News & Current Affairs

July 16, 2009

Madonna concert stage collapses

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:23 pm

Madonna concert stage collapses

Madonna performs during her concert on 11 July in Belgium

The planned concert was part of Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour

A stage being constructed for a concert by pop star Madonna in France has collapsed, killing one person and injuring six, police say.

Technicians were setting up the stage at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille when the accident occurred at around 1715 (1515 GMT).

The concert, planned for Sunday, 19 July, has now been cancelled, officials announced.

It was part of the European leg of the Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour.

The cause of the accident was not clear.

The frame “started shaking and collapsing”, said Marseille city councillor Maurice Di Nocera.

“Fortunately, it didn’t collapse too quickly, as there would have been quite a few victims,” he said, according to AFP news agency.

Two of the injuries were serious, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said.

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July 3, 2009

Photographer on Jackson rehearsals

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:48 pm

Photographer on Jackson rehearsals

Renowned rock photographer Kevin Mazur was at Michael Jackson’s final tour rehearsal in Los Angeles last week.

Several images from the practice runs have now been released, showing the star dancing and smiling against large neon letters reading “This Is It”.

Mazur, who first took pictures of Jackson during the 1984 Victory tour, told the news about the “magical” show that was being prepared before the entertainer’s untimely death on Thursday.


Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )

The pictures were taken on 23 June, just two days before Jackson died

How much of the rehearsal did you see?

I was there for a couple of days. I was there on the first day when they built the stage, and I took photographs of the dancers and the back-up singers for the tour book. Then, the next day I was taking casual shots of the band and the dancers rehearsing when Michael arrived.

I was like an expectant father waiting for him to take to the stage, I was so excited. And when he came out, I was even more excited because Michael was back.

He was happy, he was energetic, he was full of life. I had such an adrenaline rush. It was like the first time I had photographed him, when he moonwalked.

People were saying he wasn’t ready, and the first shows had been pushed back because of his health. Did you see any evidence of that?

A photo tells a story. Michael was physically fit and performing the same way that I photographed him through the years. You can look at the photos. I documented it, I was there.

So how did you feel when, four days later, you were told he had died?

I was so shocked, because from what I saw on Tuesday night, he was full of energy and full of life. I couldn’t wait to see this show at the O2 arena with all the fans there.

How much of the production did you see? Were there any big surprises?

There were still certain elements that they had to put into place, but I saw them rehearse about a dozen songs. And Michael never stopped. He worked right through. He did 12 songs and he only paused a couple of times to tweak some stuff with the music and a little bit of the choreography.

They had a screen that ran the full length of the main stage and was maybe about 50 feet high. And, supposedly, I heard they were doing some 3D things. I’ve been shooting shows for 25 years and I’d never seen anything like that before. I was very curious to see how it would all come together.

Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )

The series of 50 concerts was due to begin in London on 13 July

So you could say the concert was really in the final stages of preparation – with all the individual songs coming together into a coherent show?

Yes, well… everything was pretty much staged and built. There were certain things they were still waiting to get – they had chandeliers they were going to put into the set. But musically and dancing-wise, I got to see it all. But I didn’t get to see things like aerial lifts and a few other elements in the show.

And when Michael was done rehearsing, he and Kenny Ortega [choreographer and show producer] went off the stage and they were looking at a bunch of props they had for Thriller and they had a puppeteer using zombie-type creatures that were going to go through the audience. It looked really, really cool.

This was going to be like no show anyone had ever seen.

The picture that has gone around the world today is of Michael in a grey suit, pointing into the centre of the auditorium. What do you remember much about that shot?

That might have been Black Or White – but I don’t remember. It’s so hard for me to keep track of the songs while I’m shooting, because it’s such an adrenalin rush for me. I’m just too excited, and I’m juggling round numerous cameras. But I do know this, it was magical.

There are rumours today that the rehearsals had been filmed and that segments of the concert will be released as a tribute. Were you aware of that?

Not specifically – but everything was documented. That’s why I was there. I was there to keep a record photographically, and they also had videographers. He’s Michael Jackson and, as you know, he documents everything.

Jackson tickets via internet draw

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:37 pm

Jackson tickets via internet draw

Fan outside Staples Center 3.7.09

The Staples Center was where Michael Jackson’s rehearsals were held

Tickets for a public memorial service for Michael Jackson in Los Angeles on Tuesday will be available via the internet, organisers have revealed.

