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TV personality known for playing Bozo the Clown dies at 89

Longtime Boston television personality and entertainer Frank Avruch, who was the star of the popular children's TV program "Bozo the Clown," has died. He was 89.

Avruch died Tuesday at his Boston home from heart disease, his family said in a statement to WCVB-TV .

Avruch played Bozo the Clown from 1959 to 1970, a clown character particularly popular in the U.S. in the 1960s because of widespread franchising in television. Avruch became the first nationally-syndicated Bozo the Clown.

"He had a heart of gold," manager Stuart Hersh told The Associated Press on Wednesday, "He brought the Bozo the Clown character to life better than anyone else's portrayal of Bozo the Clown."

Avruch also was a contributor to WCVB-TV for more than 40 years as a host of "Man About Town" and "The Great Entertainment."

He was an active philanthropist and a board member of UNICEF'S New England chapter. He toured the world performing as Bozo the clown for UNICEF.

"He touched so many people with his portrayal," Hersh said.

Avruch is survived by his wife Betty, two sons Matthew and Steven and several grandchildren.

"While it's hard to say goodbye, we celebrate the legacy of joy and laughter he brought to millions of children around the world as Bozo the Clown on TV and as a UNICEF Ambassador and later as host of Channel 5's Great Entertainment and Boston's Man About Town," Avruch's family said in a statement to the station. "Our dad loved the children of all ages who remembered being on his show and was always grateful for their kind words. We will miss him greatly."


Information from: WCVB-TV,

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7 things to know about 'Sex in the City' star Cynthia Nixon, candidate for NY gov.

Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon announced her run for New York Governor Monday after flirting with the idea for several months.

>> Read more trending news 

"I love New York, and today I'm announcing my candidacy for governor," she revealed on Twitter.

According to her campaign press release, Nixon will be spending the coming weeks traveling across the state to hear from voters.

She will challenge 60-year-old Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a two-term incumbent, in New York’s Democratic primary in September.

She was born and bred in New York.

Nixon, 51, was born on April 9, 1966 and raised in the Upper West Side with her mother. In her campaign video, Nixon said she grew up “in a one-bedroom fifth floor walk-up.”

She later attended Hunter College High School and Barnard College before breaking out into her Broadway career primarily to save money to support herself through college, she told the New York Times in 2012.

Nixon, who identified herself as bisexual in 2012, was in a relationship with David Mozes from 1988 to 2003. The couple have two children together.

In 2004, Nixon began dating activist Christine Marinoni and they eventually married in 2012. They have one child together.

>> Related: Illinois primary could set up most expensive governor's race

Nixon is a Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winner.

For her role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes on “Sex and the City,” Nixon was awarded an Emmy Award in 2004 for outstanding supporting actress, and a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2002 and 2004 for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

Nixon made her Broadway debut in 1980 in the revival of “The Philadelphia Story” and later earned Tony Awards for her foles in “Rabbit Hole” (2006) and “The Little Foxes” (2017).

She was awarded a Grammy in 2009 for her “An Inconvenient Truth” spoken word album.

Explore her full list of awards at

She’s a survivor of breast cancer.

In 2006, Nixon was diagnosed with breast cancer and admitted to  Good Morning America in 2008 that she initially wanted to keep the news to herself but later became the official spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

"I want them [women] most to hear me saying that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. So the only thing to really be afraid of is if you don't go get your mammograms, because there's some part of you that doesn't want to know, and that's the thing that's going to trip you up. That's the thing that could have a really bad endgame," she said.

Nixon’s cancer was caught at an early stage and required a lumpectomy and radiation, but no chemotherapy.

She’s a longtime activist. 

Nixon first made political headlines during the 2011 campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. During that campaign, she lobbied state lawmakers in Albany and was later honored by GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign with its Visibility Award for her work advocating for marriage equality.

In January, Nixon was also among a group of celebrity activists that came together for "the People's State of the Union,” an alternative event to President Donald Trump's first State of the Union speech.

She has in the past been very vocal about women’s health care and on education issues, serving on de Blasio's advisory board for the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

>> Related: Georgia Senate advances adoption bill called anti-LGBT

As a spokesperson for the Alliance for Quality Education, Nixon recently spoke out against Gov. Cuomo’s proposed education budget.

