Questions Surround Luther Vandross' Death

Luther Vandross | 'War of the Worlds'

Questions Surround Luther Vandross' Death

The magnificent soul singer Luther Vandross died yesterday at age 54.

He had suffered a stroke in April 2003 from which he never quite recovered. Vandross, who was beloved by everyone who knew him, suffered from diabetes and severe swings in weight.

But those close to him tell me that Vandross didn't have to die. What will come out in the next few days will be the story of how his manager, Carmen Romano, fought to keep Luther on track with his medical care. Opposing Romano were Vandross's mother and sister.

"They did not keep appointments he was supposed to have," a source said. "It was a constant struggle to get Luther the attention he needed."

Vandross, I am told, was having physical therapy at the time of his death.

"They were walking him and he just collapsed," a source said.

More to come, most certainly.

Also not to be forgotten today: Obie Benson, the 69-year-old bass baritone of the Four Tops. Only two Tops remain, but lead singer Levi Stubbs has been in fragile health himself for some time.

The Four Tops' hits are many, including "Baby, I Need Your Loving" and "I Can't Help Myself." Nothing in modern pop music holds a candle to either the Tops or Luther.

Bad Box-Office Omens for 'War of the Worlds'

Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" may be in more trouble than anyone realized.

The $182 million horror-thriller version of H.G. Wells' classic novel took in only $14 million on Thursday night. That was a whopping 32 percent fall-off from Wednesday's $20 million take.

Friday night's numbers aren't in yet, but Paramount Pictures claimed an unusual record this week: The movie had the seventh-biggest opening for a Wednesday. Yikes.

What could be making Paramount execs nervous is a chart offered by the Web site

It compares "War of the Worlds" to similar recent movies, including "Independence Day," "Signs" and both "Men in Black" films. In each case, the films maintained their Wednesday opening numbers without a substantial fall-off the next day.

So far, "War of the Worlds" is the exception to the rule, although it's still hard to say what the Fourth of July weekend will bring.

Of course, "War of the Worlds" is now also called "War of the Words" by some.

Yesterday, actress and Princeton graduate Brooke Shields took on "War" star Tom Cruise, who is without a degree in higher education, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Shields lashed out at Cruise for criticism he recently offered about her use of anti-depressants for post-partum depression. It was the latest shot fired in a series between the two actors.

"Comments like those made by Tom Cruise are a disservice to mothers everywhere," Shields wrote. "To suggest that I was wrong to take drugs to deal with my depression, and that instead I should have taken vitamins and exercised, shows an utter lack of understanding about post-partum depression and childbirth in general."

Spielberg, always clever at marketing, must be aghast at what Cruise has wrought surrounding the opening of "War of the Worlds."

Not only has Cruise imposed what the public and press regard as a contrived romance on the movie, he has also turned into an evangelist for the Church of Scientology. At the end of the week, he told a German interviewer he believed in aliens.

Spielberg, as well as Paramount's Brad Grey and PR director Robert Friedman, must be popping the Mylanta right about now.