Plus: Vanna White engaged, Ron Reagan speaks to Dems and more

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 12, 2004 08:00 AM

WITHDREW: Charlie’s Angels director McG (real name: Joseph McGinty Nicol) is no longer attached to shoot the next installment of Superman, becoming the latest filmmaker to leave the long-stalled project, says the Hollywood Reporter. Among the issues, says the trade paper, was that the filmmaker wanted to shoot in New York, while Warner Bros. (which, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner), favored the less costly Australia. “When I flew to New York to scout, I became enamored with our greatest American city,” McG, 34, said in a statement. “It was clear to me that this was Metropolis. As a filmmaker, I felt it was inappropriate to try to capture the heart of America on another continent. I look at Superman as a character that embodies all that is beautiful about America.”

SCHEDULED: On July 27 in Boston, Ronald Reagan Jr., outspoken son of the late Republican president, will address the Democratic National Convention on the subject of embryonic stem-cell research, which the Bush administration has been opposing. The younger Reagan is pushing for cell research to fight such diseases as Alzheimer’s, from which his father suffered. Speaking to NBC News, Reagan, 46, said: “This could be a bigger medical breakthrough than antibiotics and open-heart surgery.” The Boston Globe reports that Reagan, who is a registered independent and a liberal, said he would not campaign for John Kerry or any other candidate – but that he said he would vote for Kerry “as a way to defeat Bush.”

ENGAGED: Wheel of Fortune cohost Vanna White, 47, announced her engagement to California businessman Michael Kaye by spelling out “Vanna’s Engaged” on her show’s board. The couple have not set a date, according to the Wheel of Fortune Web site. White has two children from her marriage to restaurateur George Santo Pietro.

DIED: Jeff Smith, 65, whose Frugal Gourmet PBS show drew millions of viewers until a sex scandal forced him off the air, died in his sleep on Wednesday, after suffering from heart disease, his agent, Jim Paddleford, said. In 1998 Smith agreed to a $5 million cash settlement, mostly paid by insurance companies, to six men who accused him of abusing them when they were teenagers working at Smith’s Tacoma, Wash., restaurant in the 1970s, as well as a hitchhiker who said Smith gave him a ride and molested him.

WANTED: Veteran TV star Martin Milner, 72, is seeking the public’s help in finding a bone marrow donor for his leukemia-stricken daughter, Amy Milner, 45, after no suitable donor has been found among family members or on the national registry, reports the Associated Press. Blood drives to find a match are scheduled in San Diego and Carlsbad this month and one is set for the Screen Actors Guild in L.A. on July 16. Kent McCord, Milner’s friend and Adam 12 costar, is heading the SAG drive.

LOST: Controversial Olympic champ Marion Jones, 29, failed to make the 100-meter team for Athens after she finished fifth in the U.S. trials on Saturday. Jones clocked 11.14 seconds as the field pulled away in the final third of the race. Only the top three finishers are guaranteed a place on the team for next month’s Games, providing they have met the Olympic-qualifying standard. Jones’s former teammate LaTasha Colander won the race in a personal best of 10.97 seconds, equaling the second fastest time in the world this season, Reuters reports. World champion Torri Edwards was second in 11.02 seconds and collegiate winner Lauryn Williams took third in 11.10 seconds.

WON: Former pro hockey player Tony Twist has been awarded $15 million by a St. Louis jury, which found that a comic book had infringed Twist’s publicity rights by using his name without permission, the Associated Press reports. Comic book artist Todd McFarlane named a violent New York mob boss character Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli in Spawn comic books in the early 1990s. McFarlane claimed his use of the name was protected under the First Amendment, but Twist – and the jury – disagreed, saying McFarlane had gone outside the bounds of free speech rights.