NAMED: Guitar legend Eric Clapton, 58, is the latest British rocker to win recognition from Queen Elizabeth in the annual New Year's honors list, reports Reuters. The Grammy-winning musician was named a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), one of Britain's highest honors, albeit ranking in precedence below the knighthoods enjoyed by Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger. Ray Davies, frontman for the '60s band the Kinks, also won a CBE, as did "The Hours" movie director Stephen Daldry. Veteran actress Joan Plowright (the widow of Lord Laurence Olivier) is now Dame Joan, the female equivalent of a knighthood.
QUOTED: "The fact of the matter is ... we're going to have a wonderful time. We've taken all the right security precautions. Even the weather is cooperating." – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday's "Today" show, assuring the 750,000 people expected to cram the streets of Times Square to welcome in the New Year that they will be safe
DIED: Distinguished bestselling author John Gregory Dunne, 71, who frequently collaborated with wife Joan Didion, died Tuesday night, friend and fellow writer David Halberstam tells the Associated Press. Dunne died after suffering a heart attack at his Manhattan apartment as he sat down to dinner with Didion, reports the Los Angeles Times. Dunne's breakout novel came in 1977 with "True Confessions," a tough, bleak account of a woman's brutal murder and its connection to two brothers, a policeman and a priest. The novel sold more than 1 million copies, and he and Didion collaborated on the 1981 film adaptation starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro.
UNDETERMINED: Los Angeles coroner's officials say they cannot determine whether the stab wounds that killed "Good Will Hunting" Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter Elliott Smith in October were self-inflicted, reports Reuters. The body of Smith was found in his Los Angeles home by the musician's live-in girlfriend. Coroner's spokesman David Campbell said Smith, 34, died from two "penetrating stab wounds" to the chest.
STUCK: Former Clinton intern Monica Lewinsky, 30, is not entitled to be reimbursed her $1.1 million in legal fees related to an independent counsel investigation of the former President and his affair with her, a federal appellate panel ruled Tuesday, reports The Washington Post. The three-judge panel said Lewinsky failed to meet the standard for reimbursement in such cases.
HONORED: To mark the start of the new year, the PEOPLE Daily News will not publish on Thursday, but will resume Friday, Jan. 2. To all our readers, a very happy and safe 2004.