Once considered a cold case, a reopened police investigation in Connecticut has determined that actor Dylan McDermott's mother was murdered by her boyfriend in 1967.
Diane McDermott was shot when Dylan was just 5 years old, and her death in February 1967 was originally ruled an accident. Waterbury, Conn., police reopened the investigation into the death of the woman last year after Dylan McDermott contacted police with questions about her death, according to the Republican-American newspaper. Police told the paper that the evidence they found surrounding Diane's death was enough to file murder charges against John Sponza, who had ties to organized crime. Sponza, however, was killed in 1972, his body found in the trunk of a car in a Massachusetts grocery store parking lot, according to the paper.
It was Dylan who personally asked police to re-examine the case, and Police Superintendent Michael Gugliotti told the Republican-American that Dylan’s celebrity didn’t factor into the decision to reopen the investigation -- he would have done it for anyone coming in looking for answers.
Gugliotti did, however, ask Dylan why he showed up at police headquarters after so many years. “His answer was quite profound,” Gugliotti told the Republican-American. “He said, ‘In order for me to survive and to get where I am today, I needed to bury that moment in my life deep within myself.’ He said it wasn’t until recently ‘that I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m able to begin to process all of this.”
At the time of the murder, Dylan was standing outside the door of his apartment; Sponza had just kicked him out. The paper reports that Dylan heard the gunshot, then, “stood, stuck outside as police and an ambulance arrived. A gurney carried his mother from the apartment, her head bloody and bandaged from what would prove to be a lethal gunshot.”
Sponza was the only witness to that gunshot, and he told police that Diane had committed suicide, a lie that would hold up until now.
Among the findings that led to the police's new conclusion: the state medical examiner determined that the gun found near Diane McDermott's body was too small a caliber to have been the weapon used to kill her, and the murder weapon had to have been pressed to the back of her head, according to the report.
Gugliotti also took issue with some of the original findings.
"What troubled me was that there was very little follow up other than the statement Sponza had given to police," said Gugliotti. "Sponza is telling the police that night that he very rarely, if ever, had arguments, yet everyone we spoke to, including Dylan, who was only 5 at the time, remembered very violent, vicious arguments. Dylan vividly recalls the amount of times, not only flashing the gun, but pointing it at the kid, saying, 'Shut up and get out of here.' He's still probably traumatized by that."
Dylan McDermott has yet to comment about the investigation, but his sister Robin Herrera said she's relieved by the outcome of the investigation. "I'm happy to know my mother wasn't mentally ill or depressed," she said. "Somebody took her from us; she didn't leave us."
Taking on the role of the justice-loving, teenage superhero in "The Amazing Spider-Man" was a dream come true for Andrew Garfield. Since childhood, the actor's been a fan of the web-slinger at the center of the story, and as it turned out, that early obsession played a part in landing him the lead spot in the film.
Long before Garfield donned the iconic blue and red suit for the big screen production, he wore a much smaller version of it as a 3-year-old, and somehow a photo of him in that getup made its way into the hands of producers before he got the part.
"I would never be that manipulative," Garfield said of the photo ploy during a Monday morning interview on TODAY. "(But) my father would. He really wanted me to get this role, and he knows I was a cute 3-year-old. And who can say no to a 3-year-old in a Spider-Man costume? These guys were manipulated."
Garfield couldn't be happier with the result of dad's arm-twisting (and his own hard work). After all, he sees Spidey as the perfect role model for a generation that could definitely use one.
"Between the ages of 6 and 12, I experienced bullying and witnessed it ... and it's wonderful having a teenage example of a hero," he explained. "That's what's defining about Spider-Man -- it's that he's a kid. ... So I think he means so much to so many because of that, because he is a symbol of doing the right thing and protecting each other and living in a community, as opposed to individuals."
Garfield wasn’t the only "Amazing Spider-Man" star to wax about the web-filled film. Co-stars Emma Stone, Denis Leary and Rhys Ifans, along with producer Matt Tolmach and director Marc Webb, also stopped by TODAY to share their thoughts. Hear what they had to say about their "Amazing" experiences in the video below.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" opens in theaters nationwide July 3.
Firsts are always memorable, even when they don't deserve to be. Your first kiss may not be the best ever, but you'll know till your dying day where and with whom it happened. Ditto for first concerts. Very few of us saw The Beatles at The Cavern Club for our first show, we were much more likely to catch The Police in a soccer stadium or Tiffany at the mall. Those memories fade a little -- you may not remember who went with you or how much the ticket was -- but the song remains the same. Travel down a musical memory lane with us, and share your own first concert experience.
Coldplay, George, Wa., July 2009 It was a balmy summer evening at the breathtakingly beautiful Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington State when the British pop-rockers Coldplay took to the stage. In front of a golden sunset that descended upon the twisting Columbia River and its surrounding canyons, we sat on the terraced lawn listening to the soaring melodies of “Viva La Vida” and the pitch-perfect ballad, “Yellow.” Like all good things, it came to an end. This, however, was a harshly abrupt end. Near the finale, a drunken duo couldn’t quite keep from spilling their beers on us; then on the drive home, my girlfriend decided to break up with me -- apparently the summer is no time for stifling relationships. So let me start over: On an ominous evening where the harsh waters of the Columbia River crashed into its surrounding canyons, I waited for the washed-out Chris Martin to deliver yet another contrived ballad created with the sole purpose of consoling sexually frustrated middle-age women who deal with their depression with a bottle of white wine and a “Viva La Vida” CD. I’ve had better evenings. --Cody Delistraty
The Dazz Band and Berlin, Disneyland, May 1983 One of the many benefits of being a California girl is the high school graduation ritual that is Grad Nite. Each year, seniors from schools around the state load up in buses and head to Anaheim to be locked into Disneyland for the night to enjoy the rides and several concerts. At daybreak, the tired masses stumble back on the bus for a long, (in my case a 400-mile drive back to the Bay Area) sleep-filled drive home. That night, there were several acts performing, but I attended two. Being a stone-cold R&B fan, my first pick was The Dazz Band. The Cleveland-based funk group were riding high on the charts with their hit single, “Let It Whip,”and since I was there to have “big fun,” oh, yeah, I let it whip! To this day, whenever I hear that song, I think of dancing with a couple of hundred of my new best friends in my best big-shouldered ‘80s dress (girls had to wear dresses for Grad Nite back in the day). Next on the concert ticket was Berlin, one of the many emerging New Wave-synch pop bands of the early ‘80s. Thanks to MTV, which was brand new to the TV dial at the time, I fell in love with New Wave. Berlin, fronted by the very cool Terri Nunn, would go on to score a huge hit with “You Take My Breath Away” later in the decade, but that night their show-stopper was “The Metro.” It would be many, many years later until I rode le Metro in Paris, but yes, that song came into my head, as well as a cherished memory of one night in The Happiest Place on Earth. --Denise Hazlick
Singer Mike Score of Flock Of Seagulls performs in 2012. Sadly, a hat covers his once-famous 1980s hair.
