Roger Ebert can’t speak but still communicates
New York — Film critic Roger Ebert lost his ability to speak nearly four years ago, when he underwent a tracheostomy, a procedure that opens an airway through an incision in the windpipe, after surgery for cancer in his jaw.
In an interview in the new issue of Esquire magazine, the 67-year-old film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times uses pen and paper and text-to-speech computer software to communicate. He’s developed a kind of rudimentary sign language, and he sometimes draws letters with his finger on the palm of his hand.
Ebert had surgery to remove his cancerous thyroid in 2002. He had surgery on his salivary glands in 2003 and on his jaw in 2006. Complications in 2006 led to more surgery and months of recuperation. He lost his ability to speak.
When asked about another operation to restore his voice, Ebert shakes his head.
Ebert has been a film critic for the Sun-Times since 1967. In 1975, he became the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism.
His thumb, pointing up or down, was the main logo of the televised movie review shows he co-hosted, first with Gene Siskel of the rival Chicago Tribune and — after Siskel’s death in 1999 — with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.
The Esquire article describes a moment where Ebert begins to type on his computer. He presses a button and the speakers light up. “I’ve never said this before,” the voice says, “but we were born to be Siskel and Ebert.” The voice then says: “I just miss the guy so much.”
Richie confirms engagement to Madden
New York — Nicole Richie is engaged to longtime boyfriend Joel Madden.
The 28-year-old Richie confirmed the engagement Monday during a taping of CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.” The show will air Friday at 10:35 p.m. CST.
Letterman asked, “You’re not married yet, is that correct?” Richie replied, “We’re not married.”
Letterman then asked if she and Madden planned to get married. Richie said, “We actually recently are engaged, yes.”
The 30-year-old Madden fronts the band Good Charlotte.
The couple have a 2-year-old daughter, Harlow Winter Kate, and a 5-month-old son, Sparrow Midnight.
Leno bandleader Eubanks may exit
New York — Jay Leno’s longtime bandleader, Kevin Eubanks, may not play very long once the Leno troupe returns to “The Tonight Show.”
NBC said Tuesday that Eubanks has expressed interest in personal touring and recording. The network says he will be part of the show when it reoccupies late night March 1, but his continued involvement is uncertain.
The 52-year-old Eubanks, whose duties include comic sideman to Leno as well as guitarist, has been a fixture since Leno took the reins of “The Tonight Show” in 1992. He became musical director when Branford Marsalis left in 1995.
Eubanks was also part of “The Jay Leno Show,” the NBC prime-time flop that just ended.
Leno is returning as “Tonight Show” host, a job he held for 17 years until giving it up to Conan O’Brien last May.
Emotional Lady Gaga sweeps Brit Awards
London — Flamboyant chanteuse Lady Gaga swept the U.K.’s Brit Awards Tuesday winning three categories and offering an emotional tribute to Alexander McQueen, the British fashion designer who died last week.
Gaga collected awards for best international female artist, best international breakthrough act and best international album for “The Fame,” and performed at the ceremony wearing a towering white wig and lace veil — complete with ornate lace eyebrows.
The awards are the British equivalent of the Grammys, with most winners selected by a vote of more than 1,000 industry members.
U.S. rapper Jay-Z also claimed an award, for best international male, during a ceremony at London Earl’s Court arena.
Hannity book about Obama’s ‘radical agenda’
New York — Fox News host Sean Hannity has a new book coming next month.
HarperCollins announced Tuesday that it will issue Hannity’s “Conservative Victory” on March 30. The paperback is billed as a call to defeat President Barack Obama’s “radical agenda.”
The book will have a first printing of 1.5 million copies.
Hannity is also the author of “Deliver Us From Evil.” Other recent conservative best-sellers include Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” and Glenn Beck’s “Arguing with Idiots.”
EMI seeks buyer for Abbey Road studios
London — The long and winding road of Beatles history has taken a new twist.
Cash-strapped music company EMI Group Ltd. is seeking a buyer for Abbey Road, the London studio where the Fab Four recorded some of their most famous songs, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday.
The person said talks had been going on for several months but a buyer had not yet been found. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
A spokesman for EMI refused to comment on the sale bid, which could raise tens of millions of dollars for the struggling label.