February 18, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

BIRTHS Actor Richard Gere, 50, and actress Carey Lowell (Law & Order), 39, welcomed their first child, son Homer James Jigme, 8 pounds 12 ounces, Feb. 6, in New York City. Lowell has a daughter, Hannah Dunne, 9, from a previous marriage; she and Gere are not married…. Sweet and Lowdown actress Samantha Morton, 22, and actor Charlie Creed-Miles (The Fifth Element), 27, celebrated the birth of daughter Esme, 9 pounds 4 ounces, Feb. 5, in London. It’s the unmarried couple’s first child.

RECOVERING Director Steven Spielberg, 53, is recuperating at his L.A. home after undergoing surgery in late January to remove a kidney. In a brief statement released Feb. 7, the director’s spokesman Marvin Levy said an “irregularity” was discovered on Spielberg’s kidney during a routine exam. The organ was removed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. Levy declined to clarify whether the kidney was cancerous, but noted that no follow-up treatment was needed. According to medical experts, kidneys can be removed for malignant growths, nonmalignant growths, and infections. “Steven is fine,” says a source close to the director. “But as it would do to anyone, this did shake him up a bit.” Spielberg, who is already home reading scripts, is expected back at the L.A. offices of DreamWorks on Feb. 14, says Levy…. Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, 47, was released from a New York City hospital Feb. 2, following a month long treatment for what a spokesman says was a “bacterial infection.” Miramax has denied rumors that Weinstein suffered a heart attack and said he would return to work after several more weeks of recuperation…. Actor Gene Wilder, 64, was being treated for lymphoma at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the hospital announced Feb. 4. The star of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles was diagnosed with the disease last year. His previous wife, Gilda Radner, died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Wilder’s manager declined comment.

PLEAS British beauty Naomi Campbell, 29, pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to misdemeanor assault for roughing up former assistant Georgina Galanis during a 1998 spat at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel (Galanis charged that Campbell shook her by the throat and hit her with a phone). The Canadian court let the model off with a warning. In a related civil case last March, Campbell reached an undisclosed settlement with Galanis.

LAWSUITS Sara Karloff, daughter of late horror actor Boris Karloff, sued Universal Studios Feb. 3 in L.A., alleging that the company failed to pay her royalties on merchandise based on such classic Karloff characters as Frankenstein’s monster and the original Mummy. Though the actor died in 1969, Sara says she inherited the rights to his name and likeness. She seeks more than $10 million in damages. Universal declined comment.

DEATHS Rap star Big Pun (short for Big Punisher), 28, of unknown causes, Feb. 7, in White Plains, N.Y. Born Christopher Rios in the South Bronx, the 698-pound lyricist was the first solo Latino rapper to go double platinum, with his ’98 debut Capital Punishment (featuring “Still Not a Player”)…. Actor Todd Karns, 79, reportedly of cancer, Feb. 5, in Ajijic, Mexico. He is best known for playing Harry Bailey, Jimmy Stewart‘s war-hero brother in 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life…. Singer Doris Kenner-Jackson, 58, of breast cancer, Feb. 4, in Sacramento. A founding member of the ’50s and ’60s girl group the Shirelles, Jackson (née Doris Coley) contributed lead vocals on “Dedicated to the One I Love.”… Hercules the bear, 26, reportedly from complications from a slipped disc, Feb. 4, in Glen Devon, Scotland. The 8-foot-tall grizzly appeared in many films, notably wrestling Roger Moore’s James Bond in Octopussy…. Comic-book artist Gil Kane, 73, of lymphoma, Jan. 31, in Miami. The son of Latvian immigrants, Kane (born Eli Katz) began drawing superheroes at 16 for Archie publisher MLJ. He revamped DC Comics’ Green Lantern in the ’60s, helping it regain its own title, and later drew Marvel’s Spider-Man in the ’70s and DC’s Superman in the ’80s…. Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam, 53, of heart failure related to lung disease, Jan. 26, in L.A. Boam’s credits include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Lethal Weapons 2 and 3. He also co-created Fox’s The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and wrote a fourth Indiana Jones film, currently in development.

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