NIKI TAYLOR'S WILD, BOOZY NIGHT BEFORE CRASH

Published on: May 10, 2001

SUPERMODEL Niki Taylor's near-fatal car crash came after a wild night of drinking and partying that shocked some patrons at an Atlanta nightclub who watched Niki strip down to her bra and show off her chest.

Ironically, the troubled beauty -- who's been in two different drug treatment centers in the past six months -- was looking forward to quitting modeling and its party-hearty lifestyle when disaster struck, The ENQUIRER has learned.

The 5-foot-11 model's life was left hanging by a thread after a car driven by her new beau James "Chad" Renegar slammed into a pole at 3:50 a.m. on April 29.

Cops on the scene decided not to do sobriety tests -- but they had no idea of the partying that preceded the terrifying wreck.

Niki and Chad had arrived at Atlanta's Eleven50 club shortly before midnight and were seated outside by the club's pool. They drank "Cosmopolitans" -- a potent blend of vodka, triple sec and a splash of cranberry juice served in a martini glass, according to an eyewitness.

After an hour, the couple took a seat in the VIP section -- which overlooks the dance floor and is enclosed by a glass wall. Soon after, the hazel-eyed blonde cut loose.

"Niki shook her booty and pressed her amply filled black bra against the window of the VIP lounge while hundreds of patrons looked on," a startled patron told The ENQUIRER.

Niki and Chad were seated with another couple -- and the other woman, a short blonde, pretended to make out with the statuesque model.

"She wrapped her legs around Niki's waist and leaned back. It was a wild scene -- far more than you usually see at the place," said the patron.

"Niki's blouse had been ripped during the horsing around and was pulled down in front on both sides. Her breasts were hanging out, but Niki and her boyfriend just partied on. They pressed against the VIP window and looked out at everyone."

Niki and Chad left the club at the 3:30 a.m. closing time.

The crash, which badly damaged the model's liver, occurred just 20 minutes later.

Atlanta police accepted Chad's explanation that he drove into the pole when he reached to answer his cell phone.

Chad, 27, and the vehicle's third passenger, pal John Lauck whom he was driving home, suffered only minor injuries. But Niki, 26, was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition.

"She sustained severe liver injury," said Dr. Jeffrey Nicholas, who performed several operations on her to stop internal bleeding.

Although she's amassed a $75 million fortune during her fabulous career, Niki was getting ready to give it all up, The ENQUIRER discovered.

Just this past December -- during a stay in the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Hospital's drug rehab center -- Niki divulged the stress of her career made her miserable.

"Niki said she wanted to retire," revealed a friend.

"She said career demands also interfered with her relationship with her 6-year-old twins Jake and Hunter."

Niki's drug problems revolved around Vicodin, which she took to ward off panic attacks, said the friend.

This past February -- just two months after getting out of the Fort Lauderdale center -- Niki checked herself into Father Martin's Ashley treatment center in Havre de Grace, Md., for a month of rehab and counseling.

In the weeks prior to the accident, life was finally looking bright.

"Chad and Niki had fallen head over heels in love," revealed a pal.

"Chad was so taken by Niki, who lives in Florida, he quit his job as a stockbroker at A.G. Edwards in Atlanta and gave up his apartment.

"He told friends that Niki was going to buy him a condo and get him a job with one of her investment contacts."

But all plans were suddenly put on hold by the devastating crash.

Niki's aunt Mary Eaton told The ENQUIRER: "When we first heard about the severity of Niki's injuries, our first thought was, `She's going to die.'

"She was heavily sedated throughout the first 48 hours. When she started to come out of it, she reached out and grabbed her mother's hand and started to cry. It was a very emotional moment."

While her family was upbeat about Niki's prospects, Dr. Nicholas said it would be weeks before physicians can determine how well she will recover.