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Harlem legend Ralph Cooper, whose Amateur Night contests at the Manhattan neighborhood’s famed Apollo Theatre helped launch the careers of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Luther Vandross, died of cancer Aug. 4 in New York City. Cooper, believed to be in his mid-80s, began the contests in 1934 and appeared as their master of ceremonies until just three months before his death. His diverse career also included stints as a dancer and choreographer (he devised Shirley Temple’s dances in 1936’s Poor Little Rich Girl), screenwriter and leading man in black movies of the ’30s, where he was known as the “dark [Clark] Gable.” His son, Ralph Cooper II, succeeds him as the Apollo’s emcee….

Drummer Jeffrey Porcaro, 38. a member of the Grammy-winning rock group Toto, died of cardiac arrest Aug. 5 in Los Angeles possibly due to a reaction to the pesticides he was spraing in his garden. One of L.A.’s most sought-after studio musicians, Porcaro backed up Bruce Springsteen on the Boss’s recent Human Touch album. Says Springsteen: “He blessed my work and he blessed the work of many, many, many other people….

Character actor John Anderson, 69, died of a heart attack on Aug. 7 in Sherman Oaks. Calif. He had most recently appeared as the title character’s grandfather on ABC’s MacGyver series.

Take back your mink: Actress-singer Lorna Luft, 39, and Jake Hooker, 41, a rock musician turned manager, have separated amicably after 15 years of marriage and two children, son Jesse, 8, and daughter Vanessa, 18 months. Luft, the daughter of Judy Garland and agent Sid Luft (and half sister of Liza Minnelli), begins touring next month as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.

Oscars don’t come cheap these days. An anonymous bidder paid $60,500 in New York City on Aug. 6 to take home Harold Russell’s Academy Award. Russell, 78, who lost both hands during World War II, sold his Best Supporting Actor statuette (for 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives) to raise funds for his wife’s eye surgery.

Brian Dalton, 18, acused by Educational Testing Service of having someone else take his Scholastic Aptitude Test after his score zoomed 410 points to 1,030 (out of a possible 1,600) between his first and second tests in 1991, won his court case against ETS. On Aug. 10 a Queens (N.Y.) County supreme court ordered ETS to release Dalton’s SAT scores to prospective colleges. ETS plans to appeal the ruling.

Actress Barbara Hershey, 44, wed artist Stephen Douglas at her Connecticut home on Aug, 8. It was the Hatches star’s first marriage. Douglas’s third. The only guests were their mothers and Hershey’s son. Tom (né Free) Carradine, 19, whose father is actor David Carradine.