If a supermodel does cocaine off-camera, did she really do it? Don’t ask Kate Moss! In September 2005 the former Calvin Klein sex goddess was videotaped sniffing the snow at a West London recording studio, with pals including then-boyfriend Pete Doherty of Babyshambles fame. When the amateur video went viral, Moss caught a new nickname: “Cokate.”
Moss’s success in the early ’90s, as poster skeleton for heroin chic, had led Bill Clinton to dis the fashion industry for pushing the anorexic “waif” look. And while she had always denied using coke, in the grainy 2005 video she handles it like a dusty pro — chopping chunks into powder on a CD case and coaxing it into lines with a credit card, smiling all the while. When a less-skilled druggie pal tries to lend a hand, she shoos him away, insisting “I’ll do it, I’ll do it!”
In classic sin-snagged-celeb tradition, Moss immediately apologized to “All The People I Have Let Down.” Contracts with Burberry and H&M were canceled, and she was exiled to Arizona for rehab, causing her to miss her daughter’s third birthday party. The fact that her annual income rose $3 million in 2006 was surely coincidental.
John Belushi‘s hilarious portrayal of Bluto Blutarsky — a whiskey-guzzling, toga-partying frat boy in Animal House — rocked audiences with laughter. But the real-life hard-partying ways of the Saturday Night Live comedian, which led to his OD via speedball at the age of 33, were not so funny.
On the night of March 4, 1982, John went out for some Hollywood debauchery with druggie/groupie pal Cathy Smith and SNL writer Nelson Lyon. Between stops at a restaurant, nightclubs, and ultimately John’s bungalow at the notorious Chateau Marmont, he ingested mass quantities of liquor, cocaine, and heroin. Famous party friends Robert De Niro and Robin Williams stopped by, but left after allegedly being creeped-out by Belushi’s drugged-up state and shady pals. Williams reportedly said, “If you ever get up again, call.” Belushi never did. His trainer Bill “Superfoot” Wallace found his horribly discolored corpse the next morning, curled in the fetal position with his tongue sticking out of his mouth.
Belushi had been battling problems with overeating, nicotine, pills, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, but Cathy Smith told the National Enquirer that, ultimately, “I killed John Belushi. I didn’t mean to, but I am responsible.” She revealed that she accidentally injected lethal amounts of heroin into his system, at his request, hours before he died. Smith served 15 months in a California prison and John was buried in Martha’s Vineyard below a tombstone that reads, “He made us laugh, and now he can make us think.”
Cocaine hidden in the walls, more than half a million dollars stuffed in hidden trash bags, and a “secret” set of accounting books listing celebrity clients’ favorite drugs were just a few of the scandalous items the FBI found when they busted New York hotspot Studio 54 in 1978. Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager enjoyed a three-year reign as the kings of New York nightlife during disco’s heyday, attracting high-profile regulars like Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, Calvin Klein, and Halston. But the duo’s flashy lifestyle and boasts (“only the Mafia does better”) helped sink their ship — temporarily.
After spending 13 months in prison for tax evasion, neither Ian nor Steve could get a checking account, a driver’s license or a credit card. Still, in 1984, the duo talked financiers into helping them open Morgans, a boutique hotel. The pair turned the hotel into a chain worth $200 million before Steve died of hepatitis in 1989. (Rumors swirled that it was AIDS that got him.) For Ian, who has since opened hotels in New York, London, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, the party hasn’t stopped.
River Phoenix‘s 1993 overdose was not the first tragic death of a young actor nor the last, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of songs that have been written to honor and mourn the 23-year-old Hollywood casualty. Kurt Cobain, REM, Beyoncé, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, and many others have paid musical respect to the handsome young star, whose death from a mix of heroin and cocaine helped highlight the rise of heroin chic.
River didn’t live long enough to become a true matinee idol (how many people have actually seen Running On Empty, which got him his Academy Award nom at 18?). But prominent roles in films ranging from My Own Private Idaho to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade promised a fascinating career for the Phoenix, who enamored many with his political activism. He had no previous drug history, and many were shocked when River died on the sidewalk outside of Johnny Depp‘s club, the Viper Room, following a night of hard partying. Brother Joaquin, who would eventually be nominated for an Oscar himself, almost quit acting after his desperate 911 call was played on TV.
Despite claims that River’s last words were “No paparazzi, I want anonymity,” a photographer broke into the funeral home, and sold a snap of his corpse to the National Enquirer for $5,000.
There’s a party at Rick James‘s house, so grab a friend and bring a crack pipe! Perhaps that’s what 24-year-old Frances Alley was told before heading over to Rick’s West Hollywood home one night in 1991.
Hits like “Give it to Me” and “Superfreak” made Rick one of the biggest Motown stars of the ’70s and ’80s, but his fame began to fade during the following decade. When M.C. Hammer sampled Rick’s “Superfreak” on “U Can’t Touch This” in 1990, Rick reportedly made $30 million off the song, which more than supported his alleged $15,000-per-week cocaine habit. It was during a coke binge that Rick and his girlfriend Tanya Hijazi tied Alley up, forced her to perform sexual acts, and burned her legs and abdomen with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe. And then, a year later — while James was out on bail — music executive Mary Sauger testified that when she’d gone to his hotel room for a business meeting, Rick and Tanya proceeded to beat her and hold her prisoner for 20 hours.
