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Taylor Swift teases fans with snaky return to social media

Days after surprising fans by disappearing from social media and having her website go dark, Taylor Swift is returning with a few selective images.

Billboard reported Friday that Swift deleted her profile picture on her Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook pages, and her official website went black.

Swifties -- Swift’s fan base -- speculated about the change. Three years ago on Aug. 18, she released her single “Shake It Off,” leading some to think it was tied to the anniversary of the release.

>> Read more trending news

Others thought she was teasing a new music project fans are calling TS6, after what will be her sixth studio album.

All fans got a hint Monday when clips of the tail of what looks like a snake or some other reptile appeared on her social media pages, according to CNN

The snake imagery could be Swift taking a jab at the snake label she has been given in recent years, notably by Kim Kardashian. In 2016, Kardashian “exposed” Swift for her story about not giving Kanye West approval to reference her in a song. Kardashian posted a series of Snapchat videos showing West speaking to Swift over the phone and getting her permission to reference their feud in his song “Famous.”

Related: Taylor Swift wipes social media accounts; website goes dark

“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that (expletive) famous,” West says in the song.

“I mean, what’s dope about the line is it’s very tongue-and-cheek either way,” Swift was heard telling West over the phone. “And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice.”

Joseph Kahn, who directed Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video and others in 2015, linked to the singer’s tweet with the reptilian video and only commented with a smiley face.

He also teased something from Swift coming at noon, but nothing has shown up on her social media pages since the video post.

“People shouldn’t take my tweets literally, metaphorically, alliteratively, seriously, or ironically,” Kahn said nearly 20 minutes past noon.

Her official website remains black.

The social media change comes after a jury sided with Swift in in her suit against radio DJ David Mueller who she said groped her at a pre-concert photo-op. Judge William J. Martinez ordered Mueller to pay Swift a symbolic $1.

Swift, her record label, Big Machine Label Group, and her representative have not commented on the changes on her social media platforms.

Famous Norman Rockwell study drawing of umpires fetches $1.68M at auction

An original study drawing of a famous illustration by Norman Rockwell sold for $1.68 million Sunday night in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports auction.

>> Read more trending news

The 1948 study, or preliminary work, for “Tough Call,” which was used as the April 23, 1949, cover of The Saturday Evening Post, belonged to the family of John “Beans” Reardon, an umpire who was the primary subject of the drawing.

“I need to credit my colleagues in the art division for the assist on this one,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at the Dallas-based auction house. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve been able to draw from other segments of our million-strong bidding clientele to benefit a sports consignor.”

Reardon’s family had believed the original study they owned was merely a signed print, worth only several hundred dollars, Ivy said. It sold to a buyer who wished to remain anonymous, Ivy said.

The drawing is also known as “Game Called Because of Rain,” “Bottom of the Sixth,” and “The Three Umpires.” Rockwell’s finished painting is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The drawing depicts a game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, with the Dodgers leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Reardon and his fellow umpires are looking skyward, debating whether to call the game due to rain.

Sports memorabilia fetched more than $10.7 million during the two-day auction, which ended Sunday, Ivy said.

Britney Spears proves she really can sing with impromptu live song at Vegas show

Pop star Britney Spears is tired of all the criticism over lip-syncing during her live Las Vegas shows.

>> Read more trending news

Spears set the record straight over the weekend, singing the southern classic “Something to Talk About” live onstage with a band accompanying her.

After telling the audience she’d been thinking about it for sometime, she explained why she decided to belt one out.

“I’ve never really spoken about it, you know, and I’m a Southern girl, I’m from Louisiana, I’m from the South,” she said.

“And I have to keep it real, so I just want to make sure I keep having you (expletive) something to talk about, okay?”

>> Related: Britney Spears shows off abs, does a split in new social media post

She was referring to the media there and the bad press coverage of her over the years.

Spears then launched into a live cover of Bonnie Raitt’s award-winning song “Something to Talk About.”

>> Related Britney Spears’ backup dancers spring into action when guy bum-rushed the stage at her Vegas showcase

Her impromptu performance comes nearly two months after she publicly defended herself against lip-syncing rumors.

“A lot of people think that I don’t do live. … It really pisses me off, because I am busting my (expletive) out there and singing at the same time, and nobody ever really gives me credit for it.”

>> Related: Flight attendants recreate Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ video

Spears’ live rendition of “Something to Talk About” is below, but a warning about graphic language before the song.

David Bowie’s baby daughter all grown up; mom Iman shares rare photo

Supermodel Iman shared a rare photo of her daughter with late husband David Bowie.

>> Read more trending news

Alexandria “Lexi” Zahra Jones is all grown up. Lexi turned 17 this week and s and proud mom, Iman, posted a very rare picture of the teenager on Instagram on Thursday to wish her a happy birthday.

“The Queen of my heart Lexi Jones at 17 years old!” she captioned the picture of Lexi, who is sporting a white halter top and gold nose ring as her red curly hair frames her face.

Iman and Bowie met in 1990 and were married in Tuscany two years later. In 2000, they welcomed Lexi into the world. Sadly, the singer died at the age of 69 in 2016 after a battle with cancer.

>> Related: Iman pays tribute to David Bowie on what would have been their 25th wedding anniversary

While Iman and Lexi have largely remained out of the public eye since Bowie’s death in January, the model still takes to Instagram to share updates on her life with fans and to post tributes to her late husband. In June, she honored Bowie on what would have been their 25th wedding anniversary by sharing a black and white photograph of the pair kissing under an umbrella.

>> Related: New biography on David Bowie reveals details of his wild life     

Norman Rockwell baseball painting sells for $1.6M at auction

A rendering by Norman Rockwell of one of his best known baseball-themed paintings has sold at auction for $1.6 million.

The work was a study, or a preliminary work, for Rockwell's "Tough Call."

The painting depicts three umpires looking skyward pondering whether to call a game because of rain. It's arguably the most recognizable of his baseball-themed works.

Heritage Auctions says the painting sold Sunday in Dallas to a buyer who wants to remain anonymous.

