Celebrity news for the week of April 25, 1997

BIRTHS Tony Randall has a new roommate to deal with. The 77-year-old actor’s wife, Heather Harlan Randall, 27, gave birth to a 7-pound 8-ounce girl, Julia Laurette, April 11, in New York. This is the first child for both.

SPLITS Three weeks after her husband won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, Pietra Thornton, 27, filed for divorce from Sling Blade auteur Billy Bob Thornton, 41, April 11, in L.A., citing irreconcilable differences after four years of marriage. (Reportedly, Thornton has been seen with Laura Dern; see page 37.) Three days later, Pietra requested and received a temporary restraining order against Thornton, claiming ”physical violence” throughout their marriage, as well as recent death threats. Married four times, Thornton said, ”Our marriage was not perfect, but I never exhibited the behavior she’s accusing me of.” The couple have two children together, William, 3, and Harry James, 2.

AILING Country singer Eddie Rabbitt, 54, is undergoing radiation therapy to treat a malignant tumor detected in his lung three weeks ago. He is scheduled to undergo surgery in May. ”He’s doing well, and he’s convinced he’s going to beat this thing,” says a spokesperson.

DEATHS The body of author Michael Dorris, 52, was found April 11 in a Concord, N.H., motel room, where he’d apparently suffocated himself with a plastic bag. Dorris published more than a dozen books, many with Native American themes, including two with his wife, novelist Louise Erdrich (from whom he was later estranged). The Broken Cord, which details his son’s struggles with fetal alcohol syndrome, is his best-known work and won him a 1989 National Book Critics Circle award. ”Michael did a great deal of good for the world,” Erdrich said. ”He is deeply grieved by his family and friends.”… Songwriter Mae Boren Axton, 82, April 8, in Hendersonville, Tenn. The Sumner County forensic pathologist says Axton, the mother of singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton, accidentally drowned in her hot tub at home. In addition to cowriting Elvis Presley’s first major hit, ”Heartbreak Hotel,” she helped launch the careers of Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, among others. ”Mae was as much a fixture in Nashville as the Grand Ole Opry,” says Parton. ”We will all spend some time at ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ mourning her loss.”