- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Voice of ‘Top Cat’

BOSTON | Arnold Stang, an actor who appeared alongside Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra and was known for his nerdy looks and distinctive nasal voice, has died. He was 91.

Mr. Stang died Sunday of pneumonia at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts, said JoAnne Stang, his wife of 60 years.

Despite often playing goofy characters, Mr. Stang was the consummate professional, preparing the same for his biggest roles and the smallest commercials, his wife said.

He played alongside Berle on radio and television in the 1950s, starred as Sinatra’s sidekick in the 1955 movie “The Man With the Golden Arm” and was a member of the ensemble comedic cast of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in 1963.

The dramatic role alongside Sinatra was one of his favorites, his wife said.

He voiced cartoons, including the lead character in the 1960s cartoon “Top Cat,” and did dozens of commercials, perhaps most notably for the Chunky candy bar.

He appeared in movies alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Cosby and continued acting into his 80s, playing a role in the 1993 movie “Dennis the Menace.”

Mr. Stang also is survived by his son David and daughter Deborah.

‘Sesame’ star dies

LOS ANGELES | Alaina Reed-Amini, the Broadway star and TV actress best known for her long-running roles on “Sesame Street” and “227,” has died. She was 63.

Miss Reed-Amini died Thursday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., after a two-year battle with breast cancer, her publicist, Billy Laurence, said Monday.

Previously known as Alaina Reed Hall, she remarried in 2008. Her stage credits include “Chicago” and “Hair.” She appeared in several movies, including “Cruel Intentions” and “Death Becomes Her,” and in guest-starring roles on numerous TV shows, including “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “Ally McBeal.”

Miss Reed-Amini joined the “Sesame Street” cast in 1976 and played Olivia, a photographer and sister of the character Gordon. She remained on the show until 1988.

She starred on NBC’s “227” from 1985 to 1990, playing the landlady and best friend of the show’s main character. On the show’s final season, Miss Reed-Amini married a character played by her real-life husband, Kevin Peter Hall, who died in 1991.

Born Bernice Reed in Springfield, Ohio, on Nov. 10, 1946, Miss Reed-Amini is survived by her husband, Tamim Amini, and two children from her marriage to Hall. According to her husband, no funeral or memorial services will be held, but a celebration of her life is being planned for next year.

Murphy leak to TMZ

LOS ANGELES | Coroner’s officials are looking into how the celebrity Web site TMZ obtained details on prescription drugs contained in an investigator’s report on the death of actress Brittany Murphy.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Tuesday he didn’t know how TMZ obtained the confidential report and that he was concerned other aspects of the investigation could be leaked.

“I’m furious,” Mr. Winter said. “We don’t normally release partial information. If partial information goes out, it of course makes us look bad. Everybody ought to get it at the same time.”

Miss Murphy, 32, died on Sunday after collapsing at her Hollywood Hills home. Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the death, but detectives have said their initial inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing.

TMZ’s report stated that the investigator, who is identified only by last name, noted that numerous bottles of prescription medications were found in Miss Murphy’s name at the home where she collapsed. The medications ranged from depression and anti-anxiety drugs to painkillers.

Medications also were found in the name of Miss Murphy’s husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, TMZ reported. The celebrity gossip Web site declined to say how it obtained the report.

Mr. Winter has said prescription medications were taken from Miss Murphy’s home but he doesn’t know how many or what kind. No illegal drugs were found, he has said.

Mr. Winter said he spoke with TMZ’s managing editor, Harvey Levin, who declined to say how the site obtained details from the report. Mr. Winter said Mr. Levin told him they did not come directly from the investigator or the office’s two main press contacts, who include Mr. Winter.

The coroner’s office is looking into the possibility that the investigator’s report was transmitted to an outside agency and the leak occurred there, Mr. Winter said.

An autopsy on Miss Murphy was completed MondayDec. 21, but a determination on her cause of death has been deferred until toxicology and tissue testing are complete. Her death may have been from natural causes, but that won’t be decided until all testing is complete, Mr. Winter said.

Miss Murphy is best-known for her roles in films such as “Clueless,” “Girl, Interrupted” and “8 Mile.” In recent years, her on-screen roles were in smaller projects, and she voiced the character of Luanne Platter in more than 200 episodes of Fox’s animated series “King of the Hill.”

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

After Michael Jackson’s June 25 death, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated whether workers at the coroner’s office had leaked details of the pop superstar’s death to the media.

No evidence of wrongdoing was found, although Jackson’s death certificate was improperly viewed by at least a half-dozen employees who had no role in investigating the cause of his death.

Mr. Winter said he’s concerned about other information about Miss Murphy’s death being released before his office releases its conclusions in four to six weeks.

“The investigator did interview her doctor,” Mr. Winter said. “I haven’t even seen what was obtained from the doctor. I’m worried that TMZ or somebody else got that info.”

‘Christmas’ stay

CLEVELAND | A reality-TV star gets to spend a couple of nights living like Ralphie in the house used for the movie “A Christmas Story.”

The experience is a “major award” for Billy Jeffrey, who says he’s obsessed with the 1983 film. He bid $4,200 in an online charity auction and was scheduled to make his sleepovers Monday and Tuesday nights.

The house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood is now a tourist attraction.

The Christmas cult classic - which will air round-the-clock for 24 hours beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. on cable’s TBS - stars Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a young boy determined to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas in 1940s Indiana.

High bidder Mr. Jeffrey was a cast member on the ABC reality-TV series “True Beauty” last winter and has toured as a Chippendales exotic dancer.

Compiled by Robyn Denise Yourse from wire reports

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