The Austin family who put the work up for auction thought they just had a print of the work before they had it examined.

The final painting is in the possession of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Solar Eclipse 2017: Watch for cool shadow snakes just before and after eclipse

Shadow snakes or shadow bands are wavy lines of light and dark that race across the ground just before and after the moon totally blocks out the sun during a total eclipse.

>> Read more trending news

Scientists still don’t completely understand what these mysterious bands of light and shadow are or where they originate, according to NASA.

Over the past 100 years many scientists have tried to explain shadow bands, and since 1925 many believe the popular theory that they originate in the atmosphere. 

“The intensity, motion and direction of these bands seems to be related to the same phenomenon that makes stars twinkle,” NASA said on its website.

>> Related: Solar Eclipse 2017: You can be a ‘Citizen scientist’ during the Great American Eclipse

“In the upper atmosphere there are turbulent cells of air that act like lenses to focus and de-focus the sharp-edged light from the solar surface just before totality.” 

Those turbulent air cells could cause the undulating shadows on the ground just before the moon blocks out the sun in a total solar eclipse.

>> Related: Solar Eclipse 2017: What’s on your Great American Eclipse playlist

Unlike the eclipse itself, shadow snakes are totally unpredictable and difficult to photograph, but you can see the bands during a total solar eclipse by looking at a plain-colored surface right before and after the moon moves in front of the sun.

>> Related: 2017 Solar Eclipse in Photos

>> Related: Solar Eclipse 2017: NASA live stream, live updates

Cosby hires Michael Jackson's lawyer for sex assault retrial

Bill Cosby has hired Michael Jackson's former lawyer to represent him at his November retrial on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania.

Cosby's spokesman announced Monday that the 80-year-old comedian is bringing in Tom Mesereau to lead a retooled defense team. Lawyers from the first trial in June had said they wanted off the case.

Mesereau won an acquittal in Jackson's 2004 child molestation trial. He has also represented boxer Mike Tyson, rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight and a Playboy bunny.

Mesereau will be joined by former federal prosecutor Kathleen Bliss, as well as Sam Silver, who represented now-imprisoned former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania in a corruption case.

Cosby's first trial on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 ended in a hung jury.

Dudamel tour of US cancelled amid feud with Venezuela govt

A four-city U.S. tour by classical music maestro Gustavo Dudamel is being cancelled following President Nicolas Maduro's complaints about the Venezuela-born conductor's criticism of the government's crackdown on protests.

Dudamel's tour with the government-backed Venezuelan National Youth Orchestra was set to begin Sept. 9 near Washington before continuing to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Dudamel on Twitter Monday called the cancellation "heartbreaking" and said he would continue "to fight for a better Venezuela."

Dudamel gave no reason for the cancellation, but Maduro last week blasted the Los Angeles Philharmonic's musical director, accusing him of being duped by Venezuela's enemies into criticizing the government that has for years been one of his biggest promoters.

Dudamel is scheduled to tour China with another government orchestra in October.

Rockabilly pioneer Sonny Burgess dies in Arkansas at 88

Albert "Sonny" Burgess, who was an early pioneer of what became known as rockabilly music, has died in his native Arkansas.

The Dillinger Funeral Home in Newport says Burgess died Friday in Little Rock. He was 88.

Burgess was among a group of singers in the mid-1950s who mixed rhythm and blues with country and western music. The sound became known as rockabilly and included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Burgess eventually signed with Sun Records in Memphis, where Presley, Cash and Lewis were among the artists under contract.

Burgess also is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Funeral arrangements are pending. His cause of death was not released.

Solar eclipse 2017: What's on your Great American Eclipse playlist?

On Monday, millions of people will watch the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly a century.

So we thought it might be fun to make an eclipse-related playlist of songs that use the words moon, eclipse or sun in the title. 

>> Solar eclipse 2017: Is it safe to take a selfie with the eclipse? How to do it the right way

Or, perhaps, in the spirit of this “once-in-a-lifetime" event, how about songs that mention the sky or stars? 

There are some obvious ones, such as "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler or "Moon River" from the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's.”

>> On AJC.com: Complete coverage of the solar eclipse

That song was performed in the movie by Audrey Hepburn and later covered by Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra.

The thoughts of one Atlanta pastor also turned to eclipse-related music. 

>> Solar eclipse 2017: What time does it start; how long does it last; glasses; how to view it

The Rev. Patricia Templeton, rector of St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church of Atlanta, decided to make a list of eclipse- or celestial-related hymns for the music worship on Sunday. 

She included hymns such as “The Spacious Firmament on High” and “God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens.” 

>> Bonnie Tyler to sing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' on cruise during solar eclipse

Templeton also tweaked the Scripture readings. 

“My son tells me I can make anything relate to anything,” she said.

>> Read more trending news

Here are a few others:

"Ain't No Sunshine” by Bill Withers.

"A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay.

Now it's your turn.

What's on your solar eclipse playlist?

Jerry Lewis, Hollywood survivor, showman, dies at 91

Jerry Lewis epitomized what it meant to be a survivor in Hollywood.

Through ups and downs in popularity, health troubles and weight fluctuations and the sorts of seismic shifts that take place over decades in the entertainment industry, Lewis always figured out a way to battle back, to reinvent himself, to stay relevant. It's what enduring stars know how to do instinctively; perhaps it's that very drive that makes them stars in the first place.

Through it all, Lewis remained the consummate showman, and his distinctive comic legacy surely will continue to survive for decades to come. The manic, rubber-faced performer who jumped and hollered to fame in a stage, radio, TV and film partnership with Dean Martin, settled to become a self-conscious auteur in movies he wrote, produced and directed, and found new fame as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, died Sunday at home in Las Vegas surrounded by family. He was 91.

Lewis, who had battled the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis, heart issues, a debilitating back problem and addiction to pain killers, died of natural causes, according to his publicist.

