Los Angeles, Mar 20 (AP/UNB) — "The Young and the Restless" star Kristoff St. John died of heart disease, with excessive drinking at the time of his death a contributing factor, according to a coroner's report released Tuesday.
Investigators listed "hypertrophic heart disease" as the cause of the 52-year-old's death on Feb. 4 at his home in Los Angeles. "Hypertrophic" means the heart muscle has become abnormally thick, making blood-pumping difficult.
Heavy alcohol use along with a congenital artery problem contributed to St. John's death, the report said.
Three days earlier, St. John had been released from a mental health hospital where he had been admitted for alcohol abuse and threatening self-harm, according to the report. It also listed a history of mental-health and alcohol problems.
He last spoke to someone about 24 hours before paramedics declared him dead in his apartment on a Sunday morning, the report states.
For 27 years, St. John played struggling alcoholic and ladies' man Neil Winters on the CBS soap opera, "The Young and the Restless."
He was nominated for 11 daytime Emmys, winning twice, for outstanding younger actor in a drama series, in 1992 and supporting actor in 2008.
He died four years after the death of his 24-year-old son, and St. John had spoken on social media about his struggles with grief.
He had become engaged to model Kseniya Mikhaleva in September.
St. John's last episode of "The Young and the Restless" aired in the week following his death. A story line that pays tribute to both Kristoff and his character is set to start in late April.
Los Angeles, Mar 18 (AP/UNB) — Dick Dale, whose pounding, blaringly loud power-chord instrumentals on songs like "Miserlou" and "Let's Go Trippin'" earned him the title King of the Surf Guitar, has died at age 81.
His former bassist Sam Bolle says Dick Dale passed away Saturday night. No other details were available.
Dale liked to say it was he and not the Beach Boys who invented surf music — and some critics have said he was right.
An avid surfer, Dale started building a devoted Los Angeles fan base in the late 1950s with repeated appearances at Newport Beach's old Rendezvous Ballroom. He played "Miserlou," ''The Wedge," ''Night Rider" and other compositions at wall-rattling volume on a custom-made Fender Stratocaster guitar.
"Miserlou," which would become his signature song, had been adapted from a Middle Eastern folk tune Dale heard as a child and later transformed into a thundering surf-rock instrumental.
His fingering style was so frenetic that he shredded guitar picks during songs, a technique that forced him to stash spares on his guitar's body. "Better shred than dead," he liked to joke, an expression that eventually became the title of a 1997 anthology released by Rhino Records.
Dale said he developed his musical style when he sought to merge the sounds of the crashing ocean waves he heard while surfing with melodies inspired by the rockabilly music he loved.
He pounded rather than plucked the strings of his guitar in a style he said he borrowed from an early musical hero, the great jazz drummer Gene Krupa.
"Dale pioneered a musical genre that Beach Boy Brian Wilson and others would later bring to fruition," Rolling Stone magazine said in its "Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll" adding "Let's Go Trippin'" was released in 1961, two months ahead of the Beach Boys' first hit, "Surfin.'"
The magazine called Dale's song "the harbinger of the '60s surf music craze."
Although popular around Southern California, Dale might have remained just a cult figure if surfing had not exploded in worldwide popularity during his peak creative years.
When the first of a series of "Beach Party" movies made to cash in on the phenomenon was released in 1963, it included Dick Dale and the Del-Tones performing "Secret Surfing Spot" as teen heartthrob Annette Funicello danced on the beach.
Dale had released his first album, "Surfer's Choice," a year earlier. He followed it with four more over the next two years while appearing in several "Beach Party" sequels and other surfer movies.
Other popular Dale songs included "Jungle Fever," ''Shake-N-Stomp" and "Swingin' and Surfin'."
His star dimmed after the Beatles led music's British invasion onto the pop charts in 1964 and his record label dropped him. His career also was sidelined by a battle with cancer in the 1960s and a serious foot infection in the 1970s that was the result of a surfing injury.
