August 10, 2008

Actor, Comedian Bernie Mac Dies at 50

Bernie Mac blended style, authority and a touch of self-aware bluster to make audiences laugh as well as connect with him. For Mac, who died Saturday at age 50, it was a winning mix, delivering him from a poor childhood to stardom as a standup comedian, in films including the casino heist caper "Ocean's Eleven" and his acclaimed sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show."

Though his comedy drew on tough experiences as a black man, he had mainstream appeal - befitting inspiration he found in a wide range of humorists: Harpo Marx as well as Moms Mabley; squeaky- clean Red Skelton, but also the raw Redd Foxx.

Mac died Saturday morning of complications from pneumonia in a Chicago-area hospital, his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles.

"The world just got a little less funny," said "Oceans" co-star George Clooney.

Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.

Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.

But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.

"Wherever I am, I have to play," he said in 2002. "I have to put on a good show."

Mac worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago's South Side. He began doing standup as a child, telling jokes for spare change on subways, and his film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy "Mo' Money" in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama "Get on the Bus."

Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was the deacon of a Baptist church.

Philip Seymour Hoffman to direct play in London

LONDON - Producers say Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman will direct a play in London's West End later this year.

"Riflemind" tells the story of a rock band getting back together 20 years after its members split up.

The play is by Australian writer Andrew Upton, husband of Hollywood star Cate Blanchett. The production will star Scottish actor John Hannah, whose films include "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "The Mummy" series.

Hoffman is co-artistic director of New York's LAByrinth Theater Company. He won a best-actor Oscar in 2006 for "Capote."


Singer Al Alberts is 86. Actress Rhonda Fleming is 85. Singer Jimmy Dean is 80. Singer Eddie Fisher is 80. Actress Kate O'Mara is 69. Singer Ronnie Spector is 65. Actor James Reynolds is 62. Rock singer-musician Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) is 61. Singer Patti Austin is 60. Actor Daniel Hugh Kelly is 56. Folk singer-songwriter Sam Baker is 54. Actress Rosanna Arquette is 49. Actor Antonio Banderas is 48. Rock musician Jon Farriss (INXS) is 47. Singer Julia Fordham is 46. Journalist-blogger Andrew Sullivan is 45. Singer Neneh Cherry is 44. Singer Aaron Hall is 44. Singer-producer Michael Bivins is 40. Actor Justin Theroux is 37. Actress Angie Harmon is 36. Country singer Jennifer Hanson is 35. Actress JoAnna Garcia is 29. Rhythm-and-blues singer Nikki Bratcher (Divine) is 28. Actor Ryan Eggold is 24.

- By the Associated Press

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