His career spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents' vaudeville act at the age of 5. He was just 20 when his pairing with Martin made them international stars. After their cold parting in 1956, Lewis made such favorites as "The Bellboy" and "The Nutty Professor," was featured in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" and appeared as himself in Billy Crystal's "Mr. Saturday Night." In the 1990s, he scored a stage comeback as the devil in the Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees."

In his 80s, he was still traveling the world, planning to remake some of his earlier movies and working on a stage version of "The Nutty Professor." He was so active he would sometimes forget the basics, like eating, his associates would recall. In 2012, Lewis missed an awards ceremony thrown by his beloved Friars Club because his blood sugar dropped from lack of food and he had to spend the night in the hospital.

In an interview with The Associated Press from 2016, Lewis, at 90 and promoting the film "Max Rose," said he still woke up every day at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to write, and he had a handful of standup shows on the schedule.

Although a clear influence on Jim Carrey and other slapstick performers, later generations knew Lewis primarily as the ringmaster of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association, joking and reminiscing and introducing guests, sharing stories about ailing kids and concluding with his personal anthem, the ballad "You'll Never Walk Alone." From the 1960s onward, the telethons raised about $1.5 billion. He announced in 2011 that he would step down as host, but he would remain chairman of the association he joined some 60 years ago.

His fundraising efforts won him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Oscar telecast, an honor he said "touches my heart and the very depth of my soul." But the telethon was also criticized for being mawkish and exploitative of children, known as "Jerry's Kids." A 1960s muscular dystrophy poster boy, Mike Ervin, later made a documentary called "The Kids Are All Alright," in which he alleged that Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association had treated him and others as objects of pity rather than real people.

Responded Lewis: "You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!"

He was the classic funnyman who longed to play "Hamlet." He cried as hard as he laughed. He sassed and snarled at critics and interviewers who displeased him. He pontificated on talk shows, lectured to college students and compiled his thoughts in the 1971 book "The Total Film-Maker."

"I believe, in my own way, that I say something on film. I'm getting to those who probably don't have the mentality to understand what ... 'A Man for All Seasons' is all about, plus many who did understand it," he wrote. "I am not ashamed or embarrassed at how seemingly trite or saccharine something in my films will sound. I really do make films for my great-great-grandchildren and not for my fellows at the Screen Directors Guild or for the critics."

In his early movies, he played the kind of fellows who would have had no idea what the elder Lewis was talking about: loose-limbed, buck-toothed, overgrown adolescents, trouble-prone and inclined to wail when beset by enemies. American critics recognized the comedian's popular appeal but not his pretensions of higher art. Not the French. Writing in Paris' Le Monde newspaper, Jacques Siclier praised Lewis' "apish allure, his conduct of a child, his grimaces, his contortions, his maladjustment to the world, his morbid fear of women, his way of disturbing order everywhere he appeared."

The French government awarded Lewis the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1983 and Commander of Arts and Letters the following year. Film critic Andrew Sarris observed: "The fact that Lewis lacks verbal wit on the screen doesn't particularly bother the French."

Lewis had teamed up with Martin after World War II, and their radio and stage antics delighted audiences, although not immediately. Their debut, in 1946 at Atlantic City's 500 Club, was a bust. Warned by owner "Skinny" D'Amato that they might be fired, Martin and Lewis tossed the script and improvised their way into history. New York columnists Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan raved over the sexy singer and the berserk clown.

Hollywood producer Hal Wallis saw them at New York's Copacabana and signed them to a film contract. Martin and Lewis first appeared in supporting roles in, then they began a hit series of starring vehicles: "At War With the Army," ''That's My Boy," ''Sailor Beware," ''Jumping Jacks," ''The Stooge," ''The Caddy," ''Money From Home," ''Living It Up," ''Three Ring Circus," ''You're Never Too Young," ''Artists and Models," ''Pardners," ''Hollywood or Bust."

But in the mid-1950s, their partnership began to wear. Lewis longed for more than laughs. Martin had tired of playing straight man and of Lewis' attempts to inject Chaplinesque pathos into their movies. He also wearied of the pace of films, television, nightclub and theater appearances, benefits and publicity junkets on which Lewis thrived. The rift became increasingly public as the two camps sparred verbally.

"I knew we were in trouble the day someone gave Jerry a book about Charlie Chaplin," Martin cracked.

On July 24, 1956, Martin and Lewis closed shop, at the Copa, and remained estranged for years. Martin, who died in 1995, did make a dramatic, surprise appearance on Lewis' telethon in 1976 (a reunion brokered by mutual pal Frank Sinatra). After Martin's death, Lewis said the two had again become friendly during his former partner's final years and he would repeatedly express his admiration for Martin above all others.

Lewis distinguished himself after the break, revealing a serious side as unexpected as Martin's gift for comedy.

He brought in comedy director Frank Tashlin for "Rock-a-bye Baby," ''Cinderfella," ''The Disorderly Orderly," ''The Geisha Boy" and "Who's Minding the Store?"

With "The Bellboy," though, Lewis assumed the posts of producer, director, writer and star, like his idol Chaplin. Among his hits under his own direction was the 1963 "The Nutty Professor," playing a dual Jekyll and Hyde role, transforming himself from a nerdy college teacher to a sexy (and conceited) lounge singer, Buddy Love, regarded as a spoof of his old partner Martin.

Lewis' more recent film credits included such low-budget releases as "Arizona Dream," co-starring Johnny Depp, "Funny Bones," and "Max Rose," from 2016. He was seen briefly in Eddie Murphy's remake of "The Nutty Professor."

He was born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, on March 16, 1926. His father, billed as Danny Lewis, was a singer on the borscht and burlesque circuits. His mother played piano for Danny's act. Their only child was often left alone in hotel rooms, or lived in Brooklyn with his paternal grandparents, Russian Jewish immigrants, or his aunts in New Jersey.

"All my life I've been afraid of being alone," Lewis once said. In his later years the solitude haunted him, and he surrounded himself with an entourage at work and at home.

Joey Levitch made his professional debut at age 5, singing the Depression tearjerker "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" to great applause.

