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'Wicked Tuna' Star William Hathaway Dead at 36 ... After Car Crash

12/17/2018 8:39 AM PST

William "Willbilly" Hathaway -- a featured cast member on National Geographic's "Wicked Tuna" -- has died after he was involved in a fatal car crash over the weekend.

According to local reports, Hathaway died Saturday in Salisbury, Maryland after he reportedly swerved off a remote countryside road into a ditch. Reports say Hathaway's wife told police her husband had called shortly after the accident saying he was okay, adding that someone had cut him off. 

When paramedics arrived, however, he was unconscious and slumped over the center console. Hathaway was later pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital. A Facebook fundraising page has been created to help support his widowed wife and newborn daughter.

As of Monday, a reported $47,500 out of $250k had been raised. 

Hathaway was part of the fishing crew on the Ocean City-based Foolish Pleasures vessel, which was featured on "Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks." 

He was 36.

Chicago's Kenneka Jenkins Mother Sues Hotel for $50 Million ... Over a Year After Teen Found Dead in Freezer

12/16/2018 12:39 PM PST

The mother of Kenneka Jenkins -- who was found dead in a hotel freezer -- says the establishment is to blame for her daughter's 2017 death ... and now wants $50 million.

Teresa Martin has filed suit on behalf of her late daughter's estate against the Crowne Plaza Chicago-O'Hare Hotel for negligence, claiming there were several opportunities for the company and its staff to step in and help prevent Kenneka's death last September ... but failed to do so. 

In the docs, obtained by TMZ, Teresa alleges that the hotel was made aware of Kenneka's disappearance from a room where a party was being thrown shortly after she wandered off, and says she was assured by Crowne Plaza personnel that they'd check surveillance footage in an attempt to locate her right away. She says they completely screwed that up.

Teresa says the hotel staff either didn't check the footage soon enough, or didn't properly review it ... because the 19-year-old could be seen clear as day stumbling into the kitchen in video later obtained and released by police who investigated her death. 

She goes on to allege that Kenneka walked by several hotel staffers who didn't help her, and that the freezer Kenneka walked into was easily accessible to the public. She also claims the freezer had a faded sticker on it that failed to instruct people on how to unlock the door.

Kenneka's body was found in the freezer nearly 24 hours after she was reported missing. Her cause of death was hypothermia and it was ruled accidental. Tons of rumors swirled around the circumstances of her death, with some suspecting foul play.

Despite the police closing out their investigation without any arrests or charges, Kenneka's mother says the blame still lies with the hotel. She's asking for more than $50 mil in damages.

The Crowne Plaza released a statement to the Chicago Tribune: "The death of Kenneka Jenkins was a tragedy, but the proximate cause of her death were the unsavory individuals who used a stolen credit card to book a room and host an illegal party which Ms. Jenkins attended. Those criminals escaped the hotel before police arrived and have never truly been held accountable. This lawsuit has no merit and we will vigorously contest it."

'SpongeBob SquarePants' Creator Death Cert Reveals Ashes Spread Under the Sea

12/6/2018 9:08 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Stephen Hillenburg -- the creator of the hit Nickelodeon show "SpongeBob SquarePants" -- officially died of heart failure as a result of his ALS, but the more interesting tidbit ... his remains were scattered at sea -- and you gotta hope he'll rest in Bikini Bottom. 

According to Hillenburg's death certificate -- obtained by TMZ -- the animator's immediate cause of death was cardiopulmonary failure due to ALS -- the diagnosis which he publicly revealed in 2017. The document also reveals that Hillenburg was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea -- at least 500 yards off the coast of California, to be more specific. 

As we reported ... Hillenburg died late last month after battling the fatal disease for more than a year. Nickelodeon called him "a beloved friend and long-time creative partner" and praised his seminal work on 'SBSP' as "a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination."

Hillenburg is survived by his wife and son. He was 57.

'ANTM' Alum Jael Strauss Lived Like a Saint in Recovery Efforts ... Before Stage 4 Cancer

12/5/2018 11:00 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Former "America's Next Top Model" contestant Jael Strauss dedicated her life to helping people struggling with addiction before she lost her battle with cancer earlier this week.

An employee at Solstice Recovery Foundation near Austin, TX, who worked there with Jael, tells TMZ the ex-model was heavily involved in the rehab center's efforts -- volunteering to help folks, especially women, fight drug addiction. 

We're told Jael would often spearhead online fundraisers to provide scholarships to those needing treatment. She'd also share her own story of recovery as inspiration for patients.

Jael's kindness was reciprocated this past October shortly after she announced she'd been diagnosed with incurable, stage 4 breast cancer.

The Solstice employee tells us her friends quickly organized the "F**k Cancer-Love Like Jael" fundraiser for her, and raised around $8,000 for her treatment costs. 

During the fundraiser, people who donated $20-$50 could get free tattoos that said "F**k Cancer" or "Jael Love." We're told about 20 people got them.  

We broke the story ... Jael died in hospice Tuesday, just 2 months after being diagnosed with cancer. We're told she stopped chemotherapy around Halloween.

She was 34. RIP

'ANTM' Alum Jael Strauss Dead at 34 2 Months After Stage 4 Breast Cancer Diagnosis

12/4/2018 1:48 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Former 'America's Next Top Model' contestant Jael Strauss has died just two months after announcing she'd been diagnosed with cancer.

Sources close to the model -- who competed on season 8 of the reality show -- tell us she died in hospice Tuesday around 11 AM after taking a turn for the worse Monday night. We're told she'd been unconscious for a few days, and her family recently stopped allowing visitors.

Jael decided to stop chemotherapy around Halloween and went into hospice on Thanksgiving, saying on Facebook, "First night in hospice. So many things I never knew about life. Or death. So many things."

The model went public with her cancer diagnosis in October earlier this year with a heartbreaking Facebook post, revealing she'd been diagnosed with "incurable" stage 4 breast cancer. 

At the time, Jael wrote to her followers ... "I was gonna write some long thing but some of you guys deserve to know, On October 2nd I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer."

She continued ... "It has aggressively spread throughout my body and is incurable. With treatment it may prolong my life longer than the 'few months' doctors said I could make it. I don't want to die. I need another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013."

Jael appeared on Dr. Phil in 2012 to tackle her addiction issues, and celebrated 5 years of sobriety this past August on IG. Her caption read in part ... "I know a few things to be true: Miracles are real, Recovery is possible for everyone no matter how far gone you think you are, We are never too broken to be put back together, Service work feels better than the greatest high, Sobriety makes you weirder not normal and I'd be dead if it weren't for all the love and forgiveness I've been showered with by my friends and family."

A GoFundMe was started for Jael about a month ago that's raised more than $18k of a $30k goal to fund her treatment. Jael's family and friends tell TMZ in a statement ... "The one blessing was that we were able to show her how loved she was before she passed. She brought so much light to people."

She was 34. RIP

George H.W. Bush Saluting the Prez at State Funeral

12/3/2018 5:52 PM PST
Breaking News

5:52 PM PT -- President Trump and Melania have arrived to pay their respects.

George H.W. Bush is being honored by Washington, D.C.'s biggest power players -- past and present -- as a week-long memorial gets underway.

The State Funeral for our 41st President was held Monday in the Capitol Rotunda and the attendees included H.W.'s veep Dan QuayleDick Cheney, Colin Powell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

His son, 43rd Prez George W. Bush was there and seemed to be choking back his emotions at times.

Current VP Mike Pence, Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts also paid their respects. 

Monday's ceremony is the start of a week of remembrances for the former Prez, whose body will lie in state until Wednesday -- so there's sure to be a steady stream of dignitaries coming to salute him. 

Originally published at 3:19 PM PT

Ken Berry 'F Troop' Star Dead at 85 ... Battled Heart Illness

12/2/2018 11:53 AM PST
Exclusive Details

11:53 AM PT -- Ken's ex-wife, Jackie, tells us he had been battling heart issues for several months, and had stint surgery in October. But she adds, his heart illness continued to worsen in recent weeks, and he'd been in and out of the hospital.

Jackie says their daughter, Jennifer, Ken's partner Susie and herself were all by his side until the end. She adds, Susie had been with Ken for 26 years and encouraged him through his ailment.

Ken's final wishes, we're told, were for people to donate to the Motion Picture Fund -- a retirement community for actors -- in his honor. He had planned to retire there.

Ken Berry, who starred in several classic TV series, including "F Troop" and "Mayberry, R.F.D.," died on Saturday ... according to his ex-wife.

Actress Jackie Joseph-Lawrence announced Ken's passing with a Facebook post Saturday evening.

Ken played Sam Jones -- first on "The Andy Griffith Show" and also on the spin-off, 'Mayberry,' -- but might be most beloved for playing Capt. Parmenter on the Western sitcom "F Troop" from 1965 to 1967.

His costar Larry Storch reacted to the news, saying, "We hope you know how much you were loved. Goodnight Captain."

Ken landed on yet another cult classic TV sitcom in the 80s when he played Vinton Harper, opposite his good friend Vicki Lawrence on "Mama's Family."

He also had memorable guest-starring roles on several TV series like "Small Wonder," "Fantasy Island," "CHiPs," "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Golden Girls." 

No cause of death has been released yet.

Ken was 85.

RIP

Originally Published 6:51 AM PT

George H. W. Bush Dead at 94

11/30/2018 9:01 PM PST
Breaking News

George Herbert Walker Bush -- whose career in politics spanned more than three decades and culminated as the 41st President of the United States -- has died.

His office says the former Prez passed away Friday at 10:10 PM in Houston. His death comes 7 months after the passing of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.

George Sr. had been in declining health in recent years and was in and out of the hospital several times. He was admitted to the ICU at the Houston Methodist Hospital back in January 2017 due to pneumonia. Barbara was also admitted with her own health issues.

They both recovered and took part in the ceremonial coin toss at Super Bowl 51 together just a few weeks later.

The former President notably sent a letter to then President-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 saying he couldn't make the inauguration due to doctor's orders ... joking it would put him "six feet under" to sit outside in the cold.

Along with being President, Bush also served as the 11th director of the CIA and 43rd Vice President of the U.S. under President Ronald Reagan. Bush was inaugurated as President on January 20, 1989.

Foreign policy -- in particular the Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolving of the Soviet Union -- was the centerpiece of Bush's presidency. Among his other accomplishments -- instituting a ban on importing semi-automatic rifles and signing the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and 1991 Civil Rights Act.

Bush's zinger during his election campaign, "Read my lips: no new taxes," became an unforgettable moment ... something he reneged on during his presidency.

George's father, Prescott, was a U.S. Senator. His oldest son, George W., was the 43rd U.S. President and his son, Jeb, was Governor of Florida. 

George H. W. is survived by his 5 children, 17 grandchildren and 8 great grandkids. He also had a daughter, Robin, who died at age 3 from leukemia.

George was 94.

RIP

Bernardo Bertolucci 'Last Tango' Director Dead at 77

11/26/2018 6:34 AM PST
Breaking News

Oscar winner Bernardo Bertolucci -- who directed Marlon Brando in "Last Tango in Paris" -- died Monday at his home in Rome.

Bernardo was surrounded by his family when he passed, according to his office. No cause of death was released. 

The Italian director, hailed as one of the country's best ever, made his name with 'Last Tango' in 1972 -- which was banned in several countries, including Italy, for its erotic and brutal sex scenes.

Despite the controversy, Bertolucci and Brando were both nominated for Oscars for the graphic film about a middle-aged man's sexual relationship with a much younger woman.

However, he didn't win an Academy Award until 1988's "The Last Emperor." Bernardo won the Oscars that year for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. His final feature film was "Me and You," a 2012 release in Italy.

