Billy Graham closing book on big crusadesAfter...


Billy Graham closing book on big crusades

After preaching to more than 210 million people in nearly 200 countries over the past 50 years, Billy Graham is nearing the end of his crusades.

The 81-year-old Southern Baptist preacher, who has Parkinson's disease, said his crusade in Nashville next week will be one of his last although he'll continue preaching to smaller groups.

"I felt in my heart that this would be the last year of my crusades, and Nashville is one of the cities God laid on my heart to visit," Graham said.

Graham's children are following in his footsteps: His son Franklin attends each crusade in case his father cannot preach. One of Graham's daughters, Anne Graham Lotz, conducted her first big crusade this month.

The dancing stops

Citing major financial problems, the Board of Directors of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance voted Thursday to cease operations immediately of the dance company and the school that bears Graham's name. Both are based in New York City.

Noting that the company is currently $70,000 in arrears on payroll to date, Michael Quinn, an attorney for the trust that owns all her choreographies, said the dance company's recently completed American tour created a $300,000 deficit, putting the Graham Center "a half a million dollars in the red" for this year alone.

This latest crisis in the center's turbulent history comes two months after the board voted 7-5 to remove Graham's heir Ron Protas as artistic director in a dispute over how the company was run. It was hoped Protas' departure would spur contributions -- but that hasn't happened.

Martha Graham, one of the greatest dance stars of the century, formed the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in 1927, developing a modern dance technique, repertory and company that created a whole new 20th century art form.

What a catch

Fishermen working off France's northern Brittany coast netted quite a catch Wednesday. Capt. Tristan Gouzien was stunned to see his nets loaded with vintage champagne.

The champagne was famed Veuve Cliquot bubbly, dated 1978, 1979 and 1984. In all, Gouzien's crew hauled up crates containing around 2,000 bottles, but only about 900 were intact.

The sailors immediately cracked open a few. But customs staff were waiting for the rest at the port of Le Gulvinec when the boat returned. The champagne was impounded, and if the original owner does not come forward in the next 90 days, the bottles will be auctioned. The crew will get a cut of the proceeds.

People will sell anything

A Texas death row inmate tried to sell seats for his execution on Internet auction site eBay, but the listing was removed before he got any bids, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Michael Toney, sentenced to die for the 1985 bombing deaths of three people, wanted to sell the rights to witness seats at his still unscheduled execution and give the money to his two daughters, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Bidding would have started at $100. Prosecutors were not eligible to bid.

"I do not know what kind of people would donate money to watch an innocent man be murdered. However, I do know there are people out there that will," Toney wrote in the eBay listing posted Wednesday for several hours before being removed.

Stewart must apologize

Patrick Stewart generated much publicity for his Broadway show when he accused producers of failing to promote it. But now he must apologize for the angry speech he gave during curtain calls of Arthur Miller's play "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan."

A disciplinary panel of Actors Equity has ruled that Stewart, known for his role in television's "Star Trek: The Next Generation," must offer a formal apology to the Schubert Organization.

The panel heard hours of testimony to determine whether his behavior was unprofessional. The producers said they had spent $1 million to promote the production, which received good reviews.

Today's birthdays

Novelist Herman Wouk is 85.

Actor Christopher Lee is 78.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is 77.

Actress Lee Meriwether is 65.

Musician Ramsey Lewis is 65.

Actor Louis Gossett Jr. is 64.

Actor Bruce Weitz is 57.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is 56.

Singer Bruce Cockburn is 55.

Rock musician Eddie Harsch (Black Crowes) is 43.

Actress Cathy Silvers is 39.

Actor Todd Bridges is 35.

Rock musician Sean Kinney (Alice In Chains) is 34.

Actor Dondre Whitfield is 31.

R&B; singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (TLC) is 29.

Rapper Dre (Outkast) is 26.

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