By 16, Jerry Lewis had dropped out of school and was earning as much as $150 a week as a solo performer. Rejected by the Army because of a heart murmur and punctured eardrum, Lewis entertained troops in World War II and toured with his lip-sync act. In 1944 he married Patti Palmer, a band vocalist. The following year he met Martin, on a March day in 1945 in Manhattan.

Fame brought him women and Lewis wrote openly of his many partners. After 36 years of marriage and six sons, Patti Lewis sued her husband for divorce in 1982. She later wrote a book claiming that he was an adulterer and drug addict who abused their children. In his late 50s, Lewis married Sandra Pitnick, 32, a former airline stewardess. They had a daughter, Dani, named for Jerry's father.

"When the truth comes down to the truth, I am so grateful that I'm on that stage or in front of that camera," Lewis told The Associated Press in 2016. "To have a career that I had in film, I'm the luckiest Jew that ever lived. I'm so grateful for it. I don't take advantage of it. I don't use it improperly. And I love the fact that there's nowhere I can go where people don't know me."

___

Lemire is a former Associated Press writer. Associated Press writer Bob Thomas and AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr in Los Angeles and AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis knew how to laugh and cry

Jerry Lewis sometimes didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"There's nothing more dramatic than the comedy I've done," Lewis, who died Sunday at age 91, told The Associated Press in 2016. "Because the comedy I've done is to get to the audience, get them to feel it, or they won't laugh."

If jokes are the children of pain, then Lewis was a born patriarch. The filmmaker, entertainer and sleepless host of the Muscular Dystrophy telethons was a storm system of rage and ecstasy, Olympian physical talent, artistic aspiration and vintage Vegas schmaltz. The crazed funnyman who would scream like a toddler worked on a Holocaust film called "The Day the Clown Cried" and for his theme song chose the self-mythology of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone":

___

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

__

Some comedians are always in character. Don Rickles, who died in April, stayed true in public to his persona of good-natured insulter. With Lewis, you never knew when he might switch from sad to funny to angry to reflective. He might lash out an audience member during one of his nightclub performances or chastise a gathering at the Friars Club in New York for not cheering loud enough for one his fellow entertainers. He might glare in response to a reporter's question, give a long and thoughtful response or tell an unprintable joke.

Lewis believed in truth, and part of his truth was darkness. He once bragged that he told gossip columnist Louella Parsons she was "a fat pig."

"You see the people that have a point of view, and have an opinion and have some intellect are dangerous in the film community, they're dangerous," he told Larry King during a 2000 interview on CNN. "You want to know why Barbra Streisand is so difficult? Because she's brilliant. She's a brilliant entertainer, she's a brilliant lady, and she's a wonderful human being, and the community doesn't like it."

Lewis was born into a world of vaudeville and silent movies and carried with him decades of 20th century show business. He was a final link to the old Borsch Belt culture that also turned out Mel Brooks and Henny Youngman, to the nightclub circuit where entertainers such as himself, Frank Sinatra and his old partner Dean Martin got their starts, and to the early years of Las Vegas when Lewis helped shape the city's brand of glitz and sentimentality.

Lewis was equally memorable talking too much or saying nothing. As the French seemed to know better than anyone, he was among the last comedians who modeled their work after Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the greats of the silent era. Like the early masters, he was the sole author of his best work, serving as star, writer, director and producer of "The Nutty Professor," ''The Bellboy," ''The Patsy" and other films. His most memorable routines had a near-martial precision, whether in "The Errand Boy" when he points a cigar to the beat of Count Basie's "Blues in Hoss Flat" or his mimicry of a typewriter in "Who's Minding the Store?"

He knew well how to suffer, but also called himself "the luckiest Jew in the world" and liked to say that happiness was family. Also work and recognition, knowing he would always be spotted in a crowd. He also loved the admiration of peers and the bad taste of their compliments. When he celebrated his 90th birthday at the Friars, friends such as Richard Belzer, Gilbert Gottfried and Robert Klein turned up to wish him well, remind of his age and make fun of his sex life. Jim Carrey had a final message for his hero.

""He's 90!" Carrey called out. "He can still disappoint us!"

The Latest: White House praises Lewis for comedy, charity

The Latest on the death of comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

The White House is remembering the late comedian Jerry Lewis as a man who "kept us all laughing for over half a century" and touched the lives of millions with his charity work.

The 91-year-old Lewis died Sunday in Las Vegas. Besides his movie and TV work, he was closely identified with the annual telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy research.

In a statement Sunday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Lewis "lived the American dream" and that "he truly loved his country, and his country loved him back."

Sanders says, "Our thoughts are with his family today as we remember the extraordinary life of one of our greatest entertainers and humanitarians."

___

5:20 p.m.

The star and director of "The King of Comedy," a 1982 film featuring Jerry Lewis' much-hailed performance as a kidnapped TV talk show host, praised Lewis in separate statements.

Director Martin Scorsese called Lewis "a master."

"He was a giant. He was an innovator. He was a great entertainer. He was a great artist. And he was a remarkable man. I had the honor of working with him, and it was an experience I'll always treasure. He was, truly, one of our greats," Scorsese said.

Actor Robert DeNiro said Lewis "was a friend."

"I was fortunate to have seen him a few times over the past couple of years. Even at 91, he didn't miss a beat. Or a punchline. You'll be missed," DeNiro said.

__

4:45 p.m.

France's culture minister is paying homage to the "laughter genius" Jerry Lewis, who enjoyed unusual success with French audiences.

Actor Robert DeNiro

In a statement Sunday, Francois Nyssen praised "the extraordinary inventiveness of his game, his comic force" as well as his dramatic roles such as in "King of Comedy."

Lewis' goofy antics marked a sharp contrast with the gilded halls where he was inducted into France's Legion of Honor —wearing slippers — and with the art-house crowds in Paris and Cannes.

Yet while noting that he "wasn't always in favor with American critics," Nyssen said the French cinema world "paid him the homage he deserved."

