PASSAGES: Cher Attracts Big Numbers

04/10/2003 at 10:41 AM EDT

RATED: Cher's "farewell" concert special on NBC averaged an estimated 16.6 million viewers, meaning that the 56-year-old diva can still deliver. The preliminary Nielsen results mean that the diva surpassed viewership for recent Celine Dion and Faith Hill specials and gave NBC its highest rating with entertainment in the timeslot in two and a half years. ABC's "NYPD Blue" also returned after a hiatus, averaging nearly 11 million viewers despite the stiffer-than-usual competition.

DETERMINED: The estranged mother of controversial radio adviser Dr. Laura Schlessinger was not murdered, as police initially suspected, but instead died of heart disease, Los Angeles Coroner's officials confirmed, Reuters reports. The badly decomposed body of Yolanda Schlessinger, 77, was discovered in the bathroom of her Beverly Hills home in December, prompting police to open a murder investigation.

HOSPITALIZED: Rodney Dangerfield, 81, was in stable condition at UCLA Medical Center Wednesday as he recovered in an intensive care unit from a 12-hour arterial brain surgery to improve his blood flow for an upcoming heart valve replacement, reports the Associated Press. His Tuesday surgery took about four hours longer than expected, but Dangerfield was recovering on schedule, said his publicist. The "no respect" comic is expected to remain hospitalized for up to 10 days.

HIRED: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" star Matthew McConaughey, 34, has parlayed the success of that romantic comedy to star in and produce another, to be called "Dear Delilah" for Paramount Pictures, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The paper describes it as a cross between "What Women Want" meets "Boomerang," with McConaughey playing America's most widely read female advice columnist, Delilah.

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