Celebrity news for March 26, 1999

By Will Lee
Updated March 26, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

On March 11, an $80 million negligence suit was filed against 10 defendants, including Patricia Brentrup, 44, mother of actor Macaulay Culkin, 18. The suit was brought on behalf of a group of survivors and victims of a Dec. 23 fire that killed four people in the Manhattan high-rise where Brentrup lived. The suit alleges that Brentrup failed ”to prevent the rapid escape and spread of smoke and fire” during the blaze, which started in her apartment. Brentrup declines to comment…. On March 12, in L.A., freelance photographer Eric Ford, 27, pleaded guilty to intercepting a cell-phone call between Nicole Kidman, 31, and Tom Cruise, 36, in February 1998. The charge that Ford sold the purloined conversation to the Globe supermarket tabloid last June (which published what it claimed was the transcript of a marital quarrel) was dropped. Ford could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his May 17 sentencing. Cruise and Kidman have no comment.

Actor Brian Dennehy, 60, missed three performances of his Broadway hit Death of a Salesman after being diagnosed with hypertension. According to his agent, Dennehy checked himself into Manhattan’s St. Clare’s Hospital March 14 because ”he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t sleep.” He was released from the hospital after two days and was expected to return to Salesman March 17. The show was dark during his absence…. Freak-rocker Marilyn Manson, 30, was admitted to L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a sprained right ankle March 14. According to his spokesperson, Manson injured the ankle during a concert in Anaheim the previous night but aggravated the sprain while performing at L.A.’s Great Western Forum. Manson and his band were forced to cancel three dates, but will resume touring March 21 in Houston.

Illustrator Leon ”Lee” Falk, 87, creator of the comic strip The Phantom, of congestive heart failure, March 13, in New York. In addition to the purple-suited comic-strip hero, Falk also created the still-running Mandrake the Magician. The Phantom was last adapted for the big screen in 1996…. Writer-director Garson Kanin, 86, of natural causes, March 13, in Manhattan. A leading figure of American theater and film, Kanin amassed such memorable Broadway credits as 1946’s Born Yesterday, which he wrote, and 1964’s Funny Girl, which he directed. Kanin, with his first wife and frequent collaborator, Ruth Gordon, also penned two classic Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn films, 1949’s Adam’s Rib and 1952’s Pat and Mike. In 1945, Kanin won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for True Glory…. Violin virtuoso Sir Yehudi Menuhin, 82, of heart failure, March 12, in Berlin. One of the great prodigies of the century, Menuhin made his Carnegie Hall debut at age 11 and was a soloist and humanitarian of formidable talent and commitment. Albert Einstein is said to have commented after hearing him play, ”You have again proved to me that there is a God!”