A group of Texas cattlemen go to trial in Amarillo against Oprah Winfrey, 43, on Jan. 20, claiming that a show she did on April 15, 1996, contained false statements about the threat of mad cow disease in the United States and hurt beef prices. In her defense, Winfrey has countered that she has a right to ask questions and hold a public debate on issues.
On Jan. 2, Dr. Edmund R. Donoghue, Chicago’s chief medical examiner, announced that the Dec. 18 death of Chris Farley was caused by an accidental drug overdose. Donoghue said morphine, cocaine, Prozac, marijuana and an antihistamine were found in the 33-year-old actor’s system. The examiner did not find alcohol but said Farley’s liver showed signs of heavy drinking.
On New Year’s Eve in London, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth bestowed knighthood on 25 common-folk, including Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 50, better known by the nom de flair of Elton John….
Meanwhile, in the Vatican, His Holiness Pope John Paul II conferred papal knighthoods on such disparate honchos as Bob Hope, Roy Disney, Rupert Murdoch and Ricardo Montalban.
Tennis star Helen Wills Moody, 92, who won eight Wimbledon singles titles, died on New Year’s Day of undisclosed causes in Carmel, Calif. Known for her wicked groundstrokes, she earned two gold medals in women’s tennis at the 1924 Paris Olympics and, by the time she retired in 1938, had won 31 major titles….
Ad exec Bob Wilvers, 65, the man who helped make Alka-Seltzer’s immortal “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is” jingle, died on Dec. 10 from lung cancer in New Milford, Conn….
Writer-producer James Komack, 67, who shaped such series as Welcome Back, Kotter, My Favorite Martian and Chico and the Man, died of heart failure on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.
Actress Rue McClanahan, 63, wed actor-producer Morrow Wilson, 57, on Christmas Day in New York City. It is the groom’s third marriage, the former Golden Girl’s sixth.
Writer-radio personality Garrison Keillor, 55, and his wife, violinist Jenny Lind Nilsson, 40, welcomed a baby girl, Maya Grace, on Dec. 29 in New York City. It is the couple’s first child. Keillor has a 28-year-old son, Jason, from a previous marriage.
Former Full House occupant John Stamos, 34, and MTV’s House of Style host Rebecca Romijn, 25, became engaged on Dec. 24 in Los Angeles but have not yet set a wedding date….
Actress Pam Grier (Jackie Brown), 48, and record producer Kevin Evans, 35, got engaged on Nov. 26 in Los Angeles….
Globetrotting CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, 40, and U.S. State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin, 37, became engaged over the Christmas holidays. The wedding—a first for both—may take place this summer, schedules permitting.
Actor Mykelti Williamson, 40, who played Bubba in Forrest Gump, was booked on charges of stalking and assault with a deadly weapon in Los Angeles on Jan. 5. Williamson allegedly confronted his ex-wife Cheryl Chisolm outside her residence and stabbed her unidentified male companion in the stomach. He is in stable condition after surgery; Williamson was released on $180,000 bail.