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Elton John’s final tour revisits LA glory with Lipa, Carlile

Source image: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/elton-johns-final-tour-revisits-la-glory-lipa-93353140

LOS ANGELES — Elton John’s audacious 1970 U.S. debut at a local nightclub moved a critic to declare that the slight young Englishman would become one of rock’s most important stars. It didn’t take long.

Within five years, his reputation cemented by a string of hits including “Rocket Man” and “Daniel,” fans packed L.A.’s Dodger Stadium for two rousing, sequin-bedecked concerts. This weekend, John will close out the North American leg of his last tour at the ballpark.

He calls it the right choice.

“I started off in Los Angeles at the Troubadour (club), and I want it to end here because it’s been a magical place for me,” John said in an Associated Press interview. The three-night stand is Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17, 19 and 20.

The final L.A. concert will be streamed live on Disney+ starting at 11 p.m. EST Sunday. The three-hour event will open with “Countdown to Elton Live,” which includes an interview with John and celebrity shout-outs.

John promised more bell and whistles than at the tour’s other concerts — but hopefully without “any elephants or giraffes coming on stage,” he said, a wry reference to “The Lion King.” The Tony-winning hit musical with songs by John and Tim Rice marks its 25th anniversary on Broadway this month.

The stadium stage is “enormous and fantastic. The videos are wonderful. I like to be surprised, so I will be surprised,” John said.

His influence “spans generations, making this last North American stop on his farewell tour one for the record books,” said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television.

The rock ‘n’ roll giant’s enduring body of work includes “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” He’s earned six Grammy Awards, including a Legend Award, and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. His record sales worldwide have surpassed 300 million.

John is reaching new audiences through hit-making collaborations with younger artists, including Britney Spears ( “Hold Me Closer,” an update of “Tiny Dancer”) and Dua Lipa (“Cold Heart”).

Lipa, Kiki Dee and Brandi Carlile will join him on stage Sunday, and it’s no coincidence that all are women. He’s had rewarding creative relationships with female artists, he said, and the three are “very important singers in my life.”

He and Dee had a 1976 hit with the bouncy “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and she was with him at his first L.A. stadium show. John is close to Carlile, who joined him for “Simple Things” on his 2021 “The Lockdown Sessions” album, and their families vacation together. It’s a big week for Carlile, who earned seven Grammy nods Tuesday.

As for Lipa, “I love her dearly,” John said. He credits their “Cold Heart” single with giving his career a boost and “launching me into a different stratosphere as far as streaming goes and connecting with young people.”

“I feel modern. I feel elated with working. When you work with a different artist, you always learn something from them, and that’s the whole point,” he said. His collaboration with Spears, which was suggested by his husband, David Furnish, yielded that and something more.

“It was a brilliant idea because having watched the documentaries and all the news footage about her horrible time with her family and conservatorship, I wanted her to feel appreciated by music fans again,” John said. “To see that (single) become a success makes me feel so happy, that she’s hopefully feeling the love from those people.”

The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour began in September 2018 in Pennsylvania with the first of the 300-plus dates scheduled worldwide. It was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and resumed in 2021 in New Orleans.

In January, John heads to Australia and New Zealand, then moves on to Britain and Europe. The tour is set to conclude in Sweden next July.

The schedule would be demanding for any artist, but a genial, healthy-looking Elton showed no sign of strain in an interview last week, a few hours before a San Diego concert. Reviews have noted his vitality: “His unmistakable baritone sounds as mighty and resonant as ever, and his energy at the ivories remains positively infectious,” Billboard magazine said of his New Jersey stadium show last July.

“I’m not tired,” John told AP. “The audiences are absolutely amazing. They dress up, it’s like a big party. And so rather than seeing it as a chore … I’m going on stage every night thinking, ‘What are they going to be wearing tonight? What’s going to be the reaction tonight?’ At the stage of my career, it’s just an astonishingly rewarding thing to happen.”

He was a tender 23 when Robert Hilburn, the then-Los Angeles Times music critic, predicted John’s stardom after the Troubadour appearance in West Hollywood. Hilburn said John’s performance that August night “was, in almost every way, magnificent” and called his songs (written with lyricist Bernie Taupin) “staggeringly original.”

Success followed success. While John describes the 1975 stadium concerts as the pinnacle of his career at that time, he wasn’t in the “happiest place.” He recalled a dark period of instability (dramatized in the 2019 biopic “Rocketman”) that included a pill overdose three days ahead of the shows.

Such turmoil is far removed from his life now, which includes his two sons with Furnish.

“I’m happy, I’m contented,” said John, who’s in his third decade of sobriety. “I have a wonderful husband, a great family, I have great friends, a wonderful career. I’ve everything that any person could ever want in their life. I’ve never been as happy personally than I am now, at 75 years of age.”

