‘West Side Story’: Rita Moreno declined audition to play Maria in OG Broadway production

Rita Moreno delivered a legendary performance as Anita in the 1961 film “West Side Story,” earning the Oscar for best supporting actress.

But the actress, now 89, had the opportunity to be part of “West Side Story” history years before the classic film came to be.

In a virtual reunion with former co-stars George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn, shared on HBO Max Thursday, Moreno revealed she was invited to audition for Maria in the original Broadway production, but turned it down due to nerves.

“I got cold feet,” she said. “I got scared.”

The source of her fear, Moreno said, was the prospect of working for legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins, who offered her the audition. Robbins conceived, choreographed and directed the stage musical and met Moreno while working on the 1956 film “The King and I.”
Though Moreno praised Robbins as a genius choreographer, she recalled he “could be unbelievably cruel to dancers.” After mounting the Broadway production of “West Side Story,” Robbins co-directed the film version alongside Robert Wise, but was fired mid-production.

“It’s one thing to be doing take after take until you get it right,” Moreno said. “But to work for someone as severe and difficult and demanding as Jerry Robbins in a Broadway situation scared the living daylights out of me.”

Though Moreno declined Robbins’ audition offer, the choreographer kept her in mind for the film, suggesting to Wise that they let her try out for Anita.

“I had developed into Anita,” Moreno said. “I no longer looked like a Maria to him. And I really didn’t. That would have been so wrong.”

Natalie Wood ended up starring in the film as Maria. Though Moreno praised Wood’s acting, especially during the film’s tragic finale, she took issue with an iconic Puerto Rican role going to a white actress.

“I don’t think she was anything like the Maria that I envisioned in my head. I think a great deal of it had to do with the fact that she was not a Hispanic,” Moreno said. “I found her wanting in terms of her interest in getting it as right as she could.”


Former Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball coach Brannen was reprimanded months before firing

When the University of Cincinnati fired former men’s basketball coach John Brannen, it accused the coach of using methods of intimidation against players and making payment of special benefits for an unnamed player. UC also accused Brannen of jeopardizing or disregarding the well-being, health and safety of his players, according to documents obtained Monday by The Enquirer.

The firing was preceded by a written reprimand months earlier.

UC Director of Athletics John Cunningham sent a letter to Brannen on April 9, the day Brannen was fired, that explicitly laid out the school’s justification for Brannen’s termination after only two seasons at the school.

“While the University’s investigation into your conduct is ongoing and therefore other grounds for termination may become evident, it is clear at this point, among other things, you have failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the Men’s Basketball Program with respect to rules, regulations and policies and have further jeopardized and/or disregarded the well-being, health and safety of student-athletes, despite written reprimand,” Cunningham wrote in the letter to Brannen. The letter was included in a group of documents obtained by The Enquirer under Ohio’s Open Records Act.

“Moreover, you have made, attempted, arranged or otherwise made payment for special benefits for a student-athlete other than through approved channels; intimidated and/or attempted to intimidate students from raising proper compliance concerns; as you have previously been notified, running one or more practices without proper precautions for player health and safety and repeatedly violated time management plan policies; and not been forthcoming with the University regarding your actions.”

Brannen’s attorney, Tom Mars, on Monday disputed Cunningham’s claims in the termination letter in a statement provided to The Enquirer.

“The decision to terminate Coach Brannen and the stated reasons given in the termination letter were all part of a pre-determined plan by John Cunningham to replace Coach Brannen without paying him the buyout compensation (more than $5 million) that Cincinnati owed him but couldn’t afford to pay,” Mars said. “We have a lot to say about the reprimand and termination letter, but we’ll let our court filings speak for themselves.”

Records show Cunningham sent Brannen a written reprimand on Nov. 9, 2020, about three weeks before the start of the 2020-21 season.

The reprimand was in response to a practice Brannen held on Oct. 6, 2020, that included an “unauthorized conditioning workout in violation of University rules and policies and (Brannen’s) employment agreement,” according to Cunningham.

Cunningham said the conditioning workout was not pre-approved by the university’s training staff and was directed, in part, by Brannen. Cunningham said the workout was “overly strenuous and led to several student-athletes not finishing a timed run and one student-athlete needing to be helped off the court.”

Cunningham said the practice did not end until a UC trainer stepped in and ended it out of “concerns for the safety and welfare of the student-athletes.”

One member of the team had to seek medical care following the practice, according to the documents. The names of the players were redacted in the documents obtained by The Enquirer.

Brannen took responsibility for conducting the unauthorized practice and checked on the student-athlete immediately after the practice and the following day and apologized, according to Cunningham.

After a two-hour practice, Brannen instructed the players to shoot free throws. If the team failed to make a certain number, Brannen instructed the players to run a series of timed runs. If the student-athletes did not make specified times for these runs, Brannen instructed the student-athletes to run again, according to the reprimand.

Though Cunningham felt the drill was “overly strenuous,” he acknowledged that the players received adequate water breaks and that each student-athlete was wearing a heart monitor throughout the duration of practice. Cunningham also recognized that the UC training staff was present and ensuring the safety of each student-athlete, and that Brannen advised each player to stop and sit out if a player was unable to complete a run, according to documents.

Cunningham said in the reprimand that Brannen’s actions during the workout violated the University’s Policy Conduct 15.02, specifically Section 3, which says, “violating University policies and encouraging or inciting others to do the same.”

Cunningham informed Brannen that he had violated Section 2(b) of his employment agreement when he failed to “comply with the University of Cincinnati Athletics Prevention of Non-Traumatic Catastrophic Injury and Sudden Death Policy (“Prevention Policy”) and disregarded clear instructions contained therein.”

