Friday, 16 January 2009

Ricardo Montalban, the first Latino leading man, dies

Ricardo Montalban art print, poster - Ricardo Montalban by Celebrity Image

Ricardo Montalban, one of Hollywood's first Latino leading men, who had a long career as a television and movie actor but whose lingering fame perhaps owes most to a less august role as the debonair concierge of "Fantasy Island," died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 88.

His death was announced by Eric Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles City Council, who represents the Hollywood district where Montalban lived and where a theater is named for him, The Associated Press reported. He did not give a cause.

Every week on "Fantasy Island," a fairy tale of wish fulfillment and exotic luxury that was shown on ABC from 1978 to 1984, a planeload of visitors with unachieved dreams flew in to a remote resort somewhere in the Pacific and were greeted by their dream facilitators, the sleek and suavely welcoming Mister Roarke, played by Montalban, and his assistant, Tattoo, an irrepressibly spirited dwarf played by Hervé Villechaize. They became one of television's most legendary odd couples.

Though Mister Roarke became Montalban's signature role, it was a mere bump in the timeline of a career that spanned decades, media and genres. Montalban embodied stereotypes, fought them and transcended them in his years in show business.

In 1971, troubled by the way he was asked to portray Mexicans, he helped found Nosotros, an advocacy group for Latinos working in the movie and television industry. As president of the organization, he later said: "I received tremendous support, but there were also some negative repercussions. I was accused of being a militant, and as a result I lost jobs."

Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban y Merino was born in Mexico City on Nov. 25, 1920, and moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to live with his older brother Carlos, who was pursuing a career in show business. The brothers traveled to New York in 1940, and Ricardo landed a bit part in "Her Cardboard Lover," a play starring Tallulah Bankhead.

The next year Montalban returned to Mexico, where his mother was dying. He made a dozen Spanish-language films in Mexico, becoming a star.

Montalban made his Hollywood debut in 1947 in "Fiesta," a musical in which he was cast as an aspiring toreador with a twin sister, improbably played by the movie's star, Esther Williams. They also starred together a year later in "On an Island With You." The next year he was signed as a contract player for MGM, and he specialized in Latin-lover roles, perfecting if not defining the stereotype. He played opposite Cyd Charisse ("Mark of the Renegade"), Shelley Winters ("My Man and I") and Pier Angeli ("Sombrero"), among others. A 1953 film in which he starred with Lana Turner was actually called "Latin Lovers."

Like other minority actors of the time, Montalban, with his dark good looks and his Spanish accent, seemed to be a kind of racial utility player. This was the era of the western, and he repeatedly played American Indians, including a Blackfoot war chief in "Across the Wide Missouri." He appeared as an ancient Babylonian in "The Queen of Babylon" and as a Japanese Kabuki actor in "Sayonara." In the Broadway musical "Jamaica," set on a mythical Caribbean island, he starred opposite Lena Horne in a cast that was, aside from himself, entirely African-American. For his performance he was nominated for a Tony in 1958.

In 1967, during the first season of "Star Trek," he was a guest star as Khan Noonien Singh, a tyrannical superhuman villain; he reprised the role in the 1982 "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," giving a performance that was gleefully and confidently weird.

In recent years Montalban found work in children's entertainment, appearing in the "Spy Kids" movies and providing the voice of characters on the television series "Dora the Explorer" and in the 2006 film "The Ant Bully," in which he plays the leader of an ant colony's ant council.


Cult actor Patrick McGoohan, "The Prisoner", has passed away on Tuesday.

Patrick McGoohan
, a multifaceted actor who spun television legend by creating and starring in the 1960s program "The Prisoner," a mysterious allegory about a mysterious man in a mysterious seaside village that became a cult classic, died Jan. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 80.

His death was announced on the Web site of the official appreciation society of "The Prisoner," Six of One, of which McGoohan was honorary president since its founding 32 years ago. His agent, Sharif Ali, said McGoohan had died suddenly after a brief illness.

