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Denise Nickerson, Who Played Violet Beauregarde in ‘Willy Wonka,’ Dead at 62

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Denise Nickerson, best known for her role as the bratty, bubble-gum blowing Violet Beauregarde in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” died Wednesday night after complications from strokes, her family said. 

She was 62, NBC News reported.

Nickerson’s son, Josh, and his wife, Jasmine, announced on Facebook that she had died, writing “She’s gone.” Jasmine told NBC News that she died at about 10:15 p.m.

Nickerson suffered a stroke in June 2018 and a massive seizure on Tuesday after complications from pneumonia, her family had said. She entered a “coma-like state” and could not be saved, they said. 

Early Wednesday, the family decided to take her off anti-seizure medication and an oxygen pump because “none of it was helping, but making her only more uncomfortable.”

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South African Musician Johnny Clegg Dies at 66 After Cancer Battle

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Johnny Clegg, a South African musician who performed in defiance of racial barriers imposed by the apartheid system decades ago and celebrated its new democracy under Nelson Mandela, died Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

The British-born singer sometimes called the “White Zulu” died peacefully at home in Johannesburg with his family there, his manager Roddy Quin told the state broadcaster. “He fought it to the last second.”

Clegg’s multi-racial bands during white minority rule attracted an international following. He crafted hits inspired by Zulu and township harmonies, as well as folk and other influences.

One of his best-known songs is “Asimbonanga,” which means “We’ve never seen him” in Zulu. It refers to South Africans during apartheid when images of then-imprisoned Mandela were banned. Mandela was released in 1990 after 27 years in prison and became South Africa’s first black president in all-race elections four years later.

J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

[NATL] J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

Grammy-nominated Clegg “impacted millions of people around the world,” Quin said. “He played a major role in South Africa getting people to learn about other people’s cultures and bringing people together.”

The singer learned about Zulu music and dancing as a teenager when he hung out with a Zulu cleaner and street musician called Charlie Mzila. Clegg later explored his idea of “crossover” music with the multi-racial bands Juluka and Savuka at a time of bitter conflict in South Africa over white minority rule.

Clegg recorded songs he was arrested for and “never gave in to the pressure of the apartheid rules,” his manager said. The apartheid-era censorship also restricted where he could perform.

The musician was performing as late as in 2017, high-kicking and stomping, with the cancer in remission during one last tour called “The Final Journey.”

At a concert in Johannesburg that year, Clegg said that “all of these entries into traditional culture gave me a way of understanding myself, helping me to shape a kind of African identity for myself, and freed me up to examine another way of looking at the world.”

In December, Clegg told South African news channel eNCA that the “toughest part of my journey will be the next two years” and called himself an “outlier” in an interview that mused about mortality.

No Power, No Worries: New York’s Musicians Entertain During Blackout

[NATL] No Power, No Worries: New York's Musicians Entertain During Blackout

The performer had been diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and the grueling treatment included two six-month sessions of chemotherapy and an operation.

“I don’t have a duodenum and half my stomach. I don’t have a bile duct. I don’t have a gall bladder and half my pancreas. It’s all been reconfigured,” he told reporters in 2017.

In that interview, Clegg recalled how he performed “Asimbonanga” during a tour of Germany in 1997 and experienced a “huge shock” when Mandela, beaming and dancing, unexpectedly came out on stage behind him.

“It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world. And at peace with myself,” Mandela said to the audience. He called on Clegg to resume the song and urged all in the audience to get up and dance. At the end of the song, Mandela and Clegg, holding hands, walked off stage.

“That was the pinnacle moment for me,” Clegg recalled. “It was just a complete and amazing gift from the universe.”

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Gina Torres Steps Into Spotlight With ‘Pearson’

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With USA’s long-time legal drama “Suits” entering its final season, fans of the show will have to start looking for a new program to fill their entertainment gap. But the good news is, they may not have to look very far.

Returning to the screen after leaving “Suits” in 2016, Gina Torres (Jessica Pearson) takes her character to Chicago where she – working as the political fixer for newly appointed Chicago Mayor Bobby Novak (Morgan Spector) – will engage in everything the Windy City has to offer.