“If I hadn’t got sober, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have had the wonderful things that have happened to me since,” he said.

A prominent activist, he’s shared his name and good fortune. He created the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which reports raising more than $500 million. In 2019, President Emmanuel Macron gave France’s highest award to John for his contributions to the arts and efforts to fight HIV/AIDS around the world.

Is the Yellow Brick Road tour really goodbye? “It is definitely the farewell tour,” he said, although a short-term residency, such as Kate Bush’s three weeks at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014, has its appeal.

“But to be honest with you, when I come off stage in Stockholm next July 8, I’ll be looking forward to having a holiday, I’ll be looking forward to taking a breather,” he said. Then it’s back to work on projects already in progress, including “The Devil Wears Prada: The Musical.”

That’s for starters.

“I’ll be recording with other people, and I’ll be hopefully writing an album for myself. So it’s not as if I’m stopping doing anything,” John said. “But I’m not traveling. Traveling takes me away from my family.”

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/elton-johns-final-tour-revisits-la-glory-lipa-93353140

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Vatican Swiss Guard slayings back in spotlight with new book

ROME — The mother of a Swiss Guard member accused of committing one of the most sensational crimes in recent Vatican history – fatally shooting his commander and the senior officer’s wife before killing himself — is turning to the United Nations and Pope Francis in hopes of getting some closure nearly a quarter-century after the slayings.

Muguette Baudat was on hand Tuesday as her lawyer, Laura Sgro, a veteran defense attorney in Vatican criminal trials, detailed her efforts to pry information out of the Vatican and access the court file into the May 4, 1998 slayings that are recounted in Sgro’s new book, “Blood in the Vatican.”

“I’ve been waiting for more than 24 years, so I don’t expect anything,” Baudat said at a book launch event. But she added: “The book is very important.”

Within hours of the slayings, the Vatican spokesman announced that Baudat’s 23-year-old son, Cedric Tornay, a noncommissioned Swiss Guard officer, had killed Col. Alois Estermann and Estermann’s Venezuelan-born wife, Gladys Meza Romero, with his service revolver and then turned the gun on himself. The spokesman said a buildup of resentment over a reprimand by Estermann and the denial of a decoration, combined with a ″peculiar″ psychology, led to Tornay’s violent acts.

Nine months later, in February 1999, the Vatican released a 10-page summary of its internal investigation that confirmed its initial assessment. It concluded that Tornay was solely responsible for the murder-suicide but added that his marijuana use and a brain cyst the size of a pigeon’s egg could have impaired his reasoning.

Baudat spent two decades campaigning for more information and hired Sgro in 2019, asking for the Vatican investigation to be reopened. She said her request was not spurred by a belief that the Vatican was responsible, but rather to end the secrecy with which it has always handled the case.

Last year, the Vatican secretary of state intervened personally in the case and asked the Vatican tribunal to pay “particular attention” to Baudat’s request. Sgro was granted access to the court file.

In the book, Sgro details what she found in the file, as well as the conditions imposed on her by the Vatican prosecutor for viewing it: She wasn’t allowed to make copies but could only view the documentation in the tribunal, with two gendarmes standing behind her back monitoring her at all times. She was allowed to take some notes but not too many since she was explicitly barred from copying the text. She had to submit her notes to the prosecutors’ office after each viewing session, which took place over the course of a year.

And what she discovered in reading the court file, she said Tuesday, “confirmed all the doubts that the mother had about an investigation conducted in an absolutely superficial way.”

Sgro noted that at least 20 people were allowed access to the crime scene in the moments after the slayings, including chaplains, monsignors and the Vatican spokesman, none of whom wore protective gear. No fingerprints or blood samples were taken, and no DNA tests performed.

A handwriting analysis of a letter, purportedly from Tornay to his mother and foreshadowing the killings, was done on a photocopy, not the original document. The corpses were moved around the Estermann apartment, as was furniture, according to 38 photographs taken by a Vatican newspaper photographer that were in the court file. Autopsies were performed not in a hospital morgue but in the crypt of a chapel inside the Vatican walls.

“After one hour, Cedric was given up as the guilty one and the investigation was built around this, and this is absolutely the most alarming thing,” Sgro said.

The lawyer alleged that the conditions in which she was forced to work to view the file, as well as the mother’s long fight to find information about her son, constituted human rights violations that should be taken up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

There was no indication Tuesday whether the U.N. might take up her case, since such complaints must show a consistent pattern of “gross violations” of human rights, such as the policy of apartheid in South Africa.

Sgro said she had little other recourse since the Holy See is not a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore not a party to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where such appeals would normally be heard. The Holy See enjoys observer status at the U.N. and has received criticism from U.N. human rights experts over the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Sgro said she sent a copy of “Blood in the Vatican” to Pope Francis and he responded with a personal letter. His response, she said, gave her hope that the Vatican might be ready to acknowledge that its original investigation was flawed and that Tornay’s legacy might somehow be rehabilitated even if he is confirmed as the killer.

