Designer Titan Virgil Abloh Dead at 41 ... Private Cancer Battle

11:40 AM PT -- The reactions to Virgil's passing are pouring in in droves ... with folks like Pharrell, Idris Elba, Khloe Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Soulja Boy, Odell Beckham Jr., Jeffree Star, Kehlani, Scooter Braun, Omarion, Karl-Anthony Towns and others posting remembrances for their friend.

Still no sign of a tribute from Ye or Kim ... but we imagine theirs are forthcoming.

Virgil Abloh -- the artistic director for Louis Vuitton and the founder of Off-White -- has died ... this according to his respective fashion houses.

Louis' parent company, LVMH, made the stunning announcement Sunday ... saying Virgil passed away Sunday of cancer, a disease he'd been carrying and battling privately for several years now apparently.

Their CEO Bernard Arnault adds, "We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend."

Like we said ... Virgil was historic in the fashion game, as he was the first black man to be tapped to take charge at LV with its look and vision in early 2018. He was a revolutionary designer and was also good friends with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

Speaking of Ye, Virgil and him had been feuding in recent years -- alluded to on some of Kanye's songs -- but they squashed their beef during the 2018 Paris Louis show, where they embraced in front of cameras and posed together too.

Ye seemed to be upset that Virgil had taken the Louis job at the time, as opposed to perhaps working exclusively with him.

Sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ ... he and Virgil remained close in recent years, and VA even attended one of Kanye's 'DONDA' listening events in Chicago this year. Not just that -- but we're told Kanye was also one of those close to Virgil who was aware of his illness.

Their relationship goes back years ... all the way to 2009 when Virgil was interning for Fendi, where he first rubbed shoulders with the rapper/producer. He went on to start Off-White ... which took off as a major success.

Virgil's meteoric rise is unlike any other ... and his talents did not go unrecognized, especially among the rich and famous. He had many, many admirers and friends in Hollywood -- including models, actors, singers, rappers, musicians, athletes, traditional artists, fellow designers and, of course, business executives from multiple different industries. He is also a fixture in the media.

One of the last times VA was seen out in public was a full month ago, toward the end of October ... when he was photographed walking the streets of NYC with a snowboard in hand. Looks like this might've been a collab he was working on, which he was handing off to vet shredder Russell Winfield ... who held on to what Virgil had apparently made for him.

Just goes to show ... the guy was a designer in every sense of the word, even beyond just wardrobe and apparel.

Virgil leaves behind his wife, Shannon, and his 2 children. He was just 41.


Originally Published -- 10:49 AM PT

Stephen Sondheim Broadway Legend, Songwriter, Composer Dies

Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, famous for his song writing and music compositions, has died.

Stephen died Friday at his home in Roxbury, CT ... according to a New York Times report citing his lawyer, F. Richard Pappas.

The cause of death is currently unclear ... but it sounds sudden, because Stephen's lawyer says he had celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with his friends in the area.

Simply put, Stephen is the godfather of the American musical ... writing lyrics for famous plays like "West Side Story" plus "Follies," "Into The Woods," "Pacific Overtures," "Sweeney Todd," "Company," "A Little Night Music," "Merrily We Roll Along," "Sunday in the Park With George," "Passion," "Assassins" and "Gypsy."

Stephen's decorated Broadway career includes three Tony awards, a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center and a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

In addition, his name now adorns the famous Broadway house in New York City formerly known as Henry Miller's Theater.

Stephen celebrated his 90th birthday in March 2020, but the pandemic postponed a Broadway revival of his famous "Company" ... though he was later honored by Broadway performers singing his famous songs.

SS recently got some movie love ... he's portrayed in the new Lin-Manuel Miranda movie "Tick, Tick...Boom!" which just dropped this week on Netflix ... with Bradley Whitford playing the role.

Stephen was 91.


Former 'X Factor' Star Thomas Wells Dead at 46

Thomas Wells, famous for singing on a ton of talent competition shows including 'X Factor,' is dead ... TMZ has learned.

Thomas died earlier this month following an accident while working on the job at a tire manufacturing plant in Oklahoma ... according to his wife, Jessica Wells.

We're told part of Thomas' body was caught in a machine, described to us as an automatic conveyer belt type of machine which did not stop, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital in Idabel, OK.