The Police/Flock of Seagulls/The Fixx, Rochester, N.Y., August 1983 When I was growing up in Rochester, N.Y., I could hear the music when bands played Holleder Stadium, three blocks from my house. I remember Deadheads sitting on our front lawn. And I remember my first show inside the stadium, where I had only ever been to see the Rochester Lancers soccer team play. The Police were on their 1983 “Synchronicity" tour and the regular set list included all the hits you would expect -– “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and so on. The tour T-shirt remains iconic to me with its red, blue and yellow slashes of color. As a 14-year-old skateboarder at the time, I think the opening bands were a bigger draw for me. The Fixx and Flock of Seagulls were new wave heavyweights and were in heavy rotation on MTV. I can’t remember if Seagulls’ lead singer Mike Score’s amazing hair was visible from my seat at the show. But the Internet coughed up a copy of the ticket, and $15 sure sounds like a deal today. –-Kurt Schlosser
Chicago, St. Paul, Minn., 1985 Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? Does anybody really know if my first concert was in 1984 or 1985? At the St. Paul Civic Center, or the St. Paul Auditorium? Those details have faded, but I know the band was Chicago, the album was “Chicago 17,” and I’m pretty sure I went with my best high-school friend Kate. I’m also pretty sure her parents dropped us off and picked us up since neither of us were old enough to drive. Admittedly, looking back, Chicago wasn’t the coolest band to claim as your first concert. Born the same year as me, 1967, they’ve been around forever, prominently feature horns, and are a staple of light-rock stations and dental offices. In short, they’re no Clash. But they’re also second only to the Beach Boys in Billboard singles and album chart success, so take that, cool kids! You know our love was meant to beeeeeeee … the kind of love to last forever. –-Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Singer Tiffany, known for her 1980s mall concerts, performs in 2012.
Tiffany, Pittsburgh, Pa., April 1988 If I had known that “what was your first concert?” would become a common icebreaker once adulthood struck, I might have made a more careful choice. But that was the furthest thing from my mind in the late 1980s, when I was all about a certain pop singer who went by one name. No, not Madonna. Tiffany. The events leading up to the concert and the show itself are fuzzy memories. I do recall my mother reacting to one of Tiffany’s hit songs -- “I Saw Him Standing There” — with two words: “Awful, Courtney.” Too young to understand that it was a total bastardization of the Beatles song of the same name, I was entranced by the sheer pop quality of it, and the thought of seeing her perform it live? It was Christmas come early. So it’s ironic that I don’t remember the concert per se, but I do remember one important fact. It was my dad who took me and my friend to the actual show. Robert Hazlett sat patiently by our sides as we screamed and sang, disappeared just long enough to make us feel grown up, and bought what I’m sure was a very overpriced T-shirt to commemorate the event. So while I’m a little mortified that the answer to this question will forever be an artist who was a total flash in the pan, I am happy about the rest of the memory — that it was my dad who made it all happen. --Courtney Hazlett
Air Supply, Columbia, Md., 1982 I was 12 and couldn’t exactly drive myself to the venue. That meant whatever rock concert I was going to go to had to come with mom’s stamp of approval. Fortunately, Air Supply was the very definition of mom-approved rock. And heck, I was pre-adolescent and hormonal and just loved all of their deeply sappy love songs with a passion. To top it all off, I was in an Australo-philia phase and was working on finding ways to work lingo like ‘wowser’ into my daily vocabulary, so the fact that they were from Down Under made them even more exciting. I went with my friend Valerie and both of our moms to Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Md., and the first thing we did was purchase a $10 T-shirt in the parking lot, a shirt which I described in great detail –- along with a drawing of the Outback-themed stage set –- in my diary later on. Yes, the dreary Livingston Taylor may have been the opening act, but otherwise the show had everything I could have hoped for: Lasers, moving platforms, and, of course, those deeply sappy love songs. Air Supply rocked (softly) for a couple of hours, and as I told my diary later, “I had the time of my life. Oh, yes, I also got a big program for $6.” --Randee Dawn
Nelson, Seattle, 1991 I was the ripe old age of 12 when I attended my first concert with my best pals Bridget and Vilde -- and Bridget’s dad. I remember the three of us jumping up and down on our seats (we weren’t very tall for 12 year olds), screaming the lyrics back at the pair of beautiful, blond, identical twin boys on stage and loving every second of it. And after the show, we dropped way too much cash on some cheesy looking concert T-shirts. (In fact, it was this one that I bought: If only I had kept it, I could sell it today for nearly twice the price I paid!) Sure, Nelson may not have maintained their “cool band” status (some might even argue they were never cool to begin with, but whatever), but after all these years, I can still remember the majority of the lyrics from their debut album and adore it “More Than Ever” even though my musical tastes moved on long ago. --Anna Chan
Richard Marx, Concord, Calif. 1989 I’ll admit that my concert track record hasn’t always been the greatest. My first concert was Richard Marx’s 1989 “Repeat Offender” tour –- where I was less impressed with the music than I was in trying to impress the two older guys – senior basketball players! – who let me tag along. From there, I made a few more questionable choices –- Milli Vanilli (turns out they WERE lip-syncing!) and New Kids on the Block (a friend made me go, I swear). I made up for it later by scoring fourth-row tickets to Madonna’s 1990 “Blond Ambition” tour. You just haven’t seen anything until you’ve had a closeup view of Madonna wearing breast cones and gyrating on a red velvet bed. But the concert-going pinnacle of my teen years was Dec. 31, 1991, when rising stars Pearl Jam and Nirvana opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the San Francisco Cow Palace. Who could have predicted then that grunge would eventually lead me to my current home in Seattle? --Joy Jernigan
Kansas/Loverboy, LaCrosse, Wisc., 1981 Wow, a famous band like Kansas and a hot, new, up-and-coming band like Loverboy were going to play the first big rock concert in the new LaCrosse Center, and I had a ticket! By the time my friend Steve’s parents dropped us off, Loverboy was already playing. Mike Reno was energetically running around the stage while his cohorts rocked the crowd. Then, during an extended version of “Working for the Weekend,” Mike and guitarist Paul Dean began pitting the left side of the audience against the right side, “C’mon you guys, you’re louder than them….” I remember only two things about Kansas, the guy who played the violin had like crazy long hippy hair, and wow, he played the violin a lot. --David Gostisha
Our three picks for the best entertainment of the week include one TV show, one movie, and one new DVD. We can vouch for the quality of the DVD, and the movie looks promising, but with the TV show ... who knows? Charlie Sheen has proven he can be funny, but will he recapture the "Two and a Half Men" magic with his latest (and final, he says) sitcom? Time will tell.
