Andy Williams, 1960s crooner who immortalized Moon River, has died

Singer Andy Williams, who skyrocketed to fame with his dreamy rendition of the timeless love song Moon River, died last night in Branson, MO.

Born in Iowa in 1927, Williams and his three brothers performed all across America in the 30s and 40s as the Williams Brothers. After a brief break when two of the brothers were drafted during WWII, they regrouped in 1947 for another six years. In the early 1960s, Andy Williams began his own popular variety show on NBC -- it ran from 1962 until 1971and it included his widely watched Christmas specials. Always generous with his willingness to share the set with other singers, Williams is credited with launching the Osmond Brothers.

In 1961, Williams sang Moon River, written by Henry Mancini for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's; it became his theme song.

In his 2009 memoir, Moon River and Me, Williams wrote movingly of his lifelong friendship with his ex-wife Claudine Longet and of his unwavering belief that her fatal shooting of her boyfriend, Olympic skier, Spider Sabitch, in 1976, was an accident.

During his 75 years in show business, Andy earned 17 gold and three platinum albums.

Williams, who was 84, had battled bladder cancer since late last year.

Stephen Dunham, TV and movie actor, has died

Stephen Dunham, who has starred in several limited-run TV series, and had supporting roles in several movies, died last Friday in Burbank, California.

Dunham, born Stephen Dunham Bowers, had roles in such TV series as Hot Properties (ABC), Oh, Grow Up and DAG (both on NBC), The Bill Engvall Show (TBS) and What I Like About You (WB).

Some of his movie roles included Catch Me if You Can (2002), Traffic (2000) and Monster-in-Law (2005).

In October, he will appear posthumously in Paranormal Activity 4, as husband to his real-life wife, actress Alexondra Lee, who survives.

Dunham, who was just 48, died several days after suffering a heart attack.

Children's Literacy Network Bookfair

Join me at the Children's Literacy Network Bookfair this Saturday! This festive celebration was created by the awesome Family Book Club, now called Children’s Literacy Network. I’ll be representing AADL and sharing stories at 11:30 am.

The Beer Depot sign, 1967

Beer Depot signBeer Depot sign

An article in annarbor.com posted yesterday reports that the historic Beer Depot drive-thru sign will finally be repaired and restored at the East William street business after a storm blew it down last year and owners had to work through city ordinance restrictions.

For this and other signs from 1960s and 1970s-era Ann Arbor, check out our great collection of historic signs.

Man Booker Prize 2012 shortlist have been announced

The Man Booker Prize 2012 shortlist was released today in London.

The Man Booker Prize was first begun as the Booker Prize in 1968. It is one of the most prestigious literary awards and is awarded to the best novel of the year written by an author who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

Among the authors who got the shortlist nod this year are:

Twan Eng Tan for his novel, The Garden of Evening Mists. In 1951, Malaysian prosecuting attorney, Yun Ling Teoh finds a Japanese garden in Malaysia which provides her with unexpected solace as she tries to heal from her horrific WW II experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Will Self for his novel, Umbrella. Zachary Busner, a rogue psychiatrist in a mental hospital in 1970s London, tries some out-there therapies in an effort to reach Audrey Dearth, an 80-something patient whose life story unfolds slowly during her treatment.

Hilary Mantel for Bringing Up the Bodies. In this historical novel, Anne Boleyn is in the fight for her life against Thomas Cromwell.

For a complete list of all six authors named today, check out this link.

The winner will be named on Tuesday, October 16th in London at Guildhall.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #352

Called "majestic," "compelling," and "mesmerizing," debut novelist Amanda Coplin's The Orchardist * * fully lives up to the hype.

Set in early-20th-century Washington State, it follows a makeshift family through two tragic decades. William Talmadge toils alone in his orchard at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains when two starving, heavily pregnant teenage girls, Jane and Della, turn up on his land, and into his care. Their pursuer is an opium addict, and the ensuring violence leaves only Della and Jane's baby, Angelene, to be nurtured by Talmadge and his close friend Caroline Middey, an herbalist. Tragedy strikes again when Angelene is 13, setting in motion a disastrous chain of events that engulfs Talmadge and everyone he cares for.

