Sunday, 10 August 2008

Bernie Mac Remembered By Ice Cube, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Chris Rock And More

Bernie Mac's colleagues and co-stars were quick to pay tribute to the late comedian and actor after his death at age 50 from complications of pneumonia early Saturday.

"Today and tomorrow will never be as funny as yesterday, without Bernie Mac, a true original," Ice Cube, who directed Mac in his first significant movie role as Pastor Clever in 1995's "Friday," told MTV News.

Mac's "Ocean's Eleven," "Twelve" and "Thirteen" co-star George Clooney echoed Ice Cube's lament. "The world just got a little less funny," he said in a statement to "Entertainment Tonight." "He will be dearly missed."

Fellow "Ocean's" co-star Brad Pitt added in a statement to E! Online: "I lament the loss of a ferociously funny and hard-core family man. My thoughts are with [his wife], Rhonda, and their family. Bernie Mac, you are already missed."

Chris Rock, who worked with Mac in "Head of State," called him "one of the best and funniest comedians to ever live, but that was the second-best thing he did. Bernie was one of the greatest friends a person could have," he told E!. "Losing him is like losing 12 people, because he absolutely filled up any room he was in. I'm gonna miss the Mac Man."

Later this fall, Mac will be seen in "Soul Men" opposite Samuel L. Jackson, but in a statement to People, Jackson emphasized the actor's personal qualities. "He was also an attentive husband, a great father and loving grandfather," Jackson said. "I feel blessed to have shared years of friendship with Bernie Mac, and I'm honored to have finally co-starred with him in what I consider to be his finest cinematic acting achievement."

Cedric the Entertainer — who appeared with Mac on "The Original Kings of Comedy" tour, which was made into a movie and a Grammy-nominated album in 2001 — called Mac "a brother, a friend and one of the comic masters of our time. Sharing the marquee with him during the phenomenon of the 'Kings of Comedy' tour bonded us like family, and created a unique moment in comic history, marking some of the most meaningful, memorable and fun times of our lives," Cedric told E!. "His comedic approach was his own brand and will definitely stand the test of time. The level of his talent always inspired me, and other comedians, to 'bring their A-game.' I promise you that you never wanted to be the guy who had to follow Bernie's set!"

Niecy Nash, who played Mac's little sister on his Emmy-winning Fox sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show" from 2001-2006, told Us, "Bernie Mac was the personification of the word 'real.' He kept it real," she said. "That kind of genuine spirit that he carried all time cannot be easily duplicated, but I will do my very best to try."

Mac is survived by his wife, Rhonda McCullough, their daughter, Je'Niece, a son-in-law and a granddaughter. According to People, his funeral is scheduled for this Friday at an undisclosed location, and the family requests that donations be made to the Bernie Mac Foundation for Sarcoidosis, 40 E. Ninth St., Suite 601, Chicago, Illinois, 60605.

Miley Cyrus To Face Off Against Tokio Hotel For Best New Artist At VMAs

Each year, one of the most coveted trophies handed out at the MTV Video Music Awards is the Moonman for Best New Artist. Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Eminem, Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne and 50 Cent are among the award's previous winners, while Gym Class Heroes walked away with the honor last year.

Britney Spears Tapes Commercial -- With LL Cool J, Pete Wentz, Russell Brand -- For MTV Video Music Awards

Britney Spears' performance at last year's MTV Video Music Awards was memorable in ways the singer would probably not prefer.

But Brit's joined forces with this year's VMA host, Russell Brand, along with LL Cool J and FNMTV host/ Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz for a comical improvised promo for this year's show.

In the promo, which was filmed this week, Spears riffs with Brand in an improvisational Q&A session, during which Brand suggests there's some sexual tension between them — "I didn't feel any tension," Brit quips. She also shows some of the comedic chops she employed during her two-episode stint this spring on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother,", joking that she has no idea who Brand is, at one point calling him, "Russell Brown"; LL Cool J calls him "Russell Bland."

While it remains unconfirmed whether Spears will appear at this year's show — which will be broadcast live from the legendary Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood on September 7 — the singer is nominated for two Moonmen: in the Best Female and Best Pop Video categories, for her track "Piece of Me."

