Esther Muir, 92, a former Broadway actress who found fame—and a faceful of wallpaper paste—in the Marx Brothers’ film A Day at the Races (1937), died of natural causes on Aug. 1 in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Briefly married to director Busby Berkeley, Muir appeared in some 70 motion pictures, including the 1937 comedy I’ll Take Romance….
Former radio personality Phil Harris, 89, the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney’s 1967 animated classic The Jungle Book, died of heart failure at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Aug. 11. Harris led his own swing bands before playing Jack Benny’s wisecracking, bourbon-swilling sidekick on the comic’s radio show, which ran from 1936 to 1952 and garnered Harris his own program, which ran for eight years….
Former anchorman John Cameron Swayze, for 20 years the voice of Timex watches (“It takes a licking and keeps on ticking”), died of natural causes at his home in Sarasota, Fla., on Aug. 15; he was 89. Swayze began his broadcasting career on the radio in his native Kansas before joining NBC television in 1949 to host The Camel News Caravan, a 15-minute news program whose nearly eight-year run made famous Swayze’s authoritative yet folksy delivery and his trademark sign-off, “That’s the story, glad we could get together.”
NYPD Blue actress Gail O’Grady, 32, and her manager Steven Fenton, 28, surprised the 100 guests at their Aug. 12 Beverly Hills engagement party by having a minister turn up and conduct wedding vows. It is O’Grady’s third marriage, Fenton’s first.
R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, 35, is home in Athens, Ga., recovering from surgery for a hernia diagnosed on Aug. 11, hours before the band went onstage in Prague.
After 17 years on Capitol Hill, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, 52, announced his retirement. At an Aug. 16 news conference, the Democrat called America’s political system broken but said he would not leave public life, though he declined to be specific about his plans.
In London on Aug. 11, lawyers for Hugh Grant, 34, filed a plea of guilty to speeding charges stemming from an incident last April in which he was clocked doing 98 mph on his way back to town from Devon. Grant, who was fined $190, already has two drunk-driving offenses and three speeding tickets on his record, putting him one infraction away from losing his license….
Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, 29, was found guilty in L.A. on Aug. 10 of eight federal counts of conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering after a trial in which actor Charlie Sheen admitted having spent $53,500 in 15 months on Fleiss’s call-girl service. Sentenced last May to three years in prison for pandering, Fleiss—who is appealing that conviction—could get another five years for hiding income from the IRS. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13….
The family of bartender Scott Amedure has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the producer and distributor (both Time Warner subsidiaries) of The Jenny Jones Show, charging negligence in connection with Amedure’s March 9 shooting death, allegedly at the hands of Jonathan Schmitz, 25. During a taping of the TV program three days earlier, Amedure, 32, revealed he had a crush on the unsuspecting Schmitz, who knew him only casually. Schmitz’s murder trial is set to begin Oct. 16 in Pontiac, Mich.