Circus Legend Dies; Oscar Donated
DIED: Animal trainer extraordinaire Gunther Gebel-Williams, 66, from 1968 to 1990 (when he retired) the unrivaled star of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Florida. A self-taught animal trainer in his native Germany, he never missed a single show for Ringling Brothers, despite the several times he was clawed by his costars. All told, it is estimated that he performed some 12,000 shows for Ringling — 1,191 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden alone . . . BOUGHT: Steven Spielberg was the “anonymous” bidder who paid $578,000 for Bette Davis’s 1938 best actress Oscar for “Jezebel” at a Christie’s auction in N.Y. on Thursday, Variety columnist Army Archerd has revealed. The filmmaker will present it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (just as he did when he acquired — for $607,500 — Clark Gable’s Oscar for “It Happened One Night”) . . . SENTENCED: Best-selling British novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer, 61, was found guilty in London’s Old Bailey court on Thursday of perjury and perverting the course of justice and has been sentenced to four years in jail. Archer was accused of lying and creating false diaries to win $700,000 in libel damages from the Daily Star newspaper in 1987, after it had reported that he paid for sex in 1986 . . . INDICTED: A federal grand jury in Philadelphia returned an indictment on Thursday against Mitchell Guilliatt, 27, who allegedly struck the Liberty Bell with a sledgehammer on April 6. He is charged with attempting to injure federal property and defacing an archaeological resource and faces a maximum of five years in prison. At his bail hearing, Guilliatt apologized for the damage caused to the 249-year-old bell. His attorney said he only meant to ring it, not damage it.