ANNOUNCEMENTS Random House is looking for an author to pen a new installment of the late Mario Puzo’s Godfather series. The publisher bought rights to the characters from Puzo’s estate and hopes to sell the movie rights to Paramount…. There won’t be an eighth Harry Potter novel — despite reports that Warner Bros. registered several additonal Potter names (including the title of the upcoming fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) at the British patent office beginning in 2000. J.K. Rowling’s agent reaffirmed the writer’s long-stated plan for a seven-book series, adding that the additional titles were filed as decoys by Warner (a division of EW parent AOL Time Warner), which owns the film rights to the already-published Potter books.

COURTS On Oct. 16, a Los Angeles judge dismissed drug charges against Winona Ryder, 31, who provided evidence that a doctor had given her the painkillers she carried during her shoplifting arrest outside Saks Fifth Avenue in December. At press time, Ryder’s trial on felony charges of grand theft, burglary, and vandalism was to begin Oct. 24…. Now the Ronettes are singing the blues. On Oct. 17, a New York appeals court ruled valid a contract that gives legendary producer Phil Spector licensing rights to the ’60s girl group’s catalog. The decision will reduce to an undetermined sum an earlier award of $3 million to the trio (whose lead singer, Ronnie Greenfield, was once wed to Spector)…. On Oct. 16, photo-lab owner Wendy Linden, 35, sued MTV for unspecified damages, claiming she suffered spine and knee injuries, as well as emotional distress, at an April 21 taping of the Jackass TV show. Linden says that producers had her stand at a podium and ask scripted questions, just as cast member David England unexpectedly rammed the lectern, throwing her against a concrete floor. MTV had no comment…. On Oct. 21, Rosie O’Donnell, 40, sued Gruner + Jahr for $125 million, claiming her former publishing partner ”mounted a hostile takeover” of her 18-month-old magazine, Rosie. G+J, which filed a $100 million suit against O’Donnell Oct. 1 for walking away from the project, said the company is ”confident it will prevail.”

DEATHS Former child actor Jay R. Smith, 87, who appeared in the Our Gang short-film series from 1925 to 1929, of multiple stab wounds. On Oct. 22, the coroner’s office in Clark County, Nev., identified as Smith a body found in the desert north of Las Vegas 17 days earlier. Police are investigating…. German composer Norbert Schultze, 91, of undisclosed causes, Oct. 14, reportedly in Bad Tolz, Germany. Marlene Dietrich frequently performed his World War II-era hit ”Lili Marlene” for U.S. troops in Europe…. Sidney Pink, 86, an associate producer of the first feature-length 3-D film, 1952’s Bwana Devil, of undisclosed causes, Oct. 12, in Pompano Beach, Fla. — Jennifer Armstrong, with additional re-porting by Cary Hughes