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Entertainment

    No scripts have been written, not even an outline. But HBO's announcement on Wednesday that the creator-showrunners of 'Game of Thrones' will follow up that massive hit with an HBO series in which slavery remains legal in the modern-day South drew fire on social media from those who fear that telling that story will glorify racism. The series, 'Confederate,' will take place in an alternate timeline where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union and formed a nation in which legalized slavery has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows 'a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone,' HBO said — 'freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.' It is not expected to start production for at least a year. 'Confederate' will be created and written by 'Game of Thrones' masterminds David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who will also serve as showrunners on the series. Both are white. HBO's announcement also said they would join forces with Malcolm Spellman ('Empire,' the forthcoming 'Foxy Brown') and Nichelle Tramble Spellman ('Justified,' ''The Good Wife'), husband-and-wife TV veterans who both are black and who will be fellow executive producers and writers on the new series. 'This is not going to be, you know, the big 'Gone With the Wind' mansion,' Nichelle Tramble Spellman told Vulture in an interview with the entire creative team that was posted Thursday night to address the backlash. 'This is present day, or close to present day, and how the world would have evolved if the South had been successful seceding from the Union.' She said what excited her about the project is 'the idea that in order to build this, we would have to rebuild world history: 'OK, if this had happened here, how did the rest of the world change?'' Other series have imagined uncomfortable alternate versions of history, notably Amazon's 'The Man in the High Castle,' which depicts life in the United States had the Nazis won World War II. But slavery in the United States is a far more sensitive and lingering issue. Malcolm Spellman's take on it: 'You're dealing with weapons-grade material here.' But he said he and his wife 'are not props being used to protect someone else. We are people who feel a need to address issues the same way they do..' Weiss called slavery 'our original sin as a nation. And history doesn't disappear. ... It's an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it.' Benioff added, 'I'd say anyone who thinks that Malcolm and Nichelle are props have never met Malcolm and Nichelle.
  • The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed Friday that Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington died by hanging. Coroner's office spokesman Ed Winter says the 41-year-old rocker hanged himself from a bedroom door in his home near Los Angeles. Bennington was found dead Thursday. Winter says a half-empty bottle of alcohol was found in the room, but no drugs were evident. Bennington struggled with drug and alcohol addictions at various times during his life. A suicide note was not found. An autopsy has not yet been scheduled. Bennington was one of two lead vocalists for Linkin Park, who became one of the most commercially successful acts of the 2000s. They won countless awards, including Grammys, and their hits include 'In the End,' ''What I've Done' and 'Numb.
  • Five years ago, some musicians who had played with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons during his comeback in the 1970s rounded up some of their friends, slicked back what hair they had left and set out on a tour to capitalize on the success of Broadway's 'Jersey Boys.' 'It was kind of, 'Let's see if this works. If not, we'll have fun; it'll be great, and we'll try it a couple of times,'' keyboardist Lee Shapiro said this week as the group prepared to play a show at the New Jersey shore. Today, the Hit Men are showing no signs of slowing down. They have played hundreds of shows across the country — including at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort — and have gigs booked through next May. Along the way, they've overcome the deaths of two group members and the fading of the 'Jersey Boys' phenomenon to carve out a niche in the lucrative pop music nostalgia universe. 'Jersey Boys' is a jukebox musical chronicling Valli's career. The calling card of the Hit Men is their decades of experience and musicianship honed while touring and recording with a who's who of rock's golden era. It's a list that includes Elton John, Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Cheap Trick, Rod Stewart, the Ramones, Lou Reed, Jim Croce and Chicago. 'It's a type of music that's very popular with our audiences,' said David Filner, vice president for musical operations at Artis_Naples, in Naples, Florida, which has booked the Hit Men several times. 