By Samantha Miller
September 17, 2001 12:00 PM

It was, more or less, a typical Hollywood wedding, subcategory funky. In a hilltop villa on Sept. 1, Anne Heche, wearing an ivory lace Badgley Mischka gown, strode down the aisle as a guitarist strummed Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” A minister led the actress and her groom, cameraman Coleman Laffoon—resplendent in a fur-trimmed Valentino tux—through a nondenominational ceremony. Then 75 guests, including Heche’s Ally McBeal buddies Lucy Liu, Portia de Rossi and Peter MacNicol, adjourned to the lawn for pan-Latin food and a world-music deejay. The evening, declared Laffoon’s sister Samantha, 23, “was electric.”

It certainly had shock value. Until her August 2000 split with Ellen DeGeneres, Heche, 32, was, after all, half of Hollywood’s most prominent lesbian couple. Now she has put her honeymoon on hold while she promotes her new memoir, Call Me Crazy, whose revelations make her sexuality switcheroo seem ho-hum. In Crazy Heche claims sexual abuse by her father led her to a struggle with mental illness—including an alternate personality named Celestia, “a being from the fourth dimension here to teach the world about love.”

Heche says she was her other, fourth-dimension self when, last August, she famously abandoned her SUV by a roadside in Fresno, Calif., and wandered into a nearby house. She was also, she says, high on Ecstasy. “I was driving to my spaceship, completely clean and sober, when in my head I was told to take the Ecstasy pill,” Heche told PEOPLE in an interview last week. Heche says that she has never been diagnosed with a mental illness or undergone conventional therapy but that the Fresno episode shocked her out of “31 years of a fantasy world that I created to make myself feel safe.”

According to Heche, the demon that derailed her was her late father, Donald, a church choir director, who, she says, sexually abused her “from before I was able to speak until I was 12 years old.” (Anne says her mother, Nancy, was “in denial” about the abuse; Nancy Heche could not be reached for comment.) Heche was also terrified she would develop HIV after her father, who had led a secret gay life, died of complications from AIDS in 1983. “I had huge pain that I was escaping from,” she says. “I went crazy.”

Now Heche says she considers herself sane. As for her romantic life, “Label me however you want,” she says. “I ask the same as I was when I was with Ellen: Allow me to love who I want to love.” For the record, Heche, who had dated men (including actor Steve Martin) before meeting DeGeneres in 1997, says she “didn’t leave Ellen to go back to men. I left Ellen because our relationship didn’t work.”

Soon after the split, Heche started dating Laffoon, now 27, a crewman on a documentary she was making about DeGeneres. She first met his kin—father Polk, 55, a newspaper-chain executive, and homemaker mother Anne, 53—at their Saratoga, Calif., home in February. Laffoon’s sister Samantha says her family’s initial reservations were overcome: “We hugged, and it seemed like we had met before. She is just a charmer.”

The Lenos and Lettermans of the world may not be so kind, but Heche is ready for them. “There will be jokes,” she says, “but for the first time people now know the whole story.”

Samantha Miller

Michael Fleeman in Los Angeles