September 06, 2012

By CHRISTY LEMIRE Associated Press

 

Michael Clarke Duncan was one big, irresistible jumble of contradictions.

His presence was formidable, even intimidating: The former bodyguard had a muscular, 6-foot-4 frame, but it was topped by the brightest of megawatt smiles.

His gravelly baritone was well-suited to everything from animated films to action spectacles, but no matter the role, a warmth and a sweetness was always evident underneath.

The prolific character actor, whose dozens of movies included an Oscar-nominated performance as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile” and box office hits including “Armageddon,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Kung Fu Panda,” died Monday at age 54. And although he only turned to acting in his 30s, it’s clear from the outpouring of prayers and remembrances he received across the Hollywood and sports worlds that his gentle-giant persona made him much-loved during that relatively brief time.

Duncan died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was being treated for a heart attack, said his fiancée, reality TV personality Rev. Omarosa Manigault, in a statement released by publicist Joy Fehily.

Duncan “suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered,” the statement said. “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time. Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date.”

Tom Hanks, star of 1999’s “The Green Mile” — the film that earned a then-little-known Duncan a supporting-actor nomination at the Academy Awards — said he was “terribly saddened at the loss of Big Mike. He was the treasure we all discovered on the set of ‘The Green Mile.’ He was magic. He was a big love of man and his passing leaves us stunned.”

“I will miss my friend, Michael Clarke Duncan,” comedian and talk-show host Steve Harvey said on Twitter. “What an incredible soldier in God’s Plan.” Other sad and shocked reactions came from a diverse field that included Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, actresses Alexa Vega, Niecy Nash and Olivia Munn, and former boxing champion Lennox Lewis.

In the spring of 2012, Duncan had appeared in a video for PETA, the animal rights organization, in which he spoke of how much better he felt since becoming a vegetarian three years earlier.

“I cleared out my refrigerator, about $5,000 worth of meat,” he said. “I’m a lot healthier than I was when I was eating meat.”

Duncan had a handful of minor roles before “The Green Mile” brought him accolades and fame. The 1999 film, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, starred Hanks as a corrections officer at a penitentiary in the 1930s. Duncan played John Coffey, a convicted murderer with a surprisingly gentle demeanor and extraordinary healing powers.

Duncan’s performance caught on with critics and moviegoers and he quickly became a favorite in Hollywood, appearing in several films a year. He owed some of his good fortune to Bruce Willis, who recommended Duncan for “The Green Mile” after the two appeared together in “Armageddon.” Duncan would work with Willis again in “Breakfast of Champions,” “The Whole Nine Yards” and “Sin City.”

His industrial-sized build was suited for everything from superhero films (“Daredevil”) to comedy (“Talladega Nights,” “School for Scoundrels”). He could have made a career out of his voice work alone, with appearances in several animated and family movies, including, “Kung Fu Panda,” “Racing Stripes” and “Brother Bear.” Among Duncan’s television credits were “The Apprentice,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and a new series, “The Finder.”

Born in Chicago in 1957, Duncan was raised by a single mother whose resistance to his playing football led to his deciding he wanted to become an actor. But when his mother became ill, he dropped out of college, Alcorn State University, and worked as a ditch digger and bouncer to support her. By his mid-20s, he was in Los Angeles, where he looked for acting parts and became a bodyguard for Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and other stars. The murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G., for whom Duncan had been hired to protect before switching assignments, led him to quit his job and pursue acting full-time.

Early film and television credits, when he was usually cast as a bodyguard or bouncer, included "Bulworth," ''A Night at the Roxbury" and "The Players Club."

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

August 30, 2012

ARIES

 

You’ve done a lot of things in life that no one has agreed with at the beginning. Finding agreement this week will be difficult, but it should not deter you from moving forward. Feeling sorry for your loneliness will discolor what you are doing. Be happy that you are alone. Soul Affirmation: I get joy from giving good things.