Details were announced by AEG Live, the star’s promoter, which owns the Staples Center where the service will be held.

Eleven thousand free tickets are to be issued for the service. Only US residents can apply.

‘It’s about the fans’

Another 6,500 tickets will be issued for a simulcast of the service at the nearby Nokia theatre. It means a total of 17,500 fans will be able to see the events free.

Officials said 8,750 pairs of tickets would be allotted to the successful entrants after 1800 Saturday (0100 GMT Sunday) and notifications would go out later on Sunday.

If you do not have a ticket… not only will you not be allowed at these venues, you will not be allowed in this area
LA police chief Earl Paysinger

Those selected will be able to get their tickets via Ticketmaster on Monday, officials said.

No other details of the service itself were revealed.

Officials appealed to other fans to watch the memorial service from their own homes, amid fears that thousands of people without tickets could flood the area.

“If you do not have a ticket, if you are not credentialed, not only will you not be allowed at these venues, you will not be allowed in this area,” said Los Angeles police chief Earl Paysinger.

Michael Jackson had been rehearsing for his London concerts at the Staples Center.

In a press conference, family representative Ken Sunshine said they wanted to accommodate as many fans as possible.

“It is all about the fans,” he said.

Officials said that no funeral procession would take place and the memorial service would not be shown on screens outside the venues.

June 26, 2009

Singer Michael Jackson dies at 50

Singer Michael Jackson dies at 50

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson had been due to play 50 concert dates in the UK this summer

Pop star Michael Jackson has died in Los Angeles, aged 50.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s Beverly Hills home at about midday on Thursday after he stopped breathing.

He was pronounced dead two hours later at the UCLA medical centre. Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, said he was believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Jackson, who had a history of health problems, had been due to stage a series of comeback concerts in the UK, beginning on 13 July.

Speaking on behalf of the Jackson family, Jermaine said doctors had tried to resuscitate the star for more than an hour without success.

He added: “The family request that the media please respect our privacy during this tough time.”

“And Allah be with you Michael, always. I love you.”

TV footage showed the star’s body flown from UCLA to the LA County Coroner’s office where a post-mortem is expected to take place on Friday.

Concerns were raised last month when four of Jackson’s planned comeback concerts were postponed, but organisers insisted the dates had been moved due to the complexity of staging the show.

AT THE SCENE
Rajesh Mirchandani
Rajesh Mirchandani
BBC News

Michael Jackson was brought here to the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles around 12 hours ago. Earlier there were several hundred people here, before it got dark – there was a sense of grief, of disbelief.

But in the last few hours, these people have been singing his songs, dancing, there was a guy on a keyboard earlier, playing his songs for people to dance along to.

This has turned into an impromptu celebration of Michael Jackson’s music. He’s the king of pop as far as they’re concerned. They’re still shocked by his sudden death but they’re here because they want to show their support.

A spokeswoman for The Outside Organisation, which was organising the publicity for the shows, said she had no comment at this time.

Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said: “I always doubted that he would have been able to go through that schedule, those concerts. It seemed to be too much of a demand on the unhealthy body of a 50 year old.

“I’m wondering that, as we find out details of his death, if perhaps the stress of preparing for those dates was a factor in his collapse.

“It was wishful thinking that, at this stage of his life, he could be Michael Jackson again.”

Tributes have poured in from the entertainment industry. Sir Paul McCartney described Jackson’s death as ” sad and shocking”.

The pair worked together on two hit tracks, Say Say, Say and The Girl Is Mine from Jackson’s Thriller album.

He said ” I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul.

“His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.

“I send my deepest sympathy to his mother and the whole family, and to his countless fans all around the world.”

Speaking outside New York’s historic Apollo theatre, civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton paid tribute to his friend.

“I knew him 35 years. When he had problems he would call me,” he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Can’t believe it. I’m gutted. RIP Michael, thanks for everything you gave us.

Tommy, Cardiff

“I feel like he was not treated fairly. I hope history will be more kind to him than some of the contemporary media.”

Melanie Bromley, west coast bureau chief of Us Weekly magazine, told the News the scene in Los Angeles was one of “pandemonium”.

“At the moment there is a period of disbelief. He was buying a home in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles and the scene outside the house is one of fans, reporters and TV cameras – it’s absolute craziness.

“I feel this is the biggest celebrity story in a long time and has the potential to be the Princess Diana of popular culture.”

Musical icon

Tributes from the world of music and film have already flooded in from celebrities including Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger and ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley.