“Governor Cuomo had a chance today to put the next generation of New Yorkers first,” she said in a January 2018 AQE statement. “Instead, he proposed yet another budget that will keep New York at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to educational equity and justice. Governor Cuomo claims he has provided record increases in education funding, but in reality, he has created a record spending gap between the wealthiest and poorest school districts.”

If elected, she would make history.

Nixon would become the first female governor and first openly gay governor in New York history.

About her platform

“We are now the most unequal state in the entire country, with both incredible wealth and extreme poverty,” Nixon said in a video posted on Twitter announcing her candidacy.

According to her campaign website, Nixon’s state platform focuses on income inequality, renewable energy, access to health care, concerns about mass incarceration, passing the DREAM Act and “fixing our broken subway.”

She also emphasizes strengthening and renewing expiring rent laws to avoid “raising rents, and forcing people out of their homes.”

“Andrew Cuomo has given massive tax breaks to corporations and the super rich while starving the state and its cities of the most basic services and decimating our infrastructure,” Nixon wrote on her campaign site. “His inhumane budgets have been passed on the backs of our children, our working and middle class, and our elderly.”

“Together,” she added, “we could show the entire country and the world that in the era of Donald Trump, New Yorkers will come together and lead our nation forward.”


Chances against Cuomo

“Her campaign may test the appetite of New Yorkers for a celebrity leader in the age of President Trump, a deeply unpopular figure here among Democrats,” the New York Times reported.

But Nixon has her work cut out for her. A Siena College poll released Monday showed Cuomo leading her 66 percent to 19 percent among registered Democrats, and by a similar margin among self-identified liberals, AP reported. The poll of 772 registered voters was conducted March 11-16. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Cuomo, whose approval ratings have dropped below 50 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released in February, recently mocked the celebrity status the Grammy, Emmy and Tony winner could bring to the race.

"Normally name recognition is relevant when it has some connection to the endeavor," Cuomo said earlier this month. "If it was just about name recognition, then I'm hoping that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don't get into the race."

Jefrey Pollock, pollster and political adviser to Cuomo and other prominent Democrats, told AP that celebrity isn't likely to trump governing experience in the voting booth.

"Over and over in our research, Democratic primary voters say they're not looking for an outsider because they look to Washington, D.C., and see what the outsider has meant to this country," Pollock said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

10 emerging writers receive $50,000 Whiting Awards

Ten emerging writers, a mix of poets, dramatists and fiction and nonfiction authors, were the winners of this year's $50,000 Whiting Awards on Wednesday night.

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was scheduled to speak at the ceremony in Manhattan, but could not attend because of a snowstorm that pounded much of the Northeast.

In prepared remarks, read by prize-winning poet Elizabeth Alexander and shared with The Associated Press by Whiting officials, Morrison noted that as a descendent of slaves she knew well "the struggle to be allowed to learn to read."

"Reading became a hallowed practice in my family," Morrison explained. "With a background of fighting to read, you may understand how much more difficult it would be to write, to invent what one wanted to read."

The 87-year-old author quoted from her debut novel, "The Bluest Eye," and described one sentence as "meant to attract or repulse or simply shock the reader— anything to get her or his attention. "

"My sincere congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Whiting Award come from an intimate knowledge of the power and difficulty of the task," she concluded. "Thank you for your work."

Honorees on Wednesday night included poet Tommy Pico, dramatist Nathan Alan Davis, poet-nonfiction writer Anne Boyer and nonfiction writer Esmé Weijun Wang. Other winners were novelists Patty Yumi Cottrell, Brontez Purnell and Weike Wang, poet Rickey Laurentiis and playwrights Antoinette Nwandu and Hansol Jung.

The Whiting Foundation established the awards in 1985 to help writers fulfill the promise of "superior literary work." Previous winners include Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Franzen and Jorie Graham.

Tony-winner Sammy Williams from 'A Chorus Line' dies at 69

Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award in the original Broadway production of "A Chorus Line," has died. He was 69.

Family spokeswoman and friend Brandee Barnaby says Williams died of cancer Saturday in Los Angeles.

Williams won best featured actor in a musical in 1976 for the role of Paul in "A Chorus Line." The pioneering musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch told of the inner lives of actors auditioning for a big show. Paul was a young Puerto Rican performer starting to feel comfortable about being gay.