'They put on a great show, and they have a very interesting story because they've been involved in so many super groups.' Songs from some of those collaborations form the backbone of the shows, each accompanied with a backstory. Guitarist Jimmy Ryan, for example, recounts how his interest in a female co-worker at a Greenwich Village record store was thwarted because she was dating his boss. But the two kept in touch and when the co-worker, Simon, needed a guitar player for her first album, she reached out, beginning a musical partnership that lasted more than 20 years. Shapiro is the group's last direct link to Valli. Drummer Gerry Polci, famous for his vocals on the Four Seasons hit 'December 1963 (Oh What A Night), left the group last year. Don Ciccone, also one of the Four Seasons in the '70s, helped form the Hit Men and performed with them until his death last year at age 70. The group also lost Larry Gates, a friend of Shapiro's since childhood and a longtime session bassist who backed Carole King and numerous others, to multiple myeloma last December. His replacement, Jeff Ganz, has a lengthy musical resume that includes playing with the late, legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter and disco icons The Village People. Drummer Steve Murphy and singer-keyboardist Russell Velasquez knew each other from extensive vocal session work in New York doing commercial jingles and other projects. Velasquez, the band's chief onstage prankster and audience-engager, is also an Emmy-nominated composer and arranger for his work on Sesame Street. Murphy has played behind dozens of major pop and rock acts and, like Velasquez, is a powerhouse vocalist as well. 'One of the reasons the singing is so good is that none of us ever stopped, and that's a really crucial factor,' said Ryan, 70. 'If you retire for 30 years and try to start singing again, it's a muscle just like your bicep and it's going to be really hard to get going again, to have that range. Our voices have remained kind of young — we don't sound like we look.' Valli still tours with his own group. As 'Jersey Boys' wound down — it ended an 11-year Broadway run in January — the Hit Men gradually tweaked their set list to reflect the band members' varied associations, though they still perform two Four Seasons medleys and a few individual songs. Their next project is to release a new song, 'You Can't Fight Love,' penned by Ryan. How long can this go on? 'Until it can't,' Murphy said. 'If we win the lottery, we'll just do this more conveniently,' Shapiro said. 'But we'll still do it.' ___ Contact Porter at https://www.twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP
  • A sperm whale appears to have beached on an embankment in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Or maybe not. A Belgian artists' collective installed a very real-looking, life-size whale sculpture Friday alongside the Seine River, eliciting surprise and concern from tourists and Parisians alike. Bart Van Peel, a member of the collective, said the installation is about raising environmental awareness and awakening 'the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not.' Kim Landman from New York was among those taken aback, especially after Van Peel spun a tale describing how the whale got stuck under a city bridge. Parisian Charles Jean was immediately skeptical, asking whether the whale had climbed onto the quay with a ladder.
  • One of the first stages Elvis Presley sang on has been refinished during the renovation of the auditorium at his elementary school in Mississippi. Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported Friday the rock 'n' roll king was a student at Lawhon Elementary School during the early 1940s. Recent renovations also included restoration of the auditorium's original hardwood floors and seats. Tupelo public schools maintenance director Kirk Kitchens says an auditorium seat has been marked where a young Presley sat. Another seat is engraved, 'Elvis was here.' Elvis Presley Birthplace employee Judy Schumpert says Presley's time at Lawhon was instrumental in helping him pursue music as a boy. Schumpert says Presley's fifth-grade teacher, Oleta Grimes, entered him in his first talent competition. ___ Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com
  • Lauren Hutton has been honored with a Maine film festival's 'Mid-Life Achievement Award.' The 73-year-old model and actress tells the Morning Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2vq08xL ) she was thrilled to receive the award, which means she has a lot to look forward to and accomplish. The organizers of the Maine International Film Festival decided to honor her for her work in films like 'Paper Lion' and 'A Wedding.' Hutton received the award Thursday night during the Waterville-based film festival. Previous recipients include actors Ed Harris, Glenn Close, Lili Taylor, Sissy Spacek and director Jonathan Demme. Last year's recipient was actor Gabriel Byrne, who appeared in films such as 'Miller's Crossing' and 'The Usual Suspects.' ___ Information from: Morning Sentinel, http://www.onlinesentinel.com/
  • Costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, whose creations caught the fancy of high society and the QVC crowd alike, has died in New York. He was 85. The executive vice president of Lane's company, Chris Sheppard, says Lane died at his Manhattan home early Thursday or late Wednesday. The cause was not given. The jetsetting designer counted many bold-faced names among his friends and customers: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Nancy Reagan and the princesses Margaret and Diana. Lane once playfully called himself a 'fabulous fake.' The home shopping empire QVC, which brought him broad mainstream appeal, says his 'legacy will live on.' Sheppard says a memorial will be planned for New York Fashion Week in September.
