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‘A Star is Born:’ Bradley Cooper talks Neil Young, Eddie Vedder and ... pizza

Bradley Cooper is a morning guy.

He’s requested that this meeting on a swampy September day take place hours before most artistic types ponder rolling out of bed. And when it’s Bradley Cooper, you comply, and do so happily.

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But this self-proclaimed early riser found something in Atlanta the previous evening that was worth sacrificing sleep.

Pizza.

Or, more specifically, “Gio’s!” he exclaims, sinking his tall, lean frame onto a couch in this Four Seasons suite. He removes his backward Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap — revealing slightly mussed hair that somehow looks perfect anyway — and his famous blue eyes gleam like a little boy who has recently indulged in a lot of, well, pizza.

“Oh my God, Gio is the best. They should make a movie about him. That’s the best pizza I’ve eaten in my life. Period,” Cooper enthuses. Then he flashes the sheepish grin of a guy who suddenly seems embarrassed about consuming carbs. “We had, like, a lot of pizza.”

Cooper is talking about Giovanni di Palma, the luminary of Atlanta pizza (Antico) and Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano. The pair spent a few hours inside Antico after Cooper hosted a Q&A session a few miles away at Regal Atlantic Station, where he cheerfully fielded queries about what it was like working with Lady Gaga, the challenges of his directorial debut and why he wanted to reincarnate “A Star Is Born” for the third time since 1937.

We’ll get to the movie in a moment as well, but first there is a vital exchange about cheesesteaks (Philly native Cooper is a Pat’s fan, but is urged to try Tony Luke’s) and a shared affinity for Howard Stern.

Football is next on the agenda, but when a guy has committed two years of his life to learning to sing and play guitar while concurrently co-writing a script he will then star in and direct … it’s probably time to make that the focus of conversation.

For weeks before its Oct. 5 release, the buzz on Cooper’s $38 million version of “A Star Is Born” has been rapturous, with Oscar love seemingly a foregone conclusion.

It isn’t hype. The movie is a marvel, a visceral valentine that, as Cooper says, makes music a character, not a backdrop.

There are slight tweaks to the well-documented plot about a successful male performer (Cooper’s Jackson “Jack” Maine) meeting — and falling in love with — a fledgling female singer (Lady Gaga’s Ally) whose career flourishes under his tutelage.

Unlike past iterations of the character, Jack is still playing sinewy, Allman Brothers-esque music to tens of thousands at Glastonbury and Stagecoach music festivals (where Cooper was given four and eight minutes, respectively, to film scenes for the movie). Jack might be an alcoholic with a slightly unwashed veneer, but he’s hardly losing professional luster.

“I wanted to deal with, what does trauma do to you as a human being if you never had the help to reconcile it and grow?” Cooper, 43, said. “For me personally, I couldn’t tell the story about a guy who is upset that his fame is dwindling. What really interested me is this guy. He’s a guy who could tour for the rest of his career, even if he’s barely singing. There are a lot of musicians like that. And Ally, I didn’t want her to be an ingénue. What happens when the world tells you that you can’t and then one person reignites that spark? Also, (these are) two people who are fully in love with each other. There’s no infidelity, there’s no jealousy that you’re bigger than me. It’s not about that.”

Cooper enlisted Lukas Nelson — son of Willie — to co-write several songs on the soundtrack with him (Jason Isbell penned the quietly searing “Maybe It’s Time”) while, naturally, Lady Gaga contributed a trove, working with Cooper and Nelson, as well as Mark Ronson and Hillary Lindsey (Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town). Nelson’s band, Promise of the Real, also stars in the movie as Jack’s backing musicians.

Cooper, who grew up tackling a few instruments and playing in school orchestra through his early teens – “My mother kept throwing my sister and I into this music school and then you’re bopping around instruments from the violin to the saxophone and wind up with the upright bass,” he recalled with a smile – dedicated himself to becoming a musician on screen.

“I didn’t want any (camera) trickery, any sort of digital thing of moving my fingers or cutting from someone else’s hands up to me. I needed it to flow, so I had to (play) in order to make the world believable. The camera is on the stage the whole time. I wanted to be close and for you to feel what he feels like when he plays guitar, and if you’re cutting away, you’re going to lose all of that.”

The sound of Jack’s guitar, and Cooper’s style of playing it, was influenced by Neil Young.

