Van Halen’s site confirms cancer buzz

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen, co-founder of the rock band that bears his name, confirmed he has cancer on his official Web site but did not specify the condition. The 44-year-old rocker apologized for his earlier silence, calling it “a very unique and private matter to deal with.”

“I was examined by three oncologists and three head-and-neck surgeons at Cedars Sinai (Medical Center in Los Angeles) just before spring break, and I was told that I’m healthier than ever and beating cancer,” Van Halen said in the note posted Thursday. “Although it’s hard to say when, there’s a good chance I will be cancer-free in the near future.” Hospital spokeswoman Grace Cheng said that Van Halen is under of the care of ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr. Martin Hopp but declined to identify the type of cancer.

The admission ends a year of speculation about his health. Van Halen, a longtime smoker, underwent preventive treatment for tongue cancer in May at a Houston medical center. A hospital spokeswoman denied at the time the musician had the disease.

A BUNDLE OF TROUBLE: Aaron Sorkin, creator of “The West Wing,” was charged Monday with possession of illegal hallucinogenic mushrooms, rock cocaine and marijuana.

Sorkin was arrested at Burbank Airport on April 15 after security officers found a small bag in his carry-on luggage containing paper bundles suspected of containing drugs.

Prosecutors charged him with two felony counts of drug possession one for hallucinogenic mushrooms and one for cocaine along with one misdemeanor count for marijuana, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Officers initially believed there were only mushrooms, but testing revealed there was cocaine as well, district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said. The marijuana also allegedly was found in his luggage.

Sorkin, 39, was scheduled for arraignment Wednesday in Burbank Superior Court.

He has been free on $10,000 bail since shortly after his arrest.

Sorkin has acknowledged a freebase cocaine addiction that caused him to check into the Hazelden Institute in Minnesota for treatment in 1995.

Sorkin wrote the Broadway and film versions of the military drama “A Few Good Men,” the screenplay for “The American President” and the TV comedy “Sports Night.”

STING PLANE SKIDS: A small Cessna carrying Sting, two pilots and a friend skidded off the runway while trying to land at a Florence airport on Monday, an airport official said. “The plane ended off the runway, but Sting was not hurt and has left,” a Florence airport official told Reuters. According to Italian news agency ANSA, the plane plowed through a fence, then ended up in a grass field at the end of the runway. Flights leaving Florence airport were delayed by 45 minutes while the fire brigade removed the plane from the runway. Sting and his friend reportedly headed to his villa.

YOUR HONOR, STOP OBJECTING: Stephen King may not be a good writer, but he’s no plagiarist. That was the damning yet positive ruling from U.S. District Judge David Hurd in a decision he filed April 17 from his Utica, N.Y., chambers. Christina Starobin, an adjunct professor at Ulster Community College, accused the horror schlockmeister of cadging off her unpublished “Blood Eternal.”

Hurd dismissed the lawsuit after reading her manuscript and King’s best-selling novel, “Desperation.” Hurd wrote, “This reading of a work by King was a first. Also, no other work of the plaintiff had ever been read. Quite frankly, neither work was a particularly good read.” Talk about a dismissal.

EARNING LOTS OF D’OH!: They may play middle-class schmoes on television, but the Simpsons will soon find themselves in a higher tax bracket. The voice cast behind the Fox animated show will get about a 43 percent raise $100,000 an episode for seasons 13 and 14, up from $70,000 currently, with an option for a 15th season that will pay them $125,000. (Each season has 22 episodes.) Also, Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner and Nancy Cartwright will each get a whopping $1 million bonus.

Castellaneta, who voices Homer Simpson and has written several episodes with writing partner Deb Lacusta, will also receive a production/development deal with Fox. This negotiation has been far less acrimonious than in 1998, when the talent got vocal about being underpaid for voicing a show that has been a cash cow for producers 20th Century Fox Television and Gracie Films, the production company of James L. Brooks. After several tense weeks, their $25,000-per-episode pay doubled.

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


Hearing postponed: For Robert Downey Jr. Lawyers were given three more weeks to prepare for a hearing where they’ll challenge a hotel room search during the actor’s Palm Springs drug possession arrest last Thanksgiving weekend. The hearing will take place May 24.

Birthdays: Author William Manchester (79), actor George Grizzard (73), actress Jane Powell (72), actress Debbie Reynolds (69), actor Gordon Jump (69), country singer Jim Ed Brown (67), actor Don Hastings (67), actress Ali MacGraw (63), R&B singer Rudolph Isley of The Isley Brothers (62), historian David Eisenhower (54), reggae singer Jimmy Cliff (53), jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron (52), rock musician Billy Currie of Ultravox (49), actress Annette O’Toole (48), director Barry Sonnenfeld (48), country singer Woody Lee (33), tennis player Magdalena Maleeva (26), singer Bijou Phillips (21), actor Sam Huntington (19).