Large numbers of fans have also gathered outside Jackson’s home and at the UCLA medical centre with lit candles to mourn the star while playing his greatest hits.

Facebook groups have also been set up for fans to share their memories.

The singer’s albums are occupying the top 15 slots of online music retailer Amazon.com’s current best-seller chart, led by his 1982 smash hit Thriller.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s house in Bel Air at 1221 (1921GMT) following an emergency phone call.

They performed CPR on Jackson and rushed him to the UCLA medical centre.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the robbery and homicide team was investigating Jackson’s death because of its “high profile”, but there was no suggestion of foul play.

Jackson began his career as a child in family group The Jackson 5.

MICHAEL JACKSON 1958-2009
Full name: Michael Joseph Jackson
Born: August 29, 1958, Gary, Indiana, US
Also known as: The King of Pop, Wacko Jacko
Biggest hits: I Want You Back, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Bad, Black or White, Earth Song

He then went on to achieve global fame as a solo artist with smash hits such as Billie Jean and Bad.

Thriller, released in 1982, is the biggest-selling album of all time, shifting 65m copies, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

He scored seven UK number ones as a solo artist and won a total of 13 Grammy awards.

“For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words,” said Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall.

“He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

The singer had been dogged by controversy and money trouble in recent years, becoming a virtual recluse.

He was arrested in 2003 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy, but was found not guilty following a five-month trial.

The star had three children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II.

He is survived by his mother, Katherine, father, Joseph and eight siblings – including Janet, Randy, Jermaine and La Toya Jackson.

October 4, 2008

OJ Simpson convicted of robbery

OJ Simpson convicted of robbery

OJ Simpson has been found guilty on 12 charges of armed robbery, conspiracy to kidnap and assault with a deadly weapon by a court in the US city of Las Vegas.

The former US football star and actor was accused of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers a year ago.

The armed robbery charges carry a mandatory jail sentence, and kidnapping carries a possible life term.

Simpson, 61, who denied the charges, was acquitted of murder in 1995 in what was dubbed “the trial of the century”.

CHARGES AGAINST OJ SIMPSON
Conspiracy to commit a crime: guilty
Conspiracy to kidnap: guilty
Two counts of first degree kidnapping: guilty
Burglary in possession of a deadly weapon: guilty
Two counts of armed robbery: guilty
Two counts of assault with a deadly weapon: guilty
Two counts of coercion with use of a deadly weapon: guilty

The charges in the latest trial centred on an incident in the Palace Station hotel in Las Vegas in September 2007.

Simpson was accused – and convicted – of kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers and holding them in the hotel.

The former National Football League running back seized the pair in an attempt to reclaim items in their possession related to his sporting career, which Simpson claimed still belonged to him.

Handcuffed

Asked by reporters on his way into court for the latest verdict, which was read late on Friday night local time, Simpson said he was prepared for the judgement.

“You gotta be ready,” the former Buffalo Bills star running back told journalists.

OJ Simpson in 2006

Inside the court both Simpson and his accomplice, Clarence Steward, were found guilty on all charges by the Las Vegas jury.

Simpson blew out his cheeks and nodded as the verdicts were read out.

He was then led away with his hands cuffed by police. He will be sentenced in December.

The judge refused to grant him bail pending sentencing.

In his previous trial, Simpson was accused of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994.

The not-guilty verdict came 13 years to the day before his conviction in Las Vegas, and shocked many in America.

Mr Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a civil case and ordered to pay $33.5m (£19m) to Mr Goldman’s family.

September 8, 2008

Silent movie star Page dies at 98

Silent movie star Page dies at 98

Anita Page

Anita Page was a key figure as the silent movie era ended

Veteran actress Anita Page, whose career dated back to the silent movie era, has died aged 98 in Los Angeles.

Page counted Buster Keaton, Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford among her co-stars during an 84-year career which saw her start out as an extra in 1924.

Her big break came in 1928 when she starred alongside Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters.

More recently, she had completed a cameo role in forthcoming horror movie Frankenstein Rising.

Page died in her sleep at home on Saturday morning, friend Randal Malone told the Associated Press news agency.

Her daughter, Linda Sterne, said her mother had been good friends with Marion Davies and Jean Harlow, and for a period in the 1930s had lived as a guest in a California castle owned by newspaper magnate William Hearst.

“She was the best mother I could have,” Sterne said. “She was wonderful.”