His musical influence was profound and included guitar virtuosos Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan and movie director Quentin Tarantino, who selected Dale's "Miserlou," as the theme song of his 1994 film "Pulp Fiction." That helped pull the guitarist back into the pop-culture spotlight.
Dale himself had begun to launch a comeback with the 1987 film "Back to the Beach," which reunited Funicello and her co-star Frankie Avalon as a middle-aged couple returning to their old surfing haunts. He teamed up with Vaughan to record the classic surf instrumental "Pipeline" for that film, earning the pair a Grammy nomination.
In 1993 he released "Tribal Thunder," his first album of all new material in nearly 30 years. He followed it with "Unknown Territory" the following year.
Dale continued to tour into his 80s, in part he said to pay the medical bills that advancing age was saddling him with. Having beaten cancer in the 1960s, he suffered a serious recurrence in 2015.
Born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937, Dale moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1954, where he immediately fell in love with surfing and the electric guitar.
As a child, he listened to Lebanese and Polish folk tunes played by his parents. Eventually he graduated to big band, swing, country and rockabilly.
Self-taught on guitar, the left-handed Dale couldn't afford a custom-made model, so early on he played a standard right-hand guitar upside down and backward. That ended after a meeting with legendary guitar builder Leo Fender, who offered to make Dale his own left-handed model if he'd test a line of guitars and amplifiers Fender was developing.
"I became Leo's personal guinea pig," Dale told The Associated Press in 1997. "Anything that came out of the Fender company, I played."
He played so loudly that he blew up one amplifier after another until a frustrated Fender built him a "Dick Dale Dual Showman" doubled-sized amp. It was a model that would become popular with aspiring Los Angeles guitarists.
As he began to become well known, he began calling himself Dick Dale, explaining years later that a radio disc jockey had suggested it was a better name for a rock star than Richard Monsour.
His surfer buddies had already nicknamed him King of the Surf Guitar, a title he said he initially resisted, fearing it would limit his audience. When the spirit of surfing caught on everywhere, however, he came to embrace the crown.
Dale is survived by his wife, Lana, and a son, James, a drummer who sometimes toured with his father.
Chicago, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — A judge is expected to be assigned to Jussie Smollett's disorderly conduct case when the "Empire" actor returns to court Thursday.
That judge will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea.
Smollett is accused of lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago.
The actor appeared in court earlier this week when prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to allow cameras during Thursday's hearing.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career.
A grand jury in Chicago indicted him on 16 felony counts, which his attorneys have called "prosecutorial overkill." Smollett, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.
Los Angeles, Mar 12 (AP/UNB) — Hal Blaine, the Hall of Fame session drummer and virtual one-man soundtrack of the 1960s and '70s who played on the songs of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys and laid down one of music's most memorable opening riffs on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," died Monday.
Blaine died of natural causes at his home in Palm Desert, California, his son-in-law, Andy Johnson, told The Associated Press. He was 90.
On hearing of his death, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson called him "the greatest drummer ever."
The winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award last year, Blaine's name was known by few outside the music industry, even in his prime.
But just about anyone with a turntable, radio or TV heard his drumming on songs that included Presley's "Return to Sender," the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were," the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," dozens of hits produced by Phil Spector, and the theme songs to "Batman," ''The Partridge Family" and dozens of other shows."
"Hal Blaine was such a great musician and friend that I can't put it into words," Wilson said in a tweet that included an old photo of him and Blaine sitting at the piano. "Hal taught me a lot, and he had so much to do with our success — he was the greatest drummer ever."
As a member of the Los Angeles-based studio band "The Wrecking Crew," which also featured keyboard player Leon Russell, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist Tommy Tedesco, Blaine forged a hard-earned virtuosity and versatility that enabled him to adapt quickly to a wide range of popular music. According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he played on 40 No. 1 hits, 150 top 10 songs.
"Trust me, you loved his work," comedian J. Elvis Weinstein tweeted Monday.
Blaine also played on eight songs that won Grammys for record of the year, including Sinatra's "Strangers In the Night" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
He may be the only drummer to back Presley, Sinatra and John Lennon.
