R.I.P. Gary Coleman: February 8, 1968 – May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman died today of a brain hemorrhage at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Utah. He was 42.

The following was reported by CNN:

“We are very sad to have to report Mr. Gary Coleman has passed away,” his spokesman, John Alcantar, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “He was removed from life support; soon thereafter, he passed quickly and peacefully. By Gary’s bedside were his wife and other close family members.”

Coleman was born on February 8, 1968, and raised in Zion, Illinois, near Chicago. He was adopted as an infant by Willie Coleman, a representative for a pharmaceutical company, and Sue Coleman, a nurse. By age 5, Coleman was modeling for retailer Montgomery Ward, a job that was followed by appearances in commercials for McDonald’s and Hallmark, according to a 1979 profile in People magazine.

Coleman was cast in the role of Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes from 1978 to 1986, portraying a child adopted by a wealthy widower.

Coleman became the icon of the show, most known by his character’s catchphrase “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” At the height of his fame on Diff’rent Strokes, he earned as much as $100,000 per episode. It is estimated he was left with a quarter of the original amount after paying his parents, advisers, lawyers, and taxes. He later successfully sued his parents and his ex-advisers for misappropriation of his finances and was awarded $1.3 million. But then he had to file for bankruptcy six years later.

Coleman lives 55 miles south of Salt Lake City in Santaquin, and has lived in Utah since 2005. He went there to star in the movie Church Ball. He met Shannon Price on the movie set and married her in 2007.

Coleman has had a lot of financial and legal issues, as well as ill health. Most of his health issues stem from a kidney disease he suffered as a child, and has had at least 2 kidney transplants and has ongoing dialysis. Last fall, Coleman had heart surgery that was complicated by pneumonia.

In February, Coleman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge related to an April 2009 domestic violence incident at his home.

I will do a tribute for Gary within the next week. But in the meantime, this is how I prefer to remember him:

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Gary Coleman Hospitalized and is in Critical Condition

Gary Coleman is in critical condition near his Utah home with what his family calls a “serious medical problem.”

Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank said Coleman, 42, was admitted to the Provo facility on Wednesday but she couldn’t release any other details.

Coleman’s wife, Shannon Price, said that the family does not want to release any additional details at this time. They don’t know the full extent of his condition right now, so they do not want to give out premature or incorrect information.

Price and her father released a statement Thursday to KUTV-TV saying Coleman was taken to the hospital with “a serious medical problem.” The statement asks for prayers, adding “we hope those prayers are answered and that Gary will be able to recover and return home soon.”

Coleman lives 55 miles south of Salt Lake City in Santaquin, and has lived in Utah since 2005. He went there to star in the movie Church Ball. He met Shannon Price on the movie set and married her in 2007.

Coleman has had a lot of financial and legal issues, as well as ill health. Most of his health issues stem from a kidney disease he suffered as a child, and has had at least 2 kidney transplants and has ongoing dialysis. Last fall, Coleman had heart surgery that was complicated by pneumonia.

In February, Coleman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge related to an April 2009 domestic violence incident at his home. Due to recent health issues, several follow-up hearings have been delayed.

Get well, Gary! Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Lots of ’80s acts at the American Idol finale last night

Congratulations to Lee DeWyze for winning American Idol last night. This is the first season that I followed the show since the year that Taylor Hicks won. It was good to see that the two best singers actually made it to the finals this year. I favored Lee, but would not have been disappointed if Crystal Bowersox won.

Lee’s victory song was “Beautiful Day by U2. Here is his performance from the night before:

It was a fun night if you are an ’80s fan, as we Returned to the ’80s.

They did not perform too much by the time the ’80s arrived, but it was great to see Barry and Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, perform with contestants Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly:

And there were a couple of artists that had ’80s hits, but performed their hits from previous decades.
For example, the show started with Alice Cooper (along with the contestants) performing “School’s Out”:

Michael McDonald performed his Doobie Brothers hit “Takin’ It to the Streets” with fourth place Michael Lynche:

And Joe Cocker performed “With a Little Help From My Friends” with Lee and Crystal:

And for the ’80s fans, there were some pretty cool surprises. Janet Jackson performed the last songs leading up to the results: “Again”, “Nothing”, and “Nasty”:

Chicago performed a medley of their hits with Lee DeWyze (whose hometown is Chicago:

Hall and Oates performed “You Make My Dreams”. That is one of my favorite Hall & Oates songs, so that was pretty cool to see:

And the biggest surprise to me, was Bret Michaels!!! He looked and sounded great. Especially all that he’s been through physically lately.
Apparently, the viewers weren’t the only ones surprised. So were his doctors.