TUESDAY: 'The Artist' on DVD Who knew an almost-silent, black-and-white movie would be the big winner at the Oscars? If you didn't get to see this year's best picture winner in theaters, now's your chance to check it out on home video. The film tells a sweet and sad tale of two actors on opposite career trajectories (cue "A Star is Born") just as Hollywood is switching from silents to talkies. It's touching and happy, and cute little dog Uggie is the best cinematic canine since Benji or Lassie. (On DVD and Blu-ray June 26.)
THURSDAY: 'Anger Management' For a while there, it seemed as if Charlie Sheen was making entertainment headlines every day. In 2011, the longtime actor was fired from "Two and a Half Men" over a much-publicized dispute with show creator Chuck Lorre, and after that, his girlfriend goddesses, "tiger blood," and "winning!" catchphrase were everywhere. Now Sheen's quieted down a bit -- he even apologized to former co-star Jon Cryer, whom he once called a "troll." He'll try and capture audiences again with his new comedy, "Anger Management," loosely based on the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie. No one at FX will be angry, though, if the show captures even a part of the "Two and a Half Men" fanbase. (Premieres June 28, 9 p.m., FX.)
FRIDAY: 'Magic Mike' Get your girls' night out group together now for "Magic Mike," the film version of a stripper-packed bachelorette party. Channing Tatum plays the experienced stripper who teaches the trade to Alex Pettyfer, but Matthew McConaughey steals the trailer as a charismatic former stripper who owns their dance club. Warning: The film's not in 3-D, so leave your dollar bills at home. (Opens June 29.)
"Brave" earned $66.7 million on its opening weekend.
Fears that a female heroine would slow down "Brave" proved unfounded as the animated tentpole opened to a whopping $66.7 million at the domestic box office -- the fifth best debut of all time for a Pixar title.
"Brave," continuing Pixar's unblemished record of opening all of its movies to No. 1, also scored the second highest June opening for an animated pic after Pixar's "Toy Story 3" ($110.3 million). Overseas, the Pixar and Disney title debuted to $13.5 million in 10 markets.
The 3D event pic -- receiving an A CinemaScore in North America -- marks Pixar's 13th film and is the first movie in the company's history to feature a female lead. "Brave" did skew female (57 percent), but got plenty of male attention.
"You have to draw men and boys as well to see this number," Disney executive president of worldwide distribution Dave Hollis said. "The themes in the movie -- bravery, fighting for your fate -- transcend gender."
Hollis credited Pixar/Disney animation chief John Lasseter, producer Katherine Sarafian and directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman for delivering an "enveloping experience" that drew both families (66 percent) and adults.
One troubling statistic: 3D revenues only made up 34 percent of "Brave's"opening gross, furthering worries that families find the upcharge for a 3D ticket too expensive.
Still, family product ruled the box office all the way around. DreamWorks Animation and Paramount holdover "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" fell to No. 2 in its third weekend with an estimated $20.2 million for a domestic cume of roughly $157.6 million ("Madagascar 3" opened to $60.1 million).
Animation also ruled overseas, where "Madagascar 3" stayed at No. 1 for the third weekend in a row, grossing $30.1 million from 44 markets to race past the $200 million mark. The pic has now earned $208.4 million internationally for an impressive worldwide total of $366 million.
Managing only a third-place domestic finish was 20th Century Fox's 3D genre epic "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The R-rated film, playing like a horror title, grossed a soft $16.5 million in its opening. Fox had predicted a debut in the $15 million range -- considering there are no big stars in the film -- but box office observers believed it could get to $20 million.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and featuring Tim Burton in the producer's seat, "Abraham Lincoln" received a C+ CinemaScore. The pic's cast is led by Benjamin Walker.
"Abraham Lincoln," costing $68 million to produce, features the storied U.S. president as a vampire hunter and is based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the adapted screenplay. The film is an important test for the "mash-up" genre, with Lionsgate queued up to make the film adaptation of Grahame-Smith's book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
Fox believes "Abraham Lincoln," which skewed male, will have good legs.
"Audiences will continue to seek out Timur's daring and brilliant vision of 'Abraham Lincoln,' " Fox's incoming president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said.
The news wasn't good for Steve Carell-Keira Knightley indie pic "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," which debuted to $3.8 million from 1,625 locations. The Focus Features title, directed and written by Lorene Scafaria, came in No. 10, just ahead of fellow Focus pic "Moonrise Kingdom," which grossed a pleasing $3.4 million from only 395 theaters for a pleasing cume of $11.6 million.
"It's disappointing. The right people turned up to see "Seeking a Friend," but they didn't come in volume," Focus president of distribution Jack Foley said.
At the specialty box office, Woody Allen's new entry "To Rome With Love" got off to a strong start, grossing $379,371 from five theaters for a sizeable location average of $75,874 -- easily the best of the weekend. Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed Allen's box office hit "Midnight in Paris," is once again handling domestic distribution duties for the filmmaker.
Elsewhere, New Line and Warner Bros.' troubled musical "Rock of Ages" fell to No. 6 in its second weekend, grossing $8 million for a 10-day domestic cume of $28.8 million. Adam Sandler's comedy "That's My Boy," likewise troubled, fell to No. 7 in its second outing, grossing $7.9 million for a 10-day total of $28.2 million.
Julien's Auctions had announced in May that the empty crypt in Memphis, where Elvis and his mother lay for two months before their reburial on the grounds of the Graceland estate, would be part of this Sunday's "Music Icons" auction. With a bid starting at $100,000, the price was to include a memorial inscription, use of the Forest Hill Cemetery's chapel for a service, and the opening and closing of the vault and crypt for burial.