McGoohan's career ranged from success on the stages of the West End in London to starring in a popular spy series called "Secret Agent" in the United States. He was critically praised for his King Edward Longshanks in Mel Gibson's 1995 film "Braveheart" and won Emmys as a guest star on "Columbo" in 1975 and 1990.

But it was as the lead character in "The Prisoner," identified only as No.6, that he struck a remarkable chord with audiences, all on the strength of just 17 episodes. Broadcast on CBS in 1968 and 1969, it tells the story of an unnamed spy who resigns his position and is then gassed in his apartment as he packs his bags. He wakes up in the Village, superficially a resort community but actually a high-tech prison. In each episode, No.6 struggles with the camp authority figure, No.2, who pressures him to say why he resigned. No.2 is played by a different actor each time.

"The Prisoner" remains "one of the most enigmatic and fascinating series ever produced for television" the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago said on its Web site, adding that some critics believe it to be "television's first masterpiece."

A question that has long intrigued fans is whether "The Prisoner" grew directly out of "Danger Man," as "Secret Agent" was known in Britain. "Danger Man" began in London in 1960, then ran briefly on CBS in 1961 as a half-hour show before becoming an hourlong show on CBS in the mid-1960s.

A 1964 episode had McGoohan's character, John Drake, infiltrating a spy school in the middle of nowhere that the instructors had scant hope of leaving. Did Drake later materialize as No.6?

McGoohan always said no, although three episodes of "Danger Man" had been shot at the Hotel Portmeirion, a series of fantasy buildings on the Welsh seacoast, which he acknowledged was an inspiration for the Village. He said in 1977 that boredom with "Danger Man" had inspired him to create "The Prisoner," for which he wrote and directed some episodes.

Patrick Mcgoohan: Danger Man or Prisoner?

Friday, 9 January 2009

Palm introduces touch-screen phone

Pushed to the brink by the iPhone, BlackBerry and others, Palm made a dramatic bid Thursday to revive its sinking fortunes with the long-awaited release of its new mobile operating system along with the first phone to be powered by it.


The Sunnyvale maker of smart phones and PDAs unveiled its WebOS and the Palm Pre, a stylish touch-screen phone with a slide-out keyboard, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The products revealed a new Palm that has reorganized its efforts to help people manage the information they have spread out over the Web.

"It's going to redefine the center of your access point to the Internet," said Palm CEO Ed Colligan of WebOS.

Building the new operating system was essential for Palm to keep competing in a market it pioneered through the Treo but lost with the rise of the iPhone from Apple and the BlackBerry from Research In Motion. Palm's new platform, several years in the making, allows it to keep pace with the iPhone and Google's Android, which were built from the ground up with the mobile Web in mind.

"Palm has brought the best of the iPhone's user interface elements forward and put it in the context of embracing multitasking and Web services," said Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group. "This differentiates Palm again and gives them a strong story to tell."

There are still plenty of questions surrounding the Pre and its release, which will happen sometime in the first half of the year on Sprint's network. The price of the phone has not been announced and it's unclear how much support Palm will get from developers, who are becoming essential to the success of a smart phone.

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, said Palm will need to convince developers that they can make substantial money writing for its platform.

But, he said, that should be easier now that Palm has created a robust product that makes the company competitive again. "Palm did its homework and they've made an extremely solid smart phone," Bajarin said. "This puts Palm back in the game as a real player."

The Pre showcases the considerable work Palm has done both in hardware and software to get back in the game. The 3G device sports a 3.1-inch multi-touch screen and boasts Wi-Fi, GPS, an accelerometer, 8 MB of memory, a 3-megapixel camera and a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard.

The operating system is built around an interface that supports multitasking and the blending of information from multiple sources. For example, the contact list will include information from different e-mail programs and social networks and give users the ability to open an instant-message session. The calendar program also collects events from Outlook, Google and Facebook onto one screen.