Page starred alongside Chaney in 1928’s While The City Sleeps, while the following years she co-starred in musical The Broadway Melody, the first talkie to win a best picture Oscar.

Her other work included two of Keaton’s sound films: Free and Easy in 1930, and the following year’s Sidewalks of New York.

She also starred alongside Walter Huston in 1932’s Night Court, and The Easiest Way, in which Clark Gable had a small role.

But Page stopped acting when she fell in love with US Navy aviator Herschel House. The couple married in 1936, six weeks after they met, and she settled down to life as an officer’s wife, hosting many parties at their home in San Diego Bay.

After House died in 1991, Page returned to acting, starring in suspense thriller Sunset After Dark in 1994.

August 30, 2008

McCain unveils ‘The Barracuda’

McCain unveils ‘The Barracuda’

There were no late night text messages and perhaps not the same build up that preceded the announcement of Barack Obama’s choice for running mate.

John McCain and Sarah Palin (29 August 2008)

Mrs Palin has been credited with bringing in reforms in her time in office

But because it was kept a secret almost until the end, John McCain’s choice did generate a fair amount of rumor and speculation.

Was he going to pick a traditional candidate, a safe bet – someone like the young governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, or would the veteran Arizona senator go for the wild card?

The answer came on a private jet that flew in from the Alaskan city of Anchorage on Thursday night and landed outside Dayton, Ohio, apparently carrying on board a woman, two men and two teenagers.

All the journalists who were covering the story started looking up the biography of Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska.

‘Average hockey mom’

She may be seen by some as a rising star of the Republican Party, but she was relatively unknown on a national level.

As he took to the stage, in front of a packed audience, Mr McCain introduced her as “exactly who I need, exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and the country second”.

For observers, it showed Mr McCain felt he needed to make a bold move to help change the course of the race to the White House.

SARAH PALIN

Elected Alaska’s youngest and first woman governor in 2006

Grew up in Wasilla, near Anchorage, and was voted Miss Wasilla in 1984
Studied journalism and political science at University of Idaho
Is mother of five, including a son with Down’s syndrome
Her husband Todd is an oil production operator
Likes hunting and fishing

The two presidential hopefuls have been running head to head, with Mr Obama gaining eight percentage points in the polls in recent days.

The choice of Sarah Palin is a high risk bet that could bring high rewards, but there are no guarantees.

Mrs Palin, a mother of five, is the first woman to be on a Republican presidential ticket.

Married for 20 years to Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart, she was nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda” during her college years for her aggressive basketball playing style – the name has stuck.

On stage, dressed in a conservative black power suit, her hair raised in a high ponytail, she described herself as “an average hockey mom from Alaska”.

She drew applause when talking about her anti-corruption drive, her standing up to big oil companies and even the “good old boys club”, which drew a smile from Mr McCain.

She eats moose meat and is an inveterate hunter, a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

One of her sons is heading to Iraq in September. The other, born in April, is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

‘Exciting choice’

In many ways, her story is all American and her values will appeal to the conservative base and to blue-collar voters.

With 80% approval ratings back home, she seemed to also get the approval of the crowd she was addressing, drawing very enthusiastic cheers, as she spoke in a relaxed, accessible way.

It turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all
Sarah Palin

Mrs Palin also ticks several required boxes – she is fiscally conservative, in favor of drilling for oil and very staunchly anti-abortion.

Most of all she is a reformer and a fresh face for the Republican ticket.

President George W Bush said she was “an exciting choice” and Mrs Palin certainly adds energy and sizzle to the McCain campaign.

She also clearly reached out to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters, who are disappointed their candidate did not make it on to the Democratic ticket, not even as vice-president.

“I can’t begin this great effort without honoring the achievement of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and of course, Hillary Clinton, who showed determination in her presidential campaign,” Mrs Palin said.

“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

The Democrats for McCain group sent out an e-mail saying its supporters, especially the women, were “ecstatic” about the choice of Mrs Palin.

But other Democrats said they felt insulted that Mr McCain thought he could woo women by just putting any woman on his ticket, with one sentence making the rounds: “Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton”.

Experience questioned

It all made for an exciting day in Dayton, a city of just over 150,000 that has been hard hit by job losses in the past few years.

But the whole of the US is probably now scouring the internet for more information about Governor Palin and trying to assess her credentials.