"He made people laugh, he made people happy," Nyssen said. "France ... will remember his life, his silhouette, his voice, his legendary comedy."

___

11:15 a.m.

Jerry Lewis, the rubber-faced comedian and director whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died.

Publicist Candi Cazau says Lewis passed away Sunday morning of natural causes at age 91 in Las Vegas with his family by his side.

Lewis first became a star in a duo with Dean Martin, entertaining audiences in nightclubs, on television and in the movies. After their split in 1956, he starred in and directed a slew of hit films such as "The Nutty Professor."

Later generations knew him primarily as the tireless conductor of the Labor Day weekend telethons to raise funds for victims of muscular dystrophy. Lewis retired from making movies in 1995, but returned as star of the 2016 drama "Max Rose."

Jerry Lewis, comedy icon and telethon host, dies at 91

Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was 91.

Lewis died Sunday of natural causes in Las Vegas with his family by his side, publicist Candi Cazau said.

Tributes from friends, co-stars and disciples poured in immediately. Jim Carrey called him an, "Undeniable genius and an unfathomable blessing." Carl Reiner said on Twitter that Lewis was, "A true comic icon." In Las Vegas, Ceasars Palace, where Lewis was once a headliner, featured a message honoring him on a marquee, and in Los Angeles, fans gathered at Lewis's two Hollywood Walk of Fame stars — one of which was for television and one for film.

Lewis' career spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents' vaudeville act at the age of 5. He was just 20 when his pairing with Martin made them international stars. He went on to make such favorites as "The Bellboy" and "The Nutty Professor," was featured in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" and appeared as himself in Billy Crystal's "Mr. Saturday Night." In the 1990s, he scored a stage comeback as the devil in the Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees."

In his 80s, he was still traveling the world, planning to remake some of his earlier movies and working on a stage version of "The Nutty Professor." He was so active he would sometimes forget the basics, like eating, his associates would recall. In 2012, Lewis missed an awards ceremony thrown by his beloved Friars Club because his blood sugar dropped from lack of food and he had to spend the night in the hospital.

In an interview with The Associated Press from 2016, Lewis, at 90 and promoting the film "Max Rose," said he still woke up every day at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to write, and had a handful of standup shows on the schedule.

"When the truth comes down to the truth, I am so grateful that I'm on that stage or in front of that camera. I still feel it like it's the first day," Lewis said. "To have a career that I had in film, I'm the luckiest Jew that ever lived. I'm so grateful for it. I don't take advantage of it. I don't use it improperly. And I love the fact that there's nowhere I can go where people don't know me."

A major influence on Carrey and other slapstick performers, Lewis also was known as the ringmaster of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association, joking and reminiscing and introducing guests, sharing stories about ailing kids and concluding with his personal anthem, the ballad "You'll Never Walk Alone." From the 1960s onward, the telethons raised about $1.5 billion, including more than $60 million in 2009. He announced in 2011 that he would step down as host, but he would remain chairman of the association he joined about 60 years ago.

His fundraising efforts won him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Oscar telecast, an honor he said "touches my heart and the very depth of my soul." But the telethon was also criticized for being mawkish and exploitative of children, known as "Jerry's Kids." A 1960s muscular dystrophy poster boy, Mike Ervin, later made a documentary called "The Kids Are All Alright," in which he alleged that Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association had treated him and others as objects of pity rather than real people.

Responded Lewis: "You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!"

He was the classic funnyman who longed to play "Hamlet," crying as hard as he laughed. He sassed and snarled at critics and interviewers who displeased him. He pontificated on talk shows, lectured to college students and compiled his thoughts in the 1971 book "The Total Film-Maker."

"I believe, in my own way, that I say something on film. I'm getting to those who probably don't have the mentality to understand what ... 'A Man for All Seasons' is all about, plus many who did understand it," he wrote. "I am not ashamed or embarrassed at how seemingly trite or saccharine something in my films will sound. I really do make films for my great-great-grandchildren and not for my fellows at the Screen Directors Guild or for the critics."

In his early movies, he played the kind of fellows who would have had no idea what the elder Lewis was talking about: loose-limbed, buck-toothed, overgrown adolescents, trouble-prone and inclined to wail when beset by enemies. American critics recognized the comedian's popular appeal but not his aspirations to higher art; the French did. Writing in Paris' Le Monde newspaper, Jacques Siclier praised Lewis' "apish allure, his conduct of a child, his grimaces, his contortions, his maladjustment to the world, his morbid fear of women, his way of disturbing order everywhere he appeared."

The French government awarded Lewis the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1983 and Commander of Arts and Letters the following year. Film critic Andrew Sarris observed: "The fact that Lewis lacks verbal wit on the screen doesn't particularly bother the French."

Lewis had many girlfriends and two marriages, one to Patti Palmer, that resulted in six sons and ended in divorce after 36 years in 1980, and a second to Sandra Pitnick, his wife of over 33 years with whom he has a daughter, Danielle Lewis.

___

The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles, AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York, and AP reporter Sally Ho in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Jerry Lewis, comedy icon and telethon host dies, at 91

Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was 91.

Lewis died Sunday of natural causes in Las Vegas with his family by his side, publicist Candi Cazau said.

Tributes from friends, co-stars and disciples poured in immediately.

"That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute!" Jim Carrey wrote Sunday on Twitter. "I am because he was!"

"The world has lost a true innovator & icon," comedian Dane Cook wrote.

In Las Vegas, a message honoring the comedian is being featured on a marquee at Caesars Palace, where Lewis was once a headliner and had also hosted telethons. In Los Angeles fans and admirers gathered at Lewis' two Hollywood Walk of Fame stars — one for television and one for film.

Lewis' career spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents' vaudeville act at the age of 5. He was just 20 when his pairing with Martin made them international stars. He went on to make such favorites as "The Bellboy" and "The Nutty Professor," was featured in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" and appeared as himself in Billy Crystal's "Mr. Saturday Night."

