Actress Lesley-Anne Down "could have been dead" if she'd carried on with her crazy self-destructive partying ways.

When she was married to FRENCH CONNECTION director William Friedkin in the early 80s, the beautiful Brit was a hard-living Hollywood girl.

It was only their messy divorce - peppered with Friedkin's many vicious accusations about Lesley's unfit behaviour - and the ugly custody battle for beloved son JACK that made her turn her life around.

She says, "I was young and still a party animal at heart then. Had my life not taken the direction it did, I don't know that I'd be sitting here today.

"I could have been dead. I could have killed myself because the path I was on was destructive in so many ways."

She says of Friedkin's attempts to discredit her as an unfit mother, "I did do drugs but not to the extent that he said. Terrible things were said. Even my parents were accused.

"In one article, the pool maintenance man said my father smoked four or five marijuana cigarettes one day, but they were his roll-your-own tobacco cigarettes!

"Was I bad mother? No. I didn't do the things he said, like taking drugs in front of Jack.

"On the drug front I was no better or worse than every other actress in those days."

26/09/2003 19:11