“We really talk about the socioeconomic disparity between the classes, the ethnic diversity, we deal with immigration, we deal with violence, you know, we’ve got a little mystery going on,” Torres said. “Well, murder mystery I should say.”

Although in a new setting, Torres’ character will in many ways still be the tough-talking lawyer “Suits” fans grew to love, but now they will get the chance to see more of her.

J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

[NATL] J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

“You just get more of her, more of who she is, and how her mind works and what is important to her really,” Torres said.

Yet Torres’ character will also be at a crossroads, she said. Things will be shifting in Jessica’s family life with Jeff and at city hall. She will have to take actions, make decisions and then deal with their repercussions.

The idea for “Pearson,” and its focus on political corruption and socioeconomic issues, came from Torres herself. While watching the 2016 election in the United States, Torres said she absolutely was thinking about Jessica, and how “all of the players involved in the 2016 election had nothing on Jessica Pearson.”

With her and the rest of the world fascinated with the political events of 2016, the show had no problems getting off the ground.

“Aaron Korsh (executive producer) loved the idea, Bonnie Hammer loved the idea, and then he took it to Daniel Arkin (showrunner), he loved the idea. And we just all started working on it together,” Torres said.

And, as someone with decades of experience in the business, transitioning to an executive producer role was an organic one for Torres, she said. The job just means she will have greater access to the writers and storytelling process she has been around her whole life.

No Power, No Worries: New York’s Musicians Entertain During Blackout

[NATL] No Power, No Worries: New York's Musicians Entertain During Blackout

Playing a part in how the show will be seen, how it will land, and the editing and casting process is what she has been waiting for her whole career.

“To have this dream be realized at this point in my career, at my age, just makes it so much sweeter,” Torres said.

Growing up in a close Cuban family in the Bronx, the youngest of three children, Torres has certainly come a long way. After graduating from the Fiorello LaGuardia School of Arts — where she studied jazz and opera as a vocal major — Torres quickly gained her first acting role as Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls.”

She went on to be cast in films such as “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Cleopatra 2525,” the latter of which won her the first American Latino Media Arts Award of her career.

Now, her move behind the camera is a personal one, Torres said. As the first Afro-Latina to create, executive produce, and star in her own network show, she knows its significance.

“That makes it rarer, that makes it more significant, that makes it significant to all the other Latinas and Afro-Latinos and people of color who never felt represented,” Torres said. “Who never felt that they could occupy that kind of a space in television, in the arts.”

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Having done it all – broadway, comedy, scifi, action thrillers and dramas – Torres said she still loves every minute of her career and wants to stick around as long as she can. 

Inspired by other women of color who have moved from the story character to the story creator, like Octavia Spencer and Gina Rodriguez, Torres said she wants to continue create and produce in the future. She is always looking for stories to nurture forward and to tell.  

“I’m still working, I’m still in the game, it’s all good,” Torres said. “I’m having a darn good time doing it.”

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How Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny and Lin-Manuel Miranda Got Mentioned in Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Leaked Chats

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Over the weekend, 889 pages of a controversial group chat that included Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and staff members shook the government, which had already been rocked by allegations of corruption. The messages revealed sexist, racist, homophobic and violent comments about the governor’s opponents and even members of his own party. 

The leaked chats also included references to Puerto Rican star performers like Ricky Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bad Bunny, who are now all firing back at the governor.

Here is how those celebrities got caught up the leaked chat scandal, through no fault of their own.

Ricky Martin:
The “Livin’ La Vida Loca” singer, one of the most beloved artists among Puerto Ricans, was mentioned by one of Rosselló’s top officials.

The administration’s former chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, leveled homophobic and machista slurs against the international superstar, who’s openly gay, married and is the father of three children.

Sobrino questioned and mocked the singer’s sexual orientation by saying Martin preferred to have sex with men over women because “women don’t live up to the expectations.”

