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In memoriam

Andy Griffith: The Original Influencer

Sad news today about the death of actor Andy Griffith at the age of 86. He may be best known for his namesake television program, but he was also the star of one of our favorite movies of all time — A Face in the Crowd.

Griffith plays a small-town hobo who becomes a celebrity host, “Lonesome” Rhodes. As he grows in popularity and influence, he also grows in arrogance and disdain for his audience. You can see where this is going. It’s a four-star must-see.

Author, Fashion Publicist Erica Kennedy Has Died

Erica Kennedy has died at the age of 42. Kennedy was an author and writer whose work was published in the New York Daily News, Vibe, In Style, and other publications. She got her start as a fashion publicist and continued on as a social media and branding consultant.

Her first book, Bling, was a satire about an aspiring hip-hop artist. And her second novel, Feminista, was about a hotshot celebrity journalist searching for love.

News of her death has traveled across Twitter with one of her biggest fans, Roger Ebert, saying that “the world is a lesser place” with her gone. Kennedy was 42 years old. The cause of her death has not been made public.

You can click here for a 2009 Q&A with the writer.

*Update: The Root reports that the Miami Beach Police Department is awaiting a toxicology report to help determine the cause Kennedy’s death. There were no signs of a break-in at her home or other “foul play.” The report will take four to six weeks. Her family requests that, instead of flowers and gifts, donations on Kennedy’s behalf be made to either Groundwork Opportunities or the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

[via The Root]

Donna Summer Remembered By Her Former Publicist

Donna Summer’s family has confirmed the death of the disco great at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer. In a statement, her family said, “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”

Much of her legacy is rooted in the sexy sound of her music, which first hit the airwaves more than 30 years ago. A publicist who worked with her more recently says she wanted to move away from that.

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Taco Bell Tweets for MCA?

Today we got the very sad news that the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, died after a years-long battle with cancer. The news has taken over Twitter and is prompting all sorts of media coverage and tributes.

One of those tributes came from @TacoBell, which tweeted:

Our eagle-eared colleague Alex Weprin recalled a Taco Bell reference in a Beastie Boys song. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the line comes from “Long Burn the Fire” and goes a little something like this:

Now that we’re here, back and raising hell
I’m running wild like rats in the Taco Bell

Sounds like someone saw what was trending and went a little tweet happy without first double-checking. Or Taco Bell is totally got over that jab. Either way, #RIPMCA. You will be missed.

Dick Clark Remembered for Influence on Pop Culture

One of the many ways that Dick Clark is most remembered for his pop culture influence. Clark and American Bandstand brought rock n’ roll into people’s homes in its early days (the show debuted in 1957), and became a cultural touchpoint for millions of teens across the country who learned about new dances, new acts, and cool clothes through the program.

E! has a top ten list of ways that Dick Clark and his TV shows inspired other TV shows that have now become staples. TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes! How many people totally forgot about that? From top ten lists, to music programs (like Soul Train, which was pioneering in its own way), game shows, and New Year’s Eve, Dick Clark played a role in all of it.

The New York Times has a comprehensive obituary that covers Dick Clark’s career, which, by extension, covers the evolution of pop culture. After the jump, Dick Clark’s big first interview with Madonna.

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Reports Say Breitbart Died of ‘Natural Causes’

We mentioned this in this morning’s Ticker, but we wanted to provide a little more information from what has become available about the death of Andrew Breitbart.

Breitbart, the well-known and very provocative conservative blogger, was 43 years old. He worked at the Drudge Report before starting his own sites, including Big Government. He was known for his attacks against organizations like NPR and Planned Parenthood and for revealing the revealing photos of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, which led to his resignation.

According to Fox News, Breitbart was seen walking by his Brentwood, CA home when he collapsed and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room. The Los Angeles Times says Breitbart died of natural causes, though there’s an ongoing investigation.

A polarizing figure, The Washington Examiner has gathered some posts from those who still don’t have kind words for Breitbart. Anecdotally, however, we’re seeing a lot of shock and dismay expressed across Twitter over this news, even from those whose political positions were on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Fox published Breitbart’s final tweet, written in his usual style: “I called you a putz cause I thought you were being intentionally disingenuous. If not I apologize.”

Breitbart had a wife and four children.

Whitney Houston’s Death Confirmed by Publicist

Publicist Kristen Foster has confirmed that Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. Houston’s publicist delivered the sad and shocking news with few details.

Just moments ago, Mark Rosen, a lieutenant with the Beverly Hills Police Department, gave a press conference, stating that the police and fire department responded to an emergency call at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where she had been staying.

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Roll Call: MSLGroup, M Booth, Hearst, and More

We start with sad news today: Michael Sullivan, MSLGroup‘s North American consumer practice leader, has died. He joined the firm in 2010 and was preparing for a move to London to work on a P&G project for the firm. MSLGroup’s Renee Wilson has kind words for Sullivan on the firm’s blog. And memorial service information is available here.

Katie Barr Cornish has joined M Booth as VP of the firm’s travel practice. Clients include U.S. Virgin Islands, Wyndham Rewards, and Alliance Global Assistance. She will also help with business development efforts for the practice. She was previously VP at Lou Hammond & Associates, working with clients including Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and The Waldorf-Astoria.

Dana Lenetz has joined Hearst as associate director of PR for Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. She was previously the PR manager for Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer.

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‘Soul Train’ Creator Don Cornelius Dead at 75

Don Cornelius, creator of Soul Train, the Soul Train Music Awards, and Soul Train lines at parties and wedding receptions, died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds early this morning in Los Angeles. He was 75 years old.

With Soul Train, Cornelius created a platform to promote African-American music artists when few other options were available. But while the show provided “television for black folks,” dancers and performers of different backgrounds were also featured. Click here to check out Elton John doing one of the best “Bennie and the Jets” performances ever.

Cornelius hosted the show until 1993, was inducted in the Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For more great performances and a 1995 profile, click here.

Tony Blankley, Former Edelman Exec & Gingrich Press Secretary, Dies

We included the sad news in this morning’s Ticker: Tony Blankley, former press secretary for current GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich when he was leading the Republican charge in Congress during the 1990s, has died.

Blankley was also known for his appearances as a commentator on radio and television and as EVP of public affairs in Edelman’s D.C. office.

Rob Rehg, president of the firm’s D.C. office, sent us this comment via email:

Tony’s integrity, intellect and mastery of history and politics enriched our lives. He brightened our world with his colorful sartorial style, good humor and wonderful story telling. He was someone who truly fit the definition of a scholar and a gentleman. We were blessed to have had his wisdom, generous spirit and good company as part of our work family. We will miss him terribly.

Blankley was 63 years old. He died after a battle with stomach cancer.

[image via]