Rick spent nearly three years in Folsom State Penitentiary and was released in 1996. He continued to release mildly successful albums, including Urban Rhapsody in 1997 and Anthology in 2002, but never quite regained his “Superfreak” status. He was found dead of a heart attack in his Burbank apartment in 2004 with traces of Xanax, Valium, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Vicodin, marijuana, cocaine, and Ecstasy in his bloodstream.
Q: What do you do if you are a floundering rock star and you want to be immortalized into an icon?
Elvis Presley had shot to fame in the late fifties with hit songs like “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up,” which sent teenage girls howling at the pelvis-shaking wonder and made him the third-bestselling recording artist of all time. But twenty years later his star was fading — as fast as his dependency on painkillers, uppers, and depressants was rising. And then, in 1977, his fiancée Ginger Alden found the 44-year-old King of Rock ‘n’ Roll lying in a pool of his own vomit on the bathroom floor of his Memphis mansion, Graceland. He died of heart failure, thought to be related to drug use.
A former member of his backup band recalled how bad off the King had become shortly before his death: “He walked onstage [at a concert] and held on to the mike for the first thirty minutes like it was a post. Everybody was scared.”
It’s conceivable that Elvis could have made a comeback, but his shocking sudden death — followed by conspiracy theories and Elvis “sightings” that continue to this day — helped to secure his position as one of rock’s immortal icons.
Junkie-turned-Oprah-approved faith healer James Frey‘s story was too good to be true. His 2003 memoir A Million Little Pieces uncovered a layer of hell somewhere beneath rock-bottom, with our Hemingway-on-heroin hero relating his life of drug peddling, crack-whore sex, and oral surgery gone wrong. Truth was truly stranger than fiction–and Oprah hailed the Frey’s courageous attempt to tell it like it was.
Except it wasn’t. Mug-shot website The Smoking Gun smelled a rat. A rat with Frey’s trademark odor of snot, urine, vomit, and blood. Investigation revealed that Frey’s criminal record amounted to a few speeding tickets. His story was about as reliable as the Hitler diaries.
Hell hath no fury like Oprah scorned. In January 2007, she gave Frey an on-air dressing-down like we haven’t seen since Jon Stewart‘s Crossfire shit-fit. Frey’s work now occupies the fiction section of your local bookstore. — Charles Bottomley
After the jump, watch a clips of Oprah turning on James Frey.
“Crack,” the great Rick James once opined, “is a hell of a drug.” To which ex-Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry can only say, “Amen, bitch.” In 1990, the Democratic pol was videotaped by the FBI smoking rock with girlfriend Rasheeda Moore in a D.C. hotel room. The Feds busted Barry just as he tried to leave his hotel room-turned-crack den. As he’s read his rights, Barry shouts the now infamous line: “I’ll be goddamn … bitch set me up!”
After serving six months for possession, Barry successfully ran for City Council under the less-than-inspiring slogan, “He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s Perfect for D.C.” In 1995, he was re-elected mayor. But Barry still had an appetite for the sweet stuff. Coke and marijuana were found in his system during a 2005 drug test. We’ll be goddamned. — Charles Bottomley
If you asked anyone in 1998 where Robert Downey Jr. would be in ten years, you’d have heard “prison” or “dead” before “in one the biggest movies of the summer.” After all, that was the year that Downey, bleary-eyed and rocking orange prison threads, told a Los Angeles County judge his addictions were like “a loaded gun in my mouth … and I like the taste of gun-metal.”
Though Downey had been hooked on alcohol and drugs since the age of nine (thank his party-hearty director father), it wasn’t until 1996 that the Oscar-nominated actor hit the headlines with a series of bizarro arrests. One of the more notorious escapades involved Downey breaking into a neighbor’s empty house and passing out in a child’s bedroom. Another found him naked and speeding down Sunset Boulevard. Happy times!
Somehow Hollywood didn’t lose total faith in Downey, even when the actor, on parole and awaiting trial, was found confused and barefoot in Culver City, rather than learning his lines for a guest spot on Ally McBeal, whose producers promptly fired him. It wasn’t until two years later (with producer Mel Gibson paying his insurance bond) that he returned to action with The Singing Detective. After Downey appeared in a string of supporting roles, director Jon Favreau fought to have him play the titular hero in Iron Man, which grossed more than $300 million at the box office this year. Almost as surprising, button-downed Time magazine named the former junkie one of 2008’s most influential people.
Many rockers shed their earthly vessels too soon. When the body of Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones was discovered in the bottom of a swimming pool in 1969, it kicked off a disturbing trend, with many prominent stars checking out for the great gig in the sky at the age of 27.
Following Jones’s mysterious death, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors’ Jim Morrison all died within two years of each other, all aged 27. Many wondered if the curse hadn’t been started by Robert Johnson, a legendary bluesman from the 1920s who had been poisoned when he was 27. Ironically, Johnson’s eerie records had inspired Jones to start the Rolling Stones.
In the 1990, rock stars began dropping again. Kurt Cobain was the most notable casualty, killing himself with a shotgun at age 27. Kristen Pfaff, the bassist in Cobain’s wife band Hole, overdosed on heroin at the same age. — Charles Bottomley