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Celebrity news for the week of April 6, 2007

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BIRTHS
Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, 38, and her investor husband, David Conrod, 46, greeted son Lucas on March 24…. Finally some good news for actor Wesley Snipes, 44, who pleaded innocent to tax fraud in December. His artist wife, Nikki, 33, gave birth to son Alimayu Moa-T on March 26.

CONTROVERSY
Mel Gibson, 51, clashed with Prof. Alicia Estrada while speaking at California State University, Northridge, on March 22. Estrada remarked that the bloodthirsty depiction of Mayans in his movie Apocalypto was racist. After a lengthy discussion, Gibson responded ”F— off, lady.” Says his publicist: ”The audience shouted for her to ‘shut up and sit down.’… Organizers had to escort her out.”

SPLIT
Country star Wynonna Judd, 42, filed for divorce from her husband, road manager D.R. Roach, 49, on March 27, citing irreconcilable differences. Five days earlier, Roach was arrested in Texas for alleged sexual battery against a minor. He could not be reached for comment.

AILING
Desperate Housewives‘ Jesse Metcalfe, 28, checked into rehab in L.A. on March 19 for alcohol abuse…. Jack Valenti, 85, the former MPAA chief who helped create the movie-ratings system, has suffered a stroke. Said the family in a statement: ”Doctors are encouraged by his progress.”

COURTS
On March 23, Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill — Vol. 1), 42, was charged with DUI. She allegedly failed a field sobriety test March 20 after cops pulled her over for speeding on an L.A. freeway. Fox will appear in court May 17…. Photographers Scott Cosman, 39, and Rik Fedyck, 44, sued Pamela Anderson, 39, and Denise Richards (left), 36, on March 23 in L.A., for an undisclosed sum. The suit says that the actresses — in Vancouver last November to shoot the movie Blonde and Blonder — ”calculated to embarrass, humiliate, and ridicule” the lensmen in the press, after Richards allegedly threw their laptop over a hotel balcony.

ACCIDENT
Eddie Griffin (Norbit), 38, crashed a $1.5 million Ferrari into a concrete wall on March 26. The actor was driving the vehicle belonging to a producer of Redline — his April 13 film — while practicing for a charity-race event at California’s Irwindale Speedway. Says a rep for the film: ”He walked away completely unscratched.” — Lindsay Soll, with additional reporting by Stewart Allen

UPDATE
A Florida coroner revealed March 26 that Anna Nicole Smith’s Feb. 8 death was caused by an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

DEATHS
Soul legend Luther Ingram, 69, best known for his song ”If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right),” of heart failure, March 19, in Belleville, Ill…. Carol Richards, 84, who recorded the Christmas classic ”Silver Bells” with Bing Crosby, of kidney failure, March 16, in Vero Beach, Fla…. Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis (Glory), 89, after a stroke, March 17, in London.


LEGACY
Calvert DeForest 1921-2007
The interview-mangling, fake-laugh-bellowing DeForest — known to late-night fans as Larry ”Bud” Melman — was a most unlikely celebrity. The bewildered nonactor (who died March 19 at age 85 after a long illness) became a star on David Letterman’s programs, hilariously misreading his cue cards through thick black glasses from 1982 through 2002. Said Letterman in a statement: ”He was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him.” — Josh Wolk

Totally Tubular
On March 22, NBC Universal and News Corp. announced the launch of a new online video service that’s being touted as a YouTube killer. The joint venture, set to debut this summer, will house free, ad-supported streams of TV shows (like Fox’s The Simpsons and NBC’s Heroes) as well as pay-to-download movies. Consider this a direct shot at Google-owned YouTube, which is also being sued by Viacom over claims that it is violating copyright laws. Though user-generated content will be present on this still-unnamed site, don’t expect too many sneezing-panda clips: This project is all about controlling the flow of pop culture before Hirofan74 uploads it himself. — Michael Endelman

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