Thomas' wife says he was then airlifted to a bigger hospital in Tyler, Texas ... because doctors thought specialists in Tyler might be able to help him.

Ultimately, we're told Thomas died in the hospital in Tyler back on November 13.

You may have seen Thomas singing his heart out on TV ... he appeared on "America's Got Talent" as well as "The Voice" and "The Winner Is" ... in addition to 'X Factor.'

Thomas got into music at an early age, teaching himself to play instruments by ear and singing choir at church and in school in Oklahoma. He mostly sang hymns and contemporary music.

His wife of 17 years is remembering him as a unique person who always had a smile on his face and tried to make people laugh. She says he would sometimes bust out singing and didn't mind the spotlight.

Thomas was 46.


Alec Baldwin Lawyering Up Over 'Rust' Shooting ... Ready To Fight Civil Suits

Alec Baldwin is preparing for legal war ... hiring a lawyer for the civil lawsuits resulting from the fatal "Rust" movie shooting.

The "Rust" star and producer is lawyering up with Aaron S. Dyer of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman ... according to multiple reports.

Dyer, who spent almost seven years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, will reportedly rep Alec plus Rust Movie Productions and the other production companies involved in the western.

As you know ... Alec pulled the trigger in the fatal shooting on set last month that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

The revolver was loaded with at least one live round ... though assistant director Dave Halls announced it was a "cold" gun -- meaning no live ammo -- before handing it over to Alec inside a church where they were practicing for a scene.


TMZ broke the story ... the key gaffer on "Rust" is already taking legal action against Alec, Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed ... Serge Svetnoy is suing over the shooting, claiming the defendants' alleged negligence caused him severe emotional distress.

Remember ... Svetnoy claims the deadly bullet nearly hit him too, and says he was one of the first people who tended to Halyna while she was bleeding from her gunshot wound, trying to comfort her and keep her conscious.

Alec is also named in another suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who claims she suffered emotional and physical injuries when AB shot Halyna.

All eyes are now on Halyna's family ... as they have yet to file suit.

'WHERE WE BOUT TO EAT AT' Kid Mom Wants To Honor Him With Restaurant!!!

Antwain Fowler -- the viral kiddo who famously asked "where we bout to eat at?" -- could soon have a restaurant opened in his honor ... that's the big plan from the late kid's mother.

Christina Burns, Antwain's mother, tells TMZ ... his GoFundMe was created in March during one of his many stays in the hospital and it's now raised $72,000, with $22k being donated since he passed away on Sunday. She wants to put the money towards keeping his legacy alive, in the form of a restaurant called, "Where We Bout To Eat At."

Antwain's mom says the $22k raised in the past few days will be put towards kickstarting the business, with the other $50k helping pay off Antwain's hospital bills and other family expenses. Christina says she will help create the menu, but needs help managing the other aspects of a restaurant. The menu will be versatile with seafood, chicken and other grub -- so you won't have to look much further when you're asked "where we bout to eat at?"

The viral sensation had a ton of catchphrases, which will be reflected on the menu ... for example, Antwain's mom is already planning some "You Have Cheese Like Me" mozzarella sticks.

After Antwain went viral, his mom says she tried starting a seafood truck biz ... but after mapping things out, she just didn't have the time to commit to getting the biz up and running because she was busy taking care of him and her other 3 children.

As we reported ... Antwain died Nov. 21 after fighting a rare autoimmune deficiency his mother says caused him to be consistently in and out of the hospital ever since he was 4 months old. He was only 6.

His mom is shedding more light on his death ... she says Antwain was home when she heard his ventilator sounding off an alarm. Typically, Antwain alerts his family when he's experiencing pain or has trouble breathing, but this time he was silent.

Antwain's mom says police and an ambulance responded to their home and attempted to resuscitate him, but had no luck ... he was taken to a hospital where doctors fought to keep him alive, but were ultimately unable to.

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A week before he passed, Christina says Antwain was having the time of his life at a local ice cream shop in Miami. COVID made it difficult for Antwain to socialize, but the shop made special accommodations for him and he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

Ahmaud Arbery Suspects Found Guilty of Murder

Fox News

Ahmaud Arbery's death was a cold-blooded murder -- this according to a jury ... who just decided on the issue definitively.

