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The Life and Death of Laurie Dolan : Tragedy: Her death was not news until a tenuous connection was made to alleged Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Now, the drug victim's family and friends try to pick up the pieces.

August 30, 1993|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Laurie Dolan had eyes like the sky on a brilliant summer day. And when she died last winter, having languished in a drug-induced coma for nearly a day before her glamorous party friends took her to a hospital, her mother demanded an official inquiry.

In many cities, the death of Laurie, a 22-year-old college student from Tarzana with the face of an angel and all the signs of a strong and happy future, would have made front-page news and warranted a criminal investigation.

In Los Angeles, few cared until a tenuous connection to the sleaziest story in this town of sleazy stories made her life and death the stuff of headlines.

Earlier this month, Laurie was momentarily "linked" to alleged Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Tabloid newspapers and television shows speculated on whether she had associated with Fleiss, whether she had been a prostitute, whether she had died because of it. Soon, police decided there was no evidence and the press lost interest.

Now, having seen Laurie's story dredged up and discarded, her mother has to force herself to go to work. Laurie's boyfriend, a handsome young professional who refuses to be quoted by name for fear that any association with the Fleiss case will ruin his career, dreams that she is still alive. He says he allowed a multimillion-dollar business deal to wither while Laurie's face was paraded across millions of television screens.

This is the story of the real Laurie Dolan--beautiful, loving, guileless, something of a party girl, probably not a prostitute--and what happened to her family and loved ones.

"This last week has been a nightmare," said her mother, Cheri Dolan, her voice breaking. "I'm drained. And I'm furious at the press."

Laurie Esther Dolan died on March 2, three weeks short of her 23rd birthday. She had overdosed on cocaine, morphine and codeine in the home of Jacob (Cookie) Orgad, an Israeli emigre who frequented the city's most glamorous nightclubs and liked to throw his weight around.

She started life in Minnesota, the elder of two children born to Paul and Cheri Dolan. When Laurie was a toddler, the family settled in Santa Monica. They moved to Thousand Oaks when she was 10. When she was in junior high school, her parents separated, and Paul, a lawyer, moved to Maui. Laurie went on to attend Thousand Oaks High School, and ran around, said an old friend, "somewhere between the surf crowd and the partyers."

She was, by all accounts, a beautiful young woman. She was not a stellar student--her grade point average at graduation was 2.95--but she wasn't a bad one, and she was determined, friends said, to make something of herself.

She wrote poetry and kept a journal, her mother said. She loved to play board games. Mother and daughter were best friends, palling around as if they were contemporaries.

Yet she liked to drink and she used a variety of drugs. Her friends said she was wild--so wild that the gang of girls from Thousand Oaks with whom she had spent most of her high school days stopped seeing as much of Laurie when she moved to Tarzana two years ago and started hanging out with the fast-living, nightclubbing Hollywood "glam" crowd.

She loved the trendy Westside bar circuit--an ever-changing scene where regulars go to whatever club is "in" at the time. When she could, Laurie went to Bar One on Wednesdays, Tripps on Fridays and the Gate on Saturdays--although her boyfriend said she did not get to make the rounds as much as she wanted to.

Some people in the scene were pretty tough characters who toted guns and got into cocaine-propelled fights with one another.

But Laurie believed they all were harmless.

"She loved the limelight," said Natalie, a friend of 10 years. "She was extremely beautiful and she got a lot of attention down there."

After Thousand Oaks High , Laurie enrolled in Cal State Northridge, majoring in speech-communications. She wanted to be a television news anchor--or an actress, or a model.

She held two jobs--as a telephone saleswoman for a stock broker and as a waitress at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, a sawdust-on-the-floor kind of place where suburbanites in leather hang out with bikers and spandex-clad biker wanna-bes on Sunday afternoons.

"She would study while I worked at night," her boyfriend said. With his shoulder-length blond hair, slicked back for business meetings, and an affinity for real estate, he is a classic young Southern California entrepreneur: the kind of guy who can work 24 hours straight on a business deal and then go out for a run.

"Our lives were extremely balanced," he said. "We would go out once, maybe twice a week."

But an ambitious young entrepreneur has to work a lot. And a glamorous 22-year-old who enjoys getting free drinks from rich men likes to go out.

So for the last two months of her life, her boyfriend said, Laurie started hitting the clubs without him, seeing her buddies early in the evening and then meeting up with him later.

That is why he was home--and she was out partying--the night she overdosed.

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