Fans across the world were displeased by the potential sale, and demanded that the site be preserved as a shrine to the late King's memory. Darren Julien of the auction house announced on Friday that his company has agreed not to sell the crypt.
"South Park" characters Kyle, Kenny and Stan in a scene from the animated series.
By James Vicini , Reuters
WASHINGTON -- A Muslim convert from New York was sentenced on Friday to 11 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening the writers of the satirical "South Park" television show for their depiction of the Prophet Mohammad and to other criminal charges.
Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, who is also known as Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was put on three years of probation after he completes his prison term. The sentence was handed down in federal court in Alexandria, Va., the U.S. Justice Department said.
Morton, who ran a website that encouraged Muslims to engage in violence against enemies of Islam, pleaded guilty in February to making threatening communications, using the Internet to put others in fear and using his position as leader of the Revolution Muslim organization's Internet sites to conspire to commit murder.
"Jesse Morton sought to inspire Muslims to engage in terrorism by providing doctrinal justification for violence against civilians in the name of Islam," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said.
"His crimes not only put people's lives forever in danger, but they also chilled free expression out of fear of retaliation by violent terrorists," MacBride said in a statement.
He had worked on website postings with Zachary Chesser of Virginia, who pleaded guilty in October 2010 to sending threatening communications to the "South Park" writers and to other charges.
Morton was arrested in Rabat, Morocco, last year and brought back to the United States, where he pleaded guilty. He had faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Morton admitted he helped Chesser in taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent extremists to attack the "South Park" writers for the episode on the cable channel Comedy Central that featured Mohammad in a bear suit.
Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive. Morton and Chesser posted where the writers resided and encouraged online readers to "pay them a visit," according to court documents.
Morton worked with Chesser to draft a message for the website about the "South Park" threats and they posted a final version of the statement on various extremist online forums.
Morton also conspired with Chesser and others to solicit the murder of an artist tied to the "Everyone Draw Mohammad Day" movement in May 2010, including posting online a magazine that included the artist in a hit list for violent extremists. Chesser was sentenced to 25 years in prison last year.
The case is USA v. Morton, No. 12-cr-35, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Whether out of pain or frustration, Bieber cried out and struggled away, shouting, "This is brand new!" He then shrugged off Letterman and implied he was out of touch. "Grandpas!"
Once the quick tussle was over, Letterman asked Bieber for a commitment to at least slow down with the body art and to just consider how many people choose to cover their arms in "murals -- like the Sistine Chapel."
Bieber assured him "I'm not going for the Sixteenth Chapel."
Meanwhile, the Bieber bashing wasn't over. On "Late Night," host Jimmy Fallon challenged the young "Boyfriend" singer to a series of competitions (and a hefty dose of smack talk). See the Jimmy-vs.-Justin battle below.
Can you imagine a country run by Charlie Sheen? Well, now you don't have to! Director Robert Rodriguez announced via Twitter that he has cast the former "Two and a Half Men" star as the president of the United States for his upcoming film, "Machete Kills."
"I just cast Charlie Sheen in #machetekills as the President of the United States! Who better? More soon... http://yfrog.com/h38lgnuj," Rodriguez tweeted along with a photo of himself and our future onscreen commander in chief.
And, of course, Sheen forwarded the news to his own Twitter family with the proper lead-in, "My Fellow Americans!" He's got this role down pat.The film, which also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard and Mel Gibson, is a sequel to the 2010 film "Machete" and is slated for a 2013 release.
Penny (Keira Knightley) and Dodge (Steve Carell) in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World."
By Stephen Dalton , The Hollywood Reporter
REVIEW: The end of the word is nigh in this enjoyably offbeat rom-com from the first-time writer-director Lorene Scafaria. Very nigh indeed -- in a few short weeks, a gigantic asteroid will slam into Earth, wiping out all of mankind. Which is especially bad news for Steve Carell's newly single insurance salesman. Because the only thing worse than dying in an apocalyptic firestorm, this film suggests, is dying alone and unloved. Essentially, Scafaria has re-imagined Lars Von Trier's planet-smashing gloomfest "Melancholia" as a quirky road movie in the spirit of Alexander Payne's "About Schmidt."
Scafaria is best known for scripting the 2008 young-adult comedy "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." Her directing debut is a superior effort, its slightly uneven tone redeemed by the reliably sympathetic Carell in a typically deadpan suburban everyman role. With its sharp script and bittersweet humor, the audacious premise feels fresh enough to earn a large word-of-mouth audience among moviegoers who normally would avoid a more conventional rom-com, potentially becoming a left-field breakout hit in the mode of "Juno" or "Little Miss Sunshine."
Looking a little more gaunt and haunted than usual, Carell plays Dodge, a timid middle-rank office drone whose life clearly has been a series of quiet defeats and creeping disappointments. With the apocalypse looming, fate deals Dodge an extra slap when his wife walks out on him to spend her final few weeks with her previously secret lover. The brief cameo appearance by Carell's real offscreen wife Nancy is a neat in-joke here.
Lonely and suicidal, Dodge resists invitations from his friends to spend their final few weeks immersed in one long booze-addled swingers party. Instead, his life takes a bizarre new turn after he is saddled with an abandoned dog and becomes a reluctant love-life confidant to his emotionally fragile young English neighbor Penny, portrayed by Keira Knightley with just the right degree of irritating kookiness. A free spirit with an amusingly self-absorbed musician ex-boyfriend (Adam Brody) and a fetishistic love for the smell and sound of vintage vinyl, Penny is a kind of fantasy girl-geek designed for maximum appeal to middle-aged male indie-rock fans. Scafaria clearly knows her target audience well.
Forced from their apartment block by a rioting mob, die-hard romantic Penny persuades Dodge to take her on a cross-country road trip that potentially could reconnect her with her family and him with his long-lost childhood sweetheart, Olivia. Commandeering a stolen truck whose owner has arranged his own macabre suicide by execution, they cruise along spookily empty back roads and eerily depopulated suburban streets. Their journey becomes a succession of odd characters and eye-catching spectacles: military-trained survivalists, overzealous traffic cops, a mass baptism in the ocean. Inevitably, sexual tension develops between this odd couple of lost souls.
