Poet James Merrill, 68, who once described his work as “chronicles of love and loss,” died of a heart attack on Feb. 6 while on vacation in Tucson. In his 48-year career, Merrill, who published 15 volumes, was awarded every major prize given for verse, including the Pulitzer for Divine Comedies in 1976….
British tennis champ Fred Perry, 85, who in 1936 became the last Englishman to win a Wimbledon singles title, died of heart failure on Feb. 2 in Melbourne. Perry held the world’s top ranking in lawn tennis from 1934 to 1936 and was the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles, though he never held them concurrently….
Donald Pleasence, 75, the bald, beady-eyed British character actor who specialized in playing screen villains, died on Feb. 2 at his home in the South of France, where he was recovering from heartvalve surgery. Pleasence appeared in more than 120 films, including You Only Live Twice (1967), in which he was James Bond’s evil adversary Blofeld, and in five of the Halloween horror series….
Cowboy star John Smith, 63, who played deputy sheriff Lane Temple on TV’s Cimarron City (1958-59) and rancher Slim Sherman on Laramie (1959-63), died of cirrhosis and heart problems on Jan. 25 at his home in Los Angeles….
Novelist Patricia High-smith, 74, whose psychologically rich thrillers have been a staple on mystery shelves for 45 years, died on Feb. 4 of leukemia in a hospital in Locarno, Switzerland, near the village of Tegna where she had lived since 1982. The American-born author’s first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, and she went on to write 19 additional novels and seven short-story collections….
Actor Willard Waterman, 80, who from 1950 to ’56 played the title character, water commissioner Throckmorton P. Gilder-sleeve, on the radio and in the TV comedy The Great Gildersleeve, died of bone-marrow disease on Feb. 2 at his home in Burlingame, Calif. He assumed the role after the departure of its originator, actor Harold Peary.
Actor Darren E. Burrows, 29, who plays Ed Chigliak on Northern Exposure, and his wife, chef Melinda Delgado, 30, welcomed their first baby, son William Franklin, on Dec. 29 in Seattle….
Actress Linda Purl (Robin’s Hoods), 39, and her husband, screenwriter Alexander Cary, 31, had a baby boy, Lucius Jackson Arthur Plantagenet Cary, on Feb. 6 in L.A.
Vernon Winfrey, 62, Oprah Winfrey’s father, has been accused of indecent exposure by a 28-year-old Tennessee State University student, who filed a complaint with Nashville police on Jan. 30. She claims Winfrey exposed himself and demanded oral sex when she visited his Nashville barber shop earlier that day to discuss the Vernon Winfrey Scholarship Fund, which was started by Oprah. Winfrey, a former city councilman, denies the allegations. Oprah said, “I am appalled that his reputation is on the line because of an unsubstantiated accusation.” A court date is set for March 3.
Rapper-actor Tupac Shakur, 23, was sentenced on Feb. 7 in Manhattan supreme court to a maximum of 4½ years in jail (he must serve 18 months before he’s eligible for parole). Shakur was convicted Dec. 1 of sexually abusing a woman in 1993 in a New York City hotel room.
Actor and martial artist Chuck Norris, 54, star of CBS’s Walker, Texas Ranger, is engaged to wed fashion designer Monica Hall, 25. No date has been set. This will be the second marriage for Norris.