The singer joined Puerto Ricans calling for Rosselló’s resignation on Saturday with a string of tweets.

“Your conduct is not a result of an error or inexperience, it has been a conscious and deliberate act, totally irresponsible and that attempts against human rights […] Act with true generosity, courage and love for Puerto Rico and cede your post to another person with the wisdom and leadership to lead our fate as a country,” Martin said.

Bad Bunny:
Trap singer Bad Bunny, internationally known for songs like “Estamos Bien” and “La Romana,” was also mentioned in the chat.

Sobrino made a joke about Bad Bunny’s surprise visit back in January with Gov. Rosselló and Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Residente, co-founder of Calle 13. The former CFO used their visit to ridicule a feminist group, Colectiva Feminista, amid a gender violence crisis in the island that last year took the lives of 23 women. The group was outside the governor’s mansion and was never granted a meeting with Rosselló.

“Residente and Bad Bunny > Colectiva?” CFO Sobrino said in the chat.

Bad Bunny recently said both he and Residente were drunk in Old San Juan and decided to visit Rosselló at 2:00 a.m. The governor welcomed them both. The artists then shared a picture of the meeting on Instagram.

Sobrino made a joke about Bad Bunny’s surprise visit back in January with Gov. Rosselló and Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Residente, co-founder of Calle 13. The former CFO used their visit to ridicule a feminist group, Colectiva Feminista, amid a gender violence crisis in the island that last year took the lives of 23 women. The group was outside the governor’s mansion and was never granted a meeting with Rosselló.

“Residente and Bad Bunny > Colectiva?” CFO Sobrino said in the chat.

Bad Bunny recently said both he and Residente were drunk in Old San Juan and decided to visit Rosselló at 2:00 a.m. The governor welcomed them both. The artists then shared a picture of the meeting on Instagram.

Benito Martínez, the artist’s real name, who was touring in Europe, announced Monday on Twitter that he’s on his way to Puerto Rico and has invited people to protest. The trap sensation is expected to join protesters in Old San Juan on Wednesday.

“I’m going to the island and I’d love if you join me and the people already in the streets. These people (the government) think we’re scared and we’ll demonstrate them that they’re wrong,” he tweeted.

The artist, born and raised in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, said on Sunday that he believes in forgiveness “but one thing is to forgive and another one to let them step on us.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda:
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actor and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway’s hit musical “Hamilton,” was indirectly mentioned in the chat early January when his show was rescheduled and relocated from the Theater of the University of Puerto Rico to the Centro de Bellas Artes in Santurce, a borough in San Juan. The “Hamilton” show in Puerto Rico was an effort to promote art and help the island in its recovery after Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

In the chat, former CFO Sobrino shared a news article announcing the cancellation of the show at the theater of the university, to which the governor replied with an angel emoji. Carlos Bermúdez, the governor’s former media consultant, then said “Operation RR,” appearing to insinuate the governor was behind the decision.

Lin-Manuel’s father Luis Miranda told NBC that “it’s sad […] these were a bunch of teenagers claiming credit for something that, quite frankly, they had nothing to do with.”

Luis Miranda said the producers of “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico decided to change the venue due to security reasons, primarily because the University’s workers union was planning to protest because of the economic crisis that’s hitting the public college. Furthermore, there’s a law that doesn’t permit the police to intervene in the campus, and that was enough cause for concern.

“Although we couldn’t stay there (at the University of Puerto Rico), to have been able to invest $1 million for the university to have a theater of top category […] we’re proud of everything that we’ve done for the university, which has been the cornerstone of Puerto Rico’s development for many generations and it must be for generations to come, too,” he said.

Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted on Monday that “#HamiltonPR was a triumph. We did what we set out to do: raised 15 million for arts on the island, gave the tourism economy a boost—AND we rebuilt the UPR theater. While the governor and his buddies tried to claim some credit for it in their sad little chat.”

“And the bigger picture is this: the Hamilton falsehoods in these documents are a minor subplot in a far larger, very disturbing portrait of how this Administration operates,” Miranda said.

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