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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- November 01, 1999
- Vol. 52
- No. 17
A Loft Fire Claims a Trove of Actress Elizabeth Ashley's Personal Treasures
Like a dark irony in one of her late friend Williams's gothic tragedies, the blaze apparently began when Ashley, 60—a lifelong smoker whose fear of fire caused her habitually to douse ashtrays with bottled water—accidentally dumped a wet but still smoldering cigarette in a bedroom trash bin as she left her apartment that morning. "Because the thing I am most terrified of is fire," says Ashley, "I am horrendously careful." Not careful enough, however. "We believe that this was careless smoking," says New York City Fire Commissioner Tom Von Essen, who visited the scene. A Tony Award-winning actress whose six-year marriage to the late actor George Peppard produced her only child, Christian Peppard, 31, a New York City writer, she was preparing for a lead role in the forthcoming Off-Broadway comedy If Memory Serves. Now Ashley, who will live in a sublet while her loft is being repaired, is philosophical about her loss. "They say that God purifies with fire," she says. "Maybe for the first time in my life, I'll be purified."
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