Ricardo Montalbán

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ricardo Montalban, the Mexican-born actor who became a star in splashy MGM musicals and later the wish-fulfilling Mr. Roarke in TV's "Fantasy Island," died Wednesday morning at his home, a Los Angeles city councilman said. He was 88. 

Montalban's death was announced at a meeting of the city council by president Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.

"The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in my Council District - where the next generations of performers participate in plays, musicals, and concerts - stands as a fitting tribute to this consummate performer," Garcetti said later in a written statement.

Montalban had been a star in Mexican movies when MGM brought him to Hollywood in 1946. He was cast in the leading role opposite Esther Williams in "Fiesta." He also starred with the swimming beauty in "On an Island with You" and "Neptune's Daughter."

A later generation knew Montalban as the faintly mysterious, white-suited Mr. Roarke, who presided over an island resort where visitors were able to fulfill their lifelong dreams. "Fantasy Island" received high ratings for most of its 1978-1984 span on ABC television and still appears in reruns.

In a 1978 interview, he analyzed the series' success:

"What is appealing is the idea of attaining the unattainable and learning from it. Once you obtain a fantasy it becomes a reality, and that reality is not as exciting as your fantasy. Through the fantasies you learn to appreciate your own realities." 


Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press

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Richard Burton

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Richard Pryor        Sagittarius         18h2m4s D -24d53'

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Richard Pryor, the caustic yet perceptive actor-comedian who lived dangerously close to the edge both on stage and off, died Saturday. He was 65. 

Pryor died shortly before 8 a.m. of a heart attack after being taken to a hospital from his home in the San Fernando Valley, said his business manager, Karen Finch. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system. 

"We loved him and will miss you," his ex-wife, Flynn Pryor, said from her Florida home. 

Pryor was regarded early in his career as one of the most foul-mouthed comics in the business, but he gained a wide following for his expletive-filled but universal and frequently personal insights into modern life and race relations. 

His audacious style influenced an array of stand-up artists, including Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Damon Wayans, as well as Robin Williams, David Letterman and others. 

A series of hit comedies in the '70s and '80s, as well as filmed versions of his concert performances, helped make him Pryor one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. He was one of the first black performers to have enough leverage to cut his own Hollywood deals. In 1983, he signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. 

His films included "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak," "Which Way Is Up?" and "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip." 

Throughout his career, Pryor focused on racial inequality, once joking as the host of the 1977 Academy Awards that Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier were the only black members of the Academy. 

Pryor once marveled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that." 

In 1980, he nearly lost his life when he suffered severe burns over 50 percent of his body while freebasing cocaine at his home. An admitted "junkie" at the time, Pryor spent six weeks recovering from the burns and much longer from drug and alcohol dependence. 

He battled multiple sclerosis throughout the '90s. 

In his last movie, the 1991 bomb "Another You," Pryor's poor health was clearly evident. Pryor made a comeback attempt the following year, returning to standup comedy in clubs and on television while looking thin and frail, and with noticeable speech and movement difficulties. 

In 1995, he played an embittered multiple sclerosis patient in an episode of the television series "Chica go Hope." The role earned him an Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a drama series. 

"To be diagnosed was the hardest thing because I didn't know what they were talking about," he said. "And the doctor said 'Don't worry, in three months you'll know.' 

"So I went about my business and then, one day, it jumped me. I couldn't get up. ... Your muscles trick you; they did me." 

While Pryor's material sounds modest when compared with some of today's raunchier comedians, it was startling material when first introduced. He never apologized for it. 

In his 1977 NBC television series "The Richard Pryor Show," he threatened to cancel his contract with the network after NBC's censors objected to a skit in which Pryor appeared naked save for a flesh-colored loincloth to suggest he was emasculated. 

In his later years Pryor mellowed considerably, and his film roles looked more like easy paychecks than artistic endeavors. His robust work gave way to torpid efforts like "Harlem Nights," "Brewster's Millions" and "Hear No Evil, See No Evil." 

Pryor was married six times. He and Flynn Pryor had a son, Steven. Previous children included another son, Richard, and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee. 

Daughter Rain became an actress. In an interview in 2005, she told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her father always "put his life right out there for you to look at. I took that approach because I saw how well audiences respond to it. I try to make you laugh at life."


Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press

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Ronald Reagan         Pegasus        23h41m45s D 8d13'

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ronald Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was "morning again in America," died Saturday after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease, a family friend said. He was 93.

He died at his home in California, according to the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House was told his health had taken a turn for the worse in the last several days.

Five years after leaving office, the nation's 40th president told the world in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, an incurable illness that destroys brain cells. He said he had begun "the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."

Reagan body was expected to be taken to his presidential library and museum in Simi Valley, Calif., and then flown to Washington to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. His funeral was expected to be at the National Cathedral, an event likely to draw world leaders. The body was to be returned to California for a sunset burial at his library.

Reagan lived longer than any U.S. president, spending his last decade in the shrouded seclusion wrought by his disease, tended by his wife, Nancy, whom he called Mommy, and the select few closest to him. Now, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the surviving ex-presidents.

Although fiercely protective of Reagan's privacy, the former first lady let people know his mental condition had deteriorated terribly. Last month, she said: "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him."

Reagan's oldest daughter, Maureen, from his first marriage, died in August 2001 at age 60 from cancer. Three other children survive: Michael, from his first marriage, and Patti Davis and Ron from his second.

Over two terms, from 1981 to 1989, Reagan reshaped the Republican Party in his conservative image, fixed his eye on the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism and tripled the national debt to $3 trillion in his singleminded competition with the other superpower.

Taking office at age 69, Reagan had already lived a career outside Washington, one that spanned work as a radio sports announcer, an actor, a television performer, a spokesman for the General Electric Co., and a two-term governor of California.

At the time of his retirement, his very name suggested a populist brand of conservative politics that still inspires the Republican Party.

He declared at the outset, "Government is not the solution, it's the problem," although reducing that government proved harder to do in reality than in his rhetoric.

Even so, he challenged the status quo on welfare and other programs that had put government on a growth spurt ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal strengthened the federal presence in the lives of average Americans.

In foreign affairs, he built the arsenals of war while seeking and achieving arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.

In his second term, Reagan was dogged by revelations that he authorized secret arms sales to Iran while seeking Iranian aid to gain release of American hostages held in Lebanon. Some of the money was used to aid rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

Despite the ensuing investigations, he left office in 1989 with the highest popularity rating of any retiring president in the history of modern-day public opinion polls.

That reflected, in part, his uncommon ability as a communicator and his way of connecting with ordinary Americans, even as his policies infuriated the left and as his simple verities made him the butt of jokes. "Morning again in America" became his re-election campaign mantra in 1984, but typified his appeal to patriotrism through both terms.

At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president when he was chosen on Nov. 4, 1980, by an unexpectedly large margin over incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Near-tragedy struck on his 70th day as president. On March 30, 1981, Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after addressing labor leaders when a young drifter, John Hinckley, fired six shots at him. A bullet lodged an inch from Reagan's heart, but he recovered.

Four years later he was re-elected by an even greater margin, carrying 49 of the 50 states in defeating Democrat Walter F. Mondale, Carter's vice president.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

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