Weather Updates

Friends say ‘Soul Train’ legend was long depressed, possibly bipolar

DCornelius gets crowd going 40th anniversary “Soul Train” concert last September Pritzker Pavilion. TOM CRUZE~SUN-TIMES

Don Cornelius gets the crowd going at the 40th anniversary “Soul Train” concert last September at Pritzker Pavilion. TOM CRUZE~SUN-TIMES

storyidforme: 25098231
tmspicid: 9167338
fileheaderid: 4183205
Foster: Friend speaks to Cornelius: 'He was upbeat and even joking'
Brown: Cornelius influenced this kid from a small Downstate town
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: March 3, 2012 11:38AM

The shock of “Soul Train” legend Don Cornelius’ apparent suicide deeply saddened friends and associates of the groundbreaking entertainment visionary.

Yet several sources close to Cornelius admit they now realize his recent comments — about being deeply depressed due to constant pain and financial worries stemming from his bitter 2009 divorce — were signs Cornelius was quickly going downhill.

“Thinking back, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but Don was always a kind of taciturn guy, so him being so dour lately didn’t set off any alarms for me,” said a veteran “Soul Train” executive.

Another source claimed that Cornelius long had battled psychological and emotional issues. “I truly believe he was bipolar,” added the friend. A third source mentioned Cornelius felt badly snubbed by a number of music executives at a recent Hollywood party.

“It really hurt him badly.”

A clearly distraught Gladys Knight said Wednesday, “Don was such a fearless man. He opened up the doors for so many people.” The singer was an early performer, along with the Pips, on “Soul Train.”“Think of what it took to have the ability and the guts to make that huge leap and create a show that was able to compete with

[Dick Clark’s already well-established] ‘American Bandstand.’ … He was a true hero for providing that stage for so many artists — especially those of us in the African-American community.”

Johnson Publishing chair Linda Johnson Rice also focused on Cornelius’ role in “providing a platform for African-American talent — a platform that they simply never had before. And he did it right here, establishing something national from this local market. His contributions were simply phenomenal.”

TMZ reported that Cornelius, who left no suicide note, will be providing his despised ex-wife, Viktoria Chapman Cornelius, with even more money. As part of their divorce agreement in ’09, Cornelius made Viktoria the beneficiary of $300,000 in life insurance. Suicide voids policies in California only if they were in force for less than two years.

TWO SIDES: Tracy Morgan is catching flak, some from his “30 Rock” co-stars, for not helping his long-estranged mom, Alicia Warden, save her house from foreclosure. While Morgan is a testy guy known to be tight with a buck, he also is said to tired of his mother and sister constantly hitting him up for money — plus calling his NBC castmates (reportedly including Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin ) to try to embarrass him into shelling out.

TIMELY FILM: There will be a free screening of Emmy-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsh’s “Bully” at 5:30 p.m. March 7 at AMC River East — hosted by Facing History and Ourselves and featuring a post-screening Q&A with Hirsh. The documentary about the disastrous consequences of bullying on five students and their families opens in wide release on March 9.

WHEW!!! Many will be thrilled to learn “Jersey Shore” regular Snooki shot down a report that she is pregnant. Now if only there was a guarantee that she would never reproduce.

HEADING WEST: Hard to believe, but the 25th annual “Windy City West” party in California is fast approaching, set for March 5 at Jerrod and R.J. Melman’s M Street Kitchen & Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica — where Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will be honored as “Man of the Year.”Co-sponsored by the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, the food fare will include such Chicago-centric goodies as hot dogs, cheesecake, deep dish pizza and Italian beef. Among celebs with Chicago roots planning to drop by are Jennifer Beals, James Denton, Jim Belushi, Jane Lynch, Joe Mantegna, Amy Landecker, Richard Kind, Jeff Garlin, Peter Jacobson, Gigi Pritzker, Joel Murray, Ed Bernero and Adrian Zmed.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Chic burger joint 25 Degrees — a Hollywood transplant in River North was where Bravo’s “Flipping Out” star Jenni Pulos was spied dining with her fiance, Chicago orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Nassos. … Ex-Sox star Jim Thome dined at Harry Caray’s in Lombard, while Steve Stone chowed down at HC’s eatery on Kinzie — as Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks held court nearby.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.