Sunday Dec 8, 2013
Character actress Kate Williamson dead at 82, one month after death of actor-husband Al Ruscio LOS ANGELES (AP) — Character actress Kate Williamson, who appeared in such films as "Disclosure," ''Dahmer," ''Dream Lover" and "Racing With the Moon," has died at age 82 after a lengthy illness, said her manager, Judy Fox. Williamson died Friday at her suburban Encino home, less than a month after the passing of her husband of nearly 60 years, veteran character actor Al Ruscio. "They were the epitome of true and forever sweethearts," Fox said. Williamson also appeared in dozens of TV shows going back to the 1970s, including "7th Heaven," ''JAG," ''NYPD Blue," ''Home Improvement" and "Ellen." Williamson is survived by four children and five grandchildren. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Another Sunday evening, another crime. More than 10 million Germans regularly tune in for the hit TV whodunnit "Tatort" whose popularity with its down-to-earth plots spanning the country has endured for more than four decades.Unlike many an American cop show, "Tatort" (Crime Scene) does not go in for story lines packed with blood and gore, unfeasible high-speed chases or one central, sexy but tortured character.Nor, unusually, has the weekly 90-minute show updated its opening sequence -- a dated blue and white target set to a haltering theme tune -- since its November 1970 launch. But its success in Germany is unrivalled; its formulaic approach beloved."It's a great Sunday evening activity," enthuses 22-year-old Jan Bueltermann, taking a chair upfront at Volksbar, one of dozens of spots in Berlin where fans congregate on Sundays at 8:15 pm to watch what many consider a cult show.As a child he had little choice but to fall in with his family's tradition of watching the series on its only television set. Nowadays, the apprentice watches it out of his own free will.Marita Gelbe-Kruse, 55, who has taken time out from visiting Berlin to watch the 887th episode of "Tatort" at the bar with her 25-year-old son, Simon, agrees that it's a ritual that brings family together."It's a mother-son point in common, a thing we can do together," she told AFP.A 'secular mass'Produced by Germany's public ARD TV channel and its regional branches, "Tatort" alternately portrays about 20 police chiefs or their teams from different German cities, as well as from German-speaking Switzerland and Austria, in their hunt for the perpetrators of a crime.With cities such as Munich, Bremen, Leipzig or Stuttgart taking it in turns to set the stage and even regional accents playing a role, the show holds back on violence, doesn't much ponder on the private lives of its hero investigators and aims for realism."The series is forged on Germany's federalism," Stefan Scherer, literature professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology said.While some of the show's police inspectors have been catapulted into cultural icons, such as Horst Schimanski, played by actor Goetz George, Scherer said the principle behind "Tatort" was the ability to replace ageing police inspectors and switch cities."One can always create new episodes," he said.The "Tatort" phenomenon has also been the subject of a study.Political monthly magazine Cicero last year quoted Dennis Graef from Passau University in southern Germany, who published a study on "Tatort", as describing it as a "secular mass".Certainly as the opening credits begin to roll in the Volksbar the hush that descends has a veil of religiosity -- beer is relegated to second-fiddle, banter fades and all eyes turn to the mysterious on-screen death, which this week is set on the windswept shores of a North Sea island.'Like a mirror of Germany'If the scenery and characters change each week, the format remains tried and tested -- an opening scene, the discovery of a body, investigators arrive, the obvious suspect turns out not to be guilty and a last-minute arrest.Next morning comes the verdict. Some 10.7 million viewers, or around one in eight Germans, watched the November 24 episode. Audiences of "Tatort"and its former East German equivalent "Polizeiruf 110", which still sometimes takes a turn in the same time slot, can reach up to 12 million when Til Schweiger -- an actor known to international audiences from Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” -- assumes his police inspector's role in the northern port city of Hamburg.For Berliner Andreas Klaffke, 54, the show is more than just a routine. "It's a bit like a mirror of Germany, a mirror of society and that speaks to people," he commented. It reflects current and social affairs too, delving into issues such as the trauma of returning soldiers from Afghanistan, rising rents or secret bank accounts in Switzerland. The series rivals the weather for Monday morning small talk at the office coffee machine.But, while German crime drama "Derrick" has been broadcast in several other countries, "Tatort" has made fewer inroads abroad. "It must be very German somehow," Bueltermann said. Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
