LAWSUITS Actor Billy Gray, 59, who played Bud on the ’50s sitcom Father Knows Best, filed a suit for libel, invasion of privacy, and other complaints against movie critic Leonard Maltin, 46, Jan. 24, in L.A. The suit stems from a review in Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide (1974 to 1997 editions) of the 1971 ”documentary” Dusty and Sweets McGee, which describes Gray as a heroin dealer and addict. Gray, who says he was unaware of the entry until recently, contends that he was portraying a fictional character in the film. Maltin’s spokesman had no comment…. Jeff Smith, 58, the sprightly host of PBS’ The Frugal Gourmet and an ordained United Methodist minister, has been named the target of a sexual-assault suit filed Jan. 23, in Pierce County, Wash., by an unnamed 36-year-old county resident. The plaintiff claims Smith sexually assaulted him 21 years ago while he was working at a restaurant run by Smith. According to the suit, Smith ”pursued a pattern and practice of grooming high-school-age boy employees for sexual intercourse.” Smith’s lawyer responds: ”He is innocent. My client’s bearing up. We’re going to fight hard.”
DEATHS Astrologer Jeane Dixon, 79, of cardiopulmonary arrest, Jan. 25, in Washington, D.C. The nationally syndicated psychic rose to prominence after Parade magazine ran her 1956 prediction that a Democratic president, elected in 1960, would die while in office…. ”Louie, Louie” singer-songwriter Richard Berry, 61, of complications from a previous aneurysm, Jan. 23, in L.A. Berry, whose three-chord anthem — particularly the 1963 slurred version by the Kingsmen — may be the most popular party-rock song of all time, sold the rights to the hit for $750 in 1957. The 1978 movie National Lampoon’s Animal House made the song a frat-house hit all over again, and finally, in 1986, Berry recovered a portion of the publishing rights, though none of the back royalties…. Songwriter Irwin Levine, 58, of undisclosed causes, Jan. 21, in Livingston, N.J. With his partner, Larry Brown, Levine cowrote ”Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree,” the second-most-recorded song in history (the Beatles’ ”Yesterday” is first), and the unofficial theme of the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis.