Celebrity news for the week of January 25, 2008

Forget the Ivy — maternity wards were the best places to spot celebs in L.A. last weekend: Ex-Simple Life star Nicole Richie, 25, Christina Aguilera, 27, and According to Jim‘s Courtney Thorne-Smith, 40, all became first-time moms. Harlow Winter Kate (Richie’s daughter with Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden, 28) and Jacob Emerson (Thorne-Smith’s son with hubby Roger Fishman, 47) arrived on Jan. 11; Max Liron — Aguilera’s son with her music-exec spouse, Jordan Bratman, 30 — came the next day. Then on Jan. 15, a rep for Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), 32, confirmed the birth of his second son with wife Summer Phoenix, 29, in L.A…. Meanwhile, across the pond: The latest design from Stella McCartney, 36, is son Beckett Robert Lee, born Jan. 8 in London, the third child for the couturier and husband Alasdhair Willis, 37…. And in Sydney, Australia, Little Miss Sunshine‘s Toni Collette, 35, and husband Dave Galafassi (who plays drums in her band, Toni Collette & the Finish) had a girl, Sage Florence, on Jan. 9.

On Jan. 15, Zac Efron, 20, was hospitalized in L.A. for an appendectomy. The High School Musical star is recovering…. According to People.com, Gwyneth Paltrow, 35, was briefly admitted to an NYC hospital on Jan. 14. No details about her treatment were made public, but a rep reportedly said the actress ”is fine and now at home.”

On Jan. 10, the striking Writers Guild of America announced nominees for its annual awards: Juno, Knocked Up, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, and The Savages will vie for Original Screenplay; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Zodiac got nods for Adapted Screenplay. The guild also created a category for videogame writing (among the contenders: The Simpsons Game). Winners will be revealed via press release Feb. 9.

On Jan. 15, Matthew McConaughey, 38, announced on his website that his girlfriend, Camila Alves, 24, is three months pregnant with their first child.

On Jan. 15, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, 52, unveiled the new iTunes movie-rental feature. Made possible by deals with all the major studios — who’ll offer flicks within 30 days of DVD release — the service lets users download or instantly view films for $2.99-4.99. By the end of February, Apple plans to carry over 1,000 titles. This comes after Netflix’s news that subscribers have unlimited streaming access to more than 6,000 movies and TV episodes.

On Jan. 9, Michelle Rodriguez (Lost), 29, was released from an L.A. County jail due to overcrowding; she had served just 18 days of the six-month probation-violation sentence she received after a 2006 DUI conviction…. On Jan. 13, Oscar-winning screenwriter Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction), 42, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after a car crash in Ojai, Calif., that injured his wife and killed a 34-year-old male passenger. He was released on $50,000 bail and will be arraigned on Jan. 18. ”Words cannot express how sorry he is,” says Avary’s rep. ”This tragic accident will always haunt him.”

Actress/TV horror host Maila Nurmi, a.k.a. Vampira (Plan 9 From Outer Space), 85, of undetermined causes, Jan. 10 in L.A. — Additional reporting by Michael Powe and Alice Lee Tebo

BRAD RENFRO (1982-2008)
On Jan. 15, the young actor — who first gained fame at age 12 in 1994’s The Client — was found dead at his L.A. home. At press time, with an autopsy pending, the county coroner’s office said the cause may have been an accidental overdose of alcohol and Xanax. In 1998, Renfro starred in Apt Pupil before his substance-abuse struggles got the better of his career. (In 2005, he was arrested for DUI and attempted heroin possession.) Pupil director Bryan Singer calls him ”a filmmaker at heart. He was extremely professional. [Drugs were] an issue he’d battled since he was unusually young.” Ironically, Renfro had just finished filming The Informers, a sex-and-drugs-laced drama due later this year. — Adam B. Vary

While football isn’t usually our domain, we couldn’t help but notice the outcry when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the New York Giants on Jan. 13. The supposed culprit: the Jessica Jinx, named for Jessica Simpson, who’s been dating Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo since last fall. (Apparently, the singer-actress was culpable even though she didn’t attend the playoff game.) The thing is, ‘Boys fans may be onto something. Her August ’06 album, A Public Affair, sold only 297,000 copies, and her last movie, 2007’s Blonde Ambition, made just $6,422 before going to DVD about 30 seconds later. Consider sister Ashlee, busted for lip-synching on SNL, and her boyfriend, Pete Wentz, who broke his ankle just before his band Fall Out Boy got snubbed by the Grammys. The only lucky one seems to be the guy who escaped Jess’ orbit. Nick Lachey’s CD What’s Left of Me outsold his ex-wife’s, and he recently won NBC’s very prestigious reality competition Clash of the Choirs. Maybe Jessica’s new nickname, Yoko Romo, isn’t so far-fetched after all. — Tanner Stransky