Just as the real subject of "Melancholia" was not planet-crunching sci-fi spectacle but soul-crushing depression, the true theme of "Seeking a Friend" is the finite nature of time and how foolishly we ignore it. Scafaria never once shows the approaching asteroid or the doomed "Armageddon"-style shuttle mission that fails to arrest it, instead laying out her premise with admirable economy via TV and radio news reports. Her end-of-days plot is essentially an allegory for everyone's limited lives, the accelerated deadline adding an extra edge of futility to most human activity, whether sweating at the gym or striving for promotion at work.
Shooting her nonspecific Southern California locations in bright hues and constant sunshine, Scafaria maintains a cheerfully ironic and unpredictable tone for the first half of the movie, scoffing at vanity and self-delusion with sharply observed social observation. Like the suburban dinner party that degenerates into a desperate bucket-list orgy: "Put Radiohead on!" one guest demands, "I wanna do heroin to Radiohead!" Later, in a stand-out comic set piece, Dodge and Penny visit a T.G.I. Fridays-style roadside diner apparently staffed by a cult of free-love stoners. Amplifying the happy-clappy weirdness normally found in such places by just a few degrees, this is inspired satire.
The cynical screenplay softens a little during its final act, bowing to familiar Hollywood tear-jerking tropes -- a screen legend makes a late appearance as Dodge's estranged father, adding a superfluous twist of unresolved Daddy Issues. In fairness, Dodge's search for his lost childhood sweetheart resists cliché with an agreeably ambivalent offscreen farewell. But Scafaria's take-home message, that budding romance with a virtual stranger is the best comfort in the face of impending apocalypse, feels a little too corny.
After 100 minutes of gallows humor and surprise left turns, "Seeking a Friend" leaves us with a disappointingly banal observation: All you need is love. It is hard to imagine Payne or Von Trier letting such fortune-cookie whimsy sweeten life's harsh lessons. But that said, Scafaria and her two likable leads have made a witty, warm-hearted and impressively original addition to the rom-com ranks.
He may be "71 and a half" years old, but that won't keep Ringo Starr from hitting both drums and the road this summer as he heads out on his 13th All Starr tour. The former Beatle gave TODAY's Matt Lauer a drum lesson Friday, and talked with him about how while he still feels the love onstage, he's nervous before every show.
"I wanna go home," Starr told Lauer about his trepidation before taking the stage. "'Can I do it? Will it -- will it be okay?' Blah, blah, blah. 'Will they love me?' I mean, a thousand things go through your head."
Starr also addressed his actual ability to play drums -- while many consider him an underrated drummer, he's suffered slings and arrows from bandmates and others undercutting his talent -- by saying such comments never bothered him. "It never got in my way because I knew I could play.... And now I'm the fifth-best drummer in America. I'm working my way up."
"I gave (my kids) a lesson.... I gave lots of kids lessons. And some will never get it, just cannot get it," Starr explained. "So I'd say, 'Well, maybe you should play piano or guitar or whatever.'"
But perhaps most surprising is that after a lifetime of playing second fiddle to the late John Lennon and George Harrison and the just-turned-70 Paul McCartney ("Every time I do a promotion for a record or whatever they say 'Oh, Ringo, you got a new record. How's Paul?'" he laughed), Ringo Starr is pretty down to earth and, as Lauer suggested, "normal."
"I do get along with people," he said. "I love people. You know, that's how it is." And that translates live, he acknowledged: "I think everybody knows, who comes to the show, it's a love fest. They know I love them, and I know they love me."
Our readers continue to contribute some funny, smart and incisive comments to our Today Entertainment Facebook page. Every Friday, we'll highlight those that really stood out. If you see a great comment throughout the week, click the “Like” button underneath it to draw it to our attention.
On "NPR intern has 11,000 songs, paid for few" Barbara Scaff: "(Musicians) deserve to get paid, but do they deserve millions upon millions upon millions? NOPE. The rest of us schlubs have to deal with min. wage or being underpaid, why should people who SING for a living get a break from that? And please keep it real, they are still raking in money from perfume sales, magazine covers, movies, selling pics of their babies, and other ridiculous JOBS. I'm supposed to feel sorry for someone who might not have AS MUCH money as they use to but still wears shoes that cost as much as a house payment WHILE people fighting for our freedom, putting out fires, doing backbreaking labor all have to deal with $23,000 or less a year? Get real."
On "Could Alec Baldwin face criminal charges in photographer incident?" Alison Parson: "(Paparazzi) are low-life divas that think they have the right to go as close to people as they want. Celebrities ask for you to listen to their music, see their movies, etc. Not violate their personal lives and camp out every single place they may be. GET A REAL JOB!"
On "Jon Gosselin to ex-wife: I'm sorry" Laura E. Platte: "Though I do think it is overdue ... I also feel that sometimes people really need to hit rock bottom before they realize what they have done, and there is nothing left but to apologize for their wrongdoings."
On "Check out Emma Stone's 'Amazing' looks" John Bales: "Cute, pretty and perky looking but I wouldn't include her in a list of the great beauties of the ages. She's part of a crop of pretty ingenues in Hollywood that have a brief time in the spotlight before fading into bit parts in movies."
Playing a fake news reporter, comic Dan Hodapp interviews an unsuspecting New Yorker in Washington Square Park,
By Courtney Garcia, msnbc.com contributor
Proving not only that people will believe anything a reporter says, but also that a lot of folks don’t pay much attention to current events, one fake journalist has fooled New Yorkers into buying some pretty fanciful stories.
“Kim Kardashian has announced her candidacy for the California State Senate, what do you think about that?” supposed reporter Mike Holland, played by comic Dan Hodapp, asks one man.
The man, surprisingly, retorts, “I’d vote for her if I was in California.”
Holland later informs another man that President Obama has “fired the U.S. Senate,” and asks for thoughts on the matter.
“Actually, I hadn’t even heard that, embarrassingly enough,” the guy responds.
The show, titled “Fake News Prank,” is part of a larger series known as “Prank News Network” on humor site Jest.com. According to editor-in-chief Jeff Rubin, his team came up with the idea to dupe uninformed New Yorkers when they saw how little people actually knew about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"During one of our writing meetings, we were discussing how most people probably have a strong opinion on Occupy Wall Street, even if they've lost track of the story and no longer know what's actually going on,” Rubin told msnbc.com. “That seemed inherently funny to us. We talked it through for a while, and ultimately ended up with the idea of asking people for their opinions on stories that they couldn't possibly know anything about -- because they were fake -- and seeing how they responded."
