Drew Barrymore has long had a soft spot for critters in need. Her three dogs are all adopted strays, and a year and a half ago the actress even rescued three turtles that were being sold for soup at a market in L.A.’s Chinatown.
On Feb. 18 one of Barrymore’s cherished beasts returned the favor. At 3:20 a.m. Barrymore, 26, and her fiancé, comedian Tom Green, 29, were awakened in her Beverly Hills home by Flossie, a Labrador-Chow mix about 5 years old, making a racket outside their bedroom. The couple noticed smoke streaming under the door as alarms began shrieking, says Barrymore’s spokesman Eddie Michaels. With Flossie and one of their other two canines at their heels, they rushed out of the bedroom’s sliding glass doors to a guest house 150 feet away, where Barrymore dialed 911. (Their other dog—a fire official wasn’t sure whether it was Flossie’s sibling Templeton or mixed breed Vivian—escaped on its own and turned up at a neighbor’s house.) It took 11 fire trucks and 55 firefighters nearly an hour to douse the blaze, which destroyed the two-story, 3,500-sq.-ft. wood house. “Flossie barked and literally banged on their bedroom door just as the smoke detectors were going off,” says Michaels. “Drew feels both saved her life.”
Outside, Barrymore and Green giggled with relief at having escaped uninjured. “We are great, but we lost everything,” Barrymore told TV reporters. “We’re okay,” a grinning Green added sarcastically, “other than the fact that the house burned down!” (Despite the crack, Green had a “delayed reaction” to the disaster, says a colleague. “He’s actually shook up.”) The two then hopped in a silver Porsche convertible and drove away. “You could tell it was hitting them hard,” says fire department battalion chief Dennis Waters, who was on the scene. “I kept telling them that what mattered most is that they got out alive.”
A friend later picked up Flossie and Templeton, whom Barrymore adopted at an L.A. flea market, and Vivian, whom she found on the street. The dogs all survived, but the turtles, kept in a ground-floor aquarium, perished, according to Barrymore’s friend Jillian Fink-Dempsey.
Barrymore, now staying in an undisclosed location with Green, has “no idea what started the fire,” says Eddie Michaels—and so far, neither do investigating Los Angeles fire officials. (Barrymore told them she quit smoking three weeks ago.) The 1902 house was gutted, and fire officials put the damage at $700,000. Other buildings on the estimated $3 million estate, which includes the guest house, a yoga studio, a pool and a thatched-roof tiki bar, were spared. Firefighters saved a few photos of Barrymore’s famous acting father and grandfather, but much of her wardrobe went up in smoke. “Until the building is deemed safe for them to go into,” says Michaels, “they just don’t know exactly what is left. It’s a terrible loss.”
The Hollywood odd couples, however, have weathered tough times before. Barrymore met Green, the MTV gross-out clown, in 1999 and remained by his side as he underwent successful surgery for testicular cancer last year. “My man loves my goofiness,” she told Premiere magazine. They got engaged last July—and pulled a memorable prank in November, when Green announced they would marry on Saturday Night Live, then acted devastated when Barrymore never showed.
Any wedding plans, says Eddie Michaels, are still hush-hush. For now, Green is putting finishing touches on his comedy Freddy Got Fingered, due April 20, while Barrymore just wrapped the drama Riding in Cars with Boys. Provocative titles, yes, but not nearly as ominous as the name of the 1984 film that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel six hours before the blaze began: Firestarter, starring Drew Barrymore.
Vicki Sheff-Cahan and Cynthia Wang in Los Angeles