Influential jazz vocalist Billy Eckstine, 78, whose honeyed versions of romantic ballads made him, in the ’40s, one of the first black performers to reach the crossover market, died of heart failure in Pittsburgh on March 8. He had suffered a stroke last year. “Mr. B,” as Eckstine was known to his fans, had such major hits as “Blue Moon,” “Everything I Have Is Yours,” “Skylark” and “Fools Rush In” during his 50-year career….
Flamenco guitarist and composer Carlos Montoya, 89, died of heart failure in Wainscott, N.Y., on March 3. Montoya, who was born in Madrid to a Gypsy family and came to the U.S. in the early 1940s, was best known for his “Flamenca” suite….
Emmy-winning soap writer Douglas Marland, 58, died of complications from abdominal surgery on March 6 in Norwalk, Conn. At the time of his death, Marland had worked for seven years as the head writer for CBS’s As the World Turns….
Actor José Duval. 72, best known as finicky buyer Juan Valdez in the Colombian coffee commercials, died in Los Angeles on Feb. 27 of heart failure.
Actress Claudette Colbert, 89, was in serious condition in a hospital in Barbados last week after suffering a stroke March 2 at her home on the Caribbean island. Colbert, who won an Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934), is expected to recover….
Actress Katharine Hepburn, 85, was hospitalized for exhaustion in Hartford, Conn., for four days. She was released March 8 and is said to be doing fine….
Ex-Boston Celtic star Larry Bird, 36, is recovering after undergoing back-fusion surgery at a Boston hospital on March 5. Bird, who retired last August because of chronic back problems, had bone shavings from his pelvis grafted alongside his vertebrae.
Todd Bridges, 27, formerly of TV’s Diff’rent Strokes, was arrested March 7 and jailed for two days after stabbing a tenant in his home in Sun Valley, Calif. Authorities decided not to press charges against Bridges, who claimed self-defense in a fight that began as a rent dispute.
Actor Glenn Ford, 76, wed his nurse, Jeanne Bans, who is in her early 30s, at his home in Beverly Hills on March 5. The two met three months ago when Baus served as Ford’s private duty nurse at an L.A. hospital while he recovered from a circulatory problem in his legs. It is his fifth marriage; her second. His only child, Peter, 42 (whose mother was tap-dance star Eleanor Powell, Ford’s first wife), served as best man.
And I-yi-yi will always love my baaaby: Pop diva Whitney Houston, 29, and her husband, new jack singer Bobby Brown, 24, welcomed their first child, a 6-lb. 12-oz. girl named Bobbi kristina Houston Brown, on March 4 in Livingston, N.J. The baby was delivered by caesarean section. Brown has three other children, including a son named Bobby, from previous relationships….
Husband and wife daytime drama stars Colleen Zenk Pinter, who plays Barbara on CBS’s As the World Turns, and Mark Pinter, who plays Grant on NBC’s Another World, had an 8-lb. daughter. Georgia Bennett Pinter, on March 5 in Danbury. Conn. The couple also have a son, Morgan, 3, and four other children from previous marriages.