Robert Urich dies of cancer at 55. Plus, news about 'N Sync, Ben Stiller, Dave Matthews, Ashton Kutcher, Harold Ramis, Michael Caine, Forest Whitaker, and others
Robert Urich
Credit: Robert Urich: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA PressNancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press/NewsCom

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PASSING NOTES Robert Urich, the Emmy-winning actor who starred in dozens of TV series and made-for-TV movies, died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif. after battling cancer for six years. The 55-year-old, who had most recently co-starred on the short-lived ”Emeril” last fall, was probably best known for such private-eye roles as Dan Tanna on ”Vega$” (1978-81) and novelist Robert Parker‘s Boston sleuth Spenser in ”Spenser: For Hire” (1985-88) and several Spenser TV movies. He also had memorable roles in ’70s shows ”S.W.A.T.” and ”Soap,” and won an Emmy for narrating the cable documentary ”U-Boats: Terror on Our Shores.”

He was starring in the TNT series ”The Lazarus Man” in 1996 when he was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks the body’s joints. After a variety of treatments, the cancer went into remission, and he continued to act in many more series and TV movies. (He also sued Castle Rock, the producer of ”Lazarus,” for $1.5 million for canceling the show over fears about his health.) Last summer, however, the cancer reemerged. He was in the process of writing an autobiography, ”An Extraordinary Life,” when he was hospitalized. His wife, actress Heather Menzies (”The Sound of Music”) and their three children were at his side when he died.

LEGAL BRIEF A lawsuit filed against ‘N Sync by puppeteers and Marty Krofft, the producers of such trippy classic Saturday morning fare as ”H.R. Pufnstuf,” ”Lidsville,” and ”Land of the Lost,” has been ‘N Sunk. Last week, a federal judge in California dismissed the suit, in which the Kroffts demanded $1 million in royalties for images of their puppets used in souvenir merchandise on the quintet’s tour in 2000. The brothers created the puppets for ‘N Sync’s performance of ”Bye Bye Bye” at the 2000 American Music Awards, when the band was promoting its ”No Strings Attached” album. (Get it?) The Kroffts claimed in the suit that they had a verbal agreement with the band’s manager, Johnny Wright, for royalties from any goods bearing images of the puppets, but they were apparently unable to prove in court the existence of the agreement, and their suit was thrown out. Which must have driven the Kroffts bugaloo.

BABY TALK Meet the parents: Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor. The couple had a baby girl last week, reportedly on Wednesday. They did not specify the date, the girl’s name, or her birth weight. It’s the first child for the ”Zoolander” co-stars. Stiller, 36, and Taylor, 31, married in May, 2000.

HEALTH WATCH Dave Matthews postponed his band’s concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden last night due to ”doctor-diagnosed strain on Matthews’ vocal cords,” a spokesperson said. The band was still hoping to perform tonight. The missed show has yet to be rescheduled; DMB will be on tour throughout North America for the next couple of months.

REEL DEALS Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, who played the dope-smoking morons in 2000’s ”Dude, Where’s My Car?,” will reunite for a sequel, to be called, ”Seriously Dude, Where’s My Car?” It won’t start filming until summer 2003, which means it may not open until four years after the original, but 20th Century Fox knows that there is always a new audience for drugs and stupidity….

Harold Ramis needs a friend. The ”Analyze This” director is looking to cast ”Let’s Make Friends,” a comedy about a man whose all-but-perfect life lacks only a best buddy. Ramis hopes to shoot next year, after finishing the sequel to his mob comedy, to be called ”Analyze That.”…

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