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Taking Names: ‘Family Circus’ creator Keane dies

- - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family Circus cartoonist, Bil Keane, dies at 89

Bil Keane, the cartoonist whose "Family Circus" mixed humor with traditional family values, entertaining readers for a half-century, died Tuesday. He was 89.

Claudia Smith, a spokeswoman for the comic distributor King Features Syndicate, said no other details were immediately available.

Mr. Keane began drawing the one-panel cartoon featuring Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, P.J. and their parents in February 1960, and it is now featured in newspapers around the country.

Mr. Keane said in a 1995 interview with the Associated Press that the cartoon endured because of its consistency and simplicity.

"It's reassuring, I think, to the American public to see the same family," he said.

Although Keane kept the strip current with references to pop culture movies and songs, the context of his comic was timeless. The ghostlike gremlins Ida Know and Not Me, who got blamed for household accidents, were staples of the strip. The family's pets were dogs Barfy and Sam, and the cat, Kittycat.

"We are, in the comics, the last frontier of good, wholesome family humor and entertainment," Keane said. "On radio and television, magazines and the movies, you can't tell what you're going to get. When you look at the comic page, you can usually depend on something acceptable by the entire family."

Keith Richards' memoir wins Mailer biography prize

On a night he was honored for his way with words, Keith Richards clearly was winging it.

"This is one for the books, if you get my drift — you hacks," the 67-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist joked Tuesday as he accepted the Mailer Prize for distinguished biography, a prize earned by his million-selling memoir "Life."

Wearing tinted glasses, a long scarf around his neck and a wide red band around his sprawl of salt-and-pepper hair, Mr. Richards stood before hundreds dressed in suits and gowns at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan and loosened up as if presiding over a celebrity roast. He chuckled. He swore. He reasoned that since he had been writing — songs — since age 16, his appearance at a literary event was not a total "intrusion."

It had been an evening of earnest speeches about the importance of writing and education, about the disparity of wealth and the lasting lessons of the Holocaust, the latter point articulated by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, winner of the Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement.

"You've heard from some incredible people about some serious stuff," Mr. Richards acknowledged, before bringing the subject to his own demons, his longtime heroin addiction. "The only serious stuff I'm interested in I've given up."

The Mailer awards are named for Norman Mailer, who died in 2007, and are sponsored by the Norman Mailer Center and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, based in his longtime home of Provincetown, Mass. Previous recipients of Mailer awards, now in their third year, include Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Orhan Pamuk and Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner.

Stephen King to help Maine residents stay warm

Horror author Stephen King is stepping up to help struggling Maine residents buy heating oil. The state is facing deep cuts to a federal heating oil assistance program.

The Maine native announced Tuesday that his foundation will work with the three radio stations he owns in the Bangor area to raise $140,000 to buy heating oil for low-income residents.

He's asking listeners to donate $70,000, and the foundation will double it.

Mr. King told the Bangor Daily News there is a "great need" for heating oil assistance as the price goes up and federal funding goes down.

The federal government told the Maine State Housing Authority that it should expect to receive $23 million in heating oil assistance this winter, down from $55.6 million last winter.

Rapper Heavy D collapses, dies in Beverly Hills

It was as if Heavy D knew it would be his last tweet.

The self-proclaimed "overweight lover" of hip hop, who became one of rap's top hitmakers with his charming combination of humor and positivity, enthusiastically told his Twitter followers Tuesday morning to "BE INSPIRED!" He later collapsed outside his Beverly Hills, Calif., home after a shopping trip, unable to breathe, before he was taken to a hospital.

The Associated Press reports Heavy D died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to Lt. Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills police. He was 44. Lt. Rosen said detectives found no signs of foul play and believe his death was medically related. If true, Heavy D would of course not have known that "BE INSPIRED!" would be his last tweet, but that it was is fitting for the life Heavy D lived.

The Jamaica-born rapper, who grew up in New York, became one of the genre's most integral stars in the late 1980s and early 1990s as it relied on new voices and star power to fuel its phenomenal growth in the mainstream. Heavy D and his crew — Heavy D & the Boyz — unabashedly burst onto the rap scene in 1987 with their debut album "Living Large."

The deep-voiced rapper's earliest hit, "The Overweight Lover's in the House," played up his hefty frame. But while that nickname would stick, his weight did not become his shtick. What drew people to his music was his singular style celebrating an easygoing, party vibe — sometimes humorous, sometimes inspiring and usually positive.

Heavy D, who was never afraid to bust a move or perform as a character, also found success on the screen. He created the theme songs for the sketch comedy shows "In Living Color" and "MADtv" and acted on such TV shows as "Boston Public," "The Tracy Morgan Show" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," as well as in the films "Life," "Step Up" and most recently "Tower Heist."

• Compiled from Web and wire reports.