For 'I, Tonya' author Steven Rogers, truth is stranger than fiction

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 5:18 PM

Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding skates by teammate Nancy Kerrigan during a pratice at the 1994 Olympics  in Lillehammer, Norway. 
Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images
Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding skates by teammate Nancy Kerrigan during a pratice at the 1994 Olympics  in Lillehammer, Norway. (Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

A few years ago, Steven Rogers was looking to make a change.

The veteran screenwriter had made a name for himself as a guy who wrote A Certain Kind of Movie.

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He penned the comedic drama “Hope Floats” (1998) and the even more dramatic “Stepmom” (1998). He wrote the rom-coms “Kate & Leopold” (2001), “P.S. I Love You” (2007) and “Love, the Coopers” (2015).

These are sweet movies that tug at your heartstrings. They are a little melodramatic and a little funny and maybe, just maybe, a little corny.

But here’s the thing about those sorts of movies: They are not being made as much as the used to be. Blockbusters are all fantasy or sci-fi or superhero franchises. Comedies are all semi-improvised, a la anything by Seth Rogan or Judd Apatow. There kind of wasn’t room for Steven Rogers.

So he made some room.

As of 2018, he is known as the writer/producer behind the completely excellent “I, Tonya,” an extremely funny, oddly nonjudgmental and kind of ingenious movie about Tonya Harding — not just the scandal for which she is known, but about Tonya herself, from her hardscrabble start to, well, whatever she is doing now.

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Now, some folks remember where they were when they heard that someone had clocked Nancy Kerrigan in the kneecap on Jan. 6, 1994. Those people are called very serious skating fans. Was Rogers one of them?

Nope.

“I was not a big Tonya Harding or Nancy Kerrigan person,” Rogers said. We’re sitting in the Driskill during the Austin Film Festival, where “I, Tonya” has recently screened. “I’ve never even been on ice skates.”

Rogers says he had just written “Love, the Coopers,” a Christmas movie, and was looking for a radical change of direction.

About three years ago, he and his niece happened to be watching an ESPN “30 f0r 30” about Tonya Harding. Rogers was intrigued: “I remember thinking, ‘Nothing doesn’t say Christmas quite like this story.’” (Which is weird construction, but you know where he was going.)

He checked out the website to see whether the life rights were available. “I called the number for her agent and it was a Motel 6,” Rogers says. “I thought, ‘I’M IN.’”

Rogers eventually found Harding in Sisters, Ore., and set up a meeting. “We met just to see if we liked each other,” he said. “I had never interviewed anybody before, but I certainly didn’t tell her that.”

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Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams engaged to pastor Chad Johnson

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

Getting To Know Michelle Williams

Former Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams is getting married.

The 37-year-old singer is engaged to pastor Chad Johnson, 40, after a year of dating.

Williams and Johnson opened up to People about their love story, which began in March 2017 at a spiritual retreat hosted by Elevate International.

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Johnson, founder of Elevate International, led the retreat in Arizona and said he and Williams were in “very similar places on a personal level.”

“I was in a horrible, dark place,” Williams said. “I just needed to go somewhere where I could get a message of hope and restoration, rejuvenation — get connected to God.”

“Michelle was coming off the heels of a really bad relationship, and I was just in a place of despair as well,” Johnson, a professional sports chaplain who has worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers and L.A. Dodgers, said.

The two kept in touch after the retreat and progressed from texts to FaceTime calls.

“We spent almost three months without even seeing each other, just building a strong foundation on the phone and through FaceTime,” Johnson told People. “It was really built on friendship and communication.”

The two went on their first date at a wedding in the Dominican Republic, had their first kiss and decided to date officially.

“I told her, ‘I’ve been looking. I don’t want to look anymore. I’m done. My search is over,’” Johnson said.

A year to the day Johnson first reached out to Williams -- on March 21 -- the two got engaged. Johnson proposed with a 5-carat ring and a video of himself with members of Williams’ family.

“I started weeping and wailing when I see all these special people,” Williams said. “Towards the end of the video, something in my head said, ‘Pull yourself together! He’s about to propose! Stop all this crying!’”

Williams said she was drawn to her now-fiance because she could be herself with him, adding that Johnson calls her by her first name.

“My first name is Tenitra; my middle name is Michelle. I felt like I could be Tenitra; just ratchet, I didn’t have to have on any makeup, if I had to have on my hair bonnet — he just made me feel very safe in being myself,” she said.