Williams had other earlier smaller parts on Broadway in "Applause" and "The Happy Time." He was later a choreographer, director and actor in Los Angeles, who appeared in "Follies" at the Ahmanson Theatre in 2012.

Officials to turn over Prince investigative files to family

Prosecutors in Carver County have agreed to provide Prince's siblings with documents connected to the county's investigation into his death.

John Goetz, an attorney for Prince's siblings, says prosecutors agreed to give him the medical examiner's autopsy investigation this week. He expects to get the rest of the investigative files next week.

Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. The source of those drugs hasn't been determined.

Goetz was seeking the investigative data so the family could determine who might be culpable in Prince's death, before time to file civil claims expires.

Goetz and his clients must keep the data confidential.

A judge hasn't yet signed off on the agreement.

'N Sync to reunite to receive star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

'N Sync is finally reuniting — but not for new music or a tour.

The boy band will earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30. Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpartrick will attend the event.

'N Sync released its self-titled debut album in the United States in 1998. The group's hits include "Bye, Bye, Bye," ''It's Gonna Be Me" and "Pop."

The fivesome famously reunited at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, where Timberlake received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

Anyone can nominate a celebrity for Walk of Fame star consideration. Selections are made by a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce committee.

Walk of Fame honorees or their sponsors must pay $40,000 for each star granted.

NSYNC reuniting at Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in April

A date has been set for the long-awaited NSYNC reunion.

Although the ‘90s and early 2000s boy band won’t be performing, the group is expected to come together for its Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony April 30.

>> Read more trending news 

Variety reported that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced the ceremony date Tuesday in a news release. Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick are all attending, according to the band’s official Twitter page.

Related: Lance Bass says NSYNC is reuniting soon for Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony

Despite the group making a public appearance as a whole for the first time in years, fans should not expect new music. Although Bass has teased the Walk of Fame reunion, he said it doesn’t mean a tour.

“If people want to call the Walk Of Fame Star a ‘reunion’ then fine, but we have no plans on making any new music or tour,” Bass said on Twitter in February.

Variety reported that the group went on hiatus in 2002. Since then, they’ve only reunited to perform as a band in 2013, when Timberlake was honored with the MTV VMA Video Vanguard award.

The April 30 ceremony will be at 11:30 a.m. local time in Los Angeles. The Hollywood Chamber will air the ceremony live on its website.

NBC documentary looks at images that propelled civil rights

Gruesome images of a lynched Emmett Till were seared into the minds of many black Americans in 1955 and helped lead to the modern civil rights movement. But few whites knew of their existence at the time.

That reality is at the top of NBC's two-hour documentary about how images propelled the civil rights effort. The film premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. ET as the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination approaches.

Till was the 14-year-old black Chicago boy visiting relatives in Mississippi, killed after a white grocery store clerk claimed he treated her rudely. Decades later, she recanted her story. That was far too late to save Till from being bludgeoned, shot in the head and thrown into a river. Two men were acquitted of the crime, even though they later admitted to it.

Given a casket nailed shut, Till's mother ordered it open and Jet magazine took pictures of his horrible maimed head, beaten beyond recognition.

"For a mainstream, news audience, my guess is a large number of people knew his name, but didn't really know what happened, which is the best and highest calling for a documentary like this," said NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack. "Seeing these pictures underscores what happened, what really happened, why the murder of Emmett Till was such a shocking and important event in the civil rights movement."

There's no evidence that NBC ever showed the picture of Till's body until a "Today" show story on the anniversary of his death in 1985, the network said. NBC wasn't alone among the mainstream media.

"It was a different America," Lack said.

As if to make amends, the documentary shows the image of a murdered Till seven times. NBC compared Mamie Till's insistence that the brutal truth of what happened to her son be made visible to actions 2016 by the girlfriend of Philando Castile, who streamed the aftermath of his shooting by a police officer outside of St. Paul, Minnesota where he had been pulled over for a busted light.

Mamie Till went to Jet because, at the time, it was the top news source for black America, said MSNBC's Joy Reid, who participated in the documentary. "If you were a mother in Mamie Till's position, you wouldn't go to NBC or CBS or even The New York Times," she said.

The pictures "took the issue of lynching away from the grainy photographs of a body hanging in the woods," she said. The anniversary of Till's death was later chosen as the date of King's March on Washington, she noted.

