Celebrity news for the week of May 21, 1999

By Will Lee
Updated May 21, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Easy rider Dennis Hopper, 62, may be feeling a little less heavy, man. On May 7, an L.A. judge awarded $475,000 in punitive damages to actor Rip Torn, 68, ruling that Hopper had acted with malice when he said on a May 31, 1994, Tonight Show appearance that he had not cast Torn in Jack Nicholson’s role in Easy Rider because Torn had pulled a knife on Hopper. The courts had already awarded $475,000 to Torn for ”lost income…and emotional distress” in January ’97. Says Hopper: ”I’m relieved and look forward to moving on.”… Actor Edward Furlong, 21, was sued by his former girlfriend and manager, Jacqueline L. Domac, 34, May 6, in L.A. In court papers, Domac accuses Furlong of assault, battery, and breach of contract, which she says occurred while the two were dating from 1995 to ’98. Among other things, Domac claims Furlong attacked her and that he never paid her a manager’s fee. She is demanding 15 percent of his earnings from the past two or three years. Furlong’s reps did not return calls.

Writer-cartoonist Shel Silverstein, 66, of unknown causes, May 10, in Key West, Fla. The author and illustrator of such children’s favorites as A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, Silverstein created verse that blended often-absurdist whimsy with arched-eyebrows irony. His drawings, says fellow cartoonist Jules Feiffer, combined ”a child’s sense of immediacy with brilliant draftsmanship.” Silverstein also dabbled in songwriting (he composed the 1969 Johnny Cash hit ”A Boy Named Sue”) and screenwriting (he cowrote the 1988 film Things Change with David Mamet)…. Matinee hero-turned-thespian Dirk Bogarde, 78, of a heart attack, May 8, in London. The debonair Bogarde, who was knighted in 1992, rose to fame through such lighthearted hits as 1954’s Doctor in the House. His admiring audiences dubbed him ”the idol of the Odeons” and made him England’s most popular film star. He later took on more weighty roles, perhaps most memorably as the composer Von Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1971)…. Actress Dana Plato, 34, of an apparent accidental drug overdose, May 8, in Moore, Okla. According to police, Plato, who played the part of the apple-cheeked Kimberly Drummond on NBC’s Diff’rent Strokes from 1978 to 1984, was found by her fiance, Robert Menchaca, 28, after she had allegedly taken a mixture of Valium and the painkiller Loritab before napping. Neither foul play nor suicide is suspected. After her stint on Strokes, the actress ran into trouble with the law for robbing a video store in 1991 and for forging prescriptions for Valium in 1992. The day before her death, Plato appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show to insist she was drug-free. Her last role was in 1997’s straight-to-video soft-core release Different Strokes: A Story of Jack and Jill…and Jill…. Screenwriter Donald Stewart, 69, of cancer, April 28, in L.A. Stewart won the 1982 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with Costa-Gavras for Missing. Stewart also collaborated on 1990’s The Hunt for Red October.