“The doctors, I didn’t tell them I was going to do this,” he told UsMagazine.com. “I never told them I was coming here. They’re going to find out in a few minutes!” As for his family, “I may not have told them, either,” he added.
Here is his performance with third place finisher Casey James:

What was your favorite of these performances?

Pac-Man fever began 30 years ago this week

Pac-Man, the most successful coin-operated video game in history, was released in Japan on May 22,1980. Pac-Man is an icon of ’80s pop culture. Not only did it boost the popularity of video games, it generated spin-off games, merchandise, a television show, and even a cereal!

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, such as Space Invaders and Asteroids.

Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games, and one of only three video games that are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., (along with Pong and Dragon’s Lair).

The original Japanese name was Puckman, which evolved from the Japanese word paku, meaning ‘chomp.’ But in America, arcade operators were worried that vandals would alter the letter P. Eventually, ‘Pac’ was suggested as an alternate name.

To play the game, you would insert your quarter, then use the joystick to move Pac-Man through a maze and eat dots, and avoid the four ghosts – Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the monsters. The monsters turn deep blue, reverse direction, and usually move more slowly. When a monster is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the monster box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue monsters flash white before they become dangerous again How many of you would become greedy and try to get all the ghosts? But then just when you try to get one of the last ghosts, they would flash white, and they would get you before you could get them.

In addition to dots and power pellets, bonus items, usually referred to as fruits (though not all items are fruit) appear near the center of the maze. These items score extra bonus points when eaten. The items change and bonus values increase throughout the game. Also, a series of intermissions play after certain levels toward the beginning of the game, showing a humorous set of interactions (the first being after level 2) between Pac-Man and Blinky.

In 1982, Pac-Man was released for Atari. For people how had Intellivision instead of Atari, you had to settle for Lock & Chase.

Pac-Man spawned numerous sequels, the most significant of which is Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. The game features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original, and even the best in the entire series.

In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man.

An animated TV series was produced by Hanna–Barbera and aired on ABC from 1982 to 1984:

The song “Pac-Man Fever,” by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop chart in early 1982:

And you know you’ve made it when “Weird Al” Yankovic does a parody song about you. Here is “Weird Al”‘s Pac-Man song, done to the music of The Beatles’ “Taxman”:

If it wasn’t for Pac-Man (the game, not those songs!), there may never have been a Mario, Lara Croft, or Call of Duty video games.

The ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner is…

The following is from the Associated Press:

Bret Michaels made it to the finish line Sunday of “The Celebrity Apprentice” despite life-threatening illness and was rewarded with victory and $250,000 for charity.

“You’ve done an amazing job in every single way,” Donald Trump said before announcing his choice on a live segment of NBC’s reality show. “A little flaky, but that’s OK. … You’ve also proven … to be very brave. I appreciate that.”

The other finalist, actress Holly Robinson Peete, has been “amazing,” Trump said, and then rendered his decision.

“Holly, I have to tell you, we all love you. And Brett, I have to tell you — you’re hired,” Trump pronounced, drawing a lusty “whoop” from Michaels.

Michaels’ appearance on the finale, which included live and taped segments, had been in question after he suffered a brain hemorrhage in April and was hospitalized again recently after suffering what doctors called a warning stroke. He faces surgery for a hole in his heart.

Trump didn’t downplay the drama involving Michaels’ health, asking the 47-year-old rock star of Poison fame if he was risking his life by coming on the finale against his doctors’ advice.

“Lately it seems like me just standing me up is risking my life,” Michaels replied, lightly, adding that it was worth the risk and he “came to win.” He walked haltingly and with a slight limp.

His presence brought a moment of honest reality to a carefully constructed TV genre.

Robinson Peete, 45, said she and Michaels had become close during the series and there would be none of last season’s animosity — a reference to finale fireworks between winner Joan Rivers and runner-up Annie Duke.