Incredibly, despite 16 nominations in previous years, Spears has never won a Moonman, but is hoping to break that dry spell next month.

This year, she'll face off against Katy Perry, Rihanna, Jordin Sparks, and Mariah Carey — another artist with several VMAs nods under her belt but no statuette — for Best Female Video, and will contend with Danity Kane, the Jonas Brothers, Panic at the Disco and Tokio Hotel for the Best Pop Video prize.

The 25th VMAs will take place at the legendary Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood on September 7. The Jonas Brothers and Lil Wayne are confirmed to perform.

Rick Ross, DJ Khaled Kick Off <i>Ozone</i> Awards Festivities, In <i>You R Here</i>

As the parties surrounding Monday’s Ozone magazine award show began early Sunday morning, Rick Ross and DJ Khaled rocked the Warehouse in Houston with Miami Mayback Music mayhem.

Ross, whose named shined on the marquee outside, took the wheel with “I’m So Hood” (”Who da bessssss? Weeeeeeeeee!” Khaled yelled during the song) and “Out Here Grindin.” Khaled then introduced his artist Ace Hood on “Cash Flow.”

“I been in the game 10 years, walking around with white shoes on, and n—as ain’t stepped on my sh–s yet,” Ross told the crowd about his clout. He also acknowledged the influence on his career, and the rap game overall, of Rap-A-Lot CEO J. Prince, who was one of the spectators onstage.

Crooked I, Lil’ Flip and Chamillionaire were also onstage, getting an extra-close view of the show. Before he left, Ross also gave tribute to UGK.

See all of troysfinest007’s uploads at!

Bernie Mac Dead At 50

Bernie Mac, the actor and comedian who worked his way to stardom from humble beginnings on Chicago's tough South Side, died early Saturday at the age of 50, according to The Associated Press.

"Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital," his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement. She said no other details were available and requested that his family's privacy be respected. Earlier this week she had said reports of Mac's serious illness were overstated and that he was expected to make a full recovery.

In recent years, Mac (real name: Bernard Jeffery McCullough) had battled an inflammatory lung disease known as sarcoidosis, which causes inflammation in the lungs, lymph nodes and other organs. It had been in remission since 2005, and Smith had said Mac's pneumonia was not related to it.

In addition to his appearance in last year's hit "Transformers," Mac had recently been working on the TV series "Starting Under," as well as several films, including the Samuel L. Jackson flick "Soul Men" (slated for release later this year) and the John Travolta comedy "Old Dogs," which is scheduled for a 2009 release. The status of those films was unclear at press time.

Recently Mac made headlines when he attended a Barack Obama fundraiser and made a few lighthearted comments about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. "I'm proud of him because politics is dirty, especially with Republicans," he said. "People like rumors. They are going to say things like, you know, 'You was in the club with Lil' Kim, and you and Kanye West got in a fistfight.' " The comments garnered a rebuke from Obama's campaign.

Mac (Bernard Jeffrey McCullough) was born on October 5, 1957, in Chicago, and grew up on the city's South Side, according to AP. His first standup performance was at a church dinner when he was 8, and he began doing standup at clubs in Chicago at 20. His film career began with a small role in "Mo' Money" in 1992. Mac went on to appear in the "Ocean's 11" films with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, "Guess Who" with Ashton Kutcher, "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and other films.

Mac is perhaps best known for his Fox television series "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired from 2001 to 2006. The series, about a man's adventures raising his sister's three children, won a Peabody Award in 2002, and earned Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Mac. He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001, with his "The Original Kings of Comedy" co-stars, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer.

Mac is survived by his wife, Rhonda McCullough, their daughter, Je'Niece, a son-in-law and a granddaughter.

Ludacris, T.I. 'Wish You Would' Believe There's No Beef Between Them

Forget the feuding, make history, get money. Jay-Z and Nas taught us that secret to success a couple of years ago, and now two of the other biggest names in hip-hop are following in their footsteps. Ludacris and T.I. seem to have kicked their storied rivalry to the side of the road. The two appear on Luda's new record "Wish You Would."