“I liked this idea of (Jack) almost lumbering onstage; that he’s not this butterfly flying through the guitar. I wanted him to be very sort of muscular. And Neil, I love the way he plays the guitar. When Jack is onstage is when he’s most himself. He takes his hat off when he goes on stage. He sheds it all. That fuels it and he’s been living on that for years — that and painkillers. But that’s where he gets that fix. And Neil, when I watch him play, it’s like he’s in a trance.”

Cooper also recalls telling Eddie Vedder, his buddy and onetime pen pal (“Does that even exist anymore?” he jokes), about his ideas for “A Star Is Born.” The two bumped into each other a few years ago in Hawaii, where Vedder and his family were vacationing and Cooper was filming what became the 2015 Cameron Crowe dud, “Aloha.”

“(Eddie) was like, ‘Oh, man, people will never get this right,’” Cooper said.

Instead, Cooper aimed to get all of the minutiae right, and credits Vedder for “sharing so much of what he’s been through” to aid in the details.

There is so much more to discuss – the scenes stolen by Cooper’s adorable real-life dog, Charlie (named for his late father); how one directs Lady Gaga in music scenes (“The way I saw all the music stuff, they were acting scenes,” Cooper said, while heaping praise on the musician, whom he refers to by her real first name, Stefani); how he flew to Ohio twice to convince Dave Chappelle to take a small, but pivotal role in the film.

But Cooper needs to hustle across Midtown to record a segment for Turner Classic Movies and then hop a flight back to Philadelphia for another screening that evening.

As he heads out of the room, though, he’s still thinking about one thing as he grins and points. “Gio’s!”

Suge Knight sentenced to 28 years in prison for hit-and-run death 

Suge Knight, a record producer, rap mogul and music executive, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for a fatal hit-and-run in 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported

Judge Ronald S. Coen addressed the family of victim Terry Carter before sentencing Knight.

“If it hasn’t been said to you by anyone else, let me tell you that my heart goes out you,” he said, according to the LA Times.

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Best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records, Knight, whose birth name is Marion Knight, was seen on a surveillance camera at Tam’s Burgers in Compton, California, when the hit-and-run occurred Jan. 29, 2015. In the video, Knight backs up his red Ford Raptor 150 over one man, Cle “Bone” Sloan, driving forward and hitting Sloan again before fatally hitting Carter and driving off.

The incident occurred while filming a commercial for “Straight Outta Compton.” 

Sloan survived and refused to testify against Knight in the case. 

Knight, 53, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, avoiding a murder trial and potential life sentence, NBC News reported. Before he pleaded no contest in September, he claimed self-defense.

Knight and prosecutors struck a deal to have two pending cases against the hip-hop figure dropped -- charges for threatening “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray and for a 2014 robbery.

Actor Pooch Hall arrested on suspicion of DUI, letting 2-year-old son drive, reports say

Actor Pooch Hall was arrested Wednesday night and charged with driving under the influence and child engagement after his 2-year-old was seen on his lap, accoridng to authorities.

TMZ reported that, according to unnamed law enforcement sources, Hall, who currently plays Daryll on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” was driving in Burbank, California, around 7:30 p.m. Witnesses who called 911 said they saw a toddler in his lap holding the steering wheel.

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A spokesperson for the Burbank Police Department told People that officers responded to a traffic collision. Witnesses said they saw a man weaving in and out of traffic. The spokesperson said Hall collided with a parked vehicle.

“Mr. Hall displayed obvious signs of alcohol intoxication and was unable to perform standardized field sobriety tests,” the spokesperson told People. “Mr. Hall’s 2-year-old son was riding in the car with him at the time of the collision and was determined to have been riding in the vehicle unrestrained, as required by law.”

The spokesperson said Hall’s son was released to the custody of Hall’s wife, Linda. Hall was arrested and is currently in Burbank City Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Charges are pending review by the the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, People reported

Hall is due in court Friday.

Geoff Emerick, Beatles recording engineer, dead at 72 

Geoff Emerick, the recording engineer who worked on the Beatles’ classic albums, died Tuesday, Rolling Stone reported. He was 72.

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Emerick’s death was confirmed by his agent, David Maida, who said that a heart attack was the cause of death, the magazine reported. Emerick’s manager, William Zabaleta, confirmed the death to Variety.

“Geoff suffered from heart problems for a long time,” Zabaleta told Variety. “He had a pacemaker and, you know, when it’s your time, it’s your time. We lost a legend and a best friend to me, and a mentor.”

Emerick was the audio engineer who worked on Beatles classics such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” -- for which he won a Grammy Award -- and “Abbey Road.” He began working with the group in September 1962 when he was 16 and an assistant at EMI Studios, Rolling Stone reported.

