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Culture critic: Cosby seeking new solidarity with blacks

After two years of silence amid an onslaught of sexual assault allegations, comedian Bill Cosby is sending carefully targeted messages about racial bias across the media landscape ahead of his June 5 trial in suburban Philadelphia.

Cosby, 79, spoke to a black news outlet last month for a story that meandered from his self-described blindness to the racist history of the United States to his dream of returning to the stage.

His daughters sent audio statements to select radio stations last week in which Ensa Cosby said her father had been "lynched" in the media.

The messaging continued this week in the Pittsburgh courtroom where jury selection was conducted. After prosecutors struck two black women from the panel, defense lawyer Brian McMonagle attacked what he called the other side's "systemic exclusion of African-Americans."

Two blacks were among the 12 people chosen for the jury, and two more were among the six people chosen as alternates. They will be sequestered 300 miles from home in suburban Philadelphia for the trial. Cosby's lawyers had asked for an outside jury because the case was a 2015 campaign issue in Montgomery County, where Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee in 2004.

Lawyers on both sides said late Wednesday they were satisfied with the jury's makeup, given that it exceeds the 13 percent black population in Allegheny County, where the jurors were chosen.

"The Cosby team (now) cares about how the public and maybe even how the black community feels about this whole situation, which is striking given his diatribes against the most vulnerable people in that community. But we've seen stranger things in these big trials," said James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University. "It's ironic how he makes that pivot, given that he's demonized poor black people in the past."

Cosby broke barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, "I Spy," in the 1960s and created the top-ranked "Cosby Show" two decades later. But he has since alienated young blacks with his criticism of their clothes, music and lifestyle.

On his Facebook page, Cosby posted a photo this month of a bold, new portrait of a younger "Dr. Cosby" as the artist delivered it to his New York home. Cosby calls the portrait, "Restoration of Legacy."

And in a longer SiriusXM interview last week, he reiterated his desire to clear his name, resume his career and restore his legacy.

"I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I've written and things that I perform on stage," Cosby said. "I still feel that I have an awful lot to offer."

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson wonders if Cosby is trying to signal to blacks on the jury with his recent comments, by sending the message "that you have a mission on this jury, to make sure he's not treated as a black man who's come on aggressively to white women."

At the same time, she said, Cosby is hardly the average black defendant.

"Bill Cosby is African-American. But he is the African-American celebrity who crossed the race divide. He had enormous appeal to white households," Levenson said.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison honored by Authors Guild

Toni Morrison praised the power of literature and the "community" of writers. James Patterson told some jokes, and even sang.

Both received Distinguished Service Awards Wednesday night at the 25th annual Authors Guild dinner gala, held in Manhattan. The Guild, which represents thousands of published writers, also gave a service award to the heads of the self-publishing platform IngramSpark.

The 86-year-old Morrison, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1993, was cited by longtime editor Robert Gottlieb for literary achievements in such novels as "Beloved" and "Song of Solomon," and for her contributions as an editor and educator.

"We're all here together," Morrison reminded the audience, which included such fellow authors as Erica Jong and Walter Mosley. "We are a necessary community."

Morrison warned of the dangers of "ignorance," and called for language to be given its rightful place as a force of "power" and "eloquence," rendered "one book at a time."

Patterson, 70, was honored not only for his extraordinary commercial success, more than 300 million books sold worldwide, but also for donating millions of dollars to librarians, booksellers and schools.

Patterson's productivity is hard to match. He sometimes turns out best-sellers on a monthly basis. The man who negotiates his book deals, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, was not kidding Wednesday night when he said that Patterson's latest contract called for 22 books, to come out in two years.

Patterson spent much of his speech mocking his own image. He conjured a daily ritual in which he wrote multiple outlines for novels in the morning and ordered a gaggle of co-writers, kept under lock and key, to finish the job.

There were jokes about President Donald Trump, a gag about writing a "truer than truer crime" book with Russian President Vladimir Putin, some profanity and, to top it off, a few words from the song "You Light Up My Life."

"I did not steal that from Will Ferrell's speech at USC," he added.

'Hamilton' star to perform at Boston July 4th celebration

Tony Award-winning actor and musician Leslie Odom Jr., who starred in the Broadway phenomenon "Hamilton," will be among the guest artists at Boston's iconic July Fourth concert and fireworks celebration.

The Boston Pops announced Wednesday that Odom, singer-songwriter Andy Grammer and Grammy Award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge will headline the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular this year under the direction of Pops conductor Keith Lockhart.

Organizers say a new work from composer Alan Menken, known for his scores in multiple Disney movies, and Tony Award-winning lyricist Jack Feldman will be premiered at the celebration.