'Breaking Dawn' Exclusive: 'Twilight' Author Stephenie Meyer Reacts To Harsh Reader Complaints -- 'It Hurts'

Last Saturday afternoon, less than a day after "Breaking Dawn," the conclusion of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series, hit shelves, the Internet grumblings began. Of course, many readers were still eagerly drinking up the saga of Edward and Bella. But one fast reader expressed her disappointment in the book by launching a discussion on urging fellow disgruntled fans, "Don't burn your copies of the book — RETURN THEM."

(SPOILER ALERT, though we'll try to keep them vague for all you slowpokes.) And judging by the heated back-and-forth that followed, there are plenty of other Twilighters complaining about what is or isn't in the book: the lack of more explicit sex scenes, the excessive amount of sex scenes, the implausibility of Bella's pregnancy, the pace of the story, the lack of a big battle scene, the whole Jacob section, and on and on. One blogger told Entertainment Weekly that the story "didn't seem to fit the world that I thought Stephenie Meyer created." So how does the author feel about this venomous reaction to the novel that sold 1.3 million copies in its first day?

Jonas Brothers Fever Hits New York At Group's 'Good Morning America' Appearance

NEW YORK — Mothers, hide your daughters: Jonas Brothers mania has taken over New York City.

The trio of teen heartthrobs — Nick, Joe and Kevin — rocked a packed Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan for their "Good Morning America" appearance Friday (August 8), wooing both daughters and mothers alike. One mom held a sign that read, "Make me a Jonas mother-in-law"!

Muslim-American Marine Helps Break Down Cultural, Language Barriers

Ahmed Shama was born in Cairo, Egypt, and grew up in New York in a Muslim household. He began studying the Quran at a young age with his father, who, like Shama's mother, is a devout Muslim.

Why Did Diddy Go After James Montgomery On 'FNMTV'?

So by now you’ve probably seen my terrifying run-in with Diddy on “FNMTV.” Watching it back, it’s even more amazing now — especially since, when it happened, it was such a blur.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, basically, on this week’s “FN,” Diddy showed up with his newest protégé a smooth R&B crooner by the name of Donnie Klang. Diddy and Donnie then premiered their new video, “Take You There,” which is full of models and bottles of vodka, which means it is a lot like other Bad Boy videos released over the past year. Two Bad Boy videos — from Day26 and Danity Kane — had premiered on previous episodes of the show, and I had been rather harsh to both of them.

Apparently, Diddy watches the show.

Before we started taping, it seemed like he was glaring at me backstage, but I figured he was just deep in thought or something, so I ignored it — surely, Diddy had no idea who I was. But when it came time for the panel — of which Tim Kash and I are members, along with a guest (Jordin Sparks this week) — to talk about D&D’s new video, Diddy bum-rushed the stage, leaned on my shoulder and stared daggers at me until it came time for me to render my verdict on the clip. (I believe this is called “intimidation.”)

Of course, I said that while the kids liked the video, I didn’t see much of anything in it that would separate Donnie from the field of light-hued R&B guys out there, at which point Diddy lost his sh–, yelling, “Who the f— are you?!?! How many hit records do you have?!?!?!” at me (OK, he does have a point there), then stomping around the panel. I sort of looked on in amazement while he continued to rant, stopping only to grab my head and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek. The audience cheered like crazy — and then Diddy was gone, off into the Los Angeles night.

In the aftermath, people have been e-mailing me questions like “What does Diddy smell like??!?!” or “Were you scared he was going to beat you with a phone or a champagne bottle?!?!” And my answers are this: Diddy smells like lotion and rich mahogany; and no, I wasn’t scared, primarily because I didn’t think even he’d be crazy enough to pound on me while cameras rolled and 500 kids looked on.

Actually, I think he was more “TV mad” (i.e. “acting”) than he was actually upset. And he did kiss me, which was sort of nice.

So I guess Diddy and I are good. At least I hope we are. At the very least, we made TV magic together — and that’s got to count for something.