>> Notable deaths of 2018

Beatles producer George Martin officially asked Emerick to become the Beatles’ sound engineer in 1966, the magazine reported. The first track he helped on was the final song on the “Revolver” album, “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

On Twitter, Abbey Road Studios mourned Emerick’s death, posting that, “We are hugely honored to be part of Emerick’s story and we are committed to ensuring his legacy lives on at the studio.”

The Beatles’ official Twitter feed noted that Emerick’s work as audio engineer “was integral, resulting in multiple highly deserved Grammy Awards.” 

In a July 2017 interview with Variety, Emerick cited “A Day in the Life” from “Sgt. Pepper” as his top moment with the Beatles.

“The night we put the orchestra on it, the whole world went from black and white to color,” he told the magazine.

In addition to his Grammy on the “Sgt. Pepper” album, Emerick also won Grammys for Best Engineer on “Abbey Road” and Paul McCartney’s "Band on the Run" album.

Emerick also worked with Elvis Costello, The Zombies and Johnny Cash, CNN reported.

On his Facebook page, McCartney said that while the Beatles had several engineers during the band’s career, Emerick was “the ONE.”

“He was smart, fun-loving and the genius behind many of the great sounds on our records,” McCartney wrote.

Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley start free grocery store to help people in need 

One of the biggest names in country music is taking a step to help those who are in need. 

Brad Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley have opened a grocery store that will provide food to those in need for free, The Tennessean reported

Called The Store, it is a new take on the traditional food pantry, in the fact that it is set up like a grocery store. 

The Store will give individuals and families who are referred by either nonprofit or government agencies, free food for a year. Organizers hope to help 3,000 people each year, The Tennessean reported.

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The idea of The Store came from the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, California. The Paisleys took their sons to the shop to volunteer and help those who are less fortunate. And while they intended to teach their sons about helping others, the entire family was changed, The Tennessean reported.

“It was inspiring because these people have dignity. It’s not a scene from ‘Oliver Twist.’ These people are able to sit there and  feel very, very normal in the eyes of their kids. I remember ... thinking, ‘Why isn’t this everywhere?’ Essentially, we got this idea that it could be a very effective thing in Nashville,” Paisley told the paper.

But The Store, which will be in a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and located near Belmont University’s Ministry Center,  will not just be for groceries. For the holidays, there will be a toy aisle, filled with new, unopened toys that families can shop for to put under the Christmas tree.

Construction of The Store is expected to begin next year, but it is dependent on funding. It will cost about $500,000 before ground is broken, with the total construction to cost about $1.2 million with an additional $800,000 two-year operating fund. 

If you would like to help, click here.

Who is Dennis McKinley? Things to know about Porsha Williams' fiancé

Over the weekend, “Real Housewives of Atlanta” fans got a major update on the life of one of the show’s notorious cast members, Porsha Williams, just weeks before the 11th season premiere.

Williams, who joined Bravo’s stalwart reality series in 2012, announced she and her boyfriend Dennis McKinley got engaged. The pair recently announced that they were also expecting a baby soon, so the news about this relatively new couple has been buzzing for a few weeks.

>> On AJC.com: Porsha Williams engaged to Dennis McKinley

Many fans have been digging for the background story on her new boyfriend-turned-fiancé. If you’ve been wanting to know a bit more about Porsha Williams new fiancé, here are a few tidbits about McKinley:

He is a native of Detroit.

According to McKinley’s public Facebook profile, he calls Detroit home. He also went to college in Michigan. He studied economics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He is a ‘serial entrepreneur,’ according to his business website.

McKinley is the CEO of business conglomerate Detroit Equities, which runs the Atlanta-based businesses Cru Hookah Lounge and the Original Hot Dog Factory. His businesses also have locations in his hometown. The site described McKinley as “a serial entrepreneur” with “a background in real estate, e-commerce, retail, business and product development.”

He is expecting his first child with Williams.

In an interview with People, Williams said she and McKinley had known each other for years but only began dating this past year. She shared the baby news with McKinley in July.

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“The thought of me getting that blessing after praying for it for so long and getting that blessing with someone who is just as excited as me — it’s Dennis’ first child, just like me — and it’s something we’ve both always wanted. … It’s like a dream come true,” Williams told the magazine.

He proposed to Williams in Atlanta after planning the occasion for months.