"Jerry was a pioneer in comedy and film. And he was a friend. I was fortunate to have seen him a few times over the past couple of years. Even at 91, he didn't miss a beat. Or a punchline," Lewis' "The King of Comedy" co-star Robert De Niro said in a statement.

In the 1990s, he scored a stage comeback as the devil in the Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees." And after a 20-year break from making movies, Lewis returned as the star of the independent drama "Max Rose," released in 2016.

In his 80s, he was still traveling the world, working on a stage version of "The Nutty Professor." He was so active he would sometimes forget the basics, like eating, his associates would recall. In 2012, Lewis missed an awards ceremony thrown by his beloved Friars Club because his blood sugar dropped from lack of food and he had to spend the night in the hospital.

A major influence on Carrey and other slapstick performers, Lewis also was known as the ringmaster of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association, joking and reminiscing and introducing guests, sharing stories about ailing kids and concluding with his personal anthem, the ballad "You'll Never Walk Alone." From the 1960s onward, the telethons raised some $1.5 billion, including more than $60 million in 2009. He announced in 2011 that he would step down as host, but would remain chairman of the association he joined some 60 years ago.

"Though we will miss him beyond measure, we suspect that somewhere in heaven, he's already urging the angels to give 'just one dollar more for my kids,'" said MDA Chairman of the Board R. Rodney Howell on Sunday.

In a statement Sunday, the White House praised Lewis for his charity work.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Lewis "lived the American dream" and that "he truly loved his country, and his country loved him back."

Sanders added: "Our thoughts are with his family today as we remember the extraordinary life of one of our greatest entertainers and humanitarians."

Lewis' fundraising efforts won him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Oscar telecast. But the telethon was also criticized for being mawkish and exploitative of children, known as "Jerry's Kids." A 1960s muscular dystrophy poster boy, Mike Ervin, later made a documentary called "The Kids Are All Alright," in which he alleged that Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association had treated him and others as objects of pity rather than real people.

"He and his telethon symbolize an antiquated and destructive 1950s charity mentality," Ervin wrote in 2009.

Responded Lewis: "You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!"

Lewis also sassed and snarled at critics and interviewers who displeased him. He pontificated on talk shows, lectured to college students and compiled his thoughts in the 1971 book "The Total Film-Maker."

"I am not ashamed or embarrassed at how seemingly trite or saccharine something in my films will sound," he wrote. "I really do make films for my great-great-grandchildren and not for my fellows at the Screen Directors Guild or for the critics."

In his early movies, Lewis played loose-limbed, buck-toothed, overgrown adolescents, trouble-prone and inclined to wail when beset by enemies. American critics recognized the comedian's popular appeal but not his aspirations to higher art; the French did. Writing in Paris' Le Monde newspaper, Jacques Siclier praised Lewis' "apish allure, his conduct of a child, his grimaces, his contortions, his maladjustment to the world, his morbid fear of women, his way of disturbing order everywhere he appeared."

The French government awarded Lewis the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1983 and Commander of Arts and Letters the following year.

Lewis had teamed up with Martin after World War II, and their radio and stage antics delighted audiences, although not immediately. Their debut, in 1946 at Atlantic City's 500 Club, was a bust. Warned by owner "Skinny" D'Amato that they might be fired, Martin and Lewis tossed the script and improvised their way into history. New York columnists Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan came to the club and raved over the sexy singer and the berserk clown.

Lewis described their fledgling act in his 1982 autobiography, "Jerry Lewis in Person": "We juggle and drop a few dishes and try a few handstands. I conduct the three-piece band with one of my shoes, burn their music, jump offstage, run around the tables, sit down with the customers and spill things while Dean keeps singing."

Hollywood producer Hal Wallis saw them at New York's Copacabana and signed them to a film contract. Martin and Lewis first appeared in supporting roles in "My Friend Irma" and "My Friend Irma Goes West." Then they began a hit series of starring vehicles, including "At War With the Army," ''That's My Boy" and "Artists and Models."

But in the mid-1950s, their partnership began to wear. Lewis longed for more than laughs. Martin had tired of playing straight man and of Lewis' attempts to add Chaplinesque pathos. He also wearied of the pace of films, television, nightclub and theater appearances, benefits and publicity junkets on which Lewis thrived. The rift became increasingly public as the two camps sparred verbally.

"I knew we were in trouble the day someone gave Jerry a book about Charlie Chaplin," Martin cracked.

On July 24, 1956, Martin and Lewis closed shop, at the Copa, and remained estranged for years. Martin, who died in 1995, did make a dramatic, surprise appearance on Lewis' telethon in 1976 (a reunion brokered by mutual pal Frank Sinatra), and director Peter Bogdonavich nearly persuaded them to appear in a film together as former colleagues who no longer speak to each other. After Martin's death, Lewis said the two had again become friendly during his former partner's final years and he would repeatedly express his admiration for Martin above all others.

The entertainment trade at first considered Martin the casualty of the split, since his talents, except as a singer, were unexplored. He fooled his detractors by cultivating a comic, drunken persona, becoming star of a long-running TV variety show and a respected actor in such films as "Some Came Running," ''The Young Lions" and "Rio Bravo."

Lewis also distinguished himself after the break, revealing a serious side as unexpected as Martin's gift for comedy.

He brought in comedy director Frank Tashlin for "Rock-a-bye Baby," ''Cinderfella," ''The Disorderly Orderly," ''The Geisha Boy" and "Who's Minding the Store?", in which he did a pantomime of a typist trying to keep up with Leroy Anderson's speedy song "The Typewriter."

With "The Bellboy," though, Lewis assumed the posts of producer, director, writer and star, like his idol Chaplin. Among his hits under his own direction was the 1963 "The Nutty Professor," playing a dual Jekyll and Hyde role, transforming himself from a nerdy college teacher to a sexy (and conceited) lounge singer, Buddy Love, regarded as a spoof of his old partner Martin.

Lewis was born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, on March 16, 1926. His father, billed as Danny Lewis, was a singer on the borscht and burlesque circuits. His mother played piano for Danny's act. Their only child was often left alone in hotel rooms, or lived in Brooklyn with his paternal grandparents, Russian Jewish immigrants, or his aunts in New Jersey.