Robinson Peete teared up when she and Michaels took the stage before a studio audience in New York.

“Holly, that’s so beautiful. You’re crying,” Trump observed.

“Well, I mean, who in America isn’t?” she replied. Trump said that he’d never cried for his opponent.

“My 5-year-old son woke up this morning and said, ‘Mom, I love you, but I’m kinda pulling for Bret.’ How do you beat that?” Robinson Peete responded.

Both celebrities, who were playing to raise money for their favored causes, came out on top. Michaels, who as a child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, claimed the winner’s prize for the American Diabetes Association, and Peete learned that her charitable group would receive a matching amount.

Trump said the maker of Snapple beverages had agreed to give a matching $250,000 to HollyRod Foundation, whose mission is to support families who have a loved one with a serious medical condition. The actress has a son diagnosed as autistic.

The final challenge for “The Celebrity Apprentice” had required Michaels and Robinson Peete to each create a new flavor of Snapple and a marketing campaign for the soft drinks. Their versions are being sold for a limited period and highlight work their causes.

This season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began airing in March with 14 contestants, each competing in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for and publicize their favorite causes.

The following is from Bret Michaels’ Facebook page:

Celebrity Apprentice winner Bret Michaels will be appearing on the following TV shows this week. Be sure & tune in or set your DVR to record. Check local listings for exact time & channel in you area.

Monday 5/24
‘Today Show’
‘LIVE with Regis & Kelly’

Tuesday 5/25
‘Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno

In addition, due to Bret’s recent recovery period, the release date for his upcoming album ‘Custom Built’ has been moved to July 6th.

Samples of tracks from the album, as well as preorder information can be found by visiting:

www.BRETMICHAELS.com

Your support is greatly appreciated.

May 12, 1980: The Empire Strikes Back is released

30 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time was released as part of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. It was the darkest movie of the original trilogy, but it is usually listed as the most popular of the Star Wars films among fans. The movie started 3 years after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader was obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, and tracked him along with the Rebel Alliance on the planet ice planet Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke is attacked and captured by an ice creature called a Wampa. The you see Luke use the force to free himself. He then saw a vision of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi who told Luke to go to the Dagobah system to train to become a jedi under a Jedi Master called Yoda.

He is rescued by Han Solo, and it isn’t long before a great battle on Hoth begins. The rebels escaped from the evil empire, and Luke and R2-D2 go their separate ways from Han, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.

We are introduced to one of the most popular characters of the franchise – Yoda. He was a green puppet who was voiced by Frank Oz.
While Yoda was training Luke, Darth Vader was looking for Luke’s friends to capture them and draw out Luke.

He blackmails another new popular character in Cloud City – Lando Calrissian, Han’s best friend, played by the smooth Billy Dee Williams – and is able to capture Han, Leia and Chewie.

Luke senses that his friends are in danger and leaves his training early, so that he can rescue them. As he is leaving, Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking, and Obi-Wan said, “That boy is our last hope.” And then Yoda replied with the bombshell – “No. There is another.”

Han is frozen in carbonite, so that Darth Vader could confirm that the freezing process worked before he tried it on Luke. Han survived, and was taken to gangster Jabba the Hutt by another new Star Wars character – Boba Fett, who is a fan favorite.

Luke and Darth Vader battle it out in a light saber duel. Vader cornered Luke, chopped off Luke’s hand, and then dropped another series bombshell by telling Luke that he was Luke’s father. And that he wanted Luke to join him to destroy the Emperor, and rule the galaxy as father and son. Rather than surrender, Luke jumped down the pit that he was standing over, and was eventually rescued by Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. The movie ended with Lando and Chewie leaving to go find Han Solo.

Even though the movie was dark, with Han being captured, Luke getting his hand cut off, and C-3PO being shot into pieces (then being put back together), this is considered by many to be the best Star Wars movie.

At the time, people were wondering who Yoda was talking about when he said there was another. People were guessing that Princess Leia was Luke’s sister, but nobody knew for sure at the time. And nobody was certain if Darth Vader was really Luke’s father, or if he was just saying that to trick him.