The two plan on having a wedding this summer.

“It’s gonna be … think James Bond-meets-’Midsummer Night’s Dream’ — with a little hood in it,” Williams said. “It’s gonna be very traditional. We’re doing black-tie. We want it to be small and intimate and very private.”

Find out more about Johnson’s proposal and the couple’s love story at People.com.

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Charges could be announced in Prince opioid investigation two years after his death

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 11:33 PM

Performer Prince through the years.

Authorities in Carver County, Minnesota, could announce charges Thursday in the investigation into the opioid-related death of legendary entertainer Prince two years after he died, according to news outlets.

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Prince was found unresponsive at his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen on April 21, 2016, and was later pronounced dead.

An autopsy report by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office was released two months later and called Prince’s death “accidental.” The cause was listed as “fentanyl toxicity,” according to Entertainment Tonight, and the drug was “self-administered.”

According to news reports at the time, prescription drugs were found at the musician’s Paisley Park home and in his possession when he died.

Some of the bottles of prescription painkillers found at Paisley Park were in the name of a longtime friend of Prince and were prescribed by a doctor the “Purple Rain” singer saw before he died.

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It’s unclear if anyone is facing charges at this point.

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz is holding a press conference Thursday at 11:30 a.m. to further discuss whether investigators are charging anyone in connection with the musician’s death.

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Billboard Music Awards: Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar top nomination list

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:27 PM

What You Need To Know: Ed Sheeran

The nominations for the 2018 Billboard Music Awards were announced Tuesday, and Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar lead the nominations with 15 each. In the top artist award category the three are up against Drake, with nine nominations, and Taylor Swift, who snagged five BBMA nods.

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Here’s a list of the nominees in the top categories:

Top Artist: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift

Top New Artist: 21 Savage, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Khalid, Kodak Black

 Billboard Chart Achievement Award: Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Drake, Sam Hunt, Ed Sheeran

Top Male Artist: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran

Top Female Artist: Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Halsey, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift

Top Duo/Group: The Chainsmokers, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Migos, U2

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The Billboard Music Awards air at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, on NBC.

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Longtime NPR broadcaster Carl Kasell has died from Alzheimer’s disease at 84

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 6:03 PM

National Public Radio's Carl Kasell delivers one of his last newscasts during the ‘Morning Edition’ program at NPR on December 30, 2009 in Washington, DC, after more than 30 years with NPR. He continued to work on the weekend quiz show ‘Wait Wait ... Don’t tell Me!’ until 2014.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
National Public Radio's Carl Kasell delivers one of his last newscasts during the ‘Morning Edition’ program at NPR on December 30, 2009 in Washington, DC, after more than 30 years with NPR. He continued to work on the weekend quiz show ‘Wait Wait ... Don’t tell Me!’ until 2014.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Longtime NPR broadcaster Carl Kasell has died at the age of 84 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, NPR announced Tuesday.

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The unflappable Kasell with his reassuring baritone voice, delivered the news at the top of the hour for both for the network’s flagship news magazines “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” during his long career, before diving into a new role in the late 1990s as the comedic judge and scorekeeper of NPR’s satirical news quiz show “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!

Kasell started with NPR in 1975 as a part-time employee  and contributor for “Weekend All Things Considered,” and four years later announced the news for the first broadcast of “Morning Edition,” a new morning show at the time, according to the network. He went on to become one of NPR’s most recognizable voices.

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The prize for winning on “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” was a custom-made voice recording of Kasell for answering machines or cellphone voice mails, and over the 16 years he was part of the show, he provided more than 2,200 recordings for contestants, according to NPR.

Quiz show co-host Peter Sagal called Kasell a “dear friend” in a Twitter post Tuesday.

“He was, and remains, the heart and soul of our show,” Sagal said. 

Kassel retired from “Morning Edition” in 2009, but continued on “Wait Wait” for another five years.      

Kasell, who was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1934, started in radio when he was 16 at a local radio station hosting a music program and continued his career in college at the school radio station at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years in radio.

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He was married for 37 years to Clara de Zorzi, who died in 1997, according to The Washington Post, and married Mary Ann Foster in 2003.

He leaves behind a son from his first marriage and a stepson.

Kasell is also survived by a sister and four grandchildren.

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