January 10, 1981

Jan10On this day in 1981, Natalie Cole found herself trapped in the 22-story Las Vegas Hilton hotel when it had caught fire. Cole was ultimately rescued but the blaze ended up killing eight people.

Cole would later speak of this incident as her “rock bottom,” because during the fire, she didn’t leave her room because she wanted to smoke crack cocaine.

Cole had developed an addiction to heroin and crack cocaine some years prior. The addiction was serious enough that she had crashed her car while high and then her young son, Robert, nearly drowned in the family pool when Cole was high on a drug binge.

In her 2000 autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, Cole wrote of the experience: “Smoke poured under the door to my hotel suite. It was so thick that it was getting hard to breathe.” Cole, trapped in the room with her bodyguard, and, in the belief that they were doomed, he suggested they have sex. Cole had other ideas. “No thanks,’ I said, ‘If I’m going to go, I’m not going straight.’ I fished my freebase kit out of my purse and started cooking cocaine.”

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