Subjects on the show range from pop culture nonsense like the Vatican granting football quarterback Tim Tebow sainthood to faux breaking news that Germany invaded Poland. Rubin says a few people were initially skeptical, but became convinced by Holland’s straightforward demeanor.
As evidenced in the final cut, people fall for the fake news often. Some targets even pretended that they were previously up to speed on the invented situations.
“The Germany and Poland thing is still pretty fresh,” a young woman observes. “I guess we’re going to see how it rides out.”
Rubin says the show isn’t intended to be a criticism of the media, though he realizes people might interpret it that way. More so, it’s an aim to create original and imaginative online entertainment that relates to viewers and the issues being discussed in the social community. The videos provide a quick and witty spin on daily news, and are often produced in less than a day’s time.
“That's about how long you have before people have moved on from that story and onto something else,” Rubin added. "There are so many choices for online entertainment that it's not enough to just be funny, you also have to make sure that your content has a point of view that people relate to and will want to share with friends.”
The concept is brilliant: Axe-swinging Abraham Lincoln, that solemn face on our penny, out there kicking vampire butt and taking names. Yet "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," based on Seth Grahame-Smith's book, doesn't live up to its wild and weird theme.
The film begins with a young Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) trying to protect a slave friend, Will, from a whipping. Turns out that the creep with the whip has a secret life, and soon Lincoln's mother dies -- not of the "milk fever" we learn about in history books, but of a vampire bite. When Abe gets older, he teams up with a man who teaches him how to hunt down vampires, and all through a job as a store clerk, legal studies and his courtship of Mary Todd, he spends his nights out defanging the creatures.
You know part of the story: Lincoln ascends to the presidency and the nation is torn apart in the Civil War. But in the movie's universe, the vampires need slavery to continue so they can have a steady food source, and thus throw in on the Confederacy's side. Lincoln and his posse -- including now-grown Will (Anthony Mackie) -- can't let that happen, for the nation's sake and that of the human race.
There are fun elements in the film, including one great line about the Underground Railroad and numerous appearances by familiar names out of our history books.
But nothing really comes together. Benjamin Walker plays young Lincoln with a nice amount of gravitas, but he never makes you really root for him, staying as remote as a five-dollar bill . The vampires are pretty much interchangeable, with veiny gray skin and "Matrix"-meets-"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" moves. The movie didn't need to be in 3-D, but the technology is inoffensive here, with a few bullets zinging their way at the audience and some beautiful early Washington scenery.
It's a shame this movie wasn't livelier. It truly has the greatest film title outside of "Snakes on a Plane" -- which, come to think of it, couldn't live up to its promise, either.
There's a famous Shakespearean stage direction -- "Exit, pursued by a bear." Scottish princess Merida is the star of the new Pixar movie "Brave," but a bear plays an important role too.
By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, NBC News
REVIEW: As a mother of a young daughter, I've been eagerly awaiting Pixar's "Brave" for months. Who can resist those breathtaking trailers, as Scottish princess Merida's flaming curls whirl around her head like butterflies while she takes aim with her bow and arrow?
"Brave" has a promising start. Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) is obviously beloved by her parents -- goofy giant dad (Billy Connolly), who loses a leg to a legendary giant bear, and queenly mum (Emma Thompson). They give her a bow and encourage her to learn archery and lose herself in wild afternoons riding her giant Clydesdale, Angus.
But she's still a princess, and when Merida gets older, she's expected to marry one of the three heirs to the other Scottish kingdoms. Man, are they losers. As you've probably seen in the trailer, Merida bests them all in the archery contest, even splitting the arrow of the one hapless prince who accidentally managed to hit the bullseye. But when even that won't convince her parents she's not ready to wed, Merida turns to witchcraft.
And then things start to get kind of dull. A curse is put on the queen, and daughter and queen drag each other around the castle and the woods trying to hide things from Dad and the visiting heirs and their entourages. This part of the film kind of goes on. And on. And on. There are some touching bits, as Merida and Mom realize they really need each other, but there are none of the tender Woody-and-Andy moments that make "Toy Story" so wonderful.
You feel like the film wants to deliver a touching message about how moms and daughters need each other, or perhaps about how girls aren't possessions to be married off without their consent. But when the second half of the film is mostly clowny slapstick, it feels like the script pages with those messages got left behind in the editing room.
The rest of the film has all the Pixar outward charm with little of its heart. Merida's redheaded triplet brothers are barely in it, but they deliver a few fun scenes. ("Don't just play with your haggis!" scolds the queen at a meal.) And there are some great lines. ("We'll expect your declarations of war in the morning," chirps Merida as she muses on how her parents could get her out of the bethrothal nonsense.)
Sadly, "Brave" doesn't land on the top shelf of Pixar films next to "Toy Story" and "Cars." But as they say about pizza, even a not-so-great Pixar film is still pretty good. Young children will enjoy it, and they'll also like the sweet little short film "La Luna" that airs before it. Kudos, as always, to Pixar for making these little extras.
The stage at Downsview Park in Toronto is shown in this combination photograph before (top) and after it collapsed on Saturday, June 16, 2012.
By Rolling Stone
Radiohead released a statement Thursday regarding the stage collapse before the group's recent Toronto show that took the life of drum technician Scott Johnson and injured three other crew members. The statement notes that the collapse destroyed much of the group's elaborate light show and stage set-up, parts of which are decades old and will take time to replace, forcing them to postpone seven upcoming European tour dates.
"Whilst we all are dealing with the grief and shock ensuing from this terrible accident there are also many practical considerations to deal with," the statement read before listing upcoming shows in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland that will be postponed. The band plans to announce the new dates on June 27th, and they will also offer information for fans who will be unable to attend the rescheduled shows and will be seeking refunds.
"We will make every effort to offer the fans the very best show possible under the circumstances -- thanks for your understanding and support," the statement closed.
Along with the rescheduled dates, it was reported on Tuesday that the Canadian Ministry of Labour identified four companies as being directly responsible for the stage collapse, including Radiohead's own Ticker Tape Touring LLP, as well as Toronto-based Optex Staging and Services, Nasco Staffing Solutions and concert promoter Live Nation.
The number of companies involved in putting on the show, however, has made the investigation a bit complex. "We’re still trying to figure out who owns what, who’s responsible for what," Ministry spokesperson Matt Blajer told the Toronto Star. "You’ve got lighting technicians, sound technicians, the band’s people -- we’re trying to figure out who worked for whom."
