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Tom Petty recounts near-fatal arson in new book

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tompetty.jpgRocker Tom Petty is opening up in detail for the first time about the arson fire that destroyed his house in 1987, likening the deed to a rape and admitting he was rattled for years afterwards.

Petty recounts the near-fatal incident in the upcoming memoir, Conversations with Tom Petty, written by Paul Zollo. It is set for release in November via Omnibus Press.

The blaze occurred on May 17, 1987 at Petty's Encino, Calif. home as he and his (now-former) wife were preparing to host her birthday party. One of their two daughters was also home, as was a housekeeper whose hair caught fire as she tried to hose down the flames. Petty also grabbed a hose, but it melted in his hands, he recalls.

Everything was lost, apart from a few guitars and some tapes, but they were lucky to get out alive. He says he was initially dubious when told that the fire had been deliberately lit, but then firefighters showed him where someone had lit a can of lighter fluid and thrown it against the wall.

"We were shaken for years by it," says Petty, adding that he could not bring himself to use the word "fire" in a song. "It's sort of like being raped, I would imagine. It really took a long time. And it was 10 times as bad, because you knew that somebody just went and did it. Somebody tried to off you."

In the book, he gives special mention to Annie Lennox, who was on the scene because her Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart lived next door to the Pettys. She was "bright enough" to realize that everyone would need clothes and shoes, so immediately rushed out and bought "some pretty nice stuff."

The family moved into a hotel for a few weeks, with beefed-up security, and Petty took them on the road with his band the Heartbreakers to join Bob Dylan on a tour of Europe and Israel. "Without a possession. Without anything," he says with a laugh in the book.

A bigger house was eventually rebuilt on the property, partly because Petty wanted to show the unknown arsonist that he would not back down.


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good for him, to be in the position to just rebuild and buy more shit (as well as having annie lennox nearby). i'm thinking of those fires one hears about in big cities, especially near christmas time, when entire fams are out on the streets and have to go to homeless shelters or wherever.

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