Travis and Gregory McMichael, as well as William 'Roddie' Bryan, were all just found guilty of murder and a slew of other charges.

FOX30, Action News Jax.

All three defendants had been indicted on 9 counts each -- in addition to malice murder, the McMichaels and Bryan were also up against four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment ... and now, they face life in prison come sentencing.


Gregory McMichael and Bryan were found not guilty on the charge of malice murder. Bryan was also found not guilty on one of the felony murder charges and a felony assault charge.

In attendance was Ahmaud's mom, Wanda, who was seated next to Rev. Al Sharpton.

The trial has been ongoing for a couple weeks now -- and the main defense -- for Travis McMichael, anyway, who shot and killed Ahmaud -- was that he was only acting in self-preservation ... with his defense attorneys arguing he feared for his life.

Travis claimed he didn't want to shoot Ahmaud, but felt he had to after they got into a scuffle on the road ... with TM alleging Ahmaud went for his gun, and he thought he'd use it.


As for the rest of them ... they all contended in court they were simply trying to make a citizen's arrest -- in the context that the McMichaels had previously been informally deputized to help out the local cops. Officers in the trial denied any such bestowment of duty.

In any case, it was a hard sell for the defendants from the beginning ... as prosecutors outlined what they described as a modern-day lynching of a Black man the defendants believed had committed a crime -- and then hopped into their vehicles to chase him down.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Prosecutors say Ahmaud was simply jogging through their neighborhood -- however, there was footage showing him stopping by a construction site and walking through. Because of this, the McMichaels say they approached Ahmaud to ask what he was doing there -- as there had been thefts at that same property in the weeks leading up to his arrival that day.

Before long, Ahmaud was off and running ... and the McMichaels gave chase in their truck, rounding up Bryan in the process, who trailed them and filmed the deadly moment on camera.

Despite the McMichaels' and Bryan's assertion they were just trying to rein Ahmaud in for questioning -- the jury felt they went too far, and crossed a line that cost him his life.

The entire trial has been marred with controversy from the start ... with 11 jurors being selected, all of whom were white -- save for one Black juror. People felt that would create a bias in favor of the defendants ... but, clearly, that didn't turn out to be the case.


Of course, there was also the issue of pastors in court -- or at least what one defense attorney argued was an issue, after Reverend Al Sharpton made an appearance in the gallery alongside the Arbery family.

The attorney suggested the mere presence of Black pastors could intimidate the jury -- but the judge shot him down ... as it was a ridiculous theory.

Now that their fates are sealed, sentencing comes next ... and considering the guilty verdict, many expect these men to serve out the rest of their lives behind bars. They'll appear before a judge in the near future.

As you might expect, the results are being hailed as justice ... not just by the Arberys, but by millions of people around the country. The Arbery killing was a flashpoint in 2020 -- one of several cases that led to a larger conversation about racial equity in the U.S.

G-Eazy Reveals His Mom Died ... 'The Pain is Enormous'

G-Eazy is suffering heartbreak on the toughest level, announcing his mom has died, and sharing a beautiful tribute to her with his fans.

The rapper, real name Gerald Earl Gillum, says his mother Suzanne Olmsted passed away, saying, "The shock still won't let me accept the feeling that I'll never get to hug you in person again. My queen, my hero, my everything… my mom."

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He continues, "The tears won't stop. My eyes hurt, my face hurts, my body hurts, everywhere hurts. There's no safe place to hide and there's no way to lay, sit, or stand that doesn't hurt. The pain is enormous. But I know you're out of yours and that brings me peace.
I love you so much."

It's currently unclear how she died, but G-Eazy fans know what an important role she played in his personal life as well as his career ... often attending shows and even events with the rapper.

Then there's this, G-Eazy reveals his mom recently persuaded him to go to rehab for drugs and alcohol, writing, "I didn't realize the extent of just how worried you were about me until you sent me the hardest letter I've ever had to read… Going to treatment for alcohol and drugs was my decision but your letter was what ultimately persuaded me."

G-Eazy played at BottleRock Festival back in September and shared his mom was unable to attend, he did, however, call her on FaceTime during his set in a really awesome moment.


Young Dolph GF's Brand Sees Boom ... Aiming to Help Gun Violence Victims

Young Dolph's death has spurred a huge interest in his girlfriend's business -- which, coincidentally, was already working to help people like herself who've lost loved ones to tragic violence.