We had to wait three long years for The Return of the Jedi, to come out. And then we finally found out that Luke and Leia were brother and sister (and forever scar you when you see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars. And we also found out that Darth Vader wasn’t lying, and was actually Luke and Leia’s father.

UPDATE: 5/24/10 – Check out The Empire Strikes Back Commentary
from the ForceCast
.

Bret Michaels back in the hospital

The following is from the USA Today: Rocker and Celebrity Apprentice finalist Bret Michaels is back in a Los Angeles hospital after having what doctors are calling a warning stroke.

According to a message posted on Michaels’ website, he “was readmitted to the hospital this week after suffering numbness on the left side of his body, predominantly his face and hands, which doctors described as a transient ischemic attack, or warning stroke.”

In addition, tests showed that Michaels, 47, has a hole in his heart, called a patent foramen ovale.

His physician, Joseph Zabramski, called the diagnosis “devastating news to Bret and his family.”

“The good news is that it is operable and treatable, and we think we may have diagnosed the problem that caused the transient ischemic attack,” Zabramski says. “However, we feel it is highly unlikely this is connected to the brain hemorrhage he suffered a few weeks earlier.”

On Michaels’ site, his rep, Janna Elias, thanked fans for their support. “Even though these last few months have been tough on him and his family, especially this most recent setback, he is in good spirits, great medical hands and is positive and hopeful that everything is going to be OK. He is up, walking, talking, continuing his daily rehab and very happy to be alive.”

Most of the Sunday Celebrity Apprentice finale was taped last fall; the reveal of the winner was to be broadcast live. NBC had said it was “cautiously optimistic” Michaels would appear, but his latest setback leaves that in question.

May 20, 1993: Cheers finale airs

Cheers, one of the highest rated sitcoms throughout the ’80s, aired its final episode this day in 1993. The show started in 1982, and lasted 11 seasons. It was almost canceled after the first season due to low ratings. But the show went on to become a top 10 hit in 8 of its 11 seasons. It was part of NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show was set in a Boston bar (influenced by the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston) owned by retired baseball player, Sam “Mayday” Malone, played by Ted Danson. There was a great cast of characters that backed him up:

Coach – Coach Ernie Pantusso was played by Nicholas Colasanto. Coach was the bartender and former coach of Sam Malone. Coach was a bit slow and forgetful, but lovable. Who can forget “Albania, Albania. You border on the Adriatic”:

After Nicholas died in real life, he was replaced by:
Woody – Woody Boyd was played by Woody Harrelson. In the first episode of the fourth season, Woody Boyd comes to Cheers in search of Coach, explaining that they were pen pals (exchanging pens rather than letters). Sam is forced to explain that Coach died some months ago. Boyd replaces Coach, who had sponsored him in a correspondence course in bartending. He had a lot of the same character traits as Coach.

Diane Chambers – Played by Shelley Long. In the first epeisode, her fiancé leaves her waiting at the bar while he goes back to recover his wedding ring from his ex-wife. When he never returns, she realizes she’s been jilted and takes a job waitressing at Cheers to try to rebuild her life. Diane was a pretentious snob, and was the exact opposite of Sam. But, as they say, opposites attract:

After she left the show, she was replaced by:

Rebecca Howe – Played by Kirstie Alley. Rebecca Howe entered Cheers as the manager assigned by the bar’s new corporate owner. She started off as a tough, no-nonsense corporate type. As the series went on, she became more neurotic and clumsy. Rebecca constantly throws herself at the feet of rich men, first Evan Drake and then Robin Colcord, but she eventually sleeps with Sam when the two of them decide to conceive a child together. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca meets a plumber named Don Santry (played by Tom Berenger), whom she marries in the series finale.

Carla Tortelli – Played by Rhea Perlman. Carla grew up in the Federal Hill section of Providence, RI. Her father’s name was “Benito” and her mother’s maiden name was “Mussolini”. By the time the show ended, she was the mother of eight children: Anthony, Serafina, Gino, Anne Marie, Lucinda (all fathered by Nick Tortelli), Ludlow (with Dr. Bennett Ludlow), and twins Elvis and Jesse (fathered by Eddie Lebec). Carla was known for being both feisty and also highly superstitious.

