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