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Entertainment Tonight 

October 14, 2003

Donna Summer: The Day the Disco Queen Nearly Died  

DONNA SUMMER, the singing sensation who was once titled the "Queen of Disco," has come out with a tell-all autobiography called Ordinary Girl: The Journey that reveals her life's inspirational ups and very dark downs. Tonight, ET sits down with the talented diva for an intimate chat.

Although Summer grew up happy, surrounded by family ("I can honestly say that I can't conceive of growing up differently"), she left her native Boston for New York to pursue her singing and to seek safety from certain dangers back home. "There were different parts of my life I needed to get away from," she says. "My life was threatened so getting out of Boston made me feel a little safer."

Summer admits that she's had relationships go bad -- including an abusive boyfriend -- and reveals why she believes it happened so often with her. "Whenever you meet somebody that has a dark side it's not that you know they have a dark side, it's that there's something deep about them that you want to uncover," she says. "You love the side that's good but you have to live with the dark side and if the dark side comes out too much, then you can't live with the other person at all."

Getting a part in the musical Hair led her to Europe, where the future five-time Grammy winner met her first husband and had a daughter. It was while abroad that her hit "Love To Love You Baby" heated up the record charts, which is why she headed back to the U.S. and embraced a longtime hit-making collaboration with producer/songwriters GIORGIO MORODER and PETE BELLOTTE (A Love Trilogy, Four Seasons of Love and I Remember Yesterday).

But Summer says when her success was on the rise, she began to contemplate suicide. "I had a condition -- that people will read about in the book -- and there were things I was dealing with healthwise that I didn't know I was dealing with," she says. "The more successful I became, the less I slept and it just kept getting worse and worse until the point that I felt like I was never really awake or never really sleeping ... I just felt that I couldn't live like that anymore and I didn't want to live -- not another minute like that."

One night in 1976, she says, she climbed out on the ledge of her hotel room with the intention of dying. "I hoped the weight of my loneliness would send me crashing 11 stories to the sidewalk below," she writes. When she got tangled in the drapes, she continues, "I was trying to shake the curtain off my leg when the door to the room swung open and in walked the maid."

Now 54, the former dance-club diva assures us that, along with her family, her spiritual rebirth has helped her carry on. "It's helped me to sustain myself ... without it, I'd be back at that window again. I use the window as a point of reference and I say to myself, 'Donna, you've gone beyond that and you can continue.'"

She's hoping that opening up about how she got through the rough patches of her life will help the readers. "To me, the book isn't there to make me look better or not better, it's really a mirror ... look at my life and see what you see of yourself and if there's something you can change know that it's possible ... because I've persevered."

Watch tonight's ET for more on Ms. Summer!

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