Dolph's longtime partner, Mia, started a campaign last year after her brother was killed, called the Black Men Deserve to Grow Old campaign, operating under her Momeo clothing brand. Since YD's murder, her company has blown up exponentially.

A Momeo brand manager tells TMZ ... prior to Dolph's death, the Momeo shop page was seeing about 20 orders a day, but now the transactions range anywhere from 250 to 600 daily. We're told the sales boost is largely due to one new piece of merch ... a Young Dolph tribute hoodie.

Momeo is making the most of those through-the-roof numbers, aiming to boost its charitable arm ... the BMDTGO campaign.

The brand rep tells us they're raising money for families who fall victim to gun violence -- like Mia herself now has, twice -- and this spike in sales and traffic has benefited their goals to an unimaginable extent.

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For instance, we're told their goal was to sell around 3,000 products by the end of the year -- with a third of the proceeds going directly to grieving families. The boom after Dolph's murder means Momeo will achieve that number in the next week.

BTW, this new higher profile for Mia's campaign is helping her get support from friends and strangers alike, including therapy service providers.

You gotta believe Dolph is somewhere smiling, as he was a major supporter, and was even set to become a spokesperson for Mia's brand before his untimely death.

Tupac 'M.O.B.' Ring ... Being Sold, Nearly $100k!!!

It's no secret, Tupac Shakur was gang-affiliated -- and a piece of his own jewelry collection confirmed it ... one that's now made its way back to the marketplace with a fat price tag.

The rapper's very own gold 'M.O.B.' ring -- as it's known -- is hitting the auction block this week, courtesy of Moments in Time ... but it ain't really gonna be up for bidding, but more so ... just sold at a flat rate -- first come, first served.

The going rate ... a cool $95,000 -- so you can definitely cop it if you can afford it. And hey, the value might be spot on -- considering the late icon himself wore it on a handful of occasions, especially once he started hanging with Suge Knight and co.

For the uninitiated ... M.O.B., in the Death Row Records context, mostly stands for Member of Blood -- a street gang that Suge was certainly tied to in those days. M.O.B. can stand for other things -- money over b****es, mafia, etc -- but the Blood reference is most common.

It looks like Suge had a lot of his artists rock the M.O.B. rings back in the day -- including Pac, who's said to have usually worn it on his pinkie finger, and Snoop Dogg too (even though his roots are with the Crips). Anyhoo, this ring here was flashed quite often.

As for how it ended up in MIT's hand ... sources connected to the sale tell us Tupac actually gave this ring to a then-girlfriend he was seeing before his death ... and it eventually made its way to a private collector over the years.

Now, that collector is taking it to Moments and trying to unload it once and for all. Like we said, a great buy if it's in your budget -- and if not ... keep ya head up, you'll get there!

Kobe Bryant's Daughters Hoopin' At Lakers Facility ... W/ 'Uncle' Pau Gasol

@vanessabryant / Instagram

Kobe Bryant's two youngest daughters are showing a little glimpse of that Mamba Mentality already ... by playing hoops with Pau Gasol at the Lakers facility -- and it's adorable!!

Vanessa Bryant shared the footage this weekend ... showing Bryant's best friend and teammate Gasol on the court with 4-year-old Bianka and 2-year-old Capri.

Bianka is quick to show off her defensive skills against the 7-foot-1 center and manages to steal the ball from between his leg -- with the help from her sister and Gasol's daughter, Ellie.

Bianka also got a chance to dunk with an assist from Gasol and Bryant's longtime agent Rob Pelinka ... right near her dad's jersey #24 painting on the facility's wall.

Gasol loved every moment of it -- saying, "Always the best times with the kids."

The 41-year-old retired NBA star considered Kobe as his brother ... and has spent time with the Bryant family on a consistent basis since the fatal accident in January 2020.

In fact for Halloween, the Gasols and the Bryants all dressed up as Dalmatians for Vanessa's Cruella De Vil costume and hung out at one of Kobs's favorite places in the world -- Disneyland.

RIP Mamba and Mambacita.

Henry Ruggs Appears In Court ... Over Missed Breath Test

8:27 AM PT -- Ruggs was not ordered to go back to jail over the missed test, but the judge ruled he will now have to undergo 24/7 alcohol monitoring.