Sarah Palin visits troops in Kuwait (24 July 2007)
What is it exactly that a VP does every day?
Sarah Palin

Many will be wondering whether she is ready to be vice-president and even lead the US, should something happen to Mr McCain if he is elected president.

As commander of the Alaska National Guard, she visited troops in Kuwait last year, but has a very thin foreign policy background.

Similarly, while she does have executive experience, the Obama campaign wryly pointed out she had been the mayor of a town with just 9,000 people.

As governor of Alaska during the past two years she has gained more experience, but even some Alaskans calling into talk shows on US network television said they doubted whether that had prepared her for the challenge of national politics.

She did herself no favors in a recent interview.

“As for that VP talk all the time, I can’t answer until someone answers me. What is it exactly that a VP does every day?” she said just a month ago on CNBC when asked about her chances of being on the ticket.

“I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that this VP slot would be fruitful type of position especially for Alaskans and for the kind of things we are trying to accomplish here for the rest of the US.”

Investigation

By choosing her, Mr McCain may have undercut his best attack against Senator Obama – if he uses the inexperience card now it will be turned against him and his running mate.

While conservatives, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and former Bush adviser Karl Rove, hailed the Palin surprise, there were also dismayed reactions from some Republicans, who felt the choice underscored Mr McCain’s weaknesses and was too risky.

Polls in the coming days, and Mrs Palin’s performance at the Republican National Convention, will help assess the impact of Mr McCain’s decision.

In the meantime, Mr McCain and his new partner have something else to worry about – Mrs Palin is facing an investigation in Alaska for alleged abuse of power involving her former brother-in-law. Her deposition is expected to be scheduled soon.

She says she has “nothing to hide” and is “cool” about the investigation.

August 23, 2008

Black hole star mystery ‘solved’

Black hole star mystery ‘solved’

Computer simulation of a molecular cloud falling into a black hole (Science/AAAS)

The researchers modelled how molecular clouds are sucked into black holes

Astronomers have shed light on how stars can form around a massive black hole, defying conventional wisdom.

Scientists have long wondered how stars develop in such extreme conditions.

Molecular clouds – the normal birth places of stars – would be ripped apart by the immense gravity, a team explains in Science magazine.

But the researchers say stars can form from elliptical discs – the relics of giant gas clouds torn apart by encounters with black holes.

They made the discovery after developing computer simulations of giant gas clouds being sucked into black holes like water spiralling down a plughole.

“These simulations show that young stars can form in the neighbourhood of supermassive black holes as long as there is a reasonable supply of massive clouds of gas from further out in the galaxy,” said co-author Ian Bonnell from St Andrews University, UK.

Ripped apart

Their findings are in accordance with actual observations in our Milky Way galaxy that indicate the presence of a massive black hole, surrounded by huge stars with eccentric orbits.

The simulations, performed on a supercomputer – and taking over a year of computing time – followed the evolution of two separate giant gas clouds up to 100,000 times the mass of the Sun, as they fell towards the supermassive black hole.

The simulations show how the clouds are pulled apart by the immense gravitational pull of the black hole.

The disrupted clouds form into spiral patterns as they orbit the black hole; the spiral patterns remove motion energy from gas that passes close to the black hole and transfers it to gas that passes further out.

This allows part of the cloud to be captured by the black hole while the rest escapes.

In these conditions, only high mass stars are able to form and these stars inherit the eccentric orbits from the elliptical disc.

These results match the two primary properties of the young stars in the center of our galaxy: their high mass and their eccentric orbits around the supermassive black hole.

“That the stars currently present around the galaxy’s supermassive black hole have relatively short lifetimes of [about] 10 million years, which suggests that this process is likely to be repetitive,” Professor Bonnell explained.

“Such a steady supply of stars into the vicinity of the black hole, and a diet of gas directly accreted by the black hole, may help us understand the origin of supermassive black holes in our and other galaxies in the Universe.”

August 21, 2008

Snail hides from march of history

Snail hides from march of history

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

National Trust)

The snails were found in a balustrade imported from Rome

A colony of Mediterranean snails has been found at the UK’s Cliveden House, where they have lived in marble-wrapped secrecy for a century.

The snails, never found before in the UK, apparently came from Italy in a balustrade bought by a Lord Astor, a former owner of the mansion.

There are thought to be several hundred of the 11mm-long snails at Cliveden.

John Profumo met model Christine Keeler at the Buckinghamshire house in 1961, which led to a political scandal.

Footballer Steven Gerrard married at the National Trust property last year.

