- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

Final farewells

Heath Ledger’s family, his former fiancee Michelle Williams and Australia’s entertainment elite bade him farewell at a private memorial service Saturday in his hometown.

Mr. Ledger’s family returned to Perth last week to bury the actor, who died in his Manhattan apartment at age 28 from a prescription drug overdose on Jan. 22. The family attended a memorial service in Los Angeles last weekend.

Several hundred people gathered at a Perth local girls’ school, Penrhos College, for a memorial that mixed personal tributes, modern rock and traditional Aboriginal music.

Miss Williams, who became romantically involved with Mr. Ledger while filming the homosexual romance “Brokeback Mountain,” arrived at the service with Mr. Ledger’s parents in a six-car motorcade.

The 75-minute service kicked off with the performance of a didgeridoo, a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument. Rock songs that were also played including Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,” the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” and Neil Young’s “Old Man,” according to a program of the service.

Organizers also showed footage from Mr. Ledger’s films and of 2-year-old Matilda, his daughter with Miss Williams.

Fellow Australian-turned-Hollywood star Cate Blanchett, who starred with Mr. Ledger in the Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There,” recalled their time spent together in New York and Los Angeles. Other speakers included his parents and sister.

Mr. Ledger’s father, Kim Ledger, said the service would be followed by a private funeral in Perth. He appealed for privacy and did not disclose the time or location.

Saturday’s events ended with a wake at a restaurant at scenic Cottesloe Beach, which overlooks the Indian Ocean, one of the actor’s favorite spots in this small and remote city on the verge of the Outback in Australia’s southwest.

Nine Network national television showed Miss Williams and other mourners taking a dip in the waters, some still dressed, including the actress. The group later stood on the sand cheering and applauding as they watched the sun set into the ocean.

Return engagement

Cher has released 25 albums that have sold more than 100 million copies and has enjoyed a career that has included concerts, recordings, Broadway, TV, film acting and directing and books. Now she’s taking her show to Las Vegas, where she’ll be one of the headline acts at Caesars Palace.

“I started in Vegas at Caesars, so I’ve come full circle,” she said Thursday. “I’m back, and I plan to give my fans the best experience yet. I think everybody knows I only do things in a big way.”

The Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award winner said she will begin a three-year, 200-show engagement May 6.

“Cher at The Colosseum” is scheduled to include hit songs from her career of more than 40 years, with choreography, costumes and special effects. Cher will alternate 90-minute performances at the 4,300-seat Colosseum with other headline acts Elton John and Bette Midler.

At it again

Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss was arrested Thursday in Pahrump, Nev., on charges of illegal possession of prescription drugs and driving under the influence, authorities said.

She was pulled over at about 9:30 a.m. by sheriff’s deputies responding to a report of a possible drunken driver, the Nye County sheriff’s office said.

Miss Fleiss, 42, and a passenger in the car, John Owen, were found to be under the influence of a controlled substance, the sheriff’s office said.

Miss Fleiss was arrested on four counts, including possession of dangerous drugs without a prescription and driving under the influence. Mr. Owen, 53, was arrested on charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. Both posted bail and were released.

Miss Fleiss operates a coin-operated laundry, called Dirty Laundry, in this desert town 60 miles west of Las Vegas. She moved there in 2005, after having been jailed in California for running a prostitution ring.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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