'Scandal' cut by 4 episodes this season; move follows word of Kerry Washington's pregnancy LOS ANGELES (AP) — ABC says it will air four fewer episodes of "Scandal" than planned this season. The network on Friday didn't say why it will broadcast 18 instead of 22 episodes. But the decision follows word that "Scandal" star Kerry Washington and her new husband, football player Nnamdi Asomugha (NAHM'-dee AH'-suhm-wah), are expecting a baby. The shortened schedule will wrap production early for its pregnant star. After next Thursday's episode airs, "Scandal" will take a break and then return in late February with the final episodes of season three. The drama series about Washington, D.C., intrigue is a ratings hit for ABC and earned an Emmy nomination for its lead actress. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
But what about "Just Cause 3," Avalanche? "It's too early to talk about that yet." Oh, sure, you would say that."Just Cause 2" was ambitious, expansive, chaotic, and ridiculous. You think "Grand Theft Auto V" is big? "Just Cause 2" covers around 1,000 km2. Huge. There was a story line, something about rescuing a tropical island from an evil militia through the power of blowing things up repeatedly, but it didn't matter as much as actually blowing things up repeatedly, surfing jumbo jets, reaching terminal velocity then deploying parachutes 5 meters from impact, or mastering the game's crazy take on Spider-Man's web sling swinging. If there was one thing missing, it was a hidden reference to the TV show "Lost" -- no, wait, they had that -- the missing thing was online multiplayer. But fans put that right with a ridiculously fun custom modification for the PC version that's to be released on Steam this month. Just in time for the holidays, nice. "At first we couldn't believe it was real," studio chief Christofer Sundberg told Eurogamer. "We reached out to the guys quite early and obviously gave them our blessing. The 'JC2-MP' team has done a fantastic job. They are a super-talented group of game developers that I'd love to work closer with them in the future, despite the physical distance between us." A behind the scenes video released this week showed staff from Swedish studio Avalanche visiting Costa Rican jungles on a research assignment. Whatever could you be up to, the internet asked itself, "Just Cause 3" perhaps? "The reference material collected will prove useful in many of our upcoming open world games," Stockholm's primary extollers of explosion claimed. "In fact, some of the skies that we captured in Costa Rica will make it into Mad Max, which is currently in development at Avalanche Studios," they said, totally not diverting attention away from the prospect of "Just Cause 3." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
NBC's 'Sound of Music' live telecast was Thursday's favorite thing with 18.6 million viewers NEW YORK (AP) — "The Sound of Music" has the sound of a hit for NBC. A total of 18.6 million viewers tuned to Thursday night's live three-hour telecast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, according to the Nielsen company. It was NBC's best Thursday average, excluding sports programming, since the series finale of "Frasier" aired in May 2004, and the most-watched nonsports night since the Golden Globes broadcast seven years ago, the network said. "The Sound of Music Live!" starred Carrie Underwood in the role of Maria, with Stephen Moyer ("True Blood") as Capt. Von Trapp. It was the first full-scale musical staged live for television in more than a half-century. Viewers flocked to the broadcast, but TV critics sang some sour notes. NBC was widely credited for trying something ambitious and risky, and Underwood was praised for braving the challenge, but her shortcomings were called out. USA Today's Robert Bianco noted that, without Underwood's star power, the broadcast never would have happened, while adding, "the trouble is that with her, it wasn't very good." "It's impossible not to notice that she can't act," wrote The Washington Post's Hank Stuever. "When Underwood spoke her lines, she was as flat as the label on a Swiss Miss package of cocoa." And The Associated Press' Mark Kennedy said, "The only real problem was the real reason most people tuned in: Carrie Underwood." She displayed "zero chemistry with her love interest and lacked any intensity or shading," wrote Kennedy. "Deer in headlights have emoted more. How do you solve a problem like Maria, indeed." A cast album of "The Sound of Music Live!" is already on sale. A home-video edition goes on sale Dec. 17. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Santino Fontana and Tony Shalhoub to both play Moss Hart in Broadway's 'Act One' NEW YORK (AP) — Santino Fontana and Tony Shalhoub will be sharing a Broadway role this spring — both will play legendary writer and director Moss Hart. Lincoln Center Theater said Sunday that both actors will play Hart at different stages of his life in a play adapted and directed by James Lapine from "Act One," Hart's autobiography. Previews begin March 20 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Both the book and play trace the rise of Hart who became a powerful theatrical figure, directing "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot" and collaborating with George S. Kaufman on "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and "You Can't Take It With You." Fontana is currently playing the Prince on Broadway in "Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," while "Monk" star Shalhoub was last year on Broadway in "Golden Boy." Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Ice storm delays auction of gray wool suit Gene Kelly wore in 'Singin' in the Rain' DALLAS (AP) — Although rain couldn't stop Gene Kelly from singing and dancing, an ice storm has postponed the auction of the Hollywood star's gray wool suit. Heritage Auctions spokesman Noah Fleisher says accumulated ice cut the power to the auction house, so there's no way the suit Kelly wore as he joyously danced in a downpour in "Singin' in the Rain" can be auctioned as scheduled Friday. Fleisher says the auction has been rescheduled for Thursday. Heritage expects the suit to sell for more than $20,000. Memorabilia collector Gerald Sola has owned the suit for more than four decades. He bought it for $10 at a 1970 sale of MGM props and wardrobe items. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
While "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the new installment of the saga, is scheduled to hit the big screen in 2014, Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine will return to the silver screen in 2016.Producer Bryan Singer took to Twitter (@BryanSinger) to inform the fans himself, writing: "#Xmen #Apocalypse 2016!" The name "Apocalypse" hints at the mutant revealed in the comic books in 1985. The 3,000-year-old Egyptian, who became the absolute super villain of the saga, survives the centuries posing as a God and preaching the survival of the fittest with the help of alien technology. No details were revealed about how Apocalypse will be introduced into the movie franchise. In the comic book, his arrival was linked to a time paradox, which is also the theme of "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
Is he smiling, or setting his jaw in a determined lock? Jim Kay's Potter could be the Mona Lisa of Young Adult fiction.Harry Potter's got a new face, courtesy of award-winning artist Jim Kay and his fully illustrated "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," to be published by Bloomsbury. A touseled mop of black hair sits atop the studious face whose green eyes are framed by a pair of round, brown, broken-arm spectacles. And a September 2015 publication date (with the six other books in the series to follow), as distant as it may be right now, means there's time enough for ardent and amorous Potterheads to raise a new generation of miniature enthusiasts in time for the projected release. Kay already has a strong track record, having shared the 2012 Carnegie Medal with two-time winner Patrick Ness for "A Monster Calls." "It's like trying to choose the shiniest object in Aladdin's Cave; you pick up one treasure, and another gem catches your eye," he said of the JK & Rowling collaboration ahead. "I want to bring what I can to really show the depth of Rowling's stories ... it's amazing to think, all of Potter's world, the streets, the shops, the creatures, the characters, all of these wonderful things come from the brain of one person." "I want to keep that spell going, perhaps adding my own little twist, if possible. I hope over the years we will see lots of different illustrators having a go, in the way that 'Alice in Wonderland' has inspired artists for over a century." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
The debut trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is released, Paul Walker is remembered, and a spoof Mexican soap becomes one of YouTube's most popular videos for Friday, December 6.1) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - OFFICIAL Trailer4.6 million total viewsPublished: December 5, 2013 Sometimes doing the right thing can make your enemies stronger too, keeping secrets and telling the truth can both incur great cost, and blockbuster movie soundtracks require half a dozen bwaaarps.http://youtu.be/nbp3Ra3Yp74 2) A Tribute to Paul Walker8.5 million total viewsPublished: December 4, 2013 Celebrating the life of Hollywood actor Paul Walker with a montage of moments from his biggest films and a link to the disaster relief charity he co-founded, Reach Out Worldwide.http://youtu.be/o8UCI7r1Aqw 3) Benedict Cumberbatch reads R. Kelly's "Genius"557,275 total viewsPublished: December 5, 2013 Star of "Sherlock," "The Fifth Estate," and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Benedict Cumberbatch reads verses from an upcoming