The event typically draws about a half million people to the Charles River Esplanade. It will be broadcast on Bloomberg Television, which recently signed on as a media partner.

Media mogul Jerry Perenchio dies in LA at 86

Jerry Perenchio was a media mogul, billionaire former owner of Univision and the producer behind a slew of hit shows and sporting events but his house appeared more often on TV than he did.

Perenchio was famously publicity-shy. The first item on his list of 20 rules for subordinates was "stay clear of the press." But his Bel Air mansion was seen every week as the home of the Clampett family on the 1960s series "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Perenchio, 86, died Tuesday of lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles, his wife, Margaret, said Wednesday.

"Jerry Perenchio had a big vision and a bigger heart — he always gave back," Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on Twitter Wednesday. "He was an example to all of us and I was proud to call him my friend."

Ron Howard used his Twitter account to call Perenchio "a gracious and brilliant mentor."

Perenchio's half-century in the entertainment business included talent agent, sports promoter, television and motion picture tycoon but he preferred to work behind the scenes.

His wealth, recently estimated by Forbes at $2.8 billion, allowed him to be a generous political donor and philanthropist. He contributed some $50 million to candidates and causes and tens of millions more to schools, hospitals, museums and charities of all types.

He amassed a significant art collection that included work by Picasso, Cezanne and Monet and in 2014 announced he would bequeath 47 pieces — worth an estimated $500 million — to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also donated $25 million for a new building to house it.

"He was one of the most generous people whom I've ever met, and yet, in a town where everyone wants to take credit for everything, he refused to take credit for a lifetime of achievements," Mark Gold, former head of the nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay and now an associate vice chancellor at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. "He was really quite extraordinary."

Scion of a Fresno winemaking family, Andrew Jerry Perenchio wore many hats during a half-century in the entertainment business.

He turned to show business after attending UCLA and serving in the Air Force as a jet pilot and flight instructor.

In the late 1950s he became a talent agent with Music Corp. of America, the legendary agency run by Lew Wasserman. He went on to start his own agency, later merging it with another and representing movie and music stars such as Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Williams and Glen Campbell.

As a sports promoter he helped engineer the 1971 "Fight of the Century" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier as well as the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" between tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

The 1970s also saw him join Norman Lear to produce and distribute hits such as "The Jeffersons," ''Diff'rent Strokes" and "One Day at a Time."

Lear once described his partner, who handled the business end of things, as a man of great creativity and vision.

"The world has lost a glorious, most generous man and an absolute original. There will never ever be another him," Lear said in a statement Wednesday.

Perenchio also provided financial muscle or savvy for such 1980s classic movies as "Blade Runner" and "Driving Miss Daisy."

In 1992, Perenchio and two Latin American media tycoons bought Univision, then a struggling Spanish-language network. He became chairman and chief executive as the company, which today is the fifth-largest network in the United States — before selling it in 2006 and reaping a personal paycheck of over $1 billion.

Perenchio seldom ventured into the limelight.

"I really don't want my name in the goddamn paper," he once told the Los Angeles Times.

His list of 20 "Rules of the Road" for Univison executives included rule No. 1: "Stay Clear of the Press. No Interviews, No Panels, No Speeches, No comments. Stay Out of the Spotlight - It Fades Your Suit."

No. 20 was: "Always, Always take the High Road. Be Tough but Fair and Never Lose Your Sense of Humor."

Perenchio used some of his fortune on property, at one point becoming among the largest landholders in Malibu.

He bought his Bel Air mansion in the 1980s and last year paid $15 million for the home of late neighbors Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

In politics, Perenchio backed mainly Republican and conservative causes. He was national financial co-chair for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign; supported Schwarzenegger's successful run for California governor and contributed more than $3 million to Carly Fiorina's 2016 presidential bid.

However, he also supported some Democrats, including Sen. Diane Feinstein and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his charitable giving extended to AIDS and gay service and environmental groups.

He also opposed a 1998 state initiative to limit bilingual education in schools.

Man arrested inside Bullock's home convicted of stalking

A man who broke into Sandra Bullock's home in 2014 and forced the Oscar-winning actress to hide in her closet while calling police has been sentenced to continued mental health treatment and probation after pleading no contest to felony stalking and burglary charges.

Joshua James Corbett entered the plea Wednesday and was also ordered to stay away from the actress and not attempt to contact her for 10 years. He was arrested inside Bullock's residence in June 2014 and authorities later uncovered a cache of illegal weapons at his home, but all weapons charges were dropped.

Corbett entered the no contest plea without having an agreement for sentencing with prosecutors, district attorney's spokesman Greg Risling said.

Bullock never personally appeared during the case, but her frantic 15-minute 911 call was a key piece of evidence that led a judge in 2015 to order Corbett to stand trial.