McKinley reportedly proposed to Williams over the weekend after planning the occasion for two months, according to a People magazine exclusive.

“Dennis rented out a venue and took Porsha via helicopter there,” a rep told the magazine, adding that there were “candles and rose petals everywhere.”

Once there, Williams was serenaded by R & B singer Lil’ Mo, who surprised the reality star with her favorite song, “4 Ever.” 

“After they were officially engaged, they threw a Prayer party for Baby McKinley,” the rep told People.

Meghan McCain returning to ‘The View’ amid grief over death of dad John McCain

Television show host Meghan McCain is returning to “The View” after a month’s absence following the death of her father, Sen. John McCain.

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“I will be getting back on the horse at ‘The View’ Monday October 8th,” McCain tweeted Monday, as she thanked friends and fans for their “patience and understanding.”

She said she wants to “keep moving forward” and returning to the show will help her do that.

Vietnam war hero and longtime Sen. John McCain died August 25 from glioblastoma, a form of aggressive brain cancer.

McCain had a close relationship with her father and delivered an emotional eulogy at his funeral.

>> Related: Who is John McCain? U.S. senator, son, grandson of Navy admirals, POW, maverick

She has been absent from the popular talk show since late August.

‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ star Porsha Williams engaged to Dennis McKinley

Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Porsha Williams, who recently announced her pregnancy, is now engaged to boyfriend Dennis McKinley. 

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Williams broke the news to People magazine.

Her rep said that McKinley planned to propose to the reality TV star for two months, rented out a venue and took Williams there by helicopter before proposing to her over the weekend.

Williams had previously told People that she had known MCKinley for years, but the couple only started dating last year. 

Who is McKinley? There isn’t much out there about him. The public portion of his Facebook page says he is from Detroit, lives in Atlanta, studied business administration at Oakland University, studied economics at the University of Michigan and is a clerk at Queen Virgin Remy, a hair extension site. His page also says he works at a place called MCK<3, which has a blank Facebook page and no evidence of any actual existence off Google

He calls himself a “serial entrepreneur” on his Instagram page. 

>> Related: Who is Dennis McKinley? Things to know about Porsha Williams’ fiancé

If a wedding is planned, it will likely be chronicled on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo denies rape accusation from 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo denied an accusation by a woman who claimed the soccer superstar raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009, calling it “fake news,” the BBC reported.

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In a lawsuit filed Friday in Clark County, Nevada, Kathryn Mayorga, 34, said Ronaldo, who plays for the the Italian club Juventus, raped her while she repeatedly screamed “no,” CNN reported.

In an Instagram video, Ronaldo, 33, said: "They want to promote (themselves) by (using) my name. It's normal," the BBC reported.

Ronaldo’s lawyers said they would sue the German magazine Der Spiegel for publishing "blatantly illegal" accusations, ESPN reported.

"(The report) violates the personal rights of our client Cristiano Ronaldo in an exceptionally serious way," according to a statement by Ronaldo's lawyer, Christian Schertz. "This is an inadmissible reporting of suspicions in the area of privacy. It would therefore already be unlawful to reproduce this reporting.”

According to the lawsuit, Ronaldo apologized after the alleged incident that occurred on June 13, 2009, "stating he was sorry, he was usually a gentleman," CNN reported. The lawsuit alleges that Ronaldo told his representatives that "she said 'no' and 'stop' several times."

In 2010, Mayorga reportedly reached an out-of-court settlement with Ronaldo involving a $375,000 payment in exchange for a nondisclosure agreement, the BBC reported. Her lawyers now want to declare the agreement void.

Mayorga's attorney declined to comment, CNN reported.

Cardi B surrenders to police after fight at Queens strip club

Rapper Cardi B turned herself in to New York City police Monday morning in connection with a fight at a Queens strip club, the New York Post reported.

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Cardi B, who was born Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, surrendered at the Flushing precinct around 9:30 a.m., the newspaper reported.

She did not answer questions.

Almánzar allegedly ordered an attack on two bartenders at the Angels Strip Club in Flushing on Aug. 29, WPIX reported.

>> Nicki Minaj says scuffle with Cardi B was ‘mortifying’

The bartenders -- sisters Jade and Baddie Gi -- claim they were attacked because of allegations they had sex with Cardi B’s husband, Offset, the Post reported.

The bartenders are suing the Bronx-born singer for damages, according to the newspaper.

>> Cardi B, Nicki Minaj allegedly scuffle at New York bash

Cardi B performed at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park over the weekend, WPIX reported.

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