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Alice in Chains singer is found dead

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Layne Staley
Layne Staley: Marty Temme/WireImage.com

PASSING NOTES The body of Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley was found in his Seattle home on Friday. The 34-year-old had been dead for up to two weeks, and it took investigators a day to make a positive identification of the badly decomposed body. Heroin works were found near the body, police said. An autopsy was conducted on Saturday, though the full toxicology results won’t be available for weeks. Foul play has been ruled out, said a police spokesman, who told the Associated Press, ”There was nothing suspicious about the death. It appears to be overdose or possibly a natural death.”

He did not elaborate on what ”natural death” means regarding a 34-year-old with a well-established history of drug problems. Alice was one of the most popular of the Seattle grunge bands of the early ’90s (behind Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden), selling millions of copies of discs like ”Dirt” and ”Jar of Flies” on the strength of Staley’s confessional lyrics. (Bands that owe them a stylistic debt include Creed and Godsmack, who took their name from a Staley song about heroin.) Alice essentially fell apart after opening for Kiss on a 1996 tour because of Staley’s inability to stay clean for long. Around that time, he spoke to Rolling Stone, saying, ”I wrote about drugs, and I didn’t think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them. Here’s how my thinking pattern went: When I tried drugs, they were f—— great, and they worked for me for years, and now they’re turning against me — and now I’m walking through hell, and this sucks.”…

Bailiff Rusty Burrell, who helped Judge Joseph Wapner dispense justice on ”The People’s Court,” died April 15 at his home in Rosemead, Calif. He was 76 and was suffering from lung cancer. Burrell, a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, had served as both a real bailiff (for such celebrated trials as those of Caryl Chessman, Charles Manson, and Patty Hearst) and a TV one (on the 1950s series ”Divorce Court”), before his old courtroom colleague Wapner hired him to serve on ”The People’s Court,” which he did from 1981 to 1993. In 1998, the two reunited on Animal Planet’s ”Judge Wapner’s Animal Court.”…

TV writer Reginald Rose, who wrote the small- and big-screen versions of ”12 Angry Men,” died Friday at 81 at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He won an Emmy for the 1954 drama when it aired on TV and an Oscar nomination for the 1957 film version, which starred Henry Fonda as the lone holdout in a murder jury. Rose also won Emmys for his work on the 1961-65 series ”The Defenders,” the socially conscious legal drama starring E.G. Marshall and a pre-”Brady” Robert Reed. Both properties were remade on TV in the late 1990s.

REEL DEALS Even George Lucas now admits that ”” was a disappointment. Yes, the movie grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide to become the fourth-biggest movie of all time, but its juvenile tone, forgettable dialogue, and saturation merchandising left a sour taste in fans’ mouths. According to Newsweek, Lucas seems to say as much in a marketing memo he sent to toymaker Hasbro, which reads in bold type, ”The last movie did not live up to expectations.” The memo promises that ”” will have a ”darker feel, closer to the original saga” and ”no silly characters or kids.” (Yes, Jar Jar Binks is back, but apparently in an abbreviated role.) Also, Lucas is toning down the merchandising; Newsweek says he’s authorized only a third as many licensing deals for ”Clones,” including axing a partnership with Pepsi that created 8 billion cans of ”Star Wars” soda last time around….

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