Cliff Clavin – Played by John Ratzenberger. Cliff was a know-it-all mailman. He annoyed everybody by acting as if he knew everything about everything.

Norm! Peterson – Played by George Wendt. He was a regular customer with his own seat at the bar. He was also best friends with Cliff. He also had a wife Vera, who was never seen by the audience. This is the closest we came (at the 4:40 mark):

Everytime Norm walked into the bar, everybody shouted “Norm!” Then whoever was bartending would ask Norm a question, and he would come up with a funny remark. Here are some quotes:

“How’s a beer sound, Norm?”
“I dunno. I usually finish them before they get a word in.”

“What’s shaking, Norm?”
“All four cheeks and a couple of chins.”

“What would you say to a nice beer, Normie?”
“Going Down?”

What would you say to a beer, Normie?”
“Daddy wuvs you.”

“What’d you like, Normie?”
“A reason to live. Give me another beer.”

“What’ll you have, Normie?”
“Well, I’m in a gambling mood Sammy. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.”
“Looks like beer, Norm.”
“Call me Mister Lucky.”

(Coming in from the rain)
“Evening everybody.”
Everybody: “Norm!”
“Still pouring, Norm?”
“That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

“Whaddya say, Norm?”
“Well, I never met a beer I didn’t drink.”

“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”
“Like a baby treats a diaper.”

“Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?”
“A little early isn’t it, Woody?”
“For a beer?”
“No, for stupid questions

The theme song is #1 on my list of top sitcom theme songs.

NBC dedicated a whole night to the final episode of Cheers, following the one-hour season finale of Seinfeld (which was its lead-in). The show began with a “pregame” show hosted by Bob Costas, followed by the final 98-minute episode itself. NBC affiliates then aired tributes to Cheers during their local newscasts, and the night concluded with a special Tonight Show broadcast live from the Bull & Finch Pub.

In the last scene of the show, after telling a late arriving customer that the bar was closed, Sam walks to the back of the bar. On his way, he pauses to straighten a framed photograph of Geronimo. This picture belonged to Nicholas Colasanto and was hung in the bar after his death in his honor.

May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens Erupts

Iceland has their volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which wreaked havoc recently. But we had our own natural disaster 30 years ago today when Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted, causing a massive avalanche and killing 57 people. Ash from the volcanic eruption fell as far away as Minnesota. Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens, which is 96 miles south of Seattle, began on March 16. A 4.2-magnitude tremor was recorded four days later and then, on March 23-24, there were 174 different recorded tremors. The first eruption occurred on March 27, when a 250-foot wide vent opened up on top of the mountain. Ash was blasted 10,000 feet in the air, some of which came down nearly 300 miles away in Spokane. The ash caused static electricity and lightning bolts.

Throughout April, scientists watched a bulge on the north side of Mount St. Helens grow larger and larger. Finally, on May 18 at 8:32 a.m., a sudden 5.1-magnitude earthquake and eruption rocked the mountain. The north side of the peak rippled and blasted out ash at 650 miles per hour. A cloud of ash, rocks, gas and glacial ice roared down the side of the mountain at 100 mph. Fourteen miles of the Toutle River were buried up to 150 feet deep in the debris. Magma, at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, flowed for miles.

Millions of trees were scorched and burned by the hot air alone. When the glacier atop the mountain melted, a massive mudslide wiped out homes and dammed up rivers throughout the area. The plume of ash belched out for nine hours; easterly winds carried it across the state and as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The falling ash clogged carburetors and thousands of motorists were stranded. Fifty-seven people died overall from suffocation, burns and other assorted injuries. Twenty-seven bodies, including that of the stubborn Harry Truman, were never found. Mount St. Helens went from 9,600 feet high to only 8,300 feet high in a matter of seconds.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a 110,000 acres area around the mountain and within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Following the 1980 eruption, the area was left to gradually return to its natural state. In 1987, the U.S. Forest Service reopened the mountain to climbing. It remained open until 2004 when renewed activity caused the closure of the area around the mountain.

The Monitor Ridge trail, which previously let up to 100 permitted hikers per day climb to the summit, was closed. However, on July 21, 2006, the mountain was again opened to climbers.

Check out the web cam of Mount St. Helens.