Chris Brown Talks About His 'Killer' Role In T.I.-Produced Flick 'The Heist'

When you think of Chris Brown, you might think of a smiling R&B heartthrob. But all that could change when "The Heist," which begins production in September, comes out.

In it, he'll be playing a murderous bank robber.

"It's a movie called 'The Heist' that I'm doing with T.I., Idris Elba and Matt Dillon," he told MTV News recently at the Teen Choice Awards, where he walked away with four awards.

Metallica Look Back At <i>... And Justice For All</i>; Plus Hatebreed, At All Cost &amp; More News That Rules, In <i>Metal File</i>

Next month marks the 20th anniversary of Metallica's ... And Justice for All, which is perhaps one of the most important studio offerings of the band's illustrious career. Not only was it Metallica's first LP following the untimely passing of bassist Cliff Burton, it shot straight to #6 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum just nine weeks after it first hit stores.

The now-classic album signaled many other firsts for Metallica: It was the first record to feature new bassist Jason Newsted, it netted them their first Grammy nomination, and it featured the single "One," for which they shot their first-ever music video. Since its release, Justice has scanned more than 8 million copies in the U.S. alone, and it helped cement their status as a rock and roll force to be reckoned with.

In summation, it was a momentous release for Metallica, one that changed the entire trajectory of the band's career. Now, 20 years later, we've spoken to the group's members, asking them to think back to that time and reflect on the importance of what may be one of their most beloved efforts.

"Justice obviously was a huge record for us. ... We took the Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets concept as far as we could take it," drummer Lars Ulrich reflected. "There was no place else to go with the progressive, nutty, sideways side of Metallica, and I'm so proud of the fact that, in some way, that album is kind of the epitome of that progressive side of us up through the '80s."

Ulrich said that when he listens to the album now, he thinks it still holds up. He feels Justice was an album Metallica — who, starting October 20, will headline their first U.S. arena tour since 2004 — had to make, in order to progress as a band and mature.

"It's aged quite well," he said. "There's a certain kind of specific sound to that record, peculiar sound — whichever adverb you want to choose — that's given it a kind of life of its own and a little bit of a vibe all its own. There have been a lot of great musicians we admire who've come up and talked about what a great inspiration that album has been to them and to their sound. It's obviously awesome to be part of that. That album also sent us on this whole other merry way, because when we came back from touring on that record in 1989, we were like, 'We have nothing more to offer on this side of Metallica,' and that set us off on some other adventures. When I think of the nine records we've put out, it's impossible for me to think of the music without thinking of the experience. And when I think of the experience, I have warm and fuzzy feelings, but I also have questions. Obviously, Justice is well-revered, especially among a lot of our peers."

According to frontman James Hetfield, Justice provided a showcase for what Metallica were capable of — both as a band and as individual players.

Police Have Close Shave At Their Last-Ever Concert. By Kurt Loder

NEW YORK — Sting marked the end of the year-and-a-half-long Police reunion tour Thursday night by shaving off his tour beard before the marveling eyes of a sold-out house at Madison Square Garden. I think that's what was going on anyway.

After an hour of vintage hits, the bassist and his accumulation of salt-and-pepper facial scrub left the stage — along with bandmates Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, of course — to await the traditional audience demand for an encore. After a few minutes, the big video screen above the stage blinked back on, and we saw Sting, now fetchingly bare-chested, stretched out in a backstage makeup chair while two women with electric clippers set about buzzing off the famous beard. Out front, the crowd watched in something like wonder. You could feel their hopes rise after the women reduced the foliage to a modest stubble and snicked off their trimmers; and you could feel them subside again when one of the amateur barbers slopped a large handful of shaving cream onto Sting's face and the process continued, this time with razors. I thought to myself, "People will pay to see anything."

The whole ritual took less time than one might have feared, although more than one would have preferred, and when it was over, the band returned and played for another half hour. After 150 shows, they were in top form. (I would personally pay money to watch Copeland geniusing around on drums in an otherwise empty room.) The 18,000-some people on hand — who stayed on their feet through the whole concert — loved it loudly.