On Sunday, following the tragic events at Downsview Park, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway wrote on the band's website: "We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott's family and all those close to him."
The John Travolta legal web just got stickier. The recently put-upon actor and attorney Marty Singer have been sued by the author of a self-published book about gay bathhouse culture called "You'll Never Spa in This Town Again," who is accusing the pair of trade libel following Singer's legal threats on behalf of Travolta when Gawker published an article about the parts of Randolph's book concerning the actor's sex life.
In a statement to E! News, a rep for Travolta called the lawsuit "absurd" and Singer called it "ridiculous."
So, why does plaintiff Robert Randolph believe that the defendants have sullied his reputation?
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in L.A. Superior Court, Gawker published an article in November 2010 about Randolph's book, entitled "The Secret Sex Life of John Travolta," which detailed alleged encounters between himself and various celebrities, including Travolta.
Singer threatened legal action against Gawker Media, sending a cease-and-desist letter listing multiple reasons why Randolph couldn't be believed -- among them that he had, according to several people, spent time in mental institutions; his memory was distorted after a 2003 attack at a spa that left him brain damaged; and he returned to the spa where the violent attack at the hands of a fellow patron allegedly took place, only to be attacked again.
Arguing that his memory is "fully operational," the plaintiff states that Singer and Travolta acted with the intent of preventing Randolph's book from selling and any other lucrative deals that could have arisen from the book's success.
Singer, meanwhile, tells E! News: "This is a ridiculous lawsuit. It is based on our letter which was completely privileged under the law. We intend to sue the attorneys for malicious prosecution after the court promptly dismisses this baseless lawsuit."
Most recently, Singer vehemently defended Travolta when he was sued by two masseurs who alleged sexual battery. Both have since dropped their lawsuits and are being represented by Gloria Allred, who was in turn sued by their original attorney, who accused Allred of poaching his clients. Allred has denied those claims.
We're talking about what these A-listers and more have to say about the paparazzi and the tabloid press in "$ellebrity," a documentary about celebrity culture that premiered at South by Southwest in March.
You can now check out some of the highlights in the doc's just-released first official trailer.
Directed by celebrity photographer Kevin Mazur, the flick also includes in-depth chats with Salma Hayek Pinault, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, various academics and even some of the business' most notorious paps.
Crow talks about how her breakup with Lance Armstrong was handled while she battled breast cancer. Parker recalls photographers running after her on the streets of New York, while Lopez and Marc Anthony remember the helicopters hovering over their wedding.
Alec Baldwin isn't in the doc, but he'd be perfect to host a screening.
June is everyone's favorite month to wed -- so, without warning, Agyness Deyn and Giovanni Ribisi went and did it!
"Agyness Deyn and Giovanni Ribisi quietly married in Los Angeles over the weekend," a rep for "Avatar" actor Ribisi, 37, tells Us Weekly.
Fashionologie.com was first to note that L.A.'s Crown City News spotted Ribisi and the British fashion model/actress, 29, "passionately kissing" in line at the L.A. County Registrar's office; according to the paper, they shyly confirmed their union, with Ribisi explaining they've been dating for "a while."
Well, not that long. As recently as March, Deyn (real name: Laura Hollins) told the Daily Mail, "I'm all alone. There has been no man in my life for several months now and although it would be nice to have a boyfriend, I can't just settle for anybody."
Ribisi -- whose acting credits include "Avatar," "Lost in Translation," "Gone in 60 Seconds" and a recurring role on "Friends," among others -- divorced actress Mariah O'Brien in 2001 after four years of marriage. They share daughter Lucia, 14.
If you're craving a new music video from David Bowie or Bob Dylan or Elvis Presley or Kurt Cobain -- or all of them together and then some -- you'll want to check out this offering from Eytan and the Embassy.
The Brooklyn-based band's video for "Everything Changes" literally does just that with 18 costume changes in one unedited take.
According to Record Setter, it took the band and crew a full day of rehearsal and 30 takes the next day to successfully capture the final video.
As the lyrics of the song say, "If you're tired of being yourself, go on and be somebody else."
Over the course of the four-minute video, wigs and glasses and shirts and jackets go on and off lead singer Eytan Oren. We tried our best to identify each of the iconic rockers portrayed. There's Buddy Holly? John Lennon (or is that Liam Gallagher?!) Jim Morrison! Bob Dylan! Someone in a white tux? Elton John! Elvis Presley! David Bowie! Billy Idol ... as Wendy O. Williams? Bruce Springsteen! A blonde we can't peg -- David Lee Roth? Stevie Nicks? Then there's Prince! Kurt Cobain! Billy Joe Armstrong! Weird Al! The Beastie Boys! Lady Gaga! And finally, Deadmau5 and his signature "mouse" head.
The band has also uploaded a cool look behind the scenes of the making of the video. "The idea was to try to pull off something that was pretty close to impossible so that it would be pretty fun to watch," Oren says.
The full "Breaking Dawn Part 2" teaser reveals a whole new Bella Swan. She's not the wimpy, clumsy, protect-me-Edward girl she was in the first four "Twilight" films. Now she's a vampire, a mom, a wife, and one heck of a fighter.
"Eighteen years of being utterly ordinary, I finally found where I could shine," Bella (Kristen Stewart) says. "I was born to be a vampire."
And the role does seem to agree with her. We only see Bella briefly, but she has a determination and a fierceness that hasn't been seen in her character before.
When she tells daughter Renesmee, "I'll never let anybody hurt you," you believe her, and when she lines up with the other Cullens to take on the Volturi in what looks like a fang-filled version of "Red Rover, Red Rover," she looks like a woman on a mission.
Actor John Ratzenberger at the premier of "Toy Story 3" has starred in all thirteen of Pixar's films, including the upcoming "Brave."
By Cody Delistraty, NBC News
Pixar’s ubiquitous good luck charm is popping up again, this time as a Scottish guard in "Brave."
John Ratzenberger, the "Dancing with the Stars" alumnus known for his role as Cliff Clavin in “Cheers,” has voiced supporting roles in all thirteen Pixar films. He's put his talents to use in a variety of roles from Hamm the Piggy Bank in the “Toy Story” series to, his personal favorite, P.T. Flea in “A Bug’s Life.”
His “Cars” character Mack the Truck had the epiphany that Ratzenberger has appeared in every Pixar film during the movie’s closing credit sequence.
“They’re just using the same actor over and over,” remarks a disgusted Mack. “What kind of cut-rate production is this?”