“Based upon your representations to me in the candid meetings we had and based upon my independent review of the situation, I believe that you understand the severity of this activity and, more importantly, I believe that you will not repeat it,” Cunningham wrote in the reprimand. “As we have discussed on several occasions, the health and safety of our student-athletes is paramount. We must always show care care and concern for the student-athletes in our department.”

Following the reprimand, Brannen was required to “develop programs and procedures that seek to assure the welfare and promote the academic success of the student-athletes who participate in the men’s basketball program.”

The decision to terminate Brannen came two weeks after Cunningham announced the university was reviewing unspecified allegations related to Brannen and the men’s basketball program after six of Brannen’s players entered the transfer portal.

Cunningham announced on April 3 that Brannen had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the university’s review.

Cunningham officially hired former UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller as the 28th head coach in program history on April 15.

Brannen led the Bearcats to a 20-10 record in 2019, a tie for the American Athletic Conference regular-season crown and the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament. The postseason tournaments were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brannen led Cincinnati to a 12-11 mark last season. The Bearcats lost 91-54 to Houston in the AAC tournament championship game and failed to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.

remained in the neonatal unit.


Princess Charlotte turns 6: See Duchess Kate’s new birthday photo of the little royal

Happy birthday, Princess Charlotte!

In honor of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s daughter turning 6 on Sunday, Buckingham Palace released a new photo of the young princess on Saturday, taken over the weekend in Norfolk, England, by her mother.

The picture shows a smiling Charlotte in a blue floral, button-front dress with a Peter Pan collar, her long hair worn loose. She’s looking directly into Kate’s camera.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana is the middle child and only daughter of Prince William and Duchess Kate. Her younger brother, Prince Louis, turned 3 on April 23, and her older brother, Prince George, turns 8 on July 22.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have released photos every year of their children on their birthdays, a tradition that started with their firstborn Prince George. Typically, Kate snaps the photos of the kiddos.
In a new photo released Saturday, Princess Charlotte poses for her mother, Duchess Kate, in Norfolk, England, ahead of the princess’ 6th birthday on Sunday.

Royal fans don’t often get to see photos of the Cambridge children outside of their birthdays, Christmas and other important events, but admirers have glimpsed more of the little royals lately.

Prince Louis turns 3! Duchess Kate shares new birthday photo of the youngest Cambridge

The official Instagram account for the British royal family shared a rare photo of Prince Philip, who died at age 99 last month, and Queen Elizabeth II with seven of their 10 great-grandchildren, including the Cambridge children.

According to the caption, the picture was taken by Duchess Kate in 2018 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
In March, the official @KensingtonRoyal Instagram account also shared photos of George, Charlotte and Louis’ hand-decorated cards for “Granny Diana” on Mother’s Day in the U.K. Charlotte’s card, which had a rainbow-colored heart and several flower stickers, read: “I am thinking of you on Mother’s Day. I love you very much. Papa is missing you.”

As the daughter of a direct heir to the throne (Prince William is second in line, Prince Charles is first in line), Charlotte was given the princess title at birth by the queen. She is fourth in line to the throne behind brother George.

‘Papa is missing you’:Will and Kate’s kids pay tribute to ‘Granny Diana’ on UK’s Mother’s Day
In her few public appearances, Charlotte has proved to be a cheeky child – she stuck her tongue out at photographers at a summer yacht race in 2019 – and early on got the hang of the royal wave.

Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Maria Puente and Kim Willis


Medina Spirit wins the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby 2021

Medina Spirit won the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening.

Trained by legendary trainer Bob Baffert, who has now won his seventh Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit (12-1 odds) started in the No. 8 post position and held off the rest of the field for the win.

Jockey John Velazquez won for the fourth time.

Mandaloun was second and Hot Rod Charlie third in the 19-horse field. Favored Essential Quality finished fourth.

The Derby was back to the first Saturday of May and the first race of the Triple Crown after it was moved to September in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of social distancing, attendance was a little more than 51,000 at Churchill Downs, which has a capacity of 165,000.


Aaron Rodgers wants Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst out, per report

The Green Bay Packers vs. Aaron Rodgers standoff has added another layer.

Rodgers has no desire to return to the Packers if general manager Brian Gutekunst remains in charge of the team, Yahoo Sports reported Saturday afternoon, citing a person with knowledge of the situation in Rodgers’ camp.

The Super Bowl champion and three-time league MVP is also weighing options that range from not showing up for offseason activities to retirement, Yahoo also reported.

Rodgers informed the Packers he wanted out by Thursday evening, when ESPN first reported the news — and hours before the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. The Packers, through a statement from CEO Mark Murphy on Saturday, said they were committed to Rodgers in 2021.

But the quarterback has made it clear he wants a contract extension. Reports have indicated the Packers were willing to restructure his deal; Rodgers’ current contract has no guaranteed money beyond 2021.

In a move Rodgers viewed as somewhat of a slight last year, Green Bay spent its first-round pick on former Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who had essentially been tabbed as Rodgers’ successor.

FUTURE ‘JEOPARDY!’ HOST?:Aaron Rodgers scores ratings win for ‘Jeopardy!’ during first week as guest host

Of course, Rodgers went on to win the MVP and the Packers fell in the NFC Championship game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s been an eventful offseason for the 37-year-old. His two-week stint as a guest host on “Jeopardy!” received mostly rave reviews, and he has not been shy about his desire to become the full-time host — a job he maintains he could do on top of being an NFL quarterback.