 

 

 

TAURUS

 

Eternal optimist, eternity is now. Get in touch with your hopefulness and be a beacon to others. Try not to be taken in by promises made by others or promises you’ve made to yourself. Concerning your own affairs, avoid contemplating lofty subjects and seeking long ranged solutions. Soul Affirmation: Time is the greatest peacemaker of them all.

 

 

 

GEMINI

 

Some say optimism is fantasy. Suppose the good thing you’re optimistic about never comes. This week you’ll know that the joy of anticipating it is joy enough. Just the certainty of coming goodness is present goodness. The joy of tomorrow is available this week. Soul Affirmation: This week is the week the Lord has made. I rejoice in it.

 

 

 

CANCER

 

You might be looking into the buying or selling of a piece of property, and this week seems to be a favorable week for this type of negotiation. Be careful with the intricacies of the matter. Pay attention to details or it could cost you a great deal later. Soul Affirmation: I care deeply about the feelings of others.

 

 

 

LEO

 

What a blessed week this will be. Spend it meditating on all that God has given you. This week think hard about some form of worship. Curtis Mayfield wrote a song called “Who Do You Love?” Someone should write one called “How Do You Love?” For your love lesson, the second song would be the one you should sing. Soul Affirmation: New intuitions create new plans and a new cast of characters.

 

 

 

VIRGO

 

Your self-discipline helps you to do more this week. People will be watching as you zip around with style and grace! Broaden your cultural horizons by trying new foods and meeting new people.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised! Soul Affirmation: I am patient with all that comes my way this week.

 

 

 

LIBRA

 

The urge to chase off on a tangent may be strong this week. Take a few minutes to study the big picture and make sure any whims serve the bigger purpose. It’s a good week to do what needs to be done. Soul Affirmation: Luck is my best friend this week.

 

 

 

SCORPIO

 

You’ll be full of good ideas this week, so make sure you write down the ones you don’t have time to put into action. You’ll want to share your thoughts on a grand scale, and your mind will seem truly universal to you. Try to be patient with those who are staggered by your brilliance. Soul Affirmation: Light from my soul shines in many directions.

 

 

 

SAGITTARIUS

 

This week let your gentle spirit shine through. Your rough and tumble side is not appropriate for the relationships that you’ll encounter. Someone will need your understanding and sympathy. Give it with sensitivity. Soul Affirmation: My life itself is my greatest creation.

 

 

 

CAPRICORN

 

You’re faced with a formidable task but when you defeat it, you’ll take big steps toward a goal. Weigh in and give it your best. Your energy is high. The task looks larger before you start.  Compromise with a partner. The immediate future promises love. Soul Affirmation: I enjoy the spirits of people whose spirits are akin to mine this week

 

 

 

AQUARIUS

 

Yield to the harmony that lies below the surface of any seeming disagreement. Serenity is more important than your sense of righteousness. Questioning the motives of others will make your mind too suspicious to benefit from the unclear way in which love will present itself this week. Soul Affirmation: Freedom of mind is the greatest gift for me this week.

 

 

 

PISCES

Always remember that loved ones make the world a wonderful habitat. Otherwise it is an empty place and no amount of material gain can give it the excitement you want and deserve. Soul Affirmation: I let my luck work for me.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

August 30, 2012

Associated Press

 

Investigators have determined that a fire at filmmaker Tyler Perry’s Atlanta studios was caused by careless smoking.

Capt. Marian McDaniel is with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. McDaniel said that no criminal charges were pending.

The fire broke out Monday morning on the roof of a building undergoing repairs. It took firefighters about an hour to get the fire under control. The structural integrity of the building was not compromised.

This was the second blaze in recent months at the filming complex. On May 1, more than 100 firefighters battled a blaze that ripped through a simulated streetscape at the studios, sending flames about six stories into the sky. The cause of that fire was not determined because the intensity of that fire consumed any evidence that could be used to determine its origin.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

August 30, 2012

Associated Press

 

The man accused of breaking into LL Cool J’s home has pleaded not guilty to a felony burglary charge.

 

Jonathan E. Kirby appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom this week and entered the plea.

