Jimmy Stewart, 87, star of It’s a Wonderful Life and more than 75 other movies, was released from St. John’s Hospital in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve after hitting his head on a table leg during a fall three days earlier at home in Beverly Hills. The actor, who was widowed in 1994 after 45 years of marriage, was able to spend Christmas with his family….

Photographer and sometime singer Linda McCartney, 53, underwent surgery at Princess Grace Hospital in London on Dec. 11 to have a lump removed from her breast. Husband Paul McCartney said she was recovering at their home near London and that “doctors are optimistic.”

Virginia McMartin, 88, the Manhattan Beach, Calif., preschool owner who became the symbol of one of the nation’s most drawn-out (seven years) and most expensive ($15 million) criminal proceedings, died on Dec. 17 in Torrance, Calif., after a series of strokes. McMartin and six employees were charged in 1984 with 208 counts of child molestation, involving accusations ranging from child sexual abuse and rape to engaging in animal mutilation with their young charges. On Jan. 9, 1986, they were ordered to stand trial, but a week later charges were dropped against all but McMartin’s daughter, Peggy McMartin Buckey, then 59, and Peggy’s son Raymond Buckey, 27. Both were acquitted in 1990 due to lack of evidence. Left virtually penniless after legal expenses, McMartin, says granddaughter Peggy Ann Buckey, lost much more than her home and life savings: “The trial took everything she had devoted her life to—caring for children—and destroyed it. It wasn’t her concern to rehabilitate her reputation. She saw from the beginning what a sham it [the trial] was and that someone had to speak out. She did. She said, ‘This is a witch hunt.’ “…

Onetime aviator Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, 88, died on Dec. 9 in Orange, Calif. Corrigan became a celebrity in 1938 when he flew east rather than west on a trip he claimed was to have been from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif., and landed instead near Dublin, Ireland. He then starred in a film about his exploits, 1939’s The Flying Irishman….

Singer-actress Vivian Blaine, 74, died of congestive heart failure on Dec. 9 at New York City’s Beth Israel Hospital. Blaine is best remembered for her role as Miss Adelaide in the original Broadway cast of the musical Guys and Dolls. In 1951-52, Blaine costarred with comedian Pinky Lee in the thrice-weekly comedy show Those Two.

After nearly three I years of legal eye-poking and nose-bending, the issue of who owns the rights to the work of the Three Stooges has been settled. On Dec. 20, a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a settlement in which revenues from Stooges products and productions belong to Comedy III Productions, jointly owned by the heirs of Stooges Larry Fine, Curly Joe DeRita and Moe Howard. Earlier this year, the heirs of Stooges leader Howard declared bankruptcy after a state court ruled that the family owed more than $4 million in back royalties and merchandising fees to the families of Fine and DeRita….

Actor-director Dennis Hopper, 59, filed a breach-of-contract suit in L.A. superior court on Dec. 13 against Peter Fonda, 56, his costar in the 1969 movie hit Easy Rider. Hopper claims he has not been receiving his agreed-upon profits from the film, which Hopper directed and Fonda produced….

On Dec. 21, an L.A. criminal court judge ruled that Madonna must appear in court Jan. 2 to testify against Robert Dewey Hoskins, 37, who was charged last May with stalking her. Should the singer, who skipped a Dec. 20 date, not appear, she faces arrest for ignoring a court order.

Figure skater-cum-felonious coconspirator Tonya Harding, 25, and machinist Michael Smith, 29, were married on Dec. 23 aboard a yacht on the Willamette River near Portland, Ore. Having made a reported $10,000 contract with the Globe for exclusive photos, Harding was dismayed when two days later the Oregonian published a picture of the pair taken by a wedding guest. At a meeting between the guest—known only as Bob—and the Globe photog, said Bob, Harding yelled profanities and rammed his car. No charges were filed. It is Harding’s second marriage; her first, to Jeff Gillooly, ended in divorce in 1993, before he was imprisoned for engineering the 1994 attack on Harding’s rival Nancy Kerrigan. Smith, who met Harding at a disco, has been married three times previously.

A Dec. 18 fire caused $275,000 in damage to the 10,000-sq.-ft. Benedict Canyon, Calif., home of pop saxophonist Kenny G, who escaped the early morning blaze with wife Lindy and their 2-year-old son Max….

Arson destroyed singer Bette Midler’s luxurious beachfront home on the island of Kauai, in her native Hawaii, on Dec. 22. No one was inside at the time, according to police, who are investigating.

Seattle billionaire and bestselling author Bill Gates, 40, and wife Melinda French, 31, a Microsoft coworker, have a new project in the works: their first child, due in May.

Related Articles