Corbett, 41, has received mental health evaluations while in custody and his attorneys had hoped to resolve the case with an agreement that ensured he received continued mental health treatment.

He lurked outside the gates of Bullock's home for several days before hopping the fence on June 8, 2014, according to court testimony. He rang Bullock's doorbell for several minutes before entering her home through a sunroom door. The actress caught a glimpse of him as he walked past her bedroom door, allowing her to lock herself in a closet and call police.

Corbett was unarmed but he had 25 pages of writings describing his obsession with the actress and describing himself as her husband when police arrested him inside the "Gravity" star's home.

Corbett's attorneys had challenged the basis for police searching his home and finding an arsenal of weapons that led to numerous felony firearms charges. Corbett was charged with possessing a machine gun, two counts of possessing an assault weapon and 10 counts of possessing a destructive device. The destructive devices were described as tracer ammunition.

He faced up to 12 years in prison if convicted of those charges. In February, a California appellate court ruled Los Angeles police detectives had violated Corbett's rights when they obtained authorization to search his home for guns.

During a hearing last year, Corbett described his feelings about the break-in at Bullock's house, saying he gave police the combination to his gun safe because he felt guilty about breaking into Bullock's home.

"I'd already hurt somebody that I didn't intend to," Corbett said while testifying during a hearing. "I did not want to affect my family with my actions."

Corbett's attorneys have suggested he was experiencing opiate withdrawal when he granted police consent to search his home for several legally purchased weapons. A judge rejected their attempts to overturn his consent for the search, which turned up the illegal arms and ammunition.

___

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Writers Guild overwhelmingly ratifies new 3-year contract

Members of the Writers Guild of America have overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract with television and film producers.

The guild announced Wednesday that the new agreement passed by a 99 percent margin, with only 30 members voting no out of nearly 3,650 ballots cast. The agreement will remain in place until May 2020.

The ratification comes three weeks after a tentative deal was reached with producers, averting a costly strike that would have caused several popular television series to go dark.

The guild has said it won gains across the board, including contributions to the union's health plan and better pay for series with fewer episodes. A memo about the new contract stated members will net $130 million more over the contract's life than earlier proposals from producers.

Hannity says liberal fascists after sponsors; 1 is leaving

Sean Hannity says a media watchdog is guilty of "liberal fascism" for targeting advertisers on his Fox News Channel show, as one company announced Wednesday that it would no longer hawk its wares there.

The Chicago-based Cars.com said that it had been "watching closely" and recently decided to suspend its backing of Hannity.

Hannity, the sole survivor from Fox's once stable and powerful prime-time lineup, has been a strong backer of President Donald Trump and believes the president is under attack from media and opponents who want to destroy him. On Wednesday, Hannity said he would no longer talk about a discredited story involving a murdered Democratic National Committee chairman after speaking to the man's family, and after Fox had earlier retracted an online story it had written about the case.

Uncertainty over whether Hannity would defy his network's bosses over the story led to big ratings on Wednesday. The show reached 2.5 million viewers, or 50 percent more than it had for the same night a year earlier, the Nielsen company said.

On Wednesday, Hannity sent a steady stream of tweets that targeted Media Matters for America, the liberal lobbyists who a day earlier had posted a list of his show's advertisers on its web site. Targeting a show's advertisers is a potent line of attack in television; the swift abandonment of Bill O'Reilly's advertisers last month after the revelation of settlements paid to women to quiet harassment charges was widely considered a factor in his firing by Fox.

Media Matters is "targeting my advertisers to silence my voice," Hannity tweeted. "They hope to get me fired. Rush (Limbaugh), O'Reilly, (Glenn) Beck, (Don) Imus and now me." He posted a series of links to articles about Media Matters' funding, and ties to figures reviled by many conservatives, like George Soros and Bill Clinton.

Media Matters denied that it was mounting a pressure campaign focusing on Hannity's advertisers. The organization's president Angelo Carusone said he hadn't spoken to any sponsors. He said he wanted advertisers to be aware of Hannity's "volatility" as part of a general Media Matters campaign to get them to think about advertising on Fox; Media Matters hasn't posted a list of sponsors for any other specific show.

Saying there's no boycott campaign may be a distinction without a difference, however. Media Matters listed on its website more than 150 companies that had run commercials on "Hannity" in May, ranging from Lexus to Reddi-wip to Comedy Central. Hannity tweeted Wednesday that he'd spoken to several of his advertisers and they said they'd been "inundated" with emails urging them to stop running commercials on his show.

Cars.com said in a statement that its decision to advertise on a show doesn't mean it agrees or disagrees with its content.

