Country music scholar, KU grad Wolfe dies at 62
Murfreesboro, Tenn. - Charles Wolfe, a college professor who wrote the history of the Grand Ole Opry and was considered an expert on music, folklore and popular culture, has died. He was 62.
Wolfe, an award-winning writer and editor of music books, was a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University for 35 years before he retired last year.
Wolfe had diabetes and other health problems before he died Thursday at Middle Tennessee Medical Center, his daughter, Stacey Wolfe, said Friday.
"He's been a sick a long time," she said. "The main problem was his blood pressure. He was weak from surgery he had in June."
John McDaniel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, called Wolfe "a gentle giant and a prolific author."
Wolfe was widely recognized as one of the leading experts on the history and development of country music.
His 1999 book, "A Good-Natured Riot, The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry," won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award.
Stacey Wolfe said her father had recently completed a book on the music of bluegrass great Bill Monroe that will be published posthumously.
Wolfe earned his undergraduate degree at Southwest Missouri State College and his master's and doctorate at Kansas University.
Visitation will be 4 p.m. 8 p.m. today at Woodfin Memorial Chapel, with the funeral set for 1:30 p.m. today.
Zoo director disputes host's claims made about elephants
Los Angeles - The director of the Los Angeles Zoo on Saturday disputed game show host Bob Barker's comments about the condition of the zoo's elephants.
Barker on Friday pleaded with the City Council to close the zoo's elephant exhibit, saying the pachyderms lived in misery and that two of the three elephants were ill.
"His information was wrong," said John Lewis, the zoo's director. "He was making statements that were just factually untrue."
Two of the zoo's elephants, Billy and Ruby, are healthy physically and mentally, Lewis said. Gita has been recovering from October surgery for a foot injury and has been behaving normally, he said.
Barker, the 82-year-old host of "The Price is Right" and animal rights activist, stood by his remarks Saturday saying that Gita has had problems with her feet and she continues to stand on cement and hardpacked soil, which exacerbates her condition. He also said that Ruby is under emotional stress and has started to sway back and forth for hours at a time.
Barker also denounced the zoo's plans to build a 2-acre, $19 million exhibit that supporters claim would provide more space and a more natural environment.
Lewis said the exhibit would exceed the requirements for elephant exhibits set by the American Zoo & Aquarium Assn., which accredits U.S. zoos.
Actor Christian Slater seeks joint custody of children
Los Angeles - Actor Christian Slater is seeking joint custody of his 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, according to refiled divorce papers.
The documents, filed Friday in Superior Court, also indicate that Slater wants to divide property under terms of a written agreement between himself and estranged wife Ryan Haddon. Those terms were not disclosed.
Slater, 36, first filed papers last February to end his marriage to the television producer, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple married on Valentine's Day in 2000. They separated on Jan. 1, 2004, according to the new papers.
The original papers said they separated on Jan. 5, 2005.
McKellen takes top prize at international film festival
Berlin - Ian McKellen says he's enjoying a late burst of global fame and still has "a lot of life left" after a decades-long acting career that earned him a lifetime achievement award at this year's Berlin International Film Festival.
McKellen, 66, was picking up an honorary Golden Bear - the festival's top prize - at a ceremony Saturday, accompanied by a screening of the 1995 film version of "Richard III."
After "Richard III," he picked up an Oscar nomination for his part in 1998's "Gods and Monsters" and gained worldwide fame by playing the wizard Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings" movies and appearing in the "X-Men" films. Upcoming roles include the part of Sir Leagh Teabing in the movie of "The Da Vinci Code."
The actor, a prominent gay rights campaigner, was guarded as to what impact the success of the Oscar front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" might have.
It remains "very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality and even more difficult for a woman," he said. "The film industry is very old-fashioned in California."
But, he added, "my own career in mainstream films really took off once I'd come out."
'Late Night' host requests Finnish sauna inspector job
Helsinki, Finland - Conan O'Brien, who endorsed the re-election of Finnish President Tarja Halonen with mock ad campaigns because they both have red hair and fair skin, said he expects to be rewarded with a Cabinet position.
Hundreds of fans welcomed O'Brien Saturday to a freezing Helsinki, only two weeks after Halonen, 62, secured a second six-year term as Finland's first female president.
After arriving at the airport, the quirky, self-deprecating NBC network host said he will ask Halonen for a Cabinet position when he meets her Tuesday.
"In my country, when someone is instrumental in helping someone get elected it's customary for the president to give that person a Cabinet or ministerial position," O'Brien told reporters in the airport's VIP lounge.
"I'd like to be the inspector of saunas, mostly women's saunas," he said.
O'Brien has joked that his show is highly popular here because of his resemblance to the fair-skinned, red-haired Halonen. Last year, he caused a political stir by endorsing her during her campaign, broadcasting mock ads promoting her and attacking her opponents.
"Late Night with Conan O'Brien" airs five days a week on SUBTV, a Finnish cable channel, with a few days delay.
After his Tuesday meeting at the presidential palace with Halonen, O'Brien is to receive a TV award for being "the most surprising and entertaining TV personality in Finland."