Plus Francis Ford Coppola, Whitney Houston, and other celebrities making news the week of Jan. 10, 1997

ENGAGED After months of rumors and denials, spokespeople for Brad Pitt, 33, and Gwyneth Paltrow, 24, have finally confirmed that the glam pair are engaged. No wedding date has been announced; it will be the first marriage for both.

LAWSUITS Scientist Carl Sagan was posthumously named in a breach-of-contract suit filed by Francis Ford Coppola’s production company, Zoetrope Corp., Dec. 26, in L.A. The suit, which also names Warner Bros., says the upcoming film Contact, based on Sagan’s 1985 book, originated from an idea suggested by Coppola. Says Sagan’s son Jeremy, 36, reacting to news of the suit: ”Why do rich people want money so much?” Warner did not return calls…. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed a $50 million libel suit against Walt Disney Pictures, Dec. 23, in Upper Marlboro, Md., where the union is based. The machinists say the movie Ransom portrays them in a bad light: In the film, Mel Gibson plays an airline owner who bribes a union official to prevent the machinists from going on strike. The studio is unavailable for comment.

RECOVERING Whitney Houston, 33, from a miscarriage Dec. 19, after a 10-week pregnancy. It was the star’s third miscarriage. Houston and husband Bobby Brown, 27, have a 3-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

DEATHS Actor Lew Ayres, 88, of undisclosed causes, Dec. 30, in L.A. In a seven-decade career, he starred in such classics as All Quiet on the Western Front and Johnny Belinda, for which he received an Oscar nomination in 1948. Ayres had enjoyed huge success in the ’30s and ’40s starring in MGM’s Dr. Kildare film series, but he caused an uproar in 1942, when he refused military service for religious reasons. Ayres eventually enlisted and served 31/2 years as a medic…. Margret E. Rey, 90, cocreator of Curious George, of complications from a heart attack, Dec. 21, at her home in Cambridge, Mass. Rey, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, created the lovably hapless fictional monkey in the 1930s with her late husband, illustrator H.A. Rey, in Paris. They turned out seven Curious George children’s books together. After her husband’s death, Rey wrote 28 more books with Alan J. Shalleck.