Fight for the arts, Robert De Niro tells graduates

Plus: The last show with David Letterman; star ‘too old’ at 37 to romance 55-year-old; fans say farewell to BB King; Olsen twins turn down Full House return; New album on the way from Slayer; and Casey Kasem widow will not face prosecution over his care.

Robert de Niro at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts graduation. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo
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Robert De Niro urged new graduates from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts on Friday to keep battling to create careers in the arts even though it would have been easier if they had studied more practical subjects. “The graduates in accounting? They all have jobs,” said the actor. “Where does that leave you? Envious of those accountants? I doubt it. They had a choice. Maybe they were passionate about accounting – but I think it’s more likely they used reason and logic and common sense to research a career. But you didn’t have that choice, did you? You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognised your passion. When you feel that, you can’t fight it. Just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.” De Niro, a two-time Oscar winner who quit high school to pursue an acting career, was the honoured speaker at the ceremony for 1,200 graduates at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. In his 15-minute speech he warned that many in the audience faced a lifetime of rejection – but challenged them to keep going. “You have to keep working. It’s that simple,” he said. New York University is the largest private university in the United States, with three campuses and 12 sites around the globe, including Abu Dhabi. – AP

The last show with David Letterman

Celebrities turned out for David Letterman’s late-night farewell last week – and so did his biggest audience in more than 21 years. The Nielsen company said that 13.76 million viewers in the US saw Letterman end his 33-year career as a late-night TV host on Wednesday night. The last time Letterman had that many viewers was in February 1994. More people watched Letterman than anything else in prime time on Wednesday night. Letterman’s final show started at 11.35pm and lasted for more than the usual hour as CBS let it run long. The show featured a final Top 10 list, with 10 celebrities – including Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin – reading out their “Things I’d like to say to Dave”. Stephen Colbert takes over the Late Show in September. Jay Leno’s final show last February was watched by 14.6million viewers. Neither he nor Letterman came close to Johnny Carson’s farewell in 1992 which, in a different TV era, attracted 41.14 million viewers. –AP

Star ‘too old’ at 37 to romance 55-year-old

Oscar-nominated US actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has revealed that she was told that she is too old at 37 to be the romantic interest for a 55-year-old man. Her comments, published Thursday, which went viral online over the weekend. "There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time," she told TheWrap Magazine. "I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh." The interview quickly started trending on Twitter and Facebook, and said it "lays bare just how delusional and hilariously sexist Hollywood truly is". This month the American Civil Liberties Union called for government action to confront "widespread exclusion of women directors" in the US film and TV industries. Gyllenhaal, the sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, was nominated for an Academy Award for 2009's Crazy Heart. –AFP

Fans say farewell to BB King

The fans turned up to see Blues legend BB King one last time on Friday in Las Vegas, ahead of a weekend memorial service and his final journey back home to be laid to rest in the Mississippi Delta. More than 1,000 people paid their respects during a four-hour public viewing, said Matt Phillips, manager of the Palm South Jones Mortuary a few miles from the Las Vegas Strip. Ushers ran out of 900 cards that had been printed bearing King's dates of birth and death, and lyrics to his signature song, The Thrill is Gone. A steady string of King's songs played as ushers guided people past the casket, which was framed by floral arrangements and two of his guitars, always called Lucille. King died May 14 at home in Las Vegas at the age of 89. One of his 11 surviving children, daughter Rita Washington, greeted some of the people waiting when the doors opened. "Dad is just loving this," she said. "This is part of his homecoming." But later another daughter, Shirley King, said she was angry about the venue and the viewing. "I'm very upset," she said. "I don't want to be out here disrespecting my father's rest. But something's wrong here." Shirley King lives in Chicago, and it was her first glimpse of her father since December. She said she thought there should have been seats for people to sit and talk, not just a line shuffling past the body. The viewing was followed by a Friday night musical tribute on the Las Vegas Strip hosted by Shirley King, who performs as Daughter of the Blues, and memorial was due to be held yesterday in the city. In the musician's Mississippi hometown, Indianola, hundreds of people were expected to attend the BB King Homecoming Festival today, a free gathering he started 35 years ago. A procession on Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, is scheduled to begin the last leg of his trip back to Indianola for his burial on Saturday. – AP

Olsen twins turn down Full House return

Twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen will not appear in the rebooted version of hit US sitcom Full House. Robert Boyett, an executive producer of the new show, Fuller House, which is due to air on Netflix next year, told the Hollywood Reporter neither of the Olsens would star. They took turns playing the role of Michelle during the show's original run on ABC television from 1987 to 1995. The series, about a widowed news reporter who enlists the help of his best friends to raise his three daughters after his wife is killed, ran for 192 episodes. Boyett said the Olsens had turned down the chance to reprise the role of Michelle. "It has been exciting to see how they have built their professional careers, and I support their choice to focus on their fashion brands and various business endeavours. I appreciate their support and good wishes towards 'Fuller House'," Boyett said. The new series will revolve around the eldest daughter of the Tanner clan, DJ, played by original cast member Candace Cameron-Bure, as she grapples with widowhood with the help of her friends. – AFP

New album on the way from Slayer

Heavy metal band Slayer will release a new album on September 11, their first since the death of founding member Jeff Hanneman. Slayer, pioneers of thrash metal in the 1980s, also released a video revealing the name of the album, Repentless. It will be the first album since 2009 for the band, known for their intensely dark lyrics. Guitarist Hanneman's death two years ago. He had been battling a flesh-eating bacteria that the band said he contracted from a spider bite in a hot tub, and ultimately died of liver failure. Gary Holt, the guitarist from the band Exodus, has replaced Hanneman in Slayer. – AFP

Casey Kasem widow will not face prosecution over his care

Los Angeles prosecutors they won’t file elder abuse charges against Casey Kasem’s widow despite efforts by three of the radio personality’s children to have her prosecuted.

A charge evaluation sheet released by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Casey Kasem had received consistent medical care in his final days and that it wouldn’t be appropriate to charge Jean Kasem.

“Because of Mr. Kasem’s long-standing profound health issues, this case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” according to the decision.

Jean Kasem was married to the celebrity announcer for more than 30 years but was stripped of control over his medical care in the final days of his life.

Casey Kasem died in June last year in Washington state, where Jean Kasem had taken him after checking him out of a Los Angeles-area medical facility where he was receiving round-the-clock care.

The longtime American Top 40 host had a form of dementia and a severe bedsore when he died.

Shortly before his death, Casey Kasem’s daughter Kerri Kasem was appointed as his conservator. She and his two other children from a previous marriage called for elder abuse charges against their stepmother at a news conference in January.

Los Angeles police looked into the allegations, but prosecutors declined to bring charges.

Jean Kasem said her decision to move her husband to Washington was made to protect his privacy, the decision states.

Kerri Kasem said on Friday she was upset by the decision and would seek charges against her stepmother in Washington state. “The Los Angeles County District Attorney, with her professed interest in ending elder abuse, could do more,” Kerri Kasem’s statement read.

The announcer’s youngest daughter, from his marriage with Jean Kasem, has supported her mother in the dispute. – AP