BREAKING: Donna Summer dead at 63

TMZ is reporting that disco diva Donna Summer passed away Thursday morning at the age of 63. After a battle with cancer, she succumbed to the disease while in Florida. From TMZ:

Donna Summer — the Queen of Disco — died this morning after a battle with cancer … TMZ has learned.

We’re told Summer was in Florida at the time of her death. She was 63 years old.

Sources close to Summer tell us … the singer was trying to keep the extent of her illness under wraps. We spoke to someone who was with Summer a couple of weeks ago … who says she didn’t seem too bad.

In fact, we’re told she was focused on trying to finish up an album she had been working on.

A winner of five Grammy awards, she is synonymous with disco music of the ’70s often introducing innovative sounds to dance music with longtime collaborator and producer Giorgio Moroder. Key disco hits include the groundbreaking “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”

In the early ’80s as disco simmered and AIDS grew, she was often criticized for rumored statements that evoked homophobia. She allegedly had commented that AIDS was God’s punishment on gays for their lifestyle. The rumors haunted her career even as she denied them.

With a slight resurgence in the mid-’80s, she found renewed footing both on the charts and with gay fans. With hits such as “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s For Real,” she returned to the dance charts and the turntable of gay club DJs.

Summer’s last album, Crayons, was released in 2008 and peaked at 17 on the Billboard 200. She is survived by her husband and producer Bruce Sudano and three daughters, Mimi, Brooklyn and Amanda.

Below is video of Summer singing “Last Dance” at the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Mavs owner Mark Cuban says NBA will see openly gay player in 3-5 years

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban, the gay-friendly owner of the Dallas Mavericks, told TMZ recently that he believes the NBA will see an openly gay player before the league sees a female head coach.

Cuban noted that Nancy Lieberman coached the Mavericks’ D-League team, the Texas Legends, last year. But he said coaching in the NBA isn’t one of Lieberman’s goals. And although he thinks it will definitely happen eventually, Cuban said it will take some time for a female coach to work her way up through the NBA ranks. Then the topic shifted to the question of a gay player. Here’s a transcript of the exchange between Cuban and TMZ host Harvey Levin:

LEVIN: What’s going to happen first, an openly gay player in the NBA or a female coach?

CUBAN: An openly gay player.

LEVIN: You think it’s going to happen soon?

CUBAN: I think within the next three to five years absolutely.

LEVIN: Is there talk about that, where people are saying, “Hey, we’ve got to stop this kind of image that we have that we’re intolerant.” Are people talking about that within teams?

CUBAN: Not so much because I don’t think there’s really the perception that we are intolerant. I think the only issues we’ve had is with some fallback and some old-school type language that’s derogatory to gays. So there are certain words that I think were accepted five or 10 years ago that guys are starting to recognize you can’t use any longer, and that hasn’t been a problem. So I think it will be more of a media sensation when somebody comes out than it will be a player issue.

The exchange begins at about the 9-minute mark in the video below.

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—  John Wright

People Magazine tried for buzz on Chely Wright's coming out — but TMZ happened

That buzz in your ear is probably that of country singer Chely Wright’s coming out. Although you weren’t supposed to hear that until Friday from the newsstands. People Magazine was trying to create buzz about this week’s issue in order to create a big reveal. The only thing is, TMZ got a hold of it and now, it’s out. Or rather, Wright is.

The Advocate, Salon plus every celeb site and blog are already all over it. The thing is, we got the impression that People had wraps on someone who’s a little more, um, superstar-ish. We have no doubt that Chely Wright is a big deal — in country music — but admittedly, there were a couple of us in today’s editorial meeting asking, “Who?” Speculation on the web was figuring the likes of Queen Latifah, Kevin Spacey or Anderson Cooper, all who have been under the scrutinizing eye of gaydar. People’s handling of this seemed a little over the top. Had they said nothing at all, they probably would have gotten the result they wanted.

—  Rich Lopez