James Gandolfini's shocking death happened in the middle of a "guy's trip" for the actor and his teenage son, Michael ... TMZ has learned.
Multiple sources tell us James' trip was for pleasure and business -- first getting to spend some QT in Italy with Michael, who just recently graduated from the 8th grade ... and then attending the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.
We're told Michael's mom -- James' first wife Marcy Wudarski -- immediately flew to Italy on Wednesday to be with her son ... after she was told James had died.
James and his son were very tight -- Michael is a big hockey fan, and he and his father were regulars at LA Kings home games.
When Kim Kardashian first arrived to Cedars Sinai to deliver her baby, she didn't get the fancy celebrity suite she had hoped for 'cause they were all in use ... and one of the VIP occupants was Dwight Howard's newest baby mama, TMZ has learned.
Sources connected to the births tell us ... before Kim went into labor, she had made arrangements to stay in one of the fancy suites at the L.A. hospital. But the baby came 5 weeks early, and the fancy suites were all booked. So Kim was placed in another unit.
But while Kim was laid out in bed, Kanye roamed the maternity ward ... and bumped into NBA superstar Dwight Howard, whose lady was giving birth to his child.
FYI -- Dwight's a seasoned vet when it comes to the maternity ward ... he's reportedly fathered 3 other kids (with 3 different women).
We're told Kanye and Dwight got along great ... with Yeezy giving Howard a preview of his new album "Yeezus."
As for Kim ... we're told she's finally out of the hospital -- and mother and the baby are shacked up in a private location.
Famed black Southern chef Joe Randall -- who once taught Paula Deen a few tricks -- says he's extremely hurt by Deen's admitted use of the n-word ... but tells TMZ, he'd STILL welcome her at his establishment.
Randall -- who runs the famous Savannah Cooking School in Georgia where Deen once studied -- tells us, he can't say definitely whether Deen's a racist simply because she once used the n-word ... but says, "I can say that her admitting to using derogatory language and the n-word is very hurtful."
Randall called the language racist, but said, "You have to understand we're in the South and some people think that it's acceptable to use [racist] language from 50 years ago."
Now the shocking part ... Randall says, "As a businessman, of course she is welcome in my establishment like any other client would be. I wouldn't turn her down at all."
He adds, "Although I don't respect that she used derogatory hateful words ... and if she came into my establishment and we were to talk, I would tell her I don't agree with her words."
Amanda Bynes won't be releasing an album with Wyclef Jean's help any time soon -- reps for the former Fugees rapper tell TMZ, Clef has NO intention to collaborate with the wig-wearing tornado of confusion.
There were reports Bynes and Wyclef would be joining forces for Amanda's upcoming album on Chinga Chang records -- after the label's CEO Daniel Herman went on the record saying he was bringing the two together for an explosive collaboration.
But Wyclef's management says it's just not gonna happen, telling TMZ, Wyclef has no intention of working with Amanda.
In fact, Wyclef's people say he's never even spoken to Amanda.
But it's not the end of the world, right? Paris Hilton didn't have Wyclef's help.
Darryl Strawberry's not living up to his name ... because according to a new lawsuit, he stiffed a produce company on a massive fruit and vegetable bill -- to the tune of $2,694.
New V&J Produce Corp has filed a lawsuit against Strawberry and his NYC restaurant Strawberry's Sports Grill, claiming it recently made multiple produce shipments to the establishment worth a total of $2,694.
According to the lawsuit, V&J has made several attempts to recover what it's owed ... but Strawberry has yet to pay up.
V&J is now suing for the full sum, plus $500 in attorneys' fees ... a total of $3,194. That's a lot of produce.
James Gandolfini -- who famously played Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos" -- died earlier today in Italy ... TMZ has learned.
Gandolfini is believed to have suffered a heart attack. He was 51.
Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily -- and he was scheduled to participate in a festival event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.
Gandolfini shot to fame playing a hitman in the 1993 hit "True Romance" ... and quickly became a Hollywood legend when he was cast as Tony Soprano in 1999. He won 3 Emmy awards for the role during the show's 6 season run.
'Sopranos' creator David Chase tells TMZ ... "[James] was a genius. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it. You're like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone."
Chase added, "He was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain.”
Gandolfini also appeared in a ton of huge movies including "Get Shorty," "The Mexican" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
We last spoke to Gandolfini in May in L.A. -- he was in great spirits, making funny faces and joking about a "Sopranos" movie.
His 'Sopranos' co-starJoseph R. Gannascoli -- who played Vito -- tells us, "James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with ... and I will forever be indebted to him."
Gandolfini is survived by his wife Deborah Lin, who gave birth to the couple's daughter in October 2012. He also has a teenage son from a previous marriage. R.I.P.
NFL star Aaron Hernandez has NOT been identified as a suspect in the shooting of Alexander S. Bradley ... but that could change ... cops tell TMZ.
We broke the story ... Hernandez has been sued by Bradley, who claims the New England Patriots tight end shot him in the face and left him to die back in February.
Cops tell TMZ ... ever since the incident, Bradley has been extremely uncooperative with investigators -- and has refused to identify his assailant ... until he pointed the finger at Hernandez in his lawsuit, which he filed last week.
So what does it mean for the investigation? The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Dept. tells us ... it doesn't mean much.
In fact, we're told cops have no plans to meet with Hernandez ... and have neither named him a suspect nor a person of interest in the shooting.
And why not? With an uncooperative witness and no hard evidence ... it's a safe bet investigators don't feel they have a strong enough case to go after the NFL star.
Of course, plans could change ... but for now, it seems unlikely Hernandez will be prosecuted.
The former singer for Save Ferris has gone off the rails ... falsely promoting the famous ska band's "reunion" show this summer -- WHEN THERE IS NO SUCH THING -- this according to a new lawsuit ... and now her ex-bandmates are out for justice.
Singer Monique Powell made the "reunion show" announcement back in April -- claiming the band would be reuniting after a 10-year hiatus to perform at the OC Fair on July 27th.
But there was one problem ... the other Save Ferris members claim they never approved a reunion show -- in fact, they released a statement shortly after Monique's announcement, saying they'd never even been contacted by Monique about performing in it.
Monique responded with her own statement, "While I had hoped this could be a reunion of sorts with all, or some, of my former SF band members, unfortunately that isn't the way it looks to be turning out." But the show is STILL being promoted as a "Save Ferris" performance.
Former SF members Brian Mashburn, Eric Zamora, Bill Uechi, Brian Williams, and Evan Kilbourne have now filed a lawsuit against Powell -- insisting she has no right to perform under the Save Ferris name.
The band wants her to pay unspecified damages for falsely promoting a reunion show. They also want a judge to block her from using the Save Ferris name ever again.
She already (kinda) redeemed herself for that infamous pageant flub -- so yesterday, we decided to pelt the beautiful Miss Utah with some brain-twisting riddles instead ... and she actually did pretty damn well.
21-year-old Marissa Powell had just touched down in L.A. for her appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" -- and while she was at the airport, we asked her a bunch of questions to test her wits on the fly ... such as the classic "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?" and "What can you put in a bucket of water to make it lighter?"
She doesn't exactly get them right, but she doesn't exactly get them wrong either. Then again, she could probably say anything and we'd be happy.
Paula Deen admitted using the n-word, but also claims she's not a racist. Is that possible ... for a white person? A 66-year old white person from the South??Plus, what's worse -- Serena Williams' blaming the 16-year-old Steubenville rape victim ... or her half-assed apology to…