  • Since releasing their debut album in 2000, Linkin Park has been one of the top-selling acts in music, selling nearly 26 million albums and over 31 million tracks, according to Nielsen Music. The band, who have won countless Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and other accolades, have reached 1.25 billion audio streams and nearly 6 million radio plays. Linkin Park's lead singer, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his home near Los Angeles on Thursday. He was 41. Here's a look at the rock-rap band's top-selling albums and songs. _____ Top Albums: 1. 'Hybrid Theory' (2000): 10,481,000 sales 2. 'Meteora' (2003): 6,234,000 sales 3. 'Minutes to Midnight' (2007): 3,343,000 sales 4. 'Reanimation' (2002): 1,878,000 sales 5. 'Live in Texas' (2003): 1,014,000 sales _____ Top Songs: 1. 'In the End' (2000): 2,935,000 sales; 110,970,000 audio on-demand streams; 1,014,000 radio plays 2. 'What I've Done' (2007): 3,824,000 sales; 53,768,000 audio on-demand streams; 428,000 radio plays 3. 'Numb' (2003): 2,379,000 sales; 92,523,000 audio on-demand streams; 638,000 radio plays 4. 'New Divide' (2009): 2,746,000 sales; 29,329,000 audio on-demand streams; 236,000 radio plays 5. 'Bleed it Out' (2007): 2,080,000 sales; 52,314,000 audio on-demand streams; 194,000 radio plays 6. 'Shadow of the Day' (2007): 2,031,000 sales; 18,398,000 audio on-demand streams; 306,000 radio plays 7. 'Burn it Down' (2012): 1,476,000 sales; 58,669,000 audio on-demand streams; 245,000 radio plays
  • The 30th anniversary of the release of 'Dirty Dancing' is being celebrated near the former Catskills resort that inspired the film. The Hurleyville Arts Centre is having a 'Dirty Dancing'-themed Saturday. The events including a fashion show set to the 1987 film's soundtrack, a talk by former resort dance instructor Jackie Horner and a screening of the movie. Horner taught dance lessons to guests and entertainers at nearby Grossinger's, now abandoned. The famous Catskills hotel served as the inspiration for Brooklyn native Eleanor Bergstein's screenplay about a Jewish girl nicknamed Baby who spends the summer of 1963 at an upstate resort and falls in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle. Bergstein's family vacationed at Grossinger's in the 1950s, when Horner was the dance instructor. Many of Horner's experiences wound up being part of the film.
  • Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, wrapped up a three-day trip to Germany in Hamburg, where they attended a concert for children in a spectacular new concert hall on Friday. The couple, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, kicked off their two-nation European tour in Poland earlier this week before visiting Berlin and Heidelberg. They traveled with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, though the children didn't appear at most of their public engagements. On Friday, they took a train from Berlin to Hamburg and visited the city's International Maritime Museum, where they were shown a new model of Britain's royal yacht Britannia. The royals viewed Hamburg's harbor from the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, and joined 350 schoolchildren to hear a concert with excerpts from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. They then visited European plane maker Airbus' Hamburg plant, where they met apprentices and were being shown the assembly of A320 jets, as well as two helicopters.