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Fox bids farewell to 'Spin City'

Fox  

Actor will head up Parkinson's research foundation


In this story:

An emotional departure

Launching foundation, looking for cure

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



May 23, 2000
Web posted at: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Michael J. Fox, whose TV and movie roles have kept him in the public eye for nearly 20 years, switches gears this week to go from actor to advocate.

On Tuesday, Fox announced the launch of the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research. He formally announced its formation and start in a speech in Washington.

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"We really want to seize the momentum here," Fox told reporters, saying that he had been deluged by sufferers of Parkinson's disease who told him they're grateful for his efforts to bring attention to their cause.

Now, he said, the goal is "to take that gratitude and help fuel accelerated progress" in fighting the disease.

Wednesday night marks Fox's farewell from the ABC series "Spin City." He has been at the beleaguered show for four seasons.

Fox announced in January his plans to leave the show to fight his personal battle with Parkinson's, which he first made public in November 1998. Charlie Sheen is to join the show as his replacement this fall, playing a new character on the series.

The show has never won an Emmy, nor has it won an overwhelming number of viewers.

Its ratings have been weak for some time, with its highest numbers this year coming in January -- and they weren't enough for the show to crack the top 20. "Spin City" was seen in about 10.7 million homes the week of January 10, according to Nielsen Media Research, which ranked the show's ratings at 22nd place.

The week after Fox announced his departure, the show reached No. 30 and was seen in about 7.5 million homes. Last week's more typical ratings put the show in 41st place, a spot it's held several times this year.

Despite the show's lackluster numbers, Fox's perennial popularity and his struggle with the disease have prompted ABC to create several special features for the show. The network's Web site includes message boards and a sneak peek of the season finale, for example.

An emotional departure

His final regular appearance on the show was shot in March, in a predictably emotional series of takes.

"I learned how much I love the people in this show" during the shoot, Fox said. He also grew to appreciate "the verisimilitude ... between my life and Michael Flaherty's life."

Flaherty, Fox's character in the show, is the deputy mayor of New York. This week, he takes the fall for a scandal that could sink the entire city administration, but there is a silver lining in it for Flaherty. Caitlin (Heather Locklear), his former colleague and new love, rewards him -- amply -- for his sacrifice.

The episode is filled with veiled references to Fox's real-life friendships formed on the show, too. "The years that we've been working together, they've been the best years of my life," the Mayor Winston (Barry Bostwick) tells his deputy. "Even during the tough times, I could always count on you."

ABC is leaving open the possibility for Fox to make guest appearances as the show continues.

Launching foundation, looking for cure

Fox said his new foundation will raise public and private funding to fight Parkinson's, a progressive neurological disorder. The 38-year-old star says he expects a cure by the time he is 50.

He's already an active participant in the search for a cure. Last September, Fox testified before a United States Senate subcommittee, requesting the expenditure of an additional $75 million in federal funds for Parkinson's research.

Giving that testimony, Fox said Tuesday, "was an amazing experience for me... I went from patient to advocate in a day."

The plea may have worked, too. The National Institutes of Health projects that it will spend $81.5 million on Parkinson's research next fiscal year -- up from an estimated $78 million this year and $65.5 million spent in fiscal 1998.

Meanwhile, an announcement of a merger of Fox's new foundation and the Parkinson's Action Network is expected later Tuesday. The merger is to be explained during a dinner, where Sen. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, will join Illinois Republican Rep. John Porter as recipients of the Morris K. Udall Award.

An Arizona lawmaker for three decades and a former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Udall died of Parkinson's in 1998. Mack and Porter are to be recognized for their efforts to fund medical research for the disease.



RELATED STORIES:
Fox on Parkinson's foundation, new book
May 16, 2000
ABC expected to 'sweep' ratings competition
May 4, 2000
Report: Sheen may join 'Spin City'
February 9, 2000
Marvin Kitman: 'Spin City' won't sleep after Fox's farewell
February 2, 2000
Michael J. Fox leaving 'Spin City' to be with family, fight Parkinson's
January 18, 2000
The impact of celebrity fund raising
September 29, 1999
Michael J. Fox pitches for Parkinson's research
September 28, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
ABC: 'Spin City'
Internet Movie Database: Michael J. Fox
National Parkinson Foundation
Parkinson's Disease Foundation


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