Natalie Cole: Dialysis in the Day, Concerts at Night


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Cole has been ill but is eager to get on the road behind her new collection of unforgettable songs.

Natalie Cole is sitting comfortably on the couch in her spacious 10th floor condo overlooking Westwood. She's relaxed, and at one point, before making a comment about one of the songs on her new album, she takes a deep breath. That's something she couldn't have done a month ago, when she wound up hospitalized in New York, struck down with fluid-filled lungs and rapidly deteriorating kidneys.

“I didn't realize how close I was to checking out," Cole, 58, said Thursday.

It was a dramatic downturn that Cole, her doctors and those around her didn't expected. She had been on the tail end of treatment for hepatitis C, which she learned she was suffering from last February. It was a consequence of her much- publicized drug use in the 1970s and '80s -- for years she was addicted to heroin before she successfully completed rehab in 1983.

Hepatitis C typically has a decades-long dormancy period, and before Cole received the diagnosis earlier this year, she'd felt no ill effects. After starting Interferon treatments in May, though, Cole said the effect was “debilitating. [It] was worse than the disease."

Cole will take her first steps back into the public spotlight today with an autograph session at the Borders store in Westwood and an appearance Saturday at the Pottery Barn store at Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza shopping mall. Next month, she slowly will resume the concert schedule she would have mounted to support her latest release, “Still Unforgettable," had everything gone according to plan.

The album was conceived as the successor to Cole's 1991 multiple Grammy winner “Unforgettable: With Love," which became the biggest hit of her career -- selling more than 6 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. Cole wowed audiences with a seamless duet with her late father's voice on the title tune, one of Nat's signature numbers.

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