"All my life I've been afraid of being alone," Lewis once said. In his later years the solitude haunted him, and he surrounded himself with an entourage.

Joey Levitch made his professional debut at age 5, singing the Depression tearjerker "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" to great applause. He recalled that he eventually lost all interest in school and "began to clown around to attract people's attention."

By 16, Jerry Lewis (as his billing read) had dropped out of school and was earning as much as $150 a week as a solo performer. He appeared in a "record act," mouthing crazily to the records of Danny Kaye, Spike Jones and other artists. Rejected by the Army because of a heart murmur and punctured eardrum, Lewis entertained troops in World War II and continued touring with his lip-sync act. In 1944 he married Patti Palmer, a band vocalist.

The following year he met Martin, on a March day in 1945 in Manhattan, Broadway and 54th to be exact. Lewis was on his way to see an agent, walking with a friend, when his friend spotted an "incredibly handsome" man wearing a camel's hair coat. Lewis and Martin were introduced and Lewis knew right off that this new acquaintance, nine years older than him, was "the real deal."

"'Harry Horses,' I thought," Lewis wrote in the memoir "Dean and Me," published in 2005. "That was what we used to call a guy who thought he was smooth with the ladies. Anybody who wore a camel's-hair overcoat, with a camel's-hair belt and fake diamond cuff links, was automatically Harry Horses."

Lewis couldn't escape from small-time bookings. The same was true of Martin, who sang romantic songs in nightclubs. In 1946, Lewis was playing the 500 Club, and the seats were empty. Lewis suggested hiring Martin to bolster the bill, promising he could do comedy as well as sing.

Fame brought him women and Lewis wrote openly of his many partners. After 36 years of marriage and six sons, Patti Lewis sued her husband for divorce in 1982. She later wrote a book claiming that he was an adulterer and drug addict who abused their children. Son Gary became a pop singer whose group, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, had a string of hits in 1965-66.

In his late 50s, Lewis married Sandra Pitnick, 32, a former airline stewardess. They had a daughter, Dani, named for Jerry's father.

___

The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles, AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York, and AP reporter Sally Ho in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Comedy genius Jerry Lewis has died at 91

Legendary comedian, brash entertainer,  zany actor and dedicated humanitarian Jerry Lewis has died in Las Vegas at the age of 91.

>> Read more trending news

He died at his home at 9:15 a.m. , according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and confirmed by his agent, Variety reported.

Lewis was born Joseph Levitch in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey to show business parents and made his professional debut at the age of 5.

Lewis made a name for himself in the 1940s and 1950s with his slapstick humor and as part of the comedic duo Martin and Lewis with handsome straight man and crooner Dean Martin. The pair performed together for 10 years before going on to successful solo careers.

Lewis went on to star in the popular movies “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy” in the 1960s, among many other works. 

Over his long career he worked in radio, film, and on stage. He was a screen writer and film producer and director.

One of Lewis’ most critically acclaimed dramatic roles was in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” in 1982. He played a late-night television host who is kidnapped by two obsessive fans, portrayed by actors Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard.

The comedian may have been best known in some circles for his humanitarian efforts off the big screen with his decades-long work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and his annual MDA Labor Day telethon.

It’s estimated that Lewis’ annual telethons made more than $2 billion to help fight the neuromuscular disease between 1955 and 2011.

In 1977 he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his long years of work on behalf of MDA.

Madonna celebrates turning 59, posting first family pic with all six kids

Photographed for the very first time!

Pop star Madonna shared a debut family portrait Friday that featured her and all six of her children.

>> Read more trending news

The Material Girl posted the photo on Instagram following her 59th birthday party at a two-day, gypsy-themed celebration in Italy.

From top left Rocco, 17,  David, 11, and Mercy James, 11, to the right of Madonna.

From bottom left, Lourdes, 20, kneeling along side 4-year-old twins Estere and Stella.

Madge captioned the picture “Birthday.”

The singer invited long-time friends from all over the world to join her for the celebration.

>> Related: Madonna’s brother speaking out about ‘horrific sister,’ strained relationship

Madonna adopted Estere and Stella in February from Malawi, the same country where she adopted David and Mercy. In July, she opened the African nation’s first-ever pediatric surgery and intensive care center. She shares son, Rocco, with Guy Ritchie and daughter, Lourdes, with Carlos Leon.

>> Related: Madonna through the years

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' outdoes 'Logan Lucky' at box office

Critics loved "Logan Lucky" and gave a big collective shrug to "The Hitman's Bodyguard," but when it came to the test of the marketplace, audiences went their own way.

The two action flicks faced off this weekend, and "The Hitman's Bodyguard" emerged the victor with a chart-topping $21.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday, while "Logan Lucky" sputtered on arrival with $8.1 million.

Both had notable stars, "Logan Lucky" has Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig, while "The Hitman's Bodyguard" boasts Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, both were opening in over 3,000 theaters and both cost around $30 million to produce. Also, both were targeted toward adults, although one was R-rated ("Hitman's Bodyguard") and one PG-13 ("Logan Lucky").

But when it came to reviews, critics vastly preferred "Logan Lucky," which boasts a "fresh" 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, while "The Hitman's Bodyguard" rests at a "rotten" 39 percent. And yet, when presented with the choice, audiences on the whole put their dollars toward "The Hitman's Bodyguard." Even the CinemaScore was flipped with "The Hitman's Bodyguard" earning a B+ and "Logan Lucky" a B — neither of which, it should be noted, is particularly promising for future word of mouth.

"It was a battle of the action ensemble cast movies. Audiences looked at these two action movies in the marketplace and made a decision," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. "I think for audiences they're just looking for the fun of it ... ("The Hitman's Bodyguard") was critic proof. It provided a perfect escape."

Lionsgate, which distributed "The Hitman's Bodyguard," expects the film to play well into September.

