February 07, 2000 12:00 PM


TV actor Erik Estrada, 50, and his third wife, Nanette, 40, an entertainment production coordinator, welcomed a daughter, Francesca Natalia (7 lbs. 6 oz.), on Jan. 5 in Burbank. Estrada, whose long-running motorcycle melodrama CHiPs was pulled to the side of the road in 1983, has two sons, ages 12 and 13, from his second marriage, to songwriter Peggy Rowe….

Rap music mogul Russell Simmons, 42, and his wife, Kimora Lee, 24, greeted daughter Ming Lee Evelyn Simmons (6 lbs. 15 oz.) on Jan. 21 in Manhattan. She’s the couple’s first child.


Food writer Craig Claiborne, 79, who grew up on butter beans, corn bread and catfish in the Mississippi Delta and became an international arbiter of haute cuisine, died on Jan. 22 in Manhattan. The first man to be named culinary editor of The New York Times, Claiborne had more than a dozen cookbooks to his credit. He touched off a flurry of angry letters-to-the-editor in 1975 when he wrote a front-page story about a 31-course meal he and fellow scribe Pierre Franey shared in a Paris restaurant for $4,000….

George Crowley, whose work on electrically heated flying suits for World War II pilots led to a patent for the first thermostatically controlled electric blanket, died of pneumonia on Jan. 15 in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 80 and still slept under one of his creations. “He loved them,” his wife told The New York Times. “We have one on our king-size bed right now.”…

Playful suit Russell L. Wenkstern, who was once the chief executive of Tonka Toys and helped develop the yellow Mighty Dump truck, one of the company’s perennial bestsellers, died on Jan. 18 in Minnesota. He was 87.


She memorably played the title role in the 1960s TV production of Cinderella, so it was only fitting that the second marriage of actress Lesley Ann Warren have a “magical, fairy-tale quality to it,” she says. Warren, 53, and her longtime swain Ron Taft, 52, an entertainment executive, finally tied the knot on Jan. 16 in the Beverly Hills restaurant where they’d had their first date in July 1991. “I never felt more beautiful,” says Warren. “Everyone was crying.”


In L.A. Superior Court on Jan 19, Geffen Records filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against singer-actress Courtney Love, 35, and musician Eric Erlandson, 37, the principal members of the rock and roll band Hole. The record company claims the band can’t leave the label until it serves up five albums owed under a 1992 deal….

On the same day in L.A., a different kind of music maker, John Tesh, 47, filed a lawsuit against Celebsites, Inc. for registering John Tesh.com as an Internet domain and, Tesh contends, possibly compromising Tesh.com, the site devoted to his fan club. As actor Brad Pitt has done recently, Tesh is suing under a law that bans “cybersquatting,” the registration of a famous name or product followed by an attempt to sell it for a profit.

Smoking Section

On Jan. 23 a fire at the London townhouse of Anthony Hopkins badly damaged an upstairs bedroom. Though the 62-year-old star lives largely in California, the English residence is home to his estranged wife Jenni, as well as to his 1991 Best Actor Oscar. Neither she nor the statuette was harmed in the blaze.

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