The judge ordered Ruggs to wear an ankle device that will measure the levels of alcohol in his system through his skin. The NFL player had previously been testing his alcohol levels via a handheld device.

Ruggs did not speak with media members as he left the court room. He's due back next in court for another hearing in his DUI case in December.

Henry Ruggs is back in the public eye ... the ex-Raiders star just showed up to a Las Vegas courthouse after a judge ordered him to appear over a missed breath test.

Ruggs entered the court in a black shirt, black pants and black bowtie -- and walked with seemingly no issues whatsoever.

Of course, the last time we saw Ruggs in public was in a courtroom on Nov. 3 -- the day after he was accused of slamming his Corvette into a Toyota and killing a woman and her dog.

At that hearing, where Ruggs posted bond and was released from custody, the football player was seen in a neck brace and a wheelchair.

The 22-year-old, though, appeared to be just fine Monday morning ... showing no signs of long-term injuries suffered in the crash.

As we previously reported, Ruggs was ordered to appear before a judge Monday after he allegedly missed a required alcohol breath test.

As part of the conditions of his release, Ruggs has been ordered to submit to alcohol testing several times a day -- and at a hearing last week, a judge said he missed one of those check-ins.

There's a chance Ruggs could be put back behind bars over it all -- the hearing to discuss the matter is currently underway right now. We'll keep you posted on how it unfolds.

Originally Published -- 7:39 AM PT

'Tiger King' Reptile Dealer Jeff Johnson ... Dead by Suicide

Another person featured in 'Tiger King' has died -- only this time, by suicide ... one which happened right in front of a family member, so say cops.

Former reptile dealer Jeff Johnson -- who made a brief appearance in episode 4 of 2020's 'TK' docuseries to talk Carole Baskin -- shot and killed himself in September, and did so in the immediate presence of his wife ... this according to the Oklahoma City Police Department.


Per the incident report, obtained by TMZ, Johnson was arguing with his spouse in their garage on Sept. 8 -- while their children were home as well -- and at one point, the man brought a Glock-style handgun up to his head ... and pulled the trigger.

Johnson's wife called 911 for attempted suicide, and when officers arrived ... they say he still had a pulse and was rushed to a hospital. Unfortunately, Johnson was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The cops note Johnson's wife said her husband had not suffered from any mental illness and had not experienced any prior attempted suicide -- so it's unclear why he did this.

Like we said, Jeff's time on 'Tiger King' was short-lived ... but memorable in that he explained the beef between Joe Exotic and Carole. Interestingly enough, Jeff and Joe are also said to be one-time pals turned foes. Story goes ... Jeff and Joe were cool in the past -- as they both worked in the exotic animals world -- but had a falling out once Jeff Lowe came into the picture. At that point, Jeff bashed them early and often ... and vice versa.

There's a report that Jeff's home was actually burned down during this feuding -- but it's unclear if his beef with Joe and JL are in any way connected. Jeff Lowe tells us that he was in Las Vegas at the time and denies any involvement.

Jeff was 58.


'Where We About to Eat At' Viral Kid Antwain Fowler Dead at 6 ... Immune Disease Battle

Antwain Fowler -- the kid who famously asked "where we about to eat at?" -- has died.

His official Instagram account confirmed the sad news Sunday, with a new post that seems to have been written by his mother, China. Her message reads, "The pain in my heart is like no other Why God!!!" Her caption was similar ... "Never in a million years My heart is out my chest!!!!"

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An exact cause of death has yet to be revealed, but it appears his passing may be related to an illness he's been battling for a while now -- one that affected his immune system, no less. It's called autoimmune enteropathy ... which inhibits the body's ability to absorb nutrition.

According to a GoFundMe page started by his mother, Antwain has had to battle this since 2015 -- just a year after he was born. It looks like he's been in and out of hospitals for a majority of his young life ... and has been assisted with medical equipment along the way.

AF shot to internet stardom over the past couple of years with funny Instagram and YouTube posts that showcased his witty banter and big personality. Specifically, he'll perhaps be most remembered for the one 4 second clip of him in the back seat, asking what was on the menu that day.

There've been several other posts of his that have since gone viral -- but that one might top them all. He's gained hundreds of thousands of followers between his various profiles.