"Godspeed Old Friend," Sinatra's daughter Nancy Sinatra said alongside an Instagram picture she posted of Blaine backing her up as she sang.
Some accounts have Blaine playing on 35,000 songs, but he believed that around 6,000 was more accurate, still making him a strong contender for the most recorded drummer in history. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.
Out of so many notable sessions, his signature moment was the attention-grabbing "on the four" solo — Bum-ba-bum-BOOM — that launched the classic "Be My Baby," a hit for the Ronettes in 1963 that helped define Spector's overpowering "Wall of Sound" productions.
The song remained a radio staple for decades and got new life in the '70s when it was used to open Martin Scorcese's "Mean Streets" and again in the '80s when it was featured in "Dirty Dancing."
Few drum parts have been so widely imitated, from Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" to The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey."
In a 2005 interview with Modern Drummer magazine, Blaine said that he wasn't quite sure how he came up with the solo. To the best of his memory, he accidentally missed a beat while the song was being recorded and improvised by only playing the beat on the fourth note.
"And I continued to do that," he recalled. "Phil might have said, 'Do that again.' Somebody loved it, in any event. It's just one of those things that sometimes happens."
Blaine nicknamed himself and his peers "The Wrecking Crew," because they were seen by their more buttoned-down elders as destructive to the industry — an assertion that Kaye and others disputed. Many members of The Wrecking Crew worked nonstop for 20 years, sometimes as many as eight sessions a day, a pace that led to several marriages and divorces for Blaine.
As more bands played on their own records and electronic drums arose, business dropped off in the 1980s even as younger musicians, such as Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, cited his influence.
His memoir, "Hal Blaine & The Wrecking Crew," came out in 1990 and he continued to appear at symposiums and workshops into his 80s. Blaine also was seen in the 2008 documentary "The Wrecking Crew" and was played by Johnny Sneed in the Wilson biopic "Love & Mercy."
Many younger drummers counted him as a friend and mentor.
"Hal was funny, sweet, and genuine," Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, drummer for the "Weird Al" Yankovic Band, said in email to the AP. "He made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. His inspiration and influence to drummers everywhere is immeasurable. Hal was a treasure."
The son of Jewish immigrants, Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
By age 8, he was already drumming, using a pair of dowels he removed from a seat in the living room.
He was a professional by age 20 and within a few years switched from jazz to rock.
The use of session musicians became a scandal in the late 1960s when it was discovered that the Monkees, the million-selling TV foursome, did not play on their songs. Blaine, who, of course, drummed for the Monkees, knew that many top groups depended on him and his peers. He even became friendly with some of the players he sat in for, including Wilson's brother Dennis Wilson.
"He was thrilled that I was making their records because while I was making Beach Boy records, he was out surfing or riding his motorcycle," Blaine told Modern Drummer.
Blaine told the magazine that Bruce Gary, who played drums in the Knack, was once asked who his favorite drummer was.
"He was never so disappointed in his life to find out that a dozen of his favorite drummers were me."
Blaine is survived by his daughter Michelle Blaine, and seven grandchildren.
Los Angeles, Mar 10 (AP/UNB) — Jennifer Lopez said yes to Aaron Rodriguez's proposal, and with the rock he presented, who could say no?
The couple posted an Instagram photo of their hands with a massive engagement ring on Lopez's ring finger. The former Yankees shortstop captioned his photo with "she said yes" and a heart emoji.
The couple has been dating since early 2017 and later that year landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with their celebrity couple nickname, J-Rod.
In January, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that he and Lopez had similar backgrounds and her latest film "Second Act" reflected the ties that drew them together.
"It really resembles a lot of the arc that Jennifer and I lived in our life: Both born in New York, both come from immigrant parents, both have two children, both Latino Americano — her from Puerto Rico, me from Dominican Republic. We've been through our ups and downs, but here we are in our 40s and trying to live the best lives possible and, at the same time, give back and pay it forward," Rodriguez said.
It will be Lopez's fourth marriage and Rodriguez's second. Each has two children from previous marriages.