There was one other unusual moment. It had come earlier, when, in the middle of a song, three girls stepped out onto the side of the stage and began shimmying with abandon. These were not the sort of dancers one usually sees disporting themselves behind singers who aren't actually singing. No, these were clearly civilians. And when they were joined by two boys entering from the other side of the stage, it became clear that they were all offspring of the stars. It was very sweet. When the song ended and the kids scampered away, Sting stepped to the mike and said, "Between us we must have 21 children." Then he said — and this was the unusual part — "We've been on tour for 30 years." I don't know what anyone else made of this, but I wondered to myself, "What, uh, does he mean by that?"

John Edwards -- Onetime Presidential Candidate -- Admits Extramarital Affair

For months, the national political press had been strangely muted about a November 2007 National Enquirer tabloid story that claimed to offer proof that former Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Edwards had been involved in an extramarital affair, as well as a more recent Enquirer story that claimed the affair may have resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child.

But on Friday (August 8), after months of denials, Edwards, admitted that he had carried on an affair with Rielle Hunter, though he has denied paternity of the child. The revelation came in an interview with ABC News, in which the former North Carolina senator confessed to lying during his run for president about the affair with the budding 44-year-old filmmaker.

Though he has not taken a paternity test, Edwards reportedly told ABC News that he knew he was not the father of Hunter's child, Frances Quinn, based on the timing of the baby's birth, February 27, 2008. He said the affair ended too soon for him to have been the father, though in a bizarre twist, one of Edwards' campaign aides, Andrew Young, has said that he is the father of the baby.

Late Friday afternoon, Edwards issued a statement that reads in part: "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public. When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99 percent honest is no longer enough.

"I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices, and I had hoped that it would never become public. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. ... I only know that the apparent father has said publicly that he is the father of the baby. I also have not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby."

The revelation of the covered-up affair is a huge blow to the political career of the charismatic, 54-year-old one-term senator and 2004 vice-presidential hopeful, who has spent much of the past four years working on poverty issues and, before dropping out in January, visiting the key states in the 2008 presidential election.

On Thursday, his hometown newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, quoted several prominent local politicians urging Edwards to more vehemently confront the Enquirer allegations or else risk losing a prominent speaking slot at the upcoming Democratic National Convention. That prime-time spot now seems entirely out of reach, and an analyst on CNN speculated that the revelation of the deceit could also jeopardize Edwards' chances of getting a position in a Democratic White House should Senator Barack Obama win in November — or even of continuing his political career at all.

According to CNN, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth Edwards — who has been very ill with a recurrence of cancer — became aware of the affair in 2006. When first confronted with the story following an October 2007 report in the tabloid, Edwards and his campaign staff strongly denied it, with Edwards telling reporters at the time, "The story is false, it's completely untrue, it's ridiculous." The Edwardses have been married since 1977 and have two young daughters and a son. A fourth child, Wade, died at age 16 in a car accident.

ABC reported that according to Hunter's friends, she and Edwards met at a New York bar in 2006 and she pitched him on the idea of making a film about his campaign and he agreed, later paying her $114,000 to direct campaign Web site documentaries, despite her lack of experience behind the camera. Edwards, named the "sexiest politician alive" by People magazine in 2000, told the network that the affair began during his campaign for president after she was hired and began traveling with the candidate around the country and to Africa.

Edwards said that his wife — who vowed to campaign alongside her husband last year despite a serious diagnosis of an incurable form of cancer — was in remission from the disease when he began the affair with Hunter. While Edwards is certainly not the first politician to be caught lying about an extramarital affair, the long-running deceit about his liaison has set the former senator up for particular scorn from the Washington press corps, who pounced on the story Friday of a politician who had often made his family a big part of his campaigns over the years and who had held his wife up as an example of a strong, intelligent partner in his public endeavors.

The Enquirer reported recently that Edwards had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month, and Edwards admitted to ABC News that the report was true and that his wife had not known about the meeting. The Enquirer reported that Edwards spent five hours in Hunter's room that day, and when confronted by the tabloid's staffers at the hotel after trying to leave through a basement exit, he ran into a public bathroom and tried to hide and block their entrance into the rest room with his body.

