss him. Our thoughts are with his wife Paula and his children."

The two sons will carry on the family's rich broadcasting tradition, which began with Skip's father, Harry Caray, a Hall of Fame announcer who remains one of the most popular figures in baseball history.

Josh currently calls games for the Braves' Class A affiliate in Rome, Ga., and Chip serves as both a Braves announcer and the play-by-play announcer for TBS' Major League Baseball coverage. Chip was broadcasting Sunday's game between the Angels and Yankees at Yankee Stadium when he heard the startling news about his father.

"I'm just in shock," Chip said. "I know he wasn't feeling good, but this was unexpected. He hung the moon for me. I got to talk to him [on Saturday], and the last thing I got to say to him was, 'I love you.'"

Caray, who began broadcasting Braves games in 1976, battled multiple ailments over the past year that he linked to diabetes. When he wasn't available to broadcast this past weekend's series against the Brewers, it was revealed that he was suffering from bronchitis.

Although he was visibly weaker, Caray still brought his smile and humor to the ballpark on a consistent basis this season. Since the final month of last season, he had been limited to broadcasting only home games.

Caray was hospitalized during the latter portion of last season and faced even greater complications once the season concluded. In October 2007, doctors were concerned enough about Caray's health that they asked for all of his family members to come to the hospital to possibly pay their last respects. His liver was failing and the doctors in the intensive care unit felt they had done all that they could do.

Caray battled back and spent most of this past winter continuing to fight ailments that were affecting his liver, kidneys and heart. He said some of his prescribed medications worked in a counteractive manner and made it difficult for him to sleep.

When Caray returned to broadcast games at the beginning of this season, he talked about his near-death experience and said that he was happy to at least have an opportunity to return to the baseball world that had provided so much to himself and his family.

"I'm 68," Caray said on April 2. "If I go tonight, I've had a hell of a life."

While his presence may be gone, Caray's voice will continue forever live with the history of the Braves. His most memorable call arguably came when he exclaimed, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after Braves center fielder Marquis Grissom caught the final out of the 1995 World Series.

The son of a Hall of Fame broadcaster, Skip devoted much of his life to the broadcasting world. He began his broadcasting career at KMOX Radio in St. Louis as host of a 15-minute high school sports show and later had an opportunity to broadcast University of Missouri football games with his father.

While he was most recognizable as a baseball announcer, Caray's versatile broadcasting skills allowed him to serve as an announcer for NBA games, NFL games, and other ventures like the Goodwill Games. He was named Georgia Sportscaster of the Year six times.

Caray's baseball broadcasting career began in 1963 with the Tulsa Oilers. He joined the NBA's St. Louis Hawks' broadcasting team in 1967 and relocated with them to Atlanta the following year.

Caray's arrival in Atlanta allowed him the opportunity to develop a friendship and working relationship with Ted Turner, whose innovative media initiatives allowed Caray and his close friend, Pete Van Wieren, to broadcast Braves games to a national audience on a superstation that would become TBS.

Caray and Van Wieren began broadcasting Braves games together in 1976 and were still serving as broadcast partners during radio broadcasts this season. Both of them were inducted in the Braves Hall of Fame in 2004.

Last year, when TBS ended its 30-year affiliation with the Braves, Caray was saddened to know he was saying goodbye to a number of people that had been so good to him. He was always extremely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy he received after his father died in 1998.

"In essence, you're saying goodbye to people who you've been part of their life for a long time," Caray said last August. "My access to them will now be denied."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.