"Coplin refuses to sentimentalize. Instead, she demonstrates that courage and compassion can transform unremarkable lives and redeem damaged souls. In the end, three graves side by side, yet this eloquent, moving novel concludes on a note of affirmation."

"A breathtaking work from a genuinely accomplished writer."

"Coplin's depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape" bring to mind Kent Haruf's Plainsong, and The Outlander by Gil Adamson.

Readers might also try the Winner of the 2010 Governor General's Award (and a US debut) , Juliet in August (originally published as Cool Water) by Dianne Warren, set in a tiny Canadian town in Saskatchewan, a blink-and-you-miss-it dusty oasis on the edge of the Little Snake sand hills.

For more on The Orchardist, read NPR's review and interview with the author.

* * = starred reviews

Neil Armstrong, first person to set foot on the moon, has died

Neil Armstrong, the Ohio born NASA astronaut who thrilled the world on July 20, 1969, when he stepped out of the Apollo 11 space capsule and onto the surface of the moon, died today.

After three years as a Navy pilot, in 1955 he signed on with NASA's precursor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. In 1958, NACA became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Armstrong continued his stellar career under the renamed organization.

In 1962, he became an official astronaut. Four years later he was the first man to dock two vehicles in space.

On July 20, 1969, a global gasp went up when, as Commander of Apollo 11, he set foot on the moon and said, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

That very day, then Ohio Governor James Rhodes proposed that Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta build a museum in his honor. Three years later to the day, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum opened its doors to the public.

Over the years, Armstrong earned endless accolades, awards, degrees, and the adoration of a nation. The latter puzzled him the most as he was, indeed, a reluctant hero. He always maintained he was just doing his job.

His family summed up his life thus: "For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request: Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Armstrong, who had had heart surgery a few weeks ago, was 82 years old.

Phyllis Diller, extravagantly 'out there' comedic genius, has died

Phyllis Diller, one of America's most beloved, goofy comics, died today at her Los Angeles home.

Diller, who had ties to Washtenaw County (she lived in Ypsilanti during World War II), got her show biz start in radio in the 1950s. From there, she started doing stand-up at the famous Purple Onion Comedy Club in San Francisco. In the 1960s, she and Bob Hope teamed up for two dozen TV specials. In addition to her extensive television appearances on dozens of shows, Ms. Diller worked in Hollywood. In a rare out-of-character role, Diller had a walk-on part in Spendor in the Grass (1961).

In addition to her wild platinum blonde hair and her signature guffaw, a cross between fingers scraping a pitted blackboard and a hormonally-challenged cat, Diller's running riff on her unseen, imaginary husband, Fang, entertained her audiences for decades.

In 2005, she somehow found time to pen her autobiography, Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy.

Ms. Diller, who had recently fallen and broken several bones, was 95.

William Windom, great character actor, has died

William Windom, whose television and silver screen acting career spanned decades, died August 16th at his California home.

Best known in more recent years as Dr. Seth Hazlitt in the popular Murder, She Wrote TV series (1984-1996), he also had roles in other hit TV shows, such as the original The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), The Farmer's Daughter (1963-1966), (in which he played a Minnesota congressman based loosely on his real life great-grandfather, William Windom, who was a Minnesota congressman and senator in the 19th century.)

Windom's first movie role was the prosecuting attorney in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), starring Gregory Peck.

Mr. Windom, who was 88, died of congestive heart failure.

Scott McKenzie, Summer of Love singer, has died

Scott McKenzie, forever tied to the unofficial anthem for San Francisco's 1967 Summer of Love, San Francisco (Be Sure to Where Some Flowers in Your Hair, died Saturday at his Los Angeles home.

His iconic song, written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, was a big hit at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, which is the subject of Monterey Pop (1968), the first filmed rock festival.

McKenzie, who had been in fragile health for quite some time with Guillaine-Barre Syndrome and a possible heart attack, died at home at age 73.

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