The Sunday, February 10, 2008 LA Times Calendar section opened with an article about the death of actor Brad Renfro on January 15, 2007, at age25.
It referred to Heath Ledger, Brittany Spears, River Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Balthazar Getty, Ben Affleck and Juliette Lewis; asking, “Has Hollywood become an incubator of [drug] abuse or a mirror of society? Or are we all just more aware of its troubled denizens because of the hyper 24/7 coverage?"
The article quotes Dr. Drew Pinsky, who appears on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.” "I think what we see in young
The article contains intimate details about Renfro's life just before he died – but nothing about why. “Why” seems to have mystified the writer. I tried, but could bear to watch only a few minutes of some Dr. Drew shows. They hovered in a misty area of group therapy, concerning the recent past. Unlike Dr. Phil, he is free of rant and rage, and seems like a humble physician with a genuine desire to heal.
Heath Ledger was videotaped at a party taking drugs. According to Dr. Drew, who saw the video, Ledger seemed highly intoxicated, extremely guilty and agonized -- concerned that his wife and daughter were upstairs. This speaks again to the non-accidental nature of his death. He was out-of-control, and no one was helping, because no one really understood what was going on. I can find no information anywhere about the nature of Ledgers early childhood.
Dr. Drew says he has a treatment for drug addiction and his treatment works. He says he's treated 10,000 patients and can absolutely cure addiction. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about, but how many of the 10,000 remain cured? You cannot cure addiction with drugs. But that seems to be all Dr. Drew understands. I know a young man hooked on legal methadone -- as addicted to that as to heroin. How is he being helped?
The Veterans Administration is finally waking up to the fact that soldiers abused in their early childhood are subject to far more powerful, and difficult to cure, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than those raised in a supportive, loving environment. Though we are not in combat this fundamental medical finding applies to each of us. Our ability to surmount loss of love, unpleasantness, disorder, frustration and disappointment seems to be directly related to the conditions of our early childhood.
Most artists feel helpless and uncomfortable, and perhaps it is what drives them to excel. One of the jobs of the director is to comfort, providing a stable, safe place from which to work. Elia Kazan understood this well. Creating anything original is a high wire act. We will probably never know, but the notion that Ledger was lethally distressed because of a part he had played in a film is absolute nonsense. More likely his separation from his wife and child and other relationships triggered an old and terrifying in him he was not able to contain.