“It’s a small drop after 24 years of silence,” Sgro said. “Let us hope this drop becomes a glass of water, then a lake.”

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Clarence Gilyard, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Matlock’ actor, dies at 66

Clarence Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at age 66

NEW YORK — Clarence Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at age 66.

His death was announced this week by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught stage and screen acting. Additional details were not immediately available Tuesday.

“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV,” the school’s film chair, Heather Addison, said in a statement. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years.”

Gilyard was a Moses Lake, Washington, native. He had a prolific career as an actor, starting in the 1980s with appearances in “Diff’rent Strokes,” ”The Facts of Life” and other shows. He then appeared in two of the biggest movies of the decade: “Top Gun,” in which he played Sundown, a radar intercept officer, and “Die Hard,” when he was featured as a villainous computer maven whose one liners included “You didn’t bring me along for my charming personality.”

In the 1990s, he was on the side of law enforcement in “Matlock,” playing opposite Andy Griffith, and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which starred Chuck Norris. His other credits include “The Karate Kid: Part II,” a stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” and an appearance alongside “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis in a commercial for DieHard batteries.

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Review: Slice into the holiday spirit with ‘Violent Night’

The holiday season is upon us and how better to celebrate than watching Santa slip several pool balls into a Christmas stocking, swing them in the air menacingly and see him cave in someone’s face?

Such is “Violent Night,” a film that clearly no one wanted but somehow nicely acts as a chaser to all the sticky sentimentality this time of year. It is billed as an “alt-Christmas action-comedy” and it may be a litmus test of who is your real tribe: If you think watching Santa try to strangle a guy with Christmas lights is funny, this is the film for you.

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, “Violent Night” has taken the season’s naughty or nice dichotomy deeply to heart, offering pounds of gore and wounds that spurt mini-fountains of blood along with tooth-aching sweetness about believing in Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s easy to initially dismiss it as an “SNL” digital short that got high on its own tinsel but there is a sort of perverse glee to seeing Santa suck on the tip of a candy cane until it is a sharp shard and then plunge it into a bad guy’s neck. Isn’t it time for Kris Kringle as a sociopath?

Few people can balance all these demands as Santa except David Harbour, who specializing in gruff-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside teddy bears. This time, his beard soaked in blood, he must save an ultra-rich family from a murderous group of home invaders with automatic weapons and military training.

On his side: “Christmas magic,” which he reveals multiple times he does not understand and which allows the screenwriters — Pat Casey and Josh Miller — a yuletide-sized logical loophole. They’ve even given Santa an origin story as a centuries-old Viking raider with a fondness for crushing skulls with a hammer. He’d be on the naughty list, naturally.

We initially meet Santa in the present day at an English pub. It’s Christmas Eve and he’s hammered. There are other men dressed as Santas this night, but they’re just pretenders, like “Bad Santa.” He’s the real thing.

Tonight, Santa is worn-out and fed-up. The children these days just demand more and more presents — just grubby consumers. He even calls them junkies. “I forgot why I started doing it in the first place,” he says. “Maybe this is my last year.”

During his rounds, he happens to linger too long at the Lightstone family compound in Connecticut. A ruthless gang has just stormed inside hoping to relieve the family of $300 million and trapping Santa with just his magic bag of presents and a pent-up desire to hurt people.

John Leguizamo, so often the comedy relief in films, here is as heavy as it gets, an anti-Christmas madman who tortures with a nutcracker and gets some of the best over-the-top lines like “Christmas dies tonight” and “Time to kill Santa.” The film soon moves into “Die Hard” territory as terrorists play cat-and-mouse with a good guy inside the building.

Santa connects with one of the hostages — a little girl (Leah Brady, sparkling like an ornament) — who still believes in Santa. “You are more than the presents you bring,” she tells him. And so he proves that Christmas is indeed alive by systematically murdering every single bad guy and girl with a sledgehammer, aided by his new friend’s “Home Alone” boobytrapping skills and all to a soundtrack of Christmas songs by Burl Ives, Bryan Adams and Slade.

This is not a Norman Rockwell vision of Santa, of course. He has a torso full of tattoos and sutures his own wounds with Christmas tree ornament hooks. He vomits, impales baddies in spiky Christmas decorations and uses the sharp parts of a pair of ice skates with surgical precision. Few films have earned their R rating better. All that’s missing is you as long as you think it’s time to add a little blood to Christmas?

“Violent Night,” a Universal Pictures release that opens nationwide in theaters Friday, is rated R for “strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references.” Running time: 112 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Online: https://www.violentnightmovie.com

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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