R&B release on Jimmy Kimmel Live, to appreciative yelps from audience members.http://youtu.be/sNPp74zh8lM 4) El Amor de Mi Amante791,546 total viewsPublished: December 2, 2013 Five minutes of tongue-in-cheek TV soap satire created in order to help the two scriptwriters pass their Spanish class. Expect endearingly obvious product placement, superbly low-budget satire, plenty of drama, and a sequel arriving on December 25 via the WE3Productions channel.http://youtu.be/YskJJRqRdTY 5) 10 Things You Didn't KNow About The Hobbit193,418 total viewsPublished: December 5, 2013 The incredible stories behind The Hobbit's Hebrew translation, a Russian ballet interpretation of Tolkien's work, how China's Harry Potter found himself wandering the Shire, how much films budget went on coffee, and more.http://youtu.be/Ae_HUOvZ4uo Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
Book about series creation, desk of original author of Nancy Drew books sold at Ohio auction TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Typewriters and a desk from the home of the original author of the Nancy Drew mystery books, along with a book detailing how the series was created, were auctioned in Ohio on Sunday. The items were among a lifetime of keepsakes, including autographed posters and writing awards, belonging to Mildred Wirt Benson that sold at an auction in Toledo, where she was a newspaper reporter and columnist for nearly 60 years before her death a decade ago. Benson wrote more than 130 books, including the 1940s Penny Parker mystery series, but she is best known for the Nancy Drew books that inspired and captivated generations of girls. She wrote 23 of the 30 original Nancy Drew stories using the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Paid $125 per book, she never collected any royalties. Benson died in 2002 at 96 and left her home and possessions to her only daughter, Peggy Wirt, who died in January. A copy of "Rediscovering Nancy Drew" that details how the series was created and was inscribed for her daughter drew a gavel price of $2,150 Sunday. A typewriter went for $825, and a desk for $525. A 10-book set by science-fiction writer Andre Norton, who had a personal relationship with Benson, was also auctioned. Nine of the 10 books were signed to Benson and the collection, along with some letters, had a gavel price of $3,200. Auctioneer Jade Montrie, who handled the estate sale said a few hundred of Benson's signed and canceled checks went for $900. A typewriter that Benson used to write the Nancy Drew stories was donated to the Smithsonian Institution years ago. Her daughter left a collection of her mother's books to the University of Iowa, which was Benson's alma mater. Benson was hired in 1930 to write the books based on plot outlines written by Edward Stratemeyer, the famed book publisher who also was behind the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys. Most scholars credit Benson with developing the character of Nancy Drew, who wore stylish cardigan sweater sets while climbing through attics and haunted mansions in search of clues and catching jewel thieves and kidnappers. Dozens of ghost writers followed Benson, also writing under the Keene name. Harriet Adams, Stratemeyer's daughter, took over and directed writers in the 1950s to make the stories shorter and faster-paced. The books are still in publication, though the main character has evolved with the times since her debut in 1930. Benson was bound by an agreement with the publisher not to publicly reveal her identity as the series' original author, but it became known in 1980 when she testified in a court case involving Nancy Drew's publisher. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Obama salutes Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, 3 others receiving Kennedy Center Honors in DC WASHINGTON (AP) — The "Piano Man" who became one of the world's best-selling artists of all time with such hits as "Just the Way You Are," ''Uptown Girl" and "Allentown" was awarded the nation's highest honor Sunday for influencing American culture through the arts. Billy Joel joins Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, opera star Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors. All of them have been playing music, dancing or singing since they were children — and they have never stopped. Joel said the honor stands apart from his six Grammys. "This is different. It's our nation's capital," he told The Associated Press. "This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me. It's a little overwhelming." The 64-year-old musician born in the Bronx has been playing the piano since he was a boy, growing up on New York's Long Island. There was always music in the house, he said. His mother sang. His father played the piano. Impressing girls, though, is what hooked Joel into making a career of music, he said. Joel just announced a 2014 concert series at Madison Square Garden in New York "to avoid schlepping around the world," but he