Eddie Murphy has bowed out as host of the Academy Awards, following pal Brett Ratner's decision to leave as producer because of an uproar over a gay slur.
The news of Murphy's departure came Wednesday, a day after Ratner quit as producer of the Feb. 26 show. Ratner left amid criticism of his use of a pejorative term for gay men in a question-and-answer session at a screening of his action comedy Tower Heist, which opened last weekend and stars Murphy and Ben Stiller.
Murphy's exit deprives Oscar organizers of a top star for an often thankless job that's tough to fill. The two sides departed with cordial words, though.
"I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony," Murphy said in a news release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."
Academy President Tom Sherak bid Murphy farewell graciously.
"I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well," Sherak said.
Very much alive
Contrary to a flood of tweets overnight Tuesday, Ruby Dee is very much alive.
A representative for the 87-year-old actress and civil rights activist corrected the false reports on Wednesday.
Dee's rumored death apparently resulted from confusion between her name and that of Heavy D, the popular rapper who died in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Tuesday at age 44.
The mix-up was compounded when the Rev. Jesse Jackson informed his Twitter followers that Ruby Dee had died, and she became a trending topic on the social network.
Shortly afterward, Jackson corrected his post.
Help from King
Horror author Stephen King is stepping up to help struggling Maine residents buy heating oil.
The state is facing deep cuts to a federal heating oil assistance program.
The Maine native announced Tuesday that his foundation will work with the three radio stations he owns in the Bangor area to raise $140,000 to buy heating oil for low-income residents.
He's asking listeners to donate $70,000, and the foundation will double it.
King said there is a "great need" for heating oil assistance as the price goes up and federal funding goes down.
The federal government told the Maine State Housing Authority that it should expect to receive $23 million in heating oil assistance this winter, down from $55.6 million last winter.
Star for a star
LOS ANGELES -- Grammy-winning Colombian singer Shakira now has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
During a Tuesday ceremony surrounded by hundreds of screaming, flag-waving fans, Shakira unveiled her sidewalk star in front of the W Hollywood Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. It's the 2,454th star dedicated along Hollywood's avenue of dreams.
"This is incredible," said the singer and activist. "I would like to thank all of you."
The ceremony for the 34-year-old singer comes on the eve of her Las Vegas honor as the Latin Grammy person of the year.
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