The day Heath Ledger was found dead
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2015 - 10:00am

Barely three months from now, on Jan. 22, 2016, fans will commemorate the seventh death anniversary of Australian actor Heath Ledger (fondly remembered for, among other films, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain) who died at 28 of accidental overdose of prescribed medication at his Manhattan pad.

Perhaps not many people knew that Ledger’s maid was a Filipina named Teresa Cariño Solomon who was among those interviewed by the NYPD to shed light on the tragedy.

I was rummaging through my huge pile of Philippine STAR upon a story written for Funfare by my New York correspondent Edmund Silvestre who did an exclusive interview with Solomon.

“Teresa is very dignified,” wrote Edmund. “When you see her, you wouldn’t think that she is a housekeeper. She looks much younger in person than she does in pictures, and she has flawless skin.”

So young and so talented, but gone too soon. That’s what people were saying about Ledger. As a “throwback,” I am reprinting Edmund’s story (edited) so that other actors, or anybody for that matter, can learn a lesson from it.

Here it is:

Solomon, 56, was the last person to have seen the late Brokeback Mountain actor alive on Jan. 22, shortly before he was found dead on the same day in his swanky fourth-floor apartment at 421 Broome Street in the SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan.

Since that tragic day, Solomon had been hounded by journalists, some of whom followed her even on subway trains all the way to her apartment building in the Astoria section of Queens, New York, where she’s been living for the last 12 years.

Solomon, a native of Mangaldan, Pangasinan, hesitated to talk at first but later agreed to the interview on condition that she wouldn’t be asked about the death of Ledger since it is under investigation. There’s still no word on the cause of the actor’s death. An autopsy report is due anytime now.

“It’s hard to talk because you know how the media can twist words,” said the petite Filipino-American. “I already told the police everything I know.”

Solomon said she was shaking and unable to sleep a day after the death of Ledger whom she remembered as ”a very nice man, very neat and well-organized with his personal things.”

She recalled, “I cried when the emergency personnel said he’s dead because I just couldn’t believe that he’s gone. I even told them to check him thoroughly because they might be wrong.”
Reports said Solomon had only worked for Ledger for several
months doing light cleaning and laundry.

Solomon won’t say the exact month she was hired by the actor, but said she was recommended to Ledger by the superintendent of Ledger’s apartment building.

“I was told I’d be working for Heath Ledger,” she recalled. “Of course, I was honored. He’s famous and a respected actor, and I saw Brokeback Mountain. His place was always clean that’s why I told him, ‘What else am I going to do here?’ He’s also very good-looking. He really looks like a Hollywood leading man.”

Solomon, who also keeps the homes of a number of wealthy families in New York, came to the US in 1985, after working for three years in Greece at the home of the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Athens. Before that, she worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

She became an American citizen when an employer sponsored her years ago as a nanny for a young boy.

“I’ve been a housekeeper almost all my life and I’m proud of it,” said Solomon, who was a Commerce sophomore when she stopped to work as a domestic. “This is a decent job and I earn a decent living. I have a nice apartment. I have a nice family. And I have a quiet life.”

According to the police, Solomon had arrived at Ledger’s $24,000-a month apartment with her own key at approximately 12:30 p.m. of Jan. 22 to do household chores.

On that tragic day, police said Solomon entered the bedroom at around 1 p.m. to change a light bulb in the adjacent bathroom, and saw Ledger face down on the bed, with a sheet pulled to his shoulders, and snoring. Police said she left the room without thinking anything was wrong.

A masseuse arrived at approximately 2:45 p.m. to give Ledger a massage. When Ledger did not emerge by 3 p.m., the masseuse knocked on his door but got no response. When she called his cellphone and also got no answer, she entered Ledger’s bedroom and began to set up the massage table, and tried to awaken the actor who was unresponsive.

Police said Wolozin first called Ledger’s close friend, actress Mary-Kate Olsen, whose number was programmed into Ledger’s cell phone…

…After again attempting to waken Ledger, the masseuse called again briefly, and at 3:26 p.m. called 911. Medical workers moved Ledger to the floor, used a defibrillator and CPR, and pronounced Ledger dead at 3:36 p.m. Police said they found six types of prescription drugs, including pills to treat insomnia and anxiety in the bathroom and that there were “no obvious signs” of suicide, nor did they suspect foul play...

…Police said the Australian-born actor probably died sometime between 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. of what authorities say may be an accidental drug overdose.

Ledger’s body was flown to his native Australia where it was laid to rest.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

 

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