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My cocaine hell, by the beauty who partied away her glittering film career.

Looking gaunt and vulnerable, Charlotte Lewis hangs her head and whispers: "I used to have the world in the palm of my hand.

"But I discovered cocaine and just couldn't stop.

"Everywhere I went there were drugs - at parties, at restaurants, on the sets of movies and at my friends' homes. I couldn't get away from it. It took over my whole life and then wrecked it."

It is the first time British-born Charlotte - who shot to fame at 18 after starring with Eddie Murphy in his film The Golden Child - has spoken of her battle against drugs...and the Hollywood party-go-round that drove her to the edge. Now recovering at the pounds 3,000 a week Priory Clinic in Roehampton thanks to her close friend Eric Clapton she says: "It is only now that I am really willing to admit that I had a problem.

"I have tried to stop taking cocaine twice before, but only in a half-hearted way.

"I used to think that it was something I just did at weekends.

"But living in Los Angeles is like being at one long party, and it's difficult to get away from it.

"I got to the stage where I was wondering, `What is the point of living here? All I have is temptation'."

Charlotte was just 15 when she was thrown out of the exclusive Bishop Douglas School in North London - and went to Paris to pursue a modelling career.

At 5ft 7in she was too short to be a catwalk model, but found plenty of work in fashion magazines.

She also found a ready supply of drink, drugs and late-night parties.

"I was rebelling against everything," she recalls.

"After six months I pulled myself together because I realised I looked about 110 years old.

"I stopped drinking, smoking and taking drugs and didn't really start again until I landed in LA."

Charlotte made her screen debut when she was just 16, starring in Roman Polanski's film Pirates. She was immediately hailed as the new Natassja Kinski. When she co-starred with Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child the following year she was acclaimed as the next great Hollywood leading lady.

But along with the fame came the party invites. Everybody wanted to know her.

She became a well-known figure on Los Angeles' celebrity circuit ... and she was seen on the arm of some of the world's most eligible men.

She had an 18-month affair with Charlie Sheen and romances with Mickey Rourke, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and INXS rocker Michael Hutchence.

She lived with wealthy video producer William Annersley and was engaged to millionaire film boss Mario Sotela for a year.

She used to go night-clubbing with Liz Hurley. She was close to Sly Stallone's ex, Janice Dickinson - and Emily Lloyd was a good friend.

But while she took small film parts to pay her rent, her friends were landing parts in big budget films made by the major studios.

And drugs were destroying her.

Last summer, after staying up all night with a girlfriend drinking and snorting cocaine she decided to quit.

"We were high as kites doing one line of cocaine after the other," Charlotte recalls.

"When the light started coming up over the Hollywood Hills we decided that enough was enough.

"We had spent hours discussing it and decided rehab was the only solution.

"The two of us staggered into the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Beverly Hills and went up to the seventh floor, where they run a drugs treatment programme."

But Charlotte's addiction was so great that she persuaded her friend to give her another gram of the drug which they both took in the hospital bathroom.

She says: "We thought we should finish it off before we committed ourselves.

"We sat in the waiting room and tried to fill in the forms, barely able to read or hold our pens. I was cold and clammy and unable to think straight.

"Then when we saw the doctors coming towards us my friend said to me, `Do we really need to be here?' We got cold feet and left."

A few weeks later she again tried to give up drugs ... and thought that she had found a boyfriend - a film producer - who would help her.

She was already attending Alcoholic Anonymous because she thought she had a drinking problem when her lover-to-be saw her at her agent's office and followed her to an AA meeting.

"He knew I was taking cocaine so he pretended that he was anti-drugs," she recalls.

"We even went to AA meetings together. He told me that he spent one week of every month working in New York.

"After a few months of living together in an apartment near the beach in Santa Monica he started acting strangely like he was having an affair.

"We had a huge row and I threw him out of the house."

Charlotte discovered that his "affair" was really with cocaine.

And while he was supposed to be working in New York he was really on a massive drinks and drugs binge. "The next night he appeared on the doorstep saying he was sorry," she recalls.

"He had a bottle of champagne and a big packet of cocaine. I just couldn't resist.

"We sat up all night doing line after line until it was all gone.

"I became a nervous wreck and lost so much weight I was just skin and bone.

"He was a very confused puppy. I knew I had to call time on the relationship."

Sad and depressed, Charlotte left him to resume her wild partying with a vengeance.

She often stayed up all night as one day rolled into the next.

Four months ago she realised she had hit rock-bottom when she stayed at an all-night party in the Hollywood Hills snorting cocaine and popping Ecstasy pills.

"I passed out on a sofa and when I woke up I realised that someone had stolen my Rolex watch and some of my jewellery," she recalls.

"The man whose party it was was actually a friend of mine, but he had a strange girlfriend and she had strange friends running around.

"I told the guy that unless it was returned I would call the police and bust everyone.

"I went into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee and sure enough the watch appeared on the coffee table."

By now even the smaller roles had begun drying up and Charlotte was beginning to run out of money.

"One movie I did just paid for a new lamp. It was a nice lamp, but that was it," she admits.

"I wasn't spending all my money on drugs because it always seems to be around in Hollywood.

"Someone always seemed to have some to give me.

Now Charlotte says she is determined to fight her way back to the top - for the sake of her mum.

"I never knew my father, who was a half-Iranian half-Chilean doctor," she says.

"We didn't have any money when I was growing up and my mother raised me by herself.

"Now it's my turn. Even when I was doing really well I still couldn't afford to buy her a house or a car.

"All I did was to try to make sure she was always warm in the winter.

"Now I really want to be a successful Hollywood movie star and really spoil her.

"But I was never very good at calling it quits."
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Knight, Henrietta
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 1997
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