"The civil rights movement never forgot Emmett Till," Reid said. "He was to that movement what Trayvon Martin was to Black Lives Matter, a symbol that remained incredibly potent."

NBC's documentary shows how King innately understood the power of images beamed by the still-infant medium of television. A peaceful march or sit-in could draw yawns from a general public, yet a march of well-dressed children set upon by police with dogs and fire hoses produced pictures that made many Americans recoil when they saw them on the evening news.

Repeatedly, King could count on racists to reveal themselves and provide the pictures he needed to give the movement momentum. Many demonstrations were planned before noon to give enough time for film to be delivered to New York to be shown on the network evening news.

Noted civil rights icon John Lewis is quoted in the documentary as saying, "without television, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings." The movement changed television, too: evening news programs expanded from 15 minutes a day to half hour to keep up with the news.

Lack said he also hoped the documentary would give attention to some notable black journalists from the time. Two examples: Ernest Withers, who took the picture of a man who stood in the courtroom and pointed to Till's murderers during their trial, and L. Alex Wilson, who followed black students integrating a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and continued walking despite being beaten by a crowd of angry whites.

The documentary was initially made for MSNBC but, midstream, Lack said he felt compelled to request a prime-time window on the network. Once common, documentaries are now such a rarity on network television that NBC said it hasn't aired a two-hour film like this since 2004.

It is being repeated on MSNBC Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

NBC lands Indy 500 and promises IndyCar increased exposure

The Indianapolis 500, an American staple on ABC for 53 years, will have a new television home next season.

In fact, the entire IndyCar package is moving to NBC in 2019 in what could turn out to be an exceptional deal for the series because of promised increased exposure across multiple platforms.

That's secondary, though, to another network ending ABC's stranglehold on the "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

The Indy 500 on ABC is the second-longest partnership in television and sports events behind only the Masters, which has been on CBS since 1956. It's a jewel ABC did not particularly want to give up, and IndyCar wasn't unhappy with the network's production of its most important asset.

But IndyCar badly wanted its races on one network and made that clear in negotiations with both ABC and NBC. The networks have been sharing the series for several years, with ABC owning the Indy 500 and the broadcast rights. NBC got the leftovers and was allowed to air IndyCar only on cable.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles worked out a three-year deal assigning all media rights to NBC. The agreement announced Wednesday comes with an increased number of races on broadcast (NBC) and a subscription-only channel for IndyCar's diehard fans.

"Mark Miles had a singlehanded focus in finding just one partner," Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports Group, told The Associated Press. "The opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us."

NBC and ABC were in the bidding until the very end, with both networks interested in obtaining the whole package, Miles said. But negotiations apparently ended sometime late last week and ABC sent an internal memo to its stations notifying them the IndyCar package would end after this season. An employee at one of those stations revealed ABC's statement in a since-deleted tweet.

"We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar, and it has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years," said Burke Magnus, the executive vice president of programming and scheduling for ESPN, which like ABC Sports is part of Disney corporation. "We look forward to the rest of our events this season and wish them all the best in the future."

Both Miles and Miller were complimentary of ABC's job with IndyCar, especially with the 500 each May. ABC had such a stranglehold on the event that landing it was celebrated as a coup for NBC.

"This becomes one of the leading properties on our air," Miller said.

Under the new deal , eight IndyCar races will be broadcast on the network next season, up from five that ABC aired. The rest of the schedule will be on NBC Sports Network. The deal also puts IndyCar in the NBC Gold package, a direct-to-consumer product in which subscribers can purchase additional content that is not televised.

"As drivers, we're out there risking our lives to put on a good show. The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us," said IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, who has a cross-over fan base because of a starring turn on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." ''As athletes, we're all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board."

Especially for NBC and IndyCar because of the guarantees surrounding the Indy 500. It will be part of NBC's "Championship Season" marketing campaign. The network touts numerous high-profile championship events from May to July that include horse racing's Triple Crown, Premier League Championship Sunday, the French Open, the Stanley Cup Final and the Tour de France.

It's the package that heavyweight team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were openly lobbying for during the season-opening race earlier this month.

Penske said NBC Sports will "invest in the future of the sport" at a time when the series has positive momentum. IndyCar debuted a new car at its opener that drew rave reviews from drivers and fans in a race that set a record for on-track passes.

"We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing IndyCar content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport," Penske said. "We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build IndyCar and take the sport in new directions."


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