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Hello, Hello

Inside Kurt Cobain's $450M empire

The Nirvana frontman died 20 years ago this week. But his musical catalog has never been more valuable.

—By CNBC’s Adam Molon

Twenty years ago Saturday, as best the coroner could tell, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain ended his life with a shotgun at his Seattle home. An electrician found the 27-year-old’s body three days later.

Kurt Cobain

Lee Celano/Reuters

Classic

Hollywood's Golden Age Showman

At 17 months, Mickey Rooney interrupted a vaudeville show when he sneezed behind a shoeshine stand. He then played his mouth organ for the audience. A star was born.

Mickey Rooney, the elfin actor who could pull out all the stops on stage and on film, died Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 93. Known as a triple threat, the kind rarely seen in movies today who can sing, dance, act in drama and comedies, Rooney was born a showman.

Mickey Rooney

Hulton Archive/Getty

At 17 months, Rooney was watching a vaudeville performance behind a shoeshine stand when he sneezed and interrupted the show. As he was coaxed out from behind the stand and scared to death that his vaudevillian parents would punish him, he pulled out his mouth organ and began to play for the audience. A star was born.

Jimmy in the Middle

Fallon's Surprising Centrist Style

From slow jamming the news with Obama to playing musical instruments with Palin, Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ has become the late night destination for red and blue alike.

When Jay Leno left The Tonight Show (again) in February, conservative media was not exactly pleased.

Jimmy Fallon

Theo Wargo/Getty

The thought process—masked in an argument for NBC not to remove its top-rated host in total audience and the key demo—was that late night had lost the only destination where Republicans could humanize themselves, show off their sense of humor and help shatter the portrayal of being stuffy, insensitive white guys who only exist to help the rich get richer. The common perspective was Leno was the anti-Letterman/Stewart/Colbert and the only host to make jokes at President Obama’s expense on a nightly basis. And given how openly supportive all of the aforementioned hosts are of a progressive platform (Kimmel seems apolitical at best), that viewpoint held some merit.

Stereotypes

Sorry Miyagi, Asians Need Villains

No one wants to be Mr. Miyagi or Data or the reliable steady source of clever ideas and technical know-how and good-natured earnestness and inner peace. That's freaking boring.

One of the things we Asians complain about when we get together at Asian Club with our white cardboard pails of Asian takeout to watch shows on our Asian-manufactured TV is that when it comes to Asian celebrities, there’s awfully slim pickings.

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Jonathan Ke Quan, 1984. (Paramount/Everett)

Most of the Asian actors—all four of them—that you’ve probably heard of have already weighed in on the #CancelColbert kerfuffle, and 25 percent of the Asian actors that you’ve probably heard of (B.D. Wong) has actually appeared on The Colbert Report to make fun of the whole thing.

Shakespeare of Sh!t

‘Veep’ Is F*@king Great

No show is as good at using curse words for comedic effect as ‘Veep,’ which it proved again with Sunday’s hysterical premiere. How the f*@k does it get swearing so right?

HBO’s best shows are masterpieces of excess. Game of Thrones has its ever-sprawling cast and its continent-hopping locations. The pilot of Boardwalk Empire famously cost a record $18 million. But all Veep needs to rise to its status as one of the best comedies on TV is some four-letter words.

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Paul Schiraldi/HBO

And it uses them brilliantly. Fucking brilliantly.

It’s Back!

Game of Thrones’ Triumphant Return

It wasn’t the sexiest—or the bloodiest—episode of the HBO fantasy epic, but the fourth season premiere was a master class in character development.

If you're the sort of person who is inclined, like me, to argue that Game of Thrones is the best fantasy show ever, then there are few episodes in particular that you probably tend to cite as proof. The one with Ned Stark's beheading. The one with the Battle of the Blackwater. The one with the Red Wedding.

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HBO

Sunday night's Season 4 premiere, on the other hand, was exactly the sort of episode that Game of Thrones evangelists typically leave out of their sermons. “Two Swords” wasn't about spectacle, or surprise, or even plot development. But even so, I think it made as strong a case as any explosion, decapitation, or matrimonial massacre for the awesomeness of GoT, in its own quiet way.

