Cor­rie leg­end Vera’s death is warn­ing for all smok­ers to quit. So there’s... MO E XCUSES

The People - - NEWS FEATURES & - By Geral­dine McKelvie

Liz – who played Vera Duck­worth in Corona­tion Street for 34 years – died last week aged 77 from the lung con­di­tion em­phy­sema, caused by her 20-a-day habit.

Laila, Al­bert Square’s Big Mo Slater, was told three years ago by doc­tors that smok­ing had left her on the verge of a fa­tal heart at­tack.

The 72-year-old – who backs the Stop­to­ber cam­paign – cred­its giv­ing up cigs for her new lease of life.

And af­ter be­ing de­clared bank­rupt in 2013 she paid off her debts in July.

She said: “I look at Liz Dawn’s story and I’m glad mine turned out dif­fer­ently. It’s very sad be­cause 77 isn’t old. My mum is nearly 98 and still ac­tive.

“The doc­tors told me my choles­terol was so high I could have a heart at­tack and die at any minute.

“It should make peo­ple think about what they’re do­ing to their body by smok­ing. I wasn’t ready to die. I’m still young at heart and I want to work again.

“I’ve never smoked once since that con­ver­sa­tion with my doc­tor. I went back to my car and threw all of my cig­a­rettes away.” At the height of her habit she could get through 40 a day in the EastEn­ders green room gos­sip­ing with pal

Wendy Richard, who played Pauline Fowler. BBC bosses ended her con­tract in 2012 – leav­ing her in fi­nan­cial tur­moil. She had been earn­ing £80,000 a year and had bought 14 flash cars on hire pur­chase.

Within a year she was bank­rupt with just £300 a month to live on.

Now she drives a mod­est Kia Pi­canto, and ap­pear­ance fees for re­al­ity shows I’m A Celebrity and Danc­ing on Ice and an ad­vance for au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Just a Mo have paid off her debts.

She said: “It’s like win­ning the lot­tery to know all the pay­ments are done and dusted. I don’t know how much I owed. I didn’t want to – I’d have died.

“It was nasty at the time but I’ve been through worse. You get through it.”

Af­ter three dis­as­trous mar­riages, Laila now lives alone in New Cross, South Lon­don – where she grew up with ac­tor brother Gary Old­man – and has no de­sire to find love.

She was in a 10-year re­la­tion­ship with an old flame but says: “We’ve split up but it’s not nasty. We’re still friends but I want to be on my own.”

Laila still watches EastEn­ders “re­li­giously” and would love to re­turn.

She said: “Not work­ing is the worst part of my life. I miss the rou­tine of be­ing on EastEn­ders.

“If I ever got lucky and got back I’d like Mo to pal up with Lor­raine Stan­ley, who plays Karen Tay­lor.

“They’d get on well and get up to a lot of skull­dug­gery I dare­say.

“I keep in touch with my on-screen fam­ily, es­pe­cially Jessie Wal­lace, Lacey Turner and Derek Martin. We’ve been to­gether through thick and thin.

“Peo­ple come up to me in the street and say they don’t like EastEn­ders any more be­cause it’s mis­er­able but they do like my char­ac­ter. I tell them to write in and com­plain!”

FAREWELL: Mourn­ers at fu­neral of Liz Dawn, right CAP­TION: wordwo words rd­srd g go in heh herere CAM­PAIGN: Laila backs Stop­to­ber

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