"We don't have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase," the company said. "In this case, we've been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity."

The company did not make clear when it made that decision or what about Hannity's content influenced its executives. A company representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

By alerting his supporters about the list of advertisers, Hannity has played into his critics' hands, Carusone said.

"He has demonstrated that he's totally volatile and out of control," he said. "Hannity has done more to create pressure for his advertisers than I have."

Carusone suggested that Hannity is "acting out of fear and anxiety over the future of Fox News by preying on the fears and anxieties of his audience."

"We're not running a campaign to get him fired right now," he said.

Hannity was active on Twitter before his show Tuesday, saying that he would discuss the case of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich and his own future on Fox. It clearly paid off by drawing interest; his viewership was just under the 2.6 million reached by the current queen of prime-time cable television, Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC.

Hannity declined comment through a spokesperson Wednesday night. His show has an average viewership this year of 2.67 million.

Kim Kardashian deletes social media post on Manchester attack after fiery backlash

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian has removed a photo of herself and Ariana Grande from social media after an intense backlash over the posting, which was intended to show sympathy for the victims of the Manchester concert bombing and Grande, but instead caused a social media uproar.

>> Read more trending news

Kardashian posted the photo of herself and Grande having a good time and smiling at another concert event on Twitter and Instagram, with a caption that read, “Concerts are supposed to be a place where u can let loose & have fun. So scary to not feel safe in the world. @arianagrande I love you.”

>> Related: Ariana Grande cancels tour following Manchester attack

The pair are friends, but social media users questioned the use of the photo featuring a laughing Kardashian and a grinning Grande for a message about such a somber event.

The attack on the concert hall in Manchester Monday night as Grande was wrapping up her show killed 22 people and injured almost 60 others.

After breaking even, NY City Opera stays with reduced season

After breaking even in its first full season since emerging from bankruptcy, New York City Opera said Wednesday it will stick with a reduced schedule of four main-stage productions in 2017-18 and does not envision getting much larger.

Citing competition from events throughout the area and technology that makes performances around the world available on the internet, general director Michael Capasso said City Opera has to live with a new reality.

"The company sadly but realistically is never going to be 120 performances of a dozen titles," Capasso said. "Those days I think are really over. I think they may be over for the industry, but they're certainly over for City Opera."

Founded in 1943, City Opera emerged from bankruptcy last year with an abbreviated schedule of 14 performances. The current season includes 32 performances of four shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center plus several chamber operas and concerts at smaller venues. The 2017-18 season features four main-stage operas highlighted by the U.S. premiere on May 31 next year of Charles Wuorinen's "Brokeback Mountain," a work that City Opera commissioned in 2008.

Twenty-six performances are scheduled for next season with a budget of $7.5 million, about the same as this season. Before a financial collapse began a decade ago, City Opera typically presented 12-16 operas per season and a peak of about 130 performances.

Capasso budgets ticket sales at 65 percent of capacity. The current season was buoyed by a sold-out run of Bernstein's "Candide" in which four performances were added to the originally scheduled six.

City Opera hopes within five years to perhaps increase main-stage productions to six. It is eliminating Saturday-night performances, which it found was its weakest-selling day.

"There's a lot of entertainment available to the public. And what's even worse is it's available to them on demand. Whenever they want it, they can just open their computer or their device and watch whatever they want," Capasso said. "The challenge for us is to convince people next week to buy a ticket for something in April 2018."

"Brokeback Mountain" is based on the 1997 short story by Annie Proulx detailing a cowboy romance about two ranch-hand buddies who start a homosexual affair. "Brokeback" became the basis for a 2005 movie that won three Academy Awards, and Gerard Mortier took the commission with him when he left City Opera for Spain's Teatro Real in Madrid, where it premiered in 2014.

The season also includes the world premiere in October of a chamber version of Tobias Picker's "Dolores Claiborne," which debuted at the San Francisco Opera in 2013 and is based on the Stephen King novel.

The season opens with Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)" on Sept. 6 and includes the New York premiere of Jose Martinez's mariachi opera "Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon)" on Jan. 25 and Montemezzi's "L'Amore dei Tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings)" starting April 12. There will be a chamber double bill of Donizetti's "Il Pigmalione" and Rameau's "Pigmalion" next May.

Rep: Ronnie Wood has lung lesion successfully removed

A spokesperson for Ronnie Wood says the Rolling Stones guitarist has had a lung lesion successfully removed and is expected to make a full recovery.

Wood, who turns 70 next week, says in a statement that he is grateful to doctors who found the lesion in its early stages.

He is not expected to require further treatment and the procedure will not affect the Stones' upcoming tour, which kicks off in Europe in September.

Wood joined the Rolling Stones in 1975.

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