When I first heard that actor Corey Haim died of a prescription drug overdose this morning, I was struck with sadness. And then five minutes later, utter frustration: another young talent self medicates his way through Hollywoodland and winds up “accidentally” killing himself.
Another Heath Ledger. Another John Belushi. Another Marilyn Monroe. (To warp through a history of Hollywood’s most famous overdoses, check out this slideshow from the L.A. Times). For Hollywood’s lost souls, drug overdoses are the slow, inevitable exit of choice; candy coating for a broken heart. Part of me wished Haim could have been more creative; if he was so intent on losing himself, couldn’t he have turned to, like, Scientology? Biologically, he was Jewish, which may be the saddest part of this equation: Did he even know about the life sustaining riches of his own tradition?
According to a 1984 edition of The Montreal Gazette, Haim won his breakthrough role in the film “Firstborn” at age 12, two months before his Bar Mitzvah. Timing, as they say, is everything. And Haim would later fixate on his Jewish manhood. His sense of humor - and self-delusion - about his own Jewishness is apparent in a funny 2007 interview he gave with co-star Corey Feldman to Entertainment Weekly just before they launched their eight-episode A&E reality show, “The Two Coreys.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What would you like to see each other do next professionally?
COREY FELDMAN: I think we should have Corey Haim reprise the role of Al Pacino in Scarface.
COREY HAIM: [In accent] Are you talkin’ to me, man? Hey, how ‘bout I go back outside and come back in? How ‘bout that, okay?
FELDMAN: You see what I’m saying.
I see what you’re saying.
HAIM: What you talking about man? Say hello to my little friend! Say HELLO to my little friend!
FELDMAN: And he’s talking about his male anatomy at that point, but, uh, it makes it different.
HAIM: Not so little, yeah. I’ve gotta wrap ‘em five times, yeah. A little wrap tuck, yeah. [Both laugh]
FELDMAN: You know what they say about those Jews.
HAIM: Oh god, come on, kid. You’re Jewish, too.
FELDMAN: I know.
HAIM: What a dick. You realize you just bagged on yourself.
FELDMAN: No, it’s a compliment. It’s a compliment. I’m talking about girth. Anyway… [Both laugh]
Haim’s death is hitting the 80s generation hard. He was one of us; we grew up watching him grow up, and now we’re left to face our own mortality. Absent a meaningful context, life can seem almost too fragile. I mean, wasn’t it enough to see a 42-year-old Molly Ringwald at the Oscars? Isn’t she supposed to stay sixteen forever? The strange thing is, people do stay forever young in Hollywood; frozen in time, on film. And Hollywood’s obsession with youth makes it hard for kids to grow up. As a teenager, Haim had reached the pinnacle; he was an 80s idol with the world at his feet. He had every bit of promise, but no sense of purpose. How can you grow up like that?
Like many others before him, Haim was a child star who became a lost adult soul. And because he lacked inner resources, he went the way of many stars whose flames burn fast and bright, and then burn out.