Obituaries in the news

Eds: AMs. Separates on Bell and Lantos moved on general news wire. Separates on Nielsen and Scheider moved on entertainment and general news wire.

By The Associated Press

Freddie Bell

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Freddie Bell, a forerunner in the 1950s rock 'n' roll era whose toe-tapping versions of "Giddy Up A Ding Dong" and "Hound Dog" inspired Elvis Presley to cover the songs, died Sunday. He was 76.

Bell died in a Las Vegas hospital from complications of cancer, said his publicist Norm Johnson.

Bell was performing at the Sands casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in the mid-1950s when Presley was just an opening act across the street at the New Frontier. Bell's upbeat covers, and perhaps his knee-wiggling dance moves, inspired Presley, Johnson said.

Bell came to Las Vegas in 1953 from his home town of Philadelphia and was considered one of the great lounge acts of the time, alongside the trio of saxophonist Sam Butera, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Johnson said.

Bell also appeared in a number of films, including "Rock Around the Clock" (1956) starring Bill Haley.

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Kirk Browning

NEW YORK (AP) -- Kirk Browning, who rose from music librarian at a television network to become the award-winning director of the enduring series "Live from Lincoln Center," died Sunday. He was 86.

Browning died of cardiac arrest at his Manhattan home on Sunday, Lincoln Center announced.

In a career spanning 58 years, Browning directed 185 broadcasts of "Live from Lincoln Center," winning 10 Emmys, and such pioneering works as Frank Sinatra's first TV show and the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," the first opera written for television.

He never retired, and in recent weeks he was beginning work on another "Live from Lincoln Center," a New York City Opera production of "Madama Butterfly," to be broadcast March 20.

Browning, a New York native, began his career filing musical scores at the NBC music library. Rising swiftly at the network, he directed live telecasts of the NBC Symphony led by Arturo Toscanini and later the NBC Opera Company.

Along with his Lincoln Center Emmys and three prime-time Emmys for other productions, Browning earned two Christopher awards, a CITA award and a George Foster Peabody award.

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Tom Lantos

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Tom Lantos, who escaped the Nazis and grew up to become a forceful voice for human rights all over the world, died Monday. He was 80.

The California Democrat, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, died at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland, said his spokeswoman, Lynne Weil. He disclosed last month that he had cancer of the esophagus.

Lantos, who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was serving his 14th term in Congress. He had said he would not seek re-election in his Northern California district, which takes in the southwest portion of San Francisco and suburbs to the south.

Lantos assumed his committee chairmanship when Democrats retook control of Congress. He said at the time that in a sense his whole life had been a preparation for the job -- and it was.

Lantos, who called himself "an American by choice," was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, and was 16 when Adolf Hitler occupied Hungary in 1944. He survived by escaping twice from a forced labor camp and coming under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status to save thousands of Hungarian Jews.

Lantos' mother and much of his family perished in the Holocaust.

That background gave Lantos a unique moral authority that he used to speak out on foreign policy issues, sometimes courting controversy. He advocated for human rights in Sudan, Myanmar and elsewhere, and in 2006 was one of five members of Congress arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy protesting what the Bush administration describes as genocide in Darfur.

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Ron Leavitt

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ron Leavitt, a TV writer and producer who co-created the successful and lowbrow sitcom "Married With Children," died Sunday of lung cancer. He was 60.

Leavitt died at his home in Los Angeles, said his fiancee, the model and actress Jessica Hahn.

Leavitt was best known for teaming up with Michael G. Moye to create "Married With Children," a sitcom about the luckless shoe salesman Al Bundy and his dysfunctional family.

"Married With Children" ran on the Fox network from 1987 to 1997 and became the network's second-longest running sitcom behind "The Simpsons." Leavitt served as the show's executive producer and helped write nearly 150 episodes.

Leavitt broke into television in the 1970s writing episodes of "Busting Loose," "Happy Days," "Laverne he Bad News Bears." In the 1980s, Leavitt had a stint as a producer of "The Jeffersons."

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Inga Nielsen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Inga Nielsen, the Danish soprano who performed in some of the world's leading opera houses, died Sunday. She was 61.

Nielsen died at a hospital in Copenhagen, Royal Opera music director Michael Schoenwandt said Monday. He declined to give the cause of death. Nielsen had suffered from cancer in recent years.

One of Denmark's best known sopranos, Nielsen performed on stages such as La Scala in Milan, the Vienna State Opera and London's Covent Garden.

Nielsen sang at festivals across Europe, including Bayreuth in Germany and Salzburg in Austria, Aix-en-Provence in France and Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as the Mostly Mozart festival in New York.

The daughter of a Danish father and an Austrian mother, Nielsen was considered a musical prodigy as a child. She made her first recordings -- Danish folk songs and Christmas carols -- at the age of nine.

She began her professional career in 1971 as a soubrette at Gelsenkirchen, in Germany's industrial Ruhr region. In 1975, she became an ensemble member of the Frankfurt Opera.

Some of her most memorable performances came when she sang "Constance" in Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" in Salzburg and when she played Salome in Richard Strauss' work of the same name, Schoenwandt said.

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Roy Scheider

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Roy Scheider, a two-time Oscar nominee best known for his role as a police chief in the blockbuster movie "Jaws," died Sunday. He was 75.

Scheider died at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock, hospital spokesman David Robinson said. The hospital did not release a cause of death.

However, hospital spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said Scheider had been treated for multiple myeloma at the hospital's Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for the past two years.

Scheider was nominated for a best-supporting actor Oscar in 1971's "The French Connection" in which he played the police partner of Oscar winner Gene Hackman and for best-actor for 1979's "All That Jazz," the autobiographical Bob Fosse film.

However, he was best known for his role in Steven Spielberg's 1975 film, "Jaws," the enduring classic about a killer shark terrorizing beachgoers and well as millions of moviegoers.

Widely hailed as the film that launched the era of the Hollywood blockbuster, it was also the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office.

In 2005, one of Scheider's most famous lines in the movie -- "You're gonna need a bigger boat" -- was voted No. 35 on the American Film Institute's list of best quotes from U.S. movies.