While Mack may not approve, audiences certainly have. (Besides, what does the gag-prone truck know anyway?) Below is a cheat sheet to where you can find Ratzenberger and his signature voice in every Pixar film.
“Toy Story” (1995), “Toy Story 2” (1999), “Toy Story 3”(2010) - Hamm the Piggy Bank
Hamm the Piggy Bank (John Ratzenberger) "takes the wheel" in this clip from "Toy Story 2" (1999).
This list will likely continue in years to come, as Ratzenberger is always ready for another Pixar role. "Every time I get Pixar on the line," Ratzenberger told The Daily Telegraph. "I just drop whatever I'm doing and get over to the studio."
A staff member at Christie's auction house staff looks over Pablo Picasso's painting "Femme au chien."
By Mike Collett-White, Reuters
Belgian artist Rene Magritte was the star of the night at Christie's auction of impressionist and modern art in London late on Wednesday, underlining the strong appetite for surrealist art among collectors.
While not the top lot in terms of value, Magritte's "Les jours gigantesques" painted in 1928 fetched 7.2 million pounds ($11.3 million), several times its pre-sale estimate of 800,000-1.5 million pounds and the second highest price for the artist at auction.
Christie's, the world's largest auctioneer, said the depiction of a woman and her attacker sparked a "fierce" bidding war between 10 people. The New York Times reported that the buyer was New York financier Wilbur Ross.
The most expensive work of the sale was Pablo Picasso's "Femme assise" (1949) which fetched 8.6 million pounds compared to expectations of 5.0-7.5 million.
Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer's premium, but final prices do. The commission to Christie's is 12 percent on everything above 500,000 pounds.
Another Picasso, "Femme au chien" (1962), raised 7.0 million pounds, towards the lower end of its pre-sale estimate, and Paul Signac's "La Corne d'or. Les Minarets," painted in 1907, sold for 6.2 million pounds.
One of the star lots of the night, a female nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir entitled "Baigneuse", was withdrawn from the auction after a private deal was struck. It had been expected to raise 12-18 million pounds.
Overall the auction raised 92.5 million pounds ($145.5 million), compared with pre-sale expectations of 86.5-126.7 million.
While the final total falls short of the low estimate when commission is taken into account, the inclusion of the Renoir could well have lifted the sale to fall comfortably within range. Of the 70 lots on offer, 14 failed to sell.
On Tuesday, Christie's rival Sotheby's raised 75.0 million pounds at its equivalent auction, at the low end of expectations. Despite setting a new auction record for Joan Miro of 23.6 million pounds, the sale elsewhere was lackluster.
The two sales kick off three weeks of major auctions in London where up to $1 billion of art is on offer.
NEW YORK -- LeRoy Neiman, the painter and sketch artist best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world's biggest sporting and leisure events with bright quick strokes, died Wednesday at age 91.
Neiman also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for many years and official painter of five Olympiads. His longtime publicist Gail Parenteau confirmed his death Wednesday but didn't disclose the cause.
Neiman was a media-savvy artist who knew how to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of what he observed. In 1972, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a live television audience.
He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.
Neiman's "reportage of history and the passing scene ... revived an almost lost and time-honored art form," according to a 1972 exhibit catalog of the artist's Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Neiman said in a June 2008 interview with The Associated Press. "I've zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. ... Everybody who does anything to try to succeed has to give the best of themselves, and art has made me pull the best out of myself."
Neiman's paintings, many executed in household enamel paints that allowed the artist his fast-moving strokes, are an explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy.
He has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.
Chris Trotman / Getty Images for USOC
Artist LeRoy Neiman signs autographs at the 100 Days to Vancouver Celebration on Nov. 4, 2009 at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
"I don't know if I'm an impressionist or an expressionist," he told the AP. "You can call me an American first. ... (but) I've been labeled doing neimanism, so that's what it is, I guess."
He worked in many media, producing thousands of etchings, lithographs and silkscreen prints known as serigraphy.
But his critics said Neiman's forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy, for example, he created Femlin, the well-endowed nude that has graced the magazine's Party Jokes page since 1957.
Neiman shrugged off such criticism.
"I can easily ignore my detractors and feel the people who respond favorably," he said.
Neiman was fascinated with large game animals, and twice traveled to Kenya to paint lions and elephants "in the bush" in his trademark vibrant palette.
But it was the essence of a basketball or football game, swim meet or cycling event that captured his imagination most.
"For an artist, watching a (Joe) Namath throw a football or a Willie Mays hit a baseball is an experience far more overpowering than painting a beautiful woman or leading political figure," Neiman said in 1972.
With his sketchbook and pencil, trademark handlebar mustache and slicked back hair, Neiman was instantly recognizable.
At a New York Jets game at Shea Stadium in 1975, fans yelled, "Put LeRoy in," when the play wasn't going their way.
Neiman's decades-long association with Playboy began in 1953 following a chance meeting with Hugh Hefner. It was the start of what he called "the good life" and inspiration for much of his future work.
He regularly contributed to the magazine's "Man at His Leisure" feature, which took him to such places as the Grand National Steeplechase and Ascot in England, the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Grand Prix auto race in Monaco.
Neiman was a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations and had no hobbies. He worked daily in his New York City home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park that he shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Janet.
"What else am I good for?" he said in 2008. "I don't think about anything else."
To prove it, he said he was working on a large scale project for a Louisville, Ky., horse festival planned for 2010.
Another later project, a 160-foot-long sports mural, hangs in the Sports Museum of America in New York that opened in 2008.
Neiman was also a portraitist who captured some of the world's most iconic figures, Frank Sinatra and Babe Ruth among them, in a style that conveyed their public image.
"I am less concerned with how people look when they wake," he said. "A person's public presence reflects his own efforts at image development."
One face he recorded over and over again was that of Muhammad Ali. Those painting and sketches, representing 15 years of the prizefighter's professional life, permanently reside at the LeRoy Neiman Gallery at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky.
Over the years, Neiman has endowed a number of institutions, donating $6 million in 1995 for the creation of the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University and $3 million to his alma mater, the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught for a decade.
He also donated $1 million to create a permanent home for Arts Horizons, a community art center in Harlem.
His works are in the permanent collections of many private and public museums. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., was selected by Neiman to house his archives.
"I just love what I do," Neiman told the AP. "I love the passion you go through while you're creating" and the public's "very thoughtful and careful studied and emotional reaction of what you're doing."