Illness revealed: Former TV talk show provocateur Morton Downey Jr., 63, was diagnosed with lung cancer on June 11. The former four-pack-a-day smoker is scheduled to undergo surgery on his right lung on July 12 at a Los Angeles hospital.
Mel Allen, 83, longtime voice of the New York Yankees, died of undisclosed causes on June 16 at his Greenwich, Conn., home. In more than 60 years as a sportscaster, Allen’s mellifluous Alabama drawl kept listeners enthralled, whether he was describing college football, boxing or the heroics of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. First on radio and later on television, Allen inevitably punctuated dramatic exploits with his signature “How about that!” or his much-imitated “Going…going…gone!” Born Melvin Allen Israel on Valentine’s Day, 1913, Allen started announcing football for $5 a game while at the University of Alabama law school. During Christmas vacation in 1936, Allen beat out 60 other applicants for a job at CBS. He started calling Yankee games in 1939 and broadcast 20 World Series and 24 All-Star Games in the course of his career. Allen was fired after the Yankees’ 1964 season to make way for the younger Joe Garagiola, and from 1977 until September 1995 he was heard on TV’s syndicated This Week in Baseball. Allen was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978….
Scottish adventurer, war hero and member of Parliament Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 85, whose exploits are said to have inspired those of fictitious Agent 007, died of a heart attack June 15 while on a visit to Hertfordshire, England. Maclean, a friend of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, never confirmed nor denied that 007 was modeled on him.
Former tennis star Chris Evert, 41, and her husband, onetime Olympic skier Andy Mill, 43, welcomed their third son, Colton Jack (8 lbs. 7 ozs.), on June 14 at a Fort Lauderdale hospital. He joins older brothers Alexander, 4, and Nicholas, 2.
Actor Woody Harrelson, 34, and his former personal assistant and current live-in companion, Laura Louie, 31, are expecting their second child in September. The couple have a 3-year-old daughter, Deni Montana.
After 17 years of marriage, former TV personality and 1971 Miss America Phyllis George Brown, 46, filed for divorce in Fayette, Ky., civil court on June 7 from former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., 62. The Browns, who separated in August 1995, have a son, Lincoln, 16, and a daughter, Pamela, 12….
Former thirtysomething star Mel Harris, 39, filed for divorce from actor Cotter Smith, 47, in L.A. superior court on June 14. The couple, married since 1988, have a daughter, Madeline Michael, 6.
Ex-professional ice skater Cerlette Lamme, 36, a former girlfriend of actor Kelsey Grammer, 41, filed a defamation and invasion of privacy suit against the Frasier star on June 17 in L.A. superior court. She claims the actor characterized her as a layabout, who lost his dog Goose after smoking pot, in a December 1995 interview with Oprah Winfrey and in his 1995 autobiography. No comment from Grammer’s camp….
A judge gave the go-ahead June 17 to an antitrust lawsuit filed against seven major Hollywood studios by the estate of late New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison. First filed in L.A. superior court last November, the suit alleges that movie studios conspire to hide millions of dollars in profits through questionable accounting practices. Garrison’s heirs claim they have yet to receive about $1 million in net profits they believe they are owed from the 1991 film JFK, which was based on Garrison’s 1988 book about President Kennedy’s assassination. Garrison died in 1992 at age 70….
A sexual harassment suit filed June 7 in Bergen County, N.J., charges TV talk show host Montel Williams, 40, with groping female coworkers and referring to women as “whores” and “bitches.” Filed by two former employees of the syndicated daily talkfest The Montel Williams Show, the suit also alleges that the Emmy-winner attended staff meetings in his underwear. The women claim they were fired when they complained of Williams’s behavior and seek back pay and damages. Williams called the charges “outright lies.”…
A breach-of-contract suit was filed against John Travolta, 42, in L.A. superior court on June 12, 10 days after the actor allegedly walked off the Paris set of The Double. The multimillion-dollar suit, by the film’s production and distribution companies, Liteoffer Ltd. and Mandalay Entertainment, claims that the star of Pulp Fiction quit the movie because “his ego had been bruised” by director Roman Polanski. Travolta’s representatives contend the actor never finalized his contract with Liteoffer….
On June 14, sports columnist and NBC basketball analyst Peter Vecsey, 52, was charged with fourth-degree assault in Lynnwood, Wash., after allegedly hitting a man at a suburban Seattle Toys ‘R’ Us store on June 11. He reportedly took offense after overhearing the fellow shopper tell a companion that the sportscaster was an “idiot.” Vecsey is scheduled for arraignment on June 28….
On June 18, a San Jose, Calif., jury found Richard Allen Davis, 42, guilty of kidnapping and killing Polly Klaas. The six-man, six-woman jury convicted Davis of first-degree murder. Davis had confessed to killing the 12-year-old girl after kidnapping her from her home on Oct. 1, 1993. The penalty phase of the trial, at which the jury decides if Davis will be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison without parole, is set to begin July 1.
Three days after a jury found Seattle Seahawk Brian Blades, 30, guilty of manslaughter, a Florida judge on June 17 ordered the wide receiver acquitted of all charges in the July 1995 death of a cousin. The judge agreed with a defense motion that contended the football player did not act recklessly in the shooting of Charles Blades, 34, who died after trying to break up a scuffle between Brian and his brother Bennie, now 29. Brian claimed that the shooting at his brother’s suburban Fort Lauderdale townhouse was accidental.
Hootie & the Blowfish-guitarist Mark Bryan, 29, wed aspiring filmmaker Laura Brunty, 24, on June 15 in the bride’s hometown of Surfside Beach, S.C. It is the first marriage for both….
Olympic speedskaters Bonnie Blair, 32, and Dave Cruikshank, 27, were scheduled to marry June 23 in Milwaukee. It will be the first marriage for Cruikshank and Blair, who has won five Olympic gold medals.