still plans to play concerts nationwide. President Barack Obama saluted the honorees Sunday night, and top entertainers will offer tribute performances for each honoree. The show will be broadcast Dec. 29. "The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven't just proven themselves to be the best of the best," Obama said. "Despite all their success, all their fame, they've remained true to themselves — and inspired the rest of us to do the same." On Saturday night, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the honorees for a black-tie dinner at the State Department. Garth Brooks toasted Joel at the dinner, saying his legacy would live on for generations. He said Joel has a special talent for writing songs about everyday people, from steel workers in "Allentown" to soldiers fighting in Vietnam in "Goodnight Saigon." "Music has a wonderful gift," Brooks said. "For those that do it right, they can put you in shoes that you would never understand if it wasn't for that song." Santana, 66, a Mexican immigrant who began learning English from American television, is one of only a few Latinos who have received the honor so far. Santana first picked up the guitar after hearing blues and rock 'n' roll on the radio. He has said his career is about bridging cultures and fusing sounds to create something new. He grew up with the Woodstock generation after moving to San Francisco, but is perhaps best known for his album "Supernatural." It won nine Grammys. Kerry said Santana brought the beauty of Latin culture and its rhythms and influences to the American mainstream. "We love the music you made, not because it's Latin, but frankly because it is so very American," Kerry said. Hancock, 73, got his start at the piano at age 7 while growing up in Chicago. Soon he was playing Mozart and discovered jazz in high school. He joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1963 and later set out to create his own sounds, fusing jazz, funk, pop, gospel, soul and the blues. He has won an Oscar and 14 Grammy Awards so far. Arroyo found opera while imitating the singers outside an opera workshop when she was growing up in Harlem. Soon she was signing a contract with New York's Metropolitan Opera and had a breakthrough with "Aida" in 1965. She went on to star in the great opera houses of London, Paris and Vienna. Opera star Jessye Norman said Arroyo, now 76, has a voice "that makes you happy to be alive, just to be in her audience." MacLaine, 79, has been acting on stage and screen for six decades ever since she began ballet at age 3. Her film debut came in 1955's "The Trouble with Harry," directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and she won the Oscar for best actress for "Terms of Endearment" in 1983. More recently she's been playing a role in "Downton Abbey" on PBS. MacLaine's younger brother Warren Beatty also has won a Kennedy Center Honor, making them the first brother and sister to both receive the honor. ___ Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Internet giants including Google, Amazon weigh in on defamation suit by ex-Bengals cheerleader CINCINNATI (AP) — From Twitter and Facebook to Amazon and Google, the biggest names of the Internet are blasting a federal judge's decision allowing an Arizona-based gossip website to be sued for defamation by a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader convicted of having sex with a teenager. In court briefs recently filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, the Internet giants warn that if upheld, the northern Kentucky judge's ruling to let the former cheerleader's lawsuit proceed has the potential to "significantly chill online speech" and undermine a law passed by Congress in 1996 that provides broad immunity to websites. "If websites are subject to liability for failing to remove third-party content whenever someone objects, they will be subject to the 'heckler's veto,' giving anyone who complains unfettered power to censor speech," according to briefs filed Nov. 19 by lawyers for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Gawker and BuzzFeed, among others. Those heavy hitters "really tell you how major of an issue this is," said David Gingras, attorney for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based thedirty.com and its owner, Nik Richie, 34, who lives in Orange County, Calif. A message left for Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, seeking comment wasn't immediately returned. The case centers on the federal Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996 to help foster growth and free speech on the Internet by providing immunity from liability to websites for content posted by their users. The law also was designed to encourage websites to self-police offensive material. Judges and appeals courts across the country have upheld the law in hundreds of cases. But not Richie's. His website, thedirty.com, allows users to submit posts — anonymously if they want — about anyone from the girl