While it's not an all-out flop, the stakes were a little higher for "Logan Lucky." The NASCAR heist pic was not only director Steven Soderbergh's big return to movies after a four-year retirement, but meant to also upend the traditional distribution model with crafty filmmaker-driven know how, independent financing, foreign and streaming service sales and a more concentrated and cheaper marketing push.

An $8.1 million debut from over 3,000 screens, however, isn't enough to make a game-changing splash. In fact, it's Soderbergh's lowest wide-opening since his "Solaris" remake, which opened to $6.8 million in 2002. "Solaris" did have a higher production budget than "Logan Lucky's" though.

Prior to the film's release, Soderbergh told The Associated Press that he was prepared for any scenario.

"At least we got to do it the way we wanted to do it," he said.

Dergarabedian posited that the limited exposure for Soderbergh and the producers means that "Logan Lucky" could still be a winning endeavor, despite coming in behind the horror holdover "Annabelle: Creation," which earned $15.5 million in its second weekend.

In fourth place was Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk," one of the summer's bigger successes, with $6.7 million, which bumped its domestic total to $165.5 million. And there were a few milestones too: The buddy comedy "Girls Trip" sailed past the $100 million mark domestically, and "Wonder Woman" crossed $800 million worldwide.

But overall the box office is still losing. As of this weekend, comScore estimates that the summer season is down 13 percent from last year, and the year as a whole is down 5 percent.

"The deficit keeps going up. We're limping towards the finish line with one leg dragging behind," Dergarabedian said. "It's not a great place to be."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1."The Hitman's Bodyguard," $21.6 million ($6.6 million international).

2."Annabelle: Creation," $15.5 million ($42 million international).

3."Logan Lucky," $8.1 million ($825,000 international).

4."Dunkirk," $6.7 million ($8.4 million international).

5."Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," $5.1 million ($950,000 international).

6."The Emoji Movie," $4.4 million ($11.5 million international).

7.""Spider-Man: Homecoming," $4.3 million ($5 million international).

8."Girls Trip," $3.8 million ($1 million international).

9."The Dark Tower," $3.7 million ($7.5 million international).

10."Wind River," $3 million.

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Annabelle: Creation," $42 million.

2. "Wolf Warrior 2," $36 million.

3. "Paradox," $31 million.

4. "War for the Planet of the Apes," $20.5 million.

5. "The Emoji Movie," $11.5 million.

6. "Twenty Two," $9 million.

7. "Despicable Me 3" and "Dunkirk," $8.4 million.

8. "One Hundred Thousand Bad Jokes II," $8.1 million.

9. "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," $8 million.

10. "A Taxi Driver," $7.8 million.

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Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr

Charles Barkley offers brutally honest take on Confederate statue debate

Former basketball star Charles Barkley recently weighed in on an argument that has the entire nation riled up: the removal of Confederate statues.

>> Watch the interview here

“I’m not going to waste my time worrying about these Confederate statues. ... I’m going to keep doing great things, No. 1 in the black community because I’m black,” Barkley said in an interview with Rick Karle of WBRC.

>> Charlie Daniels compares Confederate statue removal to ISIS' actions

He continued: “I’m not going to waste my time worrying about a neo-Nazi who’s going to hate me no matter what.”

>> There are hundreds of Confederate monuments, not just in the South

When asked if the best option is to leave the statues up and ignore them, Barkley answered, “I’ve always ignored them. I’m 54 years old; I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. I think if you ask most black people, to be honest, they haven’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues.”

Barkley has weighed in before on the Confederate statue and flag debate. In 2004, he said he was on his way to a NASCAR race and turned around when he saw 10 Confederate flags.

>> Read more trending news

Barkley was a star player with the Philadelphia 76ers and then with the Phoenix Suns, where he earned the NBA Most Valuable Player award.

Germany welcomes release of writer sought by Turkey

Germany welcomed the release Sunday of a German writer detained in Spain on a Turkish warrant and accused Turkey of abusing the international system used to hunt down fugitives.

Turkish-born writer Dogan Akhanli, who has German citizenship, was arrested Saturday while on holiday in southern Spain. Akhanli was conditionally released after a court hearing Sunday, but ordered to remain in Madrid while Turkey's extradition request is considered, his lawyer said.

It wasn't immediately clear what Akhanli is accused of, but the author has in the past written about the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915. The killings are a sensitive subject in Turkey, which rejects the widespread view that they constituted genocide.

In a statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel praised Akhanli's release and said "it would be terrible if Turkey could get people who raise their voice against (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan imprisoned on the other side of Europe."

"I have complete faith in Spain's judicial system and know that our friends and partners in the Spanish government understand what's at stake," Gabriel said.

Erdogan hit back while speaking to supporters in Istanbul, attributing Ankara's souring relations with Berlin to next month's German election and warning Germany to "mind its own business."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the arrest of Akhanli was wrong.

"We mustn't abuse international organizations like Interpol for this," she told German broadcaster RTL.

The already high tensions between the two countries hit another peak on Friday when Erdogan said all of Germany's mainstream parties were enemies of Turkey and urged Turkish-Germans to not vote for them in the upcoming election.

Merkel called Erdogan's comments "completely unacceptable."

"I invite everyone to vote, here in a free country," she said.

Merkel said she would work hard to improve prison conditions for a number of Germans currently detained in Turkey on accusations of supporting banned organizations.

Akhanli emigrated to Germany in 1991 after spending years in a Turkish prison following the 1984 military coup in the country.

The German section of the writers' association PEN called the arrest warrant against Akhanli politically motivated.

Spain is also holding Turkish-Swedish reporter and writer Hamza Yalcin who was arrested Aug. 3 in Barcelona on a Turkish warrant for alleged terrorism.

PEN and Reporters Without Borders have demanded his release. The Swedish branch of Reporters Without Borders said Yalcin's arrest was an attempt by Erdogan to show he can reach critical voices abroad.

Spain's Freedom of Information Defense Platform said it welcomed the decision on Akhanli, but reiterated that it expects Yalcin to be let go and Spain to explain both arrests.

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