Last nine bodies taken from mine

Workers carried the last nine bodies of 13 miners killed by the Sept. 23 explosions at Blue Creek No. 5 to the surface early Friday morning.

Crews extracted all nine bodies at the same time, bringing them from a depth of 2,140 feet at the deepest coal mine in North America.

Those recovered were Gaston Adams Jr., 56, Bessemer; Nelson Banks, 52, Bessemer; Clarence Boyd, 38, McCalla; John Knox, 44, Pleasant Grove; Dennis Mobley, 56, Brent; Charles Nail, 59, Birmingham; Joe Riggs, 51, Cottondale; Charles Smith, 44, Brookwood; and Terry Stewart, 44, Cordova.

The bodies of Dave Blevins, 52, Tuscaloosa; Wendell Johnson, 52, Cottondale; and Joe Sorah, 46, Duncanville, were recovered last weekend. Ray Ashworth, 53, of Cottondale was injured in the blasts and died the next day at University Hospital.

Gary Tramell, president of United Mine Workers Local 2368, was at the mine’s entrance shaft when the bodies were brought to the surface shortly after midnight.

“I represented those men when they went into the mine and I was going to be dang sure that I was going to be there when they came out,” Tramell said. “It was a very somber moment.”

Tramell and officials from Jim Walter Resources praised the recovery crews for their efforts during the past few weeks. “They had their hearts in their jobs.”

The remains were placed in three vehicles from the Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner’s Office. Tramell said workers at the mine stood side-by-side in tribute as the vehicles left.

Flags at the Brookwood mine, which have been flying at half-staff since the accident, were raised to full staff Friday morning.

“They weren’t going to raise it back up until the last man was out,” said Dennis Hall, a spokesman for Jim Walter Resources.

Not enough Harry Potter for you? Try this trivia

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone opens here today on 20 screens at six theaters, a record number of screens for the Birmingham market.

It’s showing on four screens each at the Summit, Trussville and Wildwood theaters, three each at the Carmike and Festival and two at the Brook Highland.

By our best calculations, the previous record-holder here was Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, which opened on 16 screens at five theaters in 1999.

Nationwide, Harry Potter is supposed to open on as many as 5,000 screens.

Director Chris Columbus, best known for Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Home Alone movies, says he knew better than to mess around with J.K. Rowling’s much-beloved novel when he agreed to adapt Harry Potter for the screen.

The audience, he says, wouldn’t stand for it.

“I’d heard these horrendous and actually quite amusing stories about how certain directors had wanted to adapt the book like changing the locale to a Hollywood high school or turning Harry, Ron and Hermione into American students or making the entire film a computer-animated picture,” Columbus says in the movie’s press notes.

“I was stunned by some of these notions. I mean, it all feels painfully obvious to me. There’s a reason why millions of children and adults have fallen in love with the Harry Potter books. To destroy the basic foundation of this world and these characters would alienate our audience.”

Richard Harris, the legendary British actor who plays the wise, old Professor Dumbledore, almost didn’t take the part until he got a threatening phone call from none other than his 11-year-old granddaughter Ellie.

“Ellie telephoned me and said, quite simply, `Papa, if you don’t play Dumbledore, I will never speak to you again,’” Harris recalls. “So I didn’t have much choice in the matter.”

Pay close attention to that scene at the Gringotts Bank.

That’s Verne Troyer best known as Mini-Me from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me playing the goblin bank teller Griphook.

Daniel Radcliffe, meet Anne Robinson.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph following the London premiere of Harry Potter, 9-year-old guest critic Jessica Hatrick called the picture “the best movie I have ever seen.”

But she wasn’t quite so kind to the movie’s young star, the British actor Radcliffe.

“He’s a good actor,” Jessica wrote, “but he looks like the woman on The Weakest Link, which is a bit off-putting.”

Before casting Radcliffe, Columbus calculates he auditioned more than 2,000 potential Harry Potters.

The answer, though, was sitting on a shelf in his office a video copy of the TV movie David Copperfield, in which Radcliffe played the younger Copperfield.

“I picked up the video box,” Columbus says, “pointed to Dan’s face and said, `This is who I want. This is Harry Potter.’”

Then, by coincidence, Columbus and producer David Heyman ran into Alan Radcliffe, an agent whom Heyman knows, at the theater. Sitting with Radcliffe and his wife, Marcia, was their son, Daniel.

Call it fate.

“Lightning struck and the skies opened,” Heyman recalls. “All through the second half of the play, I couldn’t concentrate.”

One person who wasn’t so wild about a Harry movie was the boy wonder himself, the precocious Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense.

“Harry Potter is 70 percent imagination,” Osment said in an interview last fall. “When the movie comes out, it’s going to be such a stereotype for kids. They think of Harry Potter, they’re going to think of what is portrayed on screen.”

And contrary to rumor, Osment also denied he was ever in the running to play Harry.

“I never wanted to do Harry Potter,” he said. “I thought it should have stayed as a book.”

Lots of fancy dancing, live music make ‘Fosse’ fun

That’s what you get with Fosse, the national tour of the Tony-Award winning musical that opened in Birmingham Tuesday night.

It’s a retrospective of the work of master choreographer Bob Fosse, including his work for theater (Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Pippin, Dancin’), film (Cabaret, All That Jazz) and TV (Liza with a Z).

It’s classic stuff, and it’s performed by a cast with seemingly boundless energy and talent. Some have performed on Broadway before, and all of them would be at home in New York’s best theaters.

Fosse, who died in 1987 at age 60, is one of a handful of choreographers whose work is instantly recognizable. His trademark bowler derbies, gloved hands, toes turned in and sensual body thrusts energize the most mundane of material.

Take “Bye Bye Blackbird,” for instance. Originally staged for Liza with a Z, it’s recreated in Fosse, and it’s the sexiest, jazziest take on that song you’re likely to see.

The wonderful Reva Rice lends her voice to that and several other songs in Fosse (most notably with a hall-filling rendition of “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”), but it’s the dancing that is front and center.

From percussion-driven numbers from Dancin’ to “Hey Big Spender” from Sweet Charity to the classic “Steam Heat” from The Pajama Game, Fosse’s fabulous cast exhibits some mighty fancy footwork.

The 2½-hour evening flies by until the finale. After a touching “Mr. Bojangles” (poignantly sung by Josef Patrick Pescetto), the cast returns to perform scenes set to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”