next door to professional athletes and politicians, often accusing them of promiscuity, cheating on their spouses or getting plastic surgery or picking apart their looks. Richie screens each post, decides what goes up and often adds his own commentary. Most recently, Richie broke the news of Anthony Weiner's latest round of marital indiscretions. In December 2012, former Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones, 28, also a former high school teacher in northern Kentucky, sued Richie over posts concerning the sexual history of her and her ex-husband. Jones said the posts were untrue and caused her severe mental anguish and embarrassment. Richie said that the posts were submitted to him anonymously and that it was not up to him to judge their accuracy. He simply posted them and added a comment about high school teachers and sex. In July, after federal Judge William Bertelsman allowed the lawsuit to proceed, jurors found that the posts about Jones were substantially false and Richie had acted with malice or reckless disregard by publishing them, and they awarded Jones $338,000. Richie is asking the 6th Circuit to find that Bertelsman should never have allowed the case to proceed, which would nullify the jury's verdict. Oral arguments in the case will be held in Cincinnati, likely in the beginning of 2014, with a decision expected in the summer. Gingras, other attorneys specializing in Internet law and civil rights groups criticize Bertelsman's ruling as based on his own personal distaste of thedirty.com and not on legal precedent. Bertelsman ruled four separate times in the case against arguments over the Communications Decency Act, finding that the very name of Richie's website, the way he manages it and the personal comments that he adds all encourage offensive content. Richie's own commentary about the Jones posts effectively validated all the anonymous accusations against her, Bertelsman said. The posts about Jones were unrelated to a criminal case that emerged against her in March 2012 in which she was accused of having sex with her former student, a teenager. Jones later pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and custodial interference as part of a plea deal that allowed her to avoid jail time but prohibited her from teaching again. Jones and the student, then 17, are still together and say they're in love and engaged to be married. ___ Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Strega Nona creator Tomie de Paola releases 12th book, focuses on artistic evolution NEW LONDON, N.H. (AP) — Children's author and illustrator Tomie dePaola tackled a big stack of his books on the table. A longtime fan plunked them down at the book signing — just a sampling of the nearly 250 he's worked on. "It's like watching my life go by," he said with a chuckle as he signed book after book for Katherine Pixley, a retired schoolteacher who recently brought her daughter and grandchildren to Morgan Hill Bookstore in New London, the town dePaola's called home for the last three decades. In the pile was "Strega Nona Does it Again," the newest and 12th book in his series about a kindly old witch in Italy who offers villagers advice, along with potions to cure their warts and help find spouses. In this episode, Strega Nona comes up with a plan to deal with a high-maintenance houseguest. Like Strega Nona, dePaola, at 79, has endured — more than 15 million copies of his books have sold worldwide and have been translated into about 25 languages. He's still busy: He recently finished illustrating a poetry book for babies and toddlers and is working on "Jack" for next fall, which he describes as "a little takeoff almost on Chicken Little." "He is just timeless," Pixley, 59, of Middleton, said of his books, which she first read to her children when they were little; now her grandchildren enjoy them. She said she's drawn to their themes emphasizing love and family. As he nears a birthday milestone, dePaola also is using the time to teach. He has an exhibit called "Then," featuring his work from childhood through his years at the Pratt Institute and early career. It's on display at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, where he was designer and technical director in speech and theater. Next year, people will be able to see "Now," his contemporary work. DePaola feels it's important that people see the story of an artist's evolution, from the book he wrote and illustrated in junior high school for his sister about the mermaid Glimera to his art school figure drawings, self-portraits and images of the sacred. He learned the classics and eventually developed his own style that includes a liberal use of color and folk art touches. "I told people when I was 4 years old I was going to be an artist when I grew up," he said. "Not that I wanted to be an artist — I was going to be." And he was lovingly encouraged by his family, seen in a collection of slideshow photos at the exhibit. Readers were introduced to dePaola's most