The WebOS displays open applications and Web pages as cards in a deck, so users can have multiple applications running at one time and easily switch among them.

The OS also tries to predict what a user is looking for, offering program shortcuts as the user types.

"Sometimes if feels like it's thinking for you," said Jon Rubinstein, Palm's executive chairman.

The touch interface, with its reliance on swipes, flicks and pinches, will be familiar to iPhone users. But the Pre tries to extend the gesture language to more actions.

Palm's success will hinge on the performance of the new OS and phones built for it. The company, which recently received $100 million from investor Elevation Partners, posted its sixth straight quarterly loss last month and saw its quarterly smart phone revenue drop 39 percent from the year before.

The new Palm Pre is not for sale yet. For current cell phones and accessories visit


Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Tragic Death of John Travolta's Son

An autopsy is planned for Monday for John Travolta's son, who died apparently after hitting his head on a bathtub after a seizure, authorities said.

Jett Travolta, 16, died on Friday morning at the family's vacation home in the Bahamas.

A house caretaker found the teenager unconscious in the bathroom on Friday morning.

"A nanny attempted to revive him, all attempts were made, but he couldn't be

revived," Travolta's attorney, Michael Ossi, who is also in the Bahamas, told Friday. "They tried as hard as they could to revive Jett."

A police officer who declined to be named told the Associated Press the boy apparently hit his head on the bathtub.

An ambulance took him to a Freeport hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The family, including Jett Travolta's mother, Kelly Preston, and his 8-year-old sister, Ella, had been celebrating the New Year in the Bahamas.

Ossi said that the teenager "has had seizures in the past, but they were controlle

d. This one couldn't be."

Royal Bahamas Police Force spokeswoman Loretta Mackey told the AP that Jett Travolta died from hitting his head in a bathtub.

Obie Wilchcombe, a parliament member and former tourism minister in the Bahamas, told the AP he expects a "quick resolution" for the autopsy.

Possible Role of Kawasaki Syndrome

Jett Travolta's health made national news in 2002. It was at this time that his mother disclosed that at age 2 he had had a poorly understood condition known as Kawasaki syndrome, a collection of symptoms that stem from swollen arteries.

Researchers believe that inflamation from Kawasaki syndrome, or KS, can lead to convulsions and seizures.

KS primarily affects children under the age of 5, though it can occur in older children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine out of 100,000 children have KS. Incidence is higher among Japanese and Korean children, though KS can occur among any ethnicity.

However, KS expert Dr. Robert Frenck, a professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious disease at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said KS is not usually associated with deadly seizures -- especially in children who have already recovered from KS, which he said is a temporary condition.

"If there's a major complication, and if someone dies from it, it is a [coronary] aneurysm," he said. "It doesn't happen frequently, but that is what we really worry about. ... That can set the kids up for a heart attack."

Frenck added that the only type of seizure that can occur in patients with KS is a febrile seizure, which arises from a high fever.

The New York Post and other media outlets have suggested in past reports that the Travolta's son has autism, though the family has always maintained that their son's condition is KS. Autism is also associated with seizures.

"There is a relationship between autism and seizures; as many as 40 percent of children and young adults with autism may experience seizure, and adolescence is a particular time of vulnerability," said Dr. Bryan King, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Seattle Children's Hospital's Research Center for Health Services and Behavioral Research.

"There are hormonal changes that could increase the risk of seizure, and certainly there are ongoing brain changes that take place during adolescence, but no one knows why the risk increases in older children."

Regardless of the cause, Ossi said that the family is now grieving. He added that the incident "is the worst pain any parent can experience, the loss of child."

Speaking for John Travolta, Ossi said, "This is the worst day of his life."

Photo: John Travolta's Son Dies in Bahamas: Jett Travolta, 16, reportedly suffered a seizure at his family's vacation home
In this file photo, John Travolta and son Jett walk to a waiting helicopter at the Santa Monica... Expand
(Lucky Mat/Getty Images)

Story source: