PEOPLE

Dangerfield out of danger after bypass operation

Rodney Dangerfield’s hospitalization last week was to undergo double bypass surgery, his business manager Charles Sussman said Wednesday. The comedian is making a good recovery, Sussman said, and he might be released from the hospital as soon as Sunday.

Dangerfield, 78, was hospitalized in Las Vegas last week, though at the time, officials were mum on why. He had completed a six-night performance and was complaining of chest pains. He was flown to Los Angeles and had surgery on Tuesday, according to Sussman.

Dangerfield did not suffer a heart attack, he added.

KURALT MISTRESS WINS COURT CASE: The secret mistress of the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt will have her 90 acres.

State District Judge John Christensen awarded the Montana fishing retreat to Patricia Shannon Wednesday, stating that a letter Kuralt wrote to her two weeks before he died in 1997 clearly expressed this wish.

Kuralt’s two children had argued that the letter merely expressed his intention to draft a will someday. The property, which includes a former one-room schoolhouse, has been valued at $600,000. The fight began after Kuralt died at 62 of complications from lupus. His widow, Suzanne “Petie” Baird Kuralt, learned of the 29-year affair only after the funeral. Her two daughters carried on their mother’s dispute after she died last October. While Shannon has refused to be interviewed about her relationship, she said Wednesday in a statement: “I hope that the wounds of these past months can begin to be healed and that we can now celebrate Charles’ life the way he would have wanted us to.”

THE SHOW THAT DIDN’T FIT IN: “Freaks and Geeks,” the acclaimed freshman comedy-drama about a group of social misfits in a suburban high school, circa 1980, has been expelled by NBC.

Its final shot on the Peacock aired Monday, spokeswoman Shirley Powell confirmed Wednesday. “Dateline NBC” will fill the 8 p.m. slot for now.

Six original episodes remain. The good news: NBC has given producer DreamWorks the OK to shop those six, as well as the 18 already-aired segments, to other networks. Best bets are MTV, the WB or Fox.

“Freaks and Geeks,” starring Lindsay Weir as a stoner “freak” sophomore and John Daley as her nerdy “geek” freshman brother, is a Nielsen noodle. Averaging 6.8 million viewers, it ranks 106th this season. Shelved for the February sweeps, “Freaks” had just returned to the lineup March 13. Monday’s show finished fourth in the 8 p.m. timeslot.

TALK ABOUT LACTOSE INTOLERANCE: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, but downright obstinate is the head that spurns the hair net. Prince Philip shunned such headgear while visiting a Wagga Wagga, Australia, cheese factory this past week. At the Charles Sturt University, which also runs a commercial cheese factory specializing in Australian bush cheeses, staffers looked on in hygiene horror as a dog ran about sniffing for bombs, followed by the prince sans white coat, boots and hairnet.

Since any errant royal hairs could have spoiled the cheese, an entire vat was condemned. However, the university’s head cheese plans to test for contamination and, if it passes, maybe sell it as royal head cheese. Or something like that.

IT’S DE-CEPTIVE, IT’S DE-LUSIONAL, IT’S DiCAPRIO: Is Leonardo DiCaprio trying to revamp his eco-image, or is he still itching from all the sand that allegedly got eroded when he filmed “The Beach” in Thailand? In any case, the 25-year-old warned against fossil fuels on behalf of the U.S.-based EarthAction environmental campaign network.

“The Earth is heating up, and everyone’s future is at risk. Please join us in sending a strong message to our governments that now is the time for action to prevent violent changes in our climate,” he said in a statement. EarthAction urged people to write to or e-mail their governments to lobby for cleaner fuels ahead of Earth Day, on April 22, when millions of people in the United States are expected to converge on Washington to promote the cause.

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail spin@cctimes.com.

Milestones

Foundation launched: By Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones. The two balloonists marked the one-year anniversary of their round-the-world flight Tuesday by launching Winds of Hope Foundation to combat noma, a little-known gangrenous infection that affects thousands of children every year in Asia, Africa and South America.

Birthdays: Comedian Marty Allen (78), movie director Mark Rydell (66), singer-producer Ric Ocasek (51), singer Chaka Khan (47), actress Amanda Plummer (43), comedian John Pinnett (36), actor Richard Grieco (35), country musician Kevin Griffin of Yankee Grey (35), rock singer-musician Damon Albarn of Blur (32), rock musician John Humphrey of The Nixons (30), actress Keri Russell (24), actress Nicholle Tom (23).

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