SHELLEY LONG DRUG OVERDOSE

Published on: November 24, 2004

"Cheers" star Shelley Long was rushed to the hospital with a terrifying drug overdose, The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

The actress, who played lovable but ditzy Diane, was still reeling from last year's breakup of her marriage when she was taken to UCLA Medical Center on November 16, say sources.

"It was so sad to see Shelley, who everyone remembers as the cool, self-possessed Diane, looking so tired and beaten down," an insider told The ENQUIRER.

'VERY SAD'

And a close family friend confided: "Shelley is a shell of the woman the public knows as perky and vivacious. It's very sad to see this woman, who is only 55, looking like she's turning 90."

The alarming overdose of pills was the tragic climax of a very bad year for the multitalented comedienne, say sources.

As Shelley struggled to reignite her career, her marriage of 22 years crumbled. Investment banker Bruce Tyson, father of Shelley's 19-year-old daughter Juliana, filed for divorce in August 2003--plunging the star into despair, say sources.

Their divorce papers cite "irreconcilable differences," but insiders say Shelley was so obsessed with making an acting comeback, she paid too little attention to Bruce and they grew apart.

"For 18 months, Shelley has been getting more and more depressed," another family friend told The ENQUIRER. "When her husband asked for a divorce, she asked how could he throw their relationship away after all this time.

"Shelley reminded Bruce how much she has worked over the years to help provide an extraordinary life for their family. But Bruce told Shelley he was never into the Hollywood scene or buying 'things,' so as much as he appreciated her, it was never about the money.

"He said when they married, he was in love with her as a person, not a celebrity.

"She told him everything she did, she did for her family--and that she didn't understand what went wrong.

"Bruce said for almost the entire time they were married they went back and forth about Shelley being a workaholic, and that she never listened to him. Now after 22 years, he was tired of talking. He wanted a divorce.

"Shelley begged Bruce to give her another chance. He said he didn't want to hurt her but felt the marriage was over and there was nothing else to talk about. He still cares about Shelley, but he wasn't in love with her anymore.

"Bruce was compassionate and gentle with her--but stern about his decision."

The finality of Bruce's decision was driven home to the actress after the home they shared together was sold in April, continued the friend.

"With every passing day Shelley stayed longer in bed and began to lose her appetite.

'NOTHING TO LIVE FOR'

"Shelley told some of her good friends she felt she had nothing to live for. She loves her daughter Juliana, but says she's an adult now and off to explore her own life.

"A week or so before the overdose, Shelley, who lives alone, kept the curtains drawn. It was quite clear she wasn't eating. She has always been thin, but when she was taken to the hospital, she was almost skeletal.

"Bruce may be gone, but Juliana will always be there for Shelley. But she's depressed and it's hard to get through to her. It's very frightening to watch someone deteriorate right before your eyes."

Shelley's plunge into despair "is like watching someone falling off a cliff, and although you are close enough to touch them, you can't catch them in time," said the friend. "We are all afraid that will be Shelley."

--PATRICIA SHIPP, JOHN SOUTH and REGINALD FITZ