He was also awarded lifetime achievement awards at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. 

Bertolucci was 77.

RIP

Faith Evans Here's Why I Sang this Hymn ... At Kim Porter's Funeral

11/25/2018 3:36 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Faith Evans sang a beautiful rendition of an old hymn during Kim Porter's funeral -- but, sadly, it's one she says she's sung before to honor another member of Diddy's family.

We got Faith Sunday at LAX coming back from Kim's funeral service in Georgia and asked how she was holding up. You can see she's in pain even behind the sunglasses as she tells us she's doing alright following a heartfelt tribute and an emotional ceremony.

Our photog asks why she chose "His Eye is On the Sparrow" as her song of choice to honor Kim, and Faith says she went with something she'd previously performed at Diddy's grandmother's funeral back in the '90s. She also says it's a tune she'd sing to record label execs back in the day ... at Puff's request.

Most importantly, Faith gives us an idea of how Kim left her mark on the world and why so many people were touched by her passing. Sounds like Faith thinks Kim's purpose was more than fulfilled by the way she's remembering her here.

RIP

2018 CMA Awards Dedicated To Thousand Oaks Shooting Victims

11/14/2018 5:36 PM PST
Breaking News

Garth Brooks opened the 2018 Country Music Awards with a dedication to the 12 people who were shot dead last week in the horrific massacre at a country bar in California. 

Garth began the evening by lovingly dedicating the award show to the dozen people who were killed at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks during last week's College Country Night. 

Garth told the audience the show would celebrate the lives of the men and women who were shot dead, and asked everyone to let music unite them in love in their enduring memory. 

After Garth's opening words, there was a moment of silence as the names of the 12 victims were shown on screen. 

Stan Lee Shared Last Words with Protégé ... 2 Days Before Death

11/13/2018 11:27 AM PST
Exclusive Details

Stan Lee was smiling and cheerful during what would be his final sit-down with the man he trusted to run Marvel Comics.

This is the last known pic of Stan, taken on Saturday, as Stan smiled next to his protege, comic book writer Roy Thomas. Just 2 days before Stan died, we're told he was in good spirits during the visit.

Roy's manager, John Cimino, tells us Roy and Stan talked for about 30 minutes and, surprise ... they discussed comics and superheroes. John tells us Stan's last words before he and Roy left were ... "God bless. Take care of my boy, Roy."

Roy released a statement about his last moments with Stan, noting the Marvel legend "lacked much of the old Stan Lee energy" most people had come to know him by. He also says Stan seemed enthusiastic about future Marvel movie cameos if he could do them without being too much of a burden. Roy called Stan "one of the most important mythmakers of the 20th century."

When Stan stepped back from his Marvel Comics duties, he handed the reins to Roy ... who took over head writing duties for "Spider-Man" and eventually became Stan's first successor as editor-in-chief at Marvel ... in 1972.

Donnell Rawlings on Stan Lee I Cameo'd for Stan in 'Spider-Man 2' ... RIP to a Legend

11/13/2018 12:50 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Stan Lee was supposed to deliver one of the most memorable lines in "Spider-Man 2," according to Donnell Rawlings ... who ended up replacing the late Marvel legend.

We got Don at LAX soon after we broke the news that Stan had passed away, and he had a hilarious story for us about his cameo in the original "Spider-Man" sequel. In case you've forgotten, Donnell briefly shows up when Tobey Maguire goes swinging with pizzas in hand.

According to Donnell, Stan was set to drop the classic line ... but, apparently, he'd fallen ill during filming and Don got tapped instead. He even reenacts the "Oscar-worthy" scene for our camera guy, and does a pretty good job at recapturing the magic.

BTW, Stan did end up making a cameo in 'SM2,' but it was a non-speaking part. He was notorious for showing up in the Marvel movies ... someway, somehow.

Like we first told you ... Stan was rushed to Cedars-Sinai by ambulance from his Hollywood Hills home early Monday morning, and he died at the hospital. 

He was 95.

RIP

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