Valar Morghulis

Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark Speaks

We’re treated to a whole new Arya during the premiere episode of HBO’s fantasy epic—one “whose heart is now black,” says the star who plays her. [WARNING: SPOILERS]

Game of Thrones is back. And, while every episode of HBO’s sprawling fantasy epic has its breakout character, the unequivocal star of the Season 4 premiere, “Two Swords,” is none other than Arya Stark, played by Maisie Williams. 

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Helen Sloan/HBO

When we last left Arya, she was riding with Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound (Rory McCann), to places unknown, when the duo came across a gang of four Frey soldiers eating at a campfire. Arya overhears the grunts mocking the deaths of her mother, Lady Catelyn, and brother, Robb. So, she approaches the men posing as a hungry girl, and flashes the Braavosi coin given to her by the silent assassin, Jaqen H’ghar. She purposely drops it, and when one of the soldiers goes to fetch it, she stabs him in the back of the neck with a knife, killing him. The Hound takes care of the rest, and Arya, startled by her actions, picks the coin back up and whispers, “Valar Morghulis.” 

Self-Made

The Man Who Became John Wayne

Scott Eyman’s new life of the actor John Wayne portrays an extremely complicated man who invented his own public persona and played it beautifully.

“Truly, this man was the son of God.” Thus speaks a Roman centurion at the end of George Stevens’s inaptly named The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). It’s a line that always gets a big laugh, partly because the idea of anything so irreligious as Hollywood hokum commenting on the provenance of Jesus Christ is axiomatically funny, but mostly because the centurion is played by John Wayne, a movie star who might have known a son of a gun when he saw one, but who patently knew precious little else.

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Except, one learns from Scott Eyman’s exhaustive new biography, John Wayne: the Life and Legend, Wayne was a rather more cultivated man than his movie persona allowed. He was a talented chess-player and no slouch at bridge, and he had a penchant for reciting Milton and Dickens and Shakespeare from memory. Among the titles on his bookshelves were first editions of Lolita and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as well as a complete set of Winston Churchill’s prose. True, he got into the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. But at high school, in Glendale, he had won the essay of the year award, had written for the student newspaper, was a lynchpin of the debating team and was both President of the Latin society and Chairman of the Senior Dance.

Dracarys!

‘GOT’ Is Real - For These People

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Game of Thrones COSPLAY

Imagine moving into George R.R. Martin’s engrossing brainchild permanently—to throw on a corset, pick up a dagger, and fight your way toward the iron throne.

Game of Thrones fanatics relish spending an hour in Westeros, a magical land where families have badass mottos, dragons run rampant, and sassy eunuchs are in charge of foreign policy. But imagine being able to move into George R.R Martin’s engrossing brainchild permanently—to throw on a corset, pick up a dagger, and fight your way towards the iron throne. A group of Italian cosplayers has made this fantasy their reality.

The Asoiaf Cosplay consists of over 50 players who come together at least once a month at conventions and events. Each member plays a different character from Game of Thrones, and together they enact portions of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. It’s like playing dress up, except with precise attention to detail, actual grownups, and a whole lot more implied incest. We managed to track down a few of these dedicated fans to gab about HBO, cosplay co-workers, and getting really weird looks from strangers on the street.

Sara Briarose (Arianne Martell & Shae & Daenerys Targaryan)

TV Funhouse

My Rocky ‘SNL’ Stint

In 1985, Carol Leifer, who was discovered by David Letterman, became one of two female writers on 'Saturday Night Live,' but her time there wasn’t easy, and it didn’t end so well.

Saturday Night Live premiered in 1975, while I was in college, and comedy would never be the same. From the minute the show went on the air, it popped right off the screen as fresh and funny, and it immediately set a new standard for television comedy that continues today. So, in 1985 I was excited as anything when SNL’s creator, Lorne Michaels, returned to the helm after Dick Ebersol’s five-year reign. And even more excited to hear that the show was setting up auditions for new cast members at the Comic Strip, my home-base comedy club in New York City.

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Bettman/Corbis

The night of the audition, I saw Al Franken walk into the club. Yes, that’s now Senator Al Franken. (And if you’re too young to find that disconcerting, imagine this in 20 years: Vice President Daniel Tosh.) I was familiar with Al from his appearances on the show with his comedy partner, Tom Davis, and was a huge fan. A fellow comic mentioned that he’d heard Al was going to be an occasional performer and producer on the show that year. He also mentioned that the head writer, Jim Downey, was part of the SNL posse that came to see the auditions. I had no idea if these things were true. When it comes to gossip, my fellow comics could put a couple of Boca yentas to shame. But I was excited nevertheless.