Once pregnant, Hunter lived under a series of assumed names in a number of expensive homes in North Carolina and Santa Barbara, California, according to ABC. Edwards denied paying Hunter any money to keep her from taking their affair public but told ABC it's possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments to her without telling him.

'American Idol' Vet Clay Aiken Becomes A Dad

Clay Aiken is officially a father, his mother reportedly told a Raleigh, North Carolina, radio station.

The "American Idol" vet and his friend and producer Jaymes Foster, 50, welcomed a son, Parker Foster Aiken, at 8:08 a.m. ET Friday (August 8) at an undisclosed location. Aiken's mother, Faye, broke the news to radio station WRAL later Friday morning.

She told the station the baby has dark hair and weighs 6 pounds and 2 ounces and is 19 inches long. She also said Aiken "is smiling from ear to ear." Foster, Aiken and their son are all doing fine, according to Faye.

News of the pregnancy surfaced in May, along with reports that the baby was conceived via artificial insemination.

Aiken has long been under scrutiny about his sexuality but has shied away from addressing the matter directly. He told MTV News in 2006, "[Knowing] who I'm dating and what kind of cereal I eat ain't gonna benefit anybody else. That kind of thing is not important.

"I think there's a distinction," he continued. "People have different opinions on that type of thing. I told you what mine is, and I think for each person, you do what's right for you. For me, part of the reason that I have anxiety is the fact that I feel like people are always staring at me. So it's important for me to make sure that I have my friends and vacation, and what I do at home with my family and that type of thing [stays private]."

Aiken and Foster, who met when Aiken was a contestant on "Idol," have said they plan to raise the child together. Jaymes is music producer David Foster's sister.

Cliff Richard aims to make history with his 15th number one


Fifty years after he scored his first hit, veteran pop star Sir Cliff Richard is hoping to break records by being top of the pops one more time.

To celebrate his golden milestone, the Peter Pan of pop is next month releasing a new song, Thank You For A Lifetime. If it reaches the number one spot, it will mean he has topped the charts six times in six consecutive decades.

"I may be greedy, but to notch up a number one after 50 years would be just fantastic," he said. "I've got the song, I can only hope for the support."

Sir Cliff first entered the charts in September 1958, at the age of 18, with his single Move It. It reached number two. He grabbed the top spot for the first time with his iconic Living Doll the following year.

In his 50 years of music-making, Sir Cliff has notched up 250 million record sales. He last made number one in 1999, with Millennium Prayer - his 14th time top of the charts.

China's star pianist Lang Lang plays for change

By Belinda Goldsmith

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's flamboyant pianist Lang Lang said his performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was a message -- China is changing.

The 26-year-old spiky-haired pianist has captivated audiences around the world by combining his classical repertoire and pop-culture showmanship, making him a national hero alongside sport stars such as basketballer Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang.

Lang, whose designer jackets have prompted some to call him the "Chinese Liberace," now lives in New York, but he said he still kept close ties to his native country and returns often.

"As a young guy it is a big honour for me to play at the opening ceremony and to represent a new generation of Chinese people to the world," Lang told Reuters.

"I'm part of a new generation in China enjoying a very different way of life from our parents. We love American culture and classical music but we also have strong Chinese traditions."

Lang was delighted with the choice for the Olympics -- a new eight-minute long concerto by Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye.

"It really is beautiful," said Lang, who has his signature on a new Adidas shoe and took part in the Olympic torch relay in Tiananmen Square in the run-up to the August 8-24 Games.

Lang's global profile has risen rapidly in recent years as he played sold-out recitals around the world and his album sales ranked him as a best-selling classical musician.

He does not suffer the shyness that holds other Chinese performers back on the world stage. His YouTube video stunts include playing Chopin with an orange.

Some Chinese people are uncomfortable with his extrovert nature and lack of humility, and several critics have even called his playing vulgar and insensitive.

