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Mario Puzo Is Dead

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OBITUARIES Mario Puzo, the author of the 1969 novel ”The Godfather” and many other best-sellers, died Friday morning of natural causes at the age of 78. Puzo, who won two Oscars for cowriting the first two ”Godfather” films with Francis Ford Coppola, also coauthored the first two ”Superman” movies. He had just sent his latest mafia novel, ”Omerta,” to his agent weeks before his death…. Sylvia Sidney, who acted in movies, TV shows, and plays for 70 years, passed away Thursday at 88 from throat cancer. As a young actress, she starred in such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s ”Sabotage” and Fritz Lang’s ”You Only Live Once,” and in her career’s later years she carved a niche as a crotchety old woman, especially for Tim Burton, who cast her in ”Beetlejuice” and ”Mars Attacks”…. Director Edward Dmytryk (”The Caine Mutiny”) passed away at 90 on Thursday night. Dmytryk was infamous for serving a year in prison during the McCarthy era for having been a confessed Communist, and then naming names after his release…. Dennis Brown, who was known as the Crown Prince of Reggae, died Thursday in Jamaica at the age of 42 from undisclosed causes. Brown began scoring hits in 1969 at the age of 12, and he received a Grammy nomination in 1995 for his album ”Light My Fire.”

LEGAL TROUBLE As part of an ongoing lawsuit against the alleged bad influence of ”Natural Born Killers,” lawyers for Oliver Stone and Time Warner (which owns the movie’s distributor, Warner Bros. — not to mention Entertainment Weekly)have been summoned to court to answer charges that they are not providing the prosecution with the background information it has requested. The 1995 suit was filed for Patsy Byers, who was shot and paralyzed during a convenience-store robbery and claims that ”Killers” was purposefully made to inspire violence in viewers. According to Variety, the Time Warner lawyers have said that they consider the requested materials irrelevant (including such minor documents as Stone’s resume) and would not turn them over unless ordered by a judge.

Do DMX and ODB have some sort of arrest-record bar bet going? This time DMX (real name Earl Simmons) was nabbed by cops again when they found a semiautomatic pistol and 14 pit bulls during a search of his house, according to the Associated Press. The police were investigating his uncle being shot in the foot last Sunday at the rapper’s house, although they’re not saying whether DMX is under suspicion for involvement in that incident. DMX was also recently pinched for allegedly attacking someone who was bothering his wife.

Ex-NFL star and movie tough guy Jim Brown, 63, has been charged with terrorizing his wife, according to Reuters. During a June 15 argument that spun out of control, Brown allegedly threatened to kill his wife of nearly two years, Monique, and smashed the window of her car with a shovel. She called the cops, and he was arrested, but was later released on bail. If found guilty, Brown could face more than a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

CASTING Clint Eastwood has cast Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner as the rest of his crew for ”Space Cowboys,” his next directorial and acting gig. In it Eastwood plays an Air Force retiree recruited for a space mission who gathers his old cronies to join him. Other elders in the cast include Donald Sutherland and James Cromwell (”Babe”)…. Bill Paxton has joined Chris O’Donnell in the mountain-climbing adventure ”The Vertical Limit.”

CASE CLOSED Garry Shandling has settled his $100 million lawsuit against his ex-manager, Brad Grey, just prior to the beginning of the trial. Shandling had maintained that Grey had taken too big of a share of the profit from ”The Larry Sanders Show,” on which Grey also had a producer credit, and that Grey had used Shandling’s cred to land other production deals without entitling the comedian to any revenue. No terms of the settlement were disclosed.

HITCHED Posh Spice, Victoria Adams, is scheduled to get married on Sunday to soccer star David Beckham. The ceremony will be held in Dublin.

MEDICAL CARE Blues Traveler John Popper was hospitalized on Thursday after complaining of chest pains, according to MTV News. He said he had been experiencing the trouble for the past three months, and doctors are holding him to perform some tests. The band’s annual Fourth of July weekend concerts at Red Rocks in Colorado have been canceled.

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