U-S-A!

The CIA of 1776

Jamie Bells stars as Abraham Woodhull, a young Brit who smuggles intel in and out of British occupied New York to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

The new AMC series Turn, which premieres April 6, is bewildering at first.

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Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

We’re dropped smack in the middle of British-occupied New York. The year is 1776, and Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) is scraping by as a cabbage farmer and sometime innkeeper in Setauket, Long Island. He’s husband to Mary (Meegan Warner), and father to a young child. His father, Richard (Kevin McNally), is a local magistrate loyal to George III.

Watch This

The Week in Viral Videos

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Youtube

From a ‘90s-era Jon Hamm getting shown the door on a dating show to a two-legged boxer’s too-cute-for-words sprint along a beach, WATCH our countdown of the week’s buzziest videos.

5. James Franco’s Booty-Text Apology

“You know, I’m embarrassed… I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky.” With those words (and more), actor-filmmaker-performance artist multi-hyphenate James Franco apologized on the morning show Live with Kelly and Michael for his recent Instagram-and-text dalliance with a 17-year-old Scottish fan, who took it upon herself to post screenshots of their booty-text correspondences online. It ain’t easy bein’ Franco.

Love and Cough Syrup

When Kurt Met Courtney

On the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, here's the story of how the romance between Cobain and Courtney Love began.

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love first locked eyes on each other at eleven in the evening on Friday, January 12, 1990, and within 30 seconds they were tussling on the floor. The setting was the Satyricon, a small, dimly lit nightclub in Portland, Oregon. Kurt was there for a Nirvana gig; Courtney had come with a friend who was dating a member of the opening band, the wonderfully named Oily Bloodmen. Already infamous in Portland, Love was holding court in a booth when she saw Kurt walk by a few minutes before his band was set to appear onstage. Courtney was wearing a red polka-dot dress. “You look like Dave Pirner,” she said to him, meaning the remark to sound like a small insult, but also a flirt. Kurt did look a bit like Pirner, the lead singer of Soul Asylum, as his hair had grown long and tangled—he washed it just once a week, and then only with bar soap. Kurt responded with a flirt of his own: He grabbed Courtney and wrestled her to the ground. “It was in front of the jukebox,” Courtney remembered, “which was playing my favorite song by Living Color. There was beer on the floor.” She was glad her comment had gotten attention, but she hadn’t expected to be pinned to the floor by this little waif of a boy. For his part, Kurt hadn’t counted on his opponent being so tough: She was three inches taller than he was, and stronger. Without his high-school wrestling experience, she might have won the tussle. But the roll on the floor was all in jest, and he pulled her up with his arms and gave her a peace offering—a sticker of Chim Chim, the “Speed Racer” monkey he had made his mascot.

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Kurt Cobain of rock band Nirvana, wife Courtney Love holding daughter Frances Bean Cobain at "MTV-Video Music Awards". (Marcel Noecker/dpa/Corbis)

Kurt later would say he was immediately attracted to Love: “I probably wanted to fuck her that night, but she left.” But the day he met Courtney, he still had a girlfriend, and she was with him. But the connection between Kurt and Courtney was sexual: Wrestling was a fetish of Kurt’s, and an opponent as worthy as Courtney was a major turn-on.

Born in Flames

Meet the Secret ‘Avengers’

The end credit scene of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ introduces the new Avengers the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Here’s everything you need to know about them.

Last year’s adaptation of Oldboy by American filmmaker Spike Lee tested two conflicting film theories. The first, that it is impossible for Spike Lee to make a bad film, and the second, that adaptations, sequels, and re-imaginings are evidence of Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy.

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It was a bold undertaking, and one ultimately doomed to failure. But it would be unfair to judge Spike Lee based on the movie’s shortcomings. Bill Cosby used to tell a joke about how angry adults sound brain damaged when forced to censor their language in front of children. While the adaptation succeeds, and even challenges some elements of the original, the film is hampered by its inability to grapple with the major thematic tension of its source material.

Why the GOP Is Angry About Colbert

When Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman's successor, Rush Limbaugh and company both criticized and politicized the move. Keli Goff discusses whether they're actually mad.

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