Amidst all this activity – and the visits down the years of luminaries as important as Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin – the Papillifera papillaris snail has been a reclusive guest.

What they’re doing, what they’re eating, we don’t rightly know
Matthew Oates

“They were found by a specialist volunteer who helps us clean the statuary in Cliveden,” said the Trust’s nature conservation adviser Mathew Oates.

“He went to a talk at the local archaeological society given by a snail specialist, mentioned his find, and it turned out he’d spotted the colony which had almost certainly been there since 1896,” he told BBC News.

Common around the Mediterranean, this is believed to be the UK’s only sighting of the species.

School for scandal

It was in 1896 that Cliveden took delivery of a travertine marble balustrade that now runs for about 100 metres along the top of the house’s immaculately coiffured lawns.

“It was purchased and brought over from Rome by the first Viscount Astor,” said John Bignell, visitor services manager at the property.

“He’d been an ambassador in Rome and was a great collector. The Villa Borghese in Rome, which he bought it from, now has a copy.”

When the snails climbed on board is not known, although the balustrade itself dates from about 1816.

At Cliveden, they have lived in crevices in the marble and at the bottom of the balustrade.

“What they’re doing, what they’re eating, we don’t rightly know, although it’s likely they’re feeding on lichen or algae growing on the marble,” said Mr Oates.

“But what’s important is they’ve also been found in two, possibly three other places at Cliveden, so all our eggs are not in one basket from a conservation point of view.”

Cliveden House

Cliveden’s past includes the pool party where John Profumo met Christine Keeler

Over the years, the snails would have had the chance to witness a number of seminal moments in UK politics.

Nancy Astor, wife of the second viscount, was the first woman MP to take her seat.

In the 1930s, ministers, prime ministers and other dignitaries came so often to mull the issues of the day that the circle of habitues gained the sobriquet of the “Cliveden Set”.

But the most notorious event was undoubtedly the meeting of Profumo and Keeler in 1961. The 18-year-old model and call-girl was having an affair with a Soviet military attache; and when she later started an affair with the cabinet minister, and he then lied to parliament about it, his fall was a matter of time.

Still owned by the National Trust, the house itself is used as a hotel. Its most famous recent visitor was probably Liverpool star Steven Gerrard who tied the knot there in June 2007, though whether he or his guests spotted the odd Papillifera papillaris is not on record.

August 16, 2008

Madonna turns 50: Highs and lows

Madonna turns 50: Highs and lows

https://i1.wp.com/blog.mobiles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/madonna300.jpg

Madonna – one of the most successful stars in pop history – celebrates her 50th birthday on Saturday.

Use our interactive timeline to find out more about the ups and downs of her career.

Full name: Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone

Born: August 16, 1958, Bay City, Michigan, USA

Also known as: The Queen of Pop, Material Girl, Madge, Esther, Mrs Ritchie.

Biggest hits: Holiday, Into The Groove, Like A Prayer, Vogue, Ray of Light, Music.

Quote: “A woman who pulled herself up by her bra straps and has been known to let them down occasionally” (Bette Midler, introducing Madonna at Live Aid in 1985).

1963 – MOTHER DIES

Madonna’s mother, also called Madonna, dies of breast cancer. The tragic event has a lifelong impact on the singer. “You walk around with a big hole inside you, a feeling of emptiness and longing,” the star later says.

1982-1985 – INITIAL CHART SUCCESS

Madonna moves to New York in 1977, where she studies with choreographer Alvin Ailey and works as a model.

Madonna

Early music demos recorded with her boyfriend Stephen Bray make their way to Sire Records boss Seymour Stein, who demands to meet her, even though he is in hospital with a heart condition. Impressed with “the drive, the zeal, the ruthlessness” of a young Madonna, he signs her on the spot. But her first few releases only make an impact in clubs.

Holiday becomes Madonna’s first breakthrough hit in the US, reaching number 16 in late 1983. Her first top 10 hit comes a year later with Borderline, a song she later disowns. She is more proud of the subsequent, career-defining hits Like A Virgin and Material Girl. The sell-out Virgin Tour begins in 1985 with support from the Beastie Boys.

1985 – MARRIAGE

Madonna receives rave reviews for her role in mainstream film Desperately Seeking Susan (she previously made low-budget sexploitation movie A Certain Sacrifice in 1979).

She also hits number one with Into The Groove, plays Live Aid, and marries actor Sean Penn on a Californian clifftop, their vows drowned out by the roar of press helicopters circling overhead.

1986 – TRUE BLUE

True Blue

True Blue was the first time Madonna had a writing credit on every song.

The album True Blue, with its iconic Herb Ritts cover, cements Madonna’s reputation as the first lady of pop, reaching number one in 12 countries and spawning five hit singles.Papa Don’t Preach, which deals with teenage pregnancy, confirms the star’s willingness to tackle controversial issues, while Live To Tell’s raw vocals (recorded on the first take) show new emotional depth.

Her first world tour, Who’s That Girl, sees the singer mobbed by adoring fans in cities across the globe.

But Madonna’s film career takes the first of many serious beatings with the release of Shanghai Surprise.

A year later, she separates from Sean Penn, and the couple are granted a divorce in 1989.

1989 – LIKE A PRAYER

Like A Prayer video

The video for Like A Prayer caused storms of protest

The release of Like A Prayer marks the moment when critics first begin to describe Madonna as an artist, rather than a mere pop singer. The title track’s video, which shows the star kissing a black saint, causes storms of protest – but sends her straight to number one.She follows up the album with the hit single Vogue and the lavish Blond Ambition tour. At the end of 1990, Madonna seals her reputation with a Greatest Hits album – The Immaculate Collection.

1992 – SEX

Sex book

The sex book was shot by noted fashion photographer Steven Meisel

A coffee table photo book, Sex, finds Madonna in a number of sexually explicit poses with the likes of Naomi Campbell and Vanilla Ice. The book is derided in the press, and the dark and seedy Erotica album suffers as a result.Two years later, she makes a bizarre, expletive-filled appearance on David Letterman’s talk show. Madonna asks the host to smell her underwear, smokes a cigar and quizzes Letterman on whether he urinates in the shower. When she refuses to leave the stage, several audience members shout “get off”.

The show marks a low point in public perception of the star.

1996 – EVITA

Madonna’s casting in Evita helps to rehabilitate her image – and her film career. Meanwhile, she falls pregnant to fitness trainer Carlos Leon, giving birth to her first daughter, Lourdes, in October.

1998 – RAY OF LIGHT

Ray of Light

Ray of Light was produced by British musician William Orbit

Ray Of Light marks a musical return to form. Its laid-back blend of dance and electronica catches the pop superstar in a reflective mood, musing on fame and parenthood. She continues to mine this rich seam of futuristic pop with Beautiful Stranger in 1999 and Music in 2000, albeit with diminishing returns.In the meantime, she meets Guy Ritchie at a party thrown by Sting’s wife Trudi Styler. The couple have a son, Rocco, before tying the knot in Scotland days before the new Millennium.

2004 – RE-INVENTION

Re-invention tour

The Re-Invention tour took more than $125m (£62.5m) in ticket sales

After the lacklustre American Life album, Madonna looks to the past for her Re-invention World Tour. Highlights including the yoga-inspired dance routines of Vogue, and a bagpipe version of Papa Don’t Preach.She follows it up with a love letter to disco, Confessions on a Dancefloor, produced by the tour’s musical director Stuart Price. Based around European dance music – including a prominent Abba sample on Hung Up – sells 8 million copies, but its singles perform badly in the US.

The accompanying tour draws flack when Madonna performs Live To Tell while strapped to a mirrored cross, wearing a crown of thorns.

2006 – ADOPTION

Madonna and David Banda

Madonna ‘s adoption was challenged by Malawian civil rights groups

Madonna visits Malawi, arriving by private jet in the capital, Lilongwe. She says she is in the country on a humanitarian mission to visit Aids orphans, but government officials say she plans to adopt a child.A week later, Yohane Banda tells the Associated Press news agency the star has adopted his 13-month-old son, David. “I know he will be very happy in America,” he says.

Madonna denies she has used her status to “fast-track” the process, and the adoption does not receive final approval until 2008.

2008 – KEEPING BUSY

Hard Candy

Hard Candy features collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Kanye West

Showing no signs of letting up the pace as she approaches 50, Madonna parts company with record label Warner Brothers to sign a ground-breaking contract with concert promoters Live Nation.She is also inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; releases an album, Hard Candy; directs her first film, Filth and Wisdom, and produces I Am Because We Are, a documentary about Aids orphans in Malawi – all while fending off rumours about trouble in her marriage.

After celebrating her 50th birthday, the megastar sets off on her Sticky and Sweet world tour next week.

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