TATUM is saved! Tatum O'Neal - recovering wife, addict and actress - sounded relieved. And, dare I say it, happy.
"I'm still sober!" she announced to me, two hours after being sprung from a night in jail, rumpled but far more rested and relaxed than I might look after a warm shower and heavy doses of caffeine.
"Just when I was about to change that and wreck my life, the cops came and saved me!" Tatum crowed.
"I was saved by the bell, by the guys in the Seventh Precinct."
Tatum was thrown in the can after being picked up on the Lower East Side and charged with buying crack and cocaine from a vagrant.
She called me to explain herself. Also, because she liked my columns slamming another discarded wife, Dina Matos McGreevey.
"If I were an acting coach, I'd tell her not to make faces!" she said of Dina. "Don't look mad or petulant. She looks like a 12-year-old."
So what happened?
You remember Tatum as the adorable waif who won an Oscar at 10 in "Paper Moon." You remember her as tennis star John McEnroe's wife. And a heroin loser who once lost her three kids. Now what?
"There's no excuse for what I did," Tatum told me.
"I lost my Scottish terrier, Lena," three weeks ago. "That seemed to set me off.
"She got old. She got cancer. She was the fabric of our family. We had to let her go to heaven. My daughter and I had to put her down. It was too horrible for words.
"I couldn't get out of it. I was going to my psychiatrist. I was doing everything I could do. I have the disease of alcoholism. It's lifelong. I treat it every day by going to my 12-step program."
But the loss of her 16-year-old pooch was too much. "It triggered that my mother passed away [from addiction] in '98. My father [actor Ryan O'Neal] and I are estranged."
She also took a "little break" from her relationship with architect Ron Castellano, who nonetheless showed up to pick her up after court yesterday.
"He is a saint!" Tatum said. "I'm so glad he took my phone call at 3 o'clock in the morning."
Tatum explained how she tried to hurt herself.
"One day, I'm walking aimlessly. I found myself doing the wrong thing."
Tatum, 44, told me how, in a funk, she met Alan Garcia, 33, "a drug addict who was panhandling," and bought coke.
I told her she was charged with buying crack, too.
"It's both?" she asked, surprised. "I didn't even know what I was buying!"
Tatum wants to reach out to the dealer, who was charged with a felony, while she faces a misdemeanor drug-possession charge.
"I'm going to try to see if I can help him. He's not a drug dealer. He's a panhandler who sold drugs. I'm going to talk to my lawyer."
Get this. Tatum, who's never been in jail before, is glad she was busted.
"It was a shock to me, and a huge wakeup call.
"I'm eternally grateful, as sort of grim as the situation was, that I didn't get to do what my disease was telling me to do. I'm still going to get my year on July 10!"
How can you not love her? i dont
Over the last three years, Tatum has rebuilt her relationship with her sons, 22 and 20, and daughter, 17. Ex-hubby McEnroe called Tatum after her bust, but she had not yet spoken to him.
"He might make seeing my 17-year-old difficult," she admitted, adding that she and McEnroe now have a warm relationship.
She's been rebuilding her acting career as well, and has a movie coming out Aug. 2 on Lifetime. "Hopefully, this isn't going to kill everything," she said.
Eighteen hours behind bars wasn't so bad.
"I slept on a mattress with a couple of ladies because I was tired," she giggled. "And they were nice! And I thought the thing that was cool about New York, no special treatment. No special cell.
"It wasn't that horrible. I think it's worse for the people that don't have a lawyer to get them out."
Face it. She hurt herself.
I wish Tatum well.