Lang started playing the piano at age 3 after being inspired by an episode of the television cartoon "Tom and Jerry" in which the cat, Tom, was playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

Lang gave his first public recital at the age of 5 and when he was 9, he entered Beijing's Central Music Conservatory.

"I fell in love with music and never looked back," he said.

He was pushed by his ambitious father, Lang Guoren, whose own musical aspirations were hampered by the Cultural Revolution.

In his autobiography "Journey of a Thousand Miles" published in July, Lang recalls how his father once asked him to commit suicide as he was so disappointed by his performance.

Lang left China when he was 15 to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with his big break coming two years later when he played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Since then, he has played with most major orchestras around the world and his most recent published work is the piano music for the score of the movie "The Painted Veil."

Still, Lang said it was important to keep close to his roots. He won domestic plaudits for raising funds to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake, including auctioning a red Steinway.

"I prefer to live in New York because no matter who you are there, you won't be mobbed. In China now everybody knows me," he said.

(Editing by Alex Richardson and Bob Tourtellotte)

Australian rock band Wolfmother torn apart

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One of Australia's most successful rock exports, the Grammy-winning trio Wolfmother, has been torn apart by "longstanding frictions," according to a statement published on the group's Web site on Thursday.

Bass/keyboard player Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett have resigned, while singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale plans to find other musicians and begin making a new Wolfmother album.

"Please understand that in spite of their best efforts over a long period of time, they just could not find a harmonious way to work together," the statement said.

Wolfmother's self-titled debut album, released in 2006, sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States, powered by radio airplay for the songs "Woman" and "Joker and the Thief."

The group won a Grammy in the hard rock category last year, becoming the first Australian band to pick up the music industry's top honours since Men at Work in 1983.

However, all was evidently not well behind the scenes. According to the statement, Ross decided he would quit the band because of "irreconcilable personal and music differences" following a show in the eastern Australian town of Byron Bay on Sunday. Heskett also decided to leave rather than continuing as part of a changed lineup.

The pair had been working together on songs for some time and plan to focus their energies on that new project, the statement said.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman)

The Police play final concert together

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rock trio The Police played their final concert together on Thursday and were joined by the real police -- the New York City police band.

Singer and bassist Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers reunited for a world tour last May and have since played 150 concerts for 3.7 million people, Sting told the crowd between songs at Madison Square Garden.

"The real triumph of this tour is that we haven't strangled each other," he said, adding: "That's not to say it hasn't crossed my mind, or Stewart's, or Andy's."

There were touches of the surreal in the final gig by the band that made its name in the late 1970s and 1980s with such hits as "Walking on the Moon" and "Every Breath You Take."

Sting took an unusual break after the main set and before the first encore -- lying back in a barber's chair backstage as two blond women shaved the salt-and-pepper beard that he had been sporting, the most obvious sign of the passing years.

The beard had come in for some harsh criticism from fashion mavens in recent days, though the former teacher was quoted by media this week as saying, "The ladies love it."

His make-over was beamed to a giant screen above the stage as fans cheered and chanted for more music. He bounced back on stage fresh-faced and looking as lithe as ever without his shirt to deliver crowd-pleasers "Roxanne" and "So Lonely."

The band opened with the Cream song "Sunshine of Your Love" and were then joined by around 20 drummers and musicians of the police band for "Message in a Bottle."

They may be more used to playing in a marching band, but the burly uniformed police officers sang along and banged their drums with gusto as Sting strutted his stuff in a police cap.

Later in the set, three young women who looked like fans popped up on stage, joking around, dancing and taking snapshots as the band played "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."

"These are my daughters," Sting explained.

The band played all of its big hits, as well as a few cover songs, ending the encore with "Every Breath You Take." The band came back for a brief second encore before finally calling it a day with the song "Next to You."

The concert marked the end of a tour that has grossed more than $350 million (175 million pounds) and was the biggest selling tour of 2007.

The Police fused punk with reggae grooves and intricate arrangements to gain global popularity before splitting in 1984. Sting went on to a hugely successful solo career, while Copeland and Summers have also stayed in the business, recording and scoring music for the movie industry.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)