beloved character in 1975 in "Strega Nona, An Original Tale," where she saves her town from being flooded by tons of pasta from a magic pot. She originated as a doodle during a Colby-Sawyer College faculty meeting attended by a bored dePaola. He said he was toying with the idea of a children's theater troupe based on the commedia dell'arte and drew Pulcinella, or Punch, with the big nose and chin. Then he added a kerchief and turned the drawing into a little old lady. He recalled saying, "Isn't she cute!'" and set her aside until a book editor asked him to illustrate a folk tale. DePaola researched his favorite story growing up about a pot that keeps producing porridge, changed the porridge to pasta, gave his character magical powers, and the rest is history. The book won the Caldecott Honor, one of many awards dePaola has received, and is listed on the New York Public Library's 100 Great Children's Books from the last century, along with "Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose." Of Strega Nona's staying power, dePaola says "I think it's because she's like everybody's grandmother. She's cute, she's not pretty, she's kind of funny-looking, but she's sweet, she's understanding. And she's a little saucy. She gets a little irritated every once in a while." A Strega Nona treasury is in the works for 2015, the 40th anniversary of the character and his 50th anniversary in publishing. To keep a fresh perspective, dePaola takes advice from the child within: "Don't let the little 4-year-old get jaded. I listen to him. He stands beside me and says, 'No, I don't like that.'" Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Desk that belonged to original author of Nancy Drew books among keepsakes up for bid in Ohio TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Typewriters and a desk from the home of an author who brought a young sleuth named Nancy Drew to life are going up for auction. A lifetime of keepsakes, including autographed posters and writing awards, belonging to Mildred Wirt Benson are to be sold at an auction Sunday in Toledo, where she was a newspaper reporter and columnist for nearly 60 years before her death a decade ago. Benson wrote more than 130 books, including the 1940s Penny Parker mystery series, but she is best known for the Nancy Drew books that inspired and captivated generations of girls. She wrote 23 of the 30 original Nancy Drew stories using the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Paid $125 per book, she never collected any royalties. Benson died in 2002 at 96 and left her home and possessions to her only daughter, Peggy Wirt, who died in January. Auctioneer Jade Montrie, who is handling the estate sale, said many of the items came from Benson's home office, where she wrote for decades. "When we went into Mildred's office, it was kind of like a time capsule," he said. Books, papers, awards, four typewriters and a wooden desk filled the room. The desk was where the family said Benson wrote many of her books and newspaper columns, Montrie said. "It looks like it came from another era," said Lois Kovar, Benson's great-niece. "The writing room was always Millie's. That was like her little cove." A typewriter that Benson used to write the Nancy Drew stories was donated to the Smithsonian Institution years ago. Her daughter left a collection of her mother's books to the University of Iowa, which was Benson's alma mater. Benson was hired in 1930 to write the books based on plot outlines written by Edward Stratemeyer, the famed book publisher who also was behind the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys. Most scholars credit Benson with developing the character of Nancy Drew, who wore stylish cardigan sweater sets while climbing through attics and haunted mansions in search of clues and catching jewel thieves and kidnappers. Dozens of ghost writers followed Benson, also writing under the Keene name. Harriet Adams, Stratemeyer's daughter, took over and directed writers in the 1950s to make the stories shorter and faster-paced. The books are still in publication, though the main character has evolved with the times since her debut in 1930. Benson was bound by an agreement with the publisher not to publicly reveal her identity as the series' original author, but it became known in 1980 when she testified in a court case involving Nancy Drew's publisher. There's no indication that the desk being put up for bid is where Benson wrote the tales of Nancy Drew, but her family has said that's where she wrote many of her other books and columns. Other items being sold include a Mystery Writers of America award, autographed letters and newspaper clippings, and a copy of "Rediscovering Nancy Drew" that she inscribed for her daughter. The book details how the series was created. "This is a fine account of how my identity as Nancy Drew's author became known," Benson wrote inside the book. She signed it "The 'real' Nancy Drew." Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.