It sounds like Antwain recently underwent some sort of procedure to help him gain his muscle mass back, and his mom sounded hopeful he'd make a full recovery.

The boy was only 6 years old. RIP

Young Dolph Murderers' Getaway Car Allegedly Found Abandoned in S. Memphis

The mystery over who murdered Young Dolph may be one step closer to being solved -- because it looks like the cops have tracked down the getaway car in which the killer fled.

The vehicle was located Saturday in the Orange Mound neighborhood of South Memphis -- on the 1100 block of Bradley Street ... this according to a reporter with FOX13, who confirmed the news with local law enforcement officials, who believe they may have it.


Several different photos and videos have surfaced showing a white 2-door Mercedes Benz being towed out of a driveway of a residential home ... with neighbors looking on, and police surrounding the area. Per reports, the car appeared to be abandoned here -- and still intact.

At first glance ... the vehicle depicted in these clips certainly does look like the one cops posted photos of when asking the public for help in identifying it.

While a clear license plate wasn't visible in the photos that the police threw up ... you can kinda make one out in these videos circulating online. Unclear if the person whose property this was found on is being taken in for questioning or not -- but ya gotta imagine they're a person of interest, assuming this turns out to be the car they're after.

As we reported ... two men rolled up to Makeda's Homemade Cookies -- where Dolph was inside at the time -- and jumped out, opening fire on him in broad daylight. After unleashing a barrage of bullets that ultimately killed him on the spot, the perps fled in said Benz.

Memphis PD has yet to speak on the discovery -- they wouldn't confirm to us either way if they thought they had something, but based on this preliminary evidence, it could be a match.

Here's the crazy part ... the car was left just a mere 3 miles from the site of the shooting.

Story developing ...

Young Dolph No Fear or Feuds Before Return to Hometown

Young Dolph wasn't concerned about returning to Memphis -- he made the trip unaware of any ongoing beef, and without any recent threat to his life -- which makes his murder much more stunning to those around him ... TMZ has learned.

Sources close to the late rapper tell us Dolph was excited to be back in his hometown, and had booked a week full of charity events for his community.

We're told he had no fear of hitting the streets of Memphis without security guards, and that's exactly why he made the fateful stop at Makeda's Cookies -- one of his favorite local spots.

Low Key/Facebook

Of course, it was the cookie shop where 2 men ambushed Dolph, opening fire and killing him on the spot.

We're told all Dolph wanted to do this week was spread positivity in Memphis, as evidenced by the multiple turkey giveaways he'd organized and projects he had with local rappers.

TMZ broke the story, members of Dolph's Paper Route record label organized a turkey giveaway Friday after others were canceled in the wake of Dolph's murder. Volunteers gave out hundreds of birds to families in need because it's what Dolph would have wanted.

The 2 suspects from Dolph's murder have not been caught. Surveillance images released from the attack show both of them, covered head-to-toe (including masks) and holding guns.

Shortly after the shooting, cops stood guard at Yo Gotti's restaurant in the area -- out of fear there would be more violence -- but the restaurant was never attacked.

Dolph and Gotti have had feuds in the past, but there was nothing recent, and Gotti has not been linked to his murder at all.

Art LaFleur 'The Sandlot' Star Dead at 78

Art LaFleur, famous for playing Babe Ruth in the classic baseball movie "The Sandlot," is dead.

The actor died Wednesday following a 10-year battle with Parkinson's disease ... according to his wife, Shelley. We're told he died at his home surrounded by his children and Shelley -- and although he was in hospice care, Art was cracking jokes to try to make his family laugh in the time leading up to his death.

His wife is remembering Art as a "generous and selfless man" ... qualities she says carried over into his acting career, "but more importantly it was who he was for his family and friends."

Art is most known, and beloved, for his role in 1993's "The Sandlot" -- but he was also in another big baseball flick, playing first baseman Chick Gandil in 1989's "Field of Dreams" alongside Kevin Costner.

He didn't get into acting until he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles way back in 1975 when he was already 31 years old. He went on to become one of those character actors audiences always recognized, acting in movies like "The Blob," "Cobra" and a couple of the 'Santa Clause' films.

He also landed episodic TV roles on "Malcolm in the Middle," "The Bernie Mac Show," "JAG" and many other shows.

Art was 78.


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