 

Kirby was arrested after the actor-rapper subdued him in his home early Aug. 22, breaking the 56-year-old’s jaw, nose and ribs in the process. He was later charged with felony residential burglary and faces 38 years to life in prison if convicted due to his lengthy criminal history.

 

LL Cool J, whose real name is James Todd Smith, and his family were unharmed during the break-in, and nothing was apparently taken from their home. He stars in the CBS series “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

 

A district attorney’s spokeswoman says Kirby’s bail was set at $1.1 million.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

August 23, 2012

By JONATHAN ­LANDRUM Jr.

Associated Press

 

Rapper 2 Chainz took some major risks two years ago when he bolted from Ludacris’ Disturbing tha Peace record label, changed his stage name and left a group to pursue a solo career.

The Atlanta-based rapper, initially known as Tity Boi, scored big as a member of the rap duo Playaz Circle with the Lil Wayne-assisted 2007 hit “Duffle Bag Boy.” But the group's debut album barely sold 100,000 units, and their follow-up, 2009’s “Flight 360: The Takeoff,” debuted at No. 74 and didn’t launch any hits.

“I figured if I was going to do bad, I’d rather be bad all by myself,” 2 Chainz said in a recent interview. “Even when I had a deal, I was paying out of pocket ... I was already funding videos, doing my mixtapes. You rarely get money out of labels, except for when they open up a budget for a project. Other than that, it’s a do-or-die type thing. So, for me, I just had to do or die.”

Taking the risk to go solo is finally paying off.

A pair of successful mixtapes helped 2 Chainz consistently book concert shows and land guest appearances on hit songs, including Kanye West’s No. 1 rap smash “Mercy” and the Nicki Minaj single “Beez in the Trap.” He also joined Minaj on her U.S. summer tour.

Now the rapper is hoping to capture audiences on his own with his solo debut, “Based on a T.R.U. Story,” released this week. The first single, “No Lie,” features Drake and is currently No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart. The album features top acts like West, Minaj, Lil Wayne, John Legend, Scarface and The-Dream.

The Associated Press: You had a sliver of limelight in 2007, you fell into obscurity and now you’re rising — a rare sequence for a rapper’s career. What do you attribute to your revived image?

2 Chainz: I just worked harder than anyone else. There was no formula. I can't tell you a particular story or a contract I signed. My mind-set of just grinding it out, a lot of sleepless nights, thinking and praying a lot. The number of cities I was able to play in. The timing. Those combinations have helped get me to where I’m at today.

AP: You had a lot control as an independent rapper. Now, you’re signed to Def Jam Records. Why make the move when you were achieving so much independently?

2 Chainz: When I left DTP, I wanted to do things on my own. I wanted people to respect my mind. I wanted people to respect some of my ideas. The independent route was the best move for me. But I think I’ve maximized everything I could do independently. I’ve done everything out the mixtape market. I think getting the big machine behind you is the next stage when you’ve maximized the independent level.

AP: How did you end up collaborating with A-List acts like Kanye West, Drake and Nicki Minaj?

2 Chainz: I had already been communicating with them. I’ve known Drake for five years. Me and Drake were on tour with Lil Wayne when Drake was fresh off the TV show (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”). A lot of people don’t know that. I’ve known Lil Wayne for a decade. I’ve had respect with them and in the hip-hop community. I just had to figure out a way to connect the dots with them and the fans. With the community, I was cool. I was networking, hooked up with DJs. I was just being a people’s person.

AP: What’s it like working with Kanye West?

2 Chainz: He’s a great friend to me personally and has helped me musically. He’s helping me produce some of my best music.

AP: You’ve become known for your various guest appearances. What do you want to prove with your first solo project?

2 Chainz: When we did “Duffle Bag Boy” I knew it was big because of Lil Wayne. I took it for what it was. He’s a superstar, a megastar. We worked hard and he worked his (expletive) off to be who he is, so he gets the credit for that. He opened a lot of doors for me. I just want to work as hard.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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