Friday, February 19, 2010

Masturbation Deaths on the Rise?

A long, but very worthwhile, excerpt from the New York Times recently:

Eleven years ago Mr. Bentley was a 21-year-old Juilliard dropout living in Los Angeles with a Polaroid for a head shot and not enough money to eat at Taco Bell. But after his performance as the stoner-voyeur Ricky Fitts in “American Beauty,” which won the Academy Award for best picture, he was riding in limos and drawing paparazzi. Admiring film critics were forecasting a bright future for him.

“I wanted fame, but I thought it would be incremental, and I became afraid of the overnight-sensation thing,” Mr. Bentley said, speaking to a reporter about his life since “American Beauty,” after a decade of keeping his own secrets. “I started walking into rooms, and everyone would look at me, and I would freeze up. People kept saying, ‘You have to find your next movie,’ and that didn’t make life any better.”

His is both a familiar and cautionary Hollywood tale. After his initial success, Mr. Bentley said, he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stardom that he was unprepared for, and then addiction took over his life for several years.

The son of two United Methodist ministers in Arkansas, Mr. Bentley said he abandoned the spirituality of his youth and turned to partying in a group house that he shared with the actors Brad Rowe and Chad Lindberg, among others. Soon his recreational use of marijuana and alcohol, which began as a teenager, exploded into cocaine and Ecstasy and other pills. Eventually heroin had him completely.

He would spend nights doing cocaine at clubs and then sleep until 5 p.m. Eventually his friends, concerned about him, refused to join in, and he would drive around the city alone in search of heroin. He said he spent days in drug dens. At the same time, he said, he had “stacks of scripts, great scripts with great offers attached,” that he would never read because of his addiction.

In 2008 Mr. Bentley was arrested and pleaded guilty to heroin possession and to trying to pass a counterfeit $100 bill. He was mandated to community service and counseling and 12-step programs, but he relapsed. He continued using heroin until he was broke, he said, and began trying to get sober until finally, back in Los Angeles after a vacation, he hit his bottom last July.

“I had come back to L.A. for something, and I drank a whole bottle of Scotch, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to die in this hotel room with this bottle of Scotch,’ ” he said. “It was after that I told a friend for the first time: ‘I’m a drug addict, and an alcoholic, and I need help. I need help or I’m going to die.’ ”

Mr. Bentley briefly entered a rehabilitation program and began attending 12-step program meetings on his own, which he said he still does.

He said that he was now seven-months sober and wanted to share his story in the hope that he might help other young actors who are overwhelmed by success. He also readily acknowledged that there is a self-serving aspect to disclosing his story.

“I want to earn more work because I’m doing good work,” he said, “but people were questioning if I was even in shape to do auditions. Telling my story is a way to say, ‘I’m O.K., things are better.’ ”

Mr. Bentley said he wanted to be in “Venus in Fur” [The current play he's pushing - Ed.] as soon as he read the script, but he was also just as eager to get any work, even if it paid pennies compared with film. As for sobriety, he emphasized that he was still at an early stage, and that he knew his own story might not be enough to sway a full-blown addict. Still, he said, he wished that when he was in his early 20s he had heard a story like his own.

“This would have helped me, at least, if someone would have made me realize that you don’t need to do drugs to be artistic and express yourself,” Mr. Bentley said. “If you want to be artistic, if you want to be creative, if you want to express yourself, you can’t let things get in your way, and drugs are included in that.”

Conclusion: Wes Bentley is dumb.

He has somehow never heard of John Belushi, Eric Roberts, Robert Downey Jr, River Phoenix, Chris Farley...and many more actors I can't remember right now.

All of them fell into the same trap of alcohol, drugs, money, and fame--and all of them could serve as warnings to a young actor with eyes and ears open.

I guess that's what you get when you take a delightfully-creepy-eyed preacher's son from Arkansas, move him to LA, and pay him a chunk of change to steal scenes in an Oscar-winning crowd-pleaser.

Not only that, but he doesn't know how lucky he is.

True, the dude fell into a downward spiral post-American Beauty, complete with the requisite heroin addiction, AA/NA stint, and post-fuck-up 'theatrical stage' (pun!) of his career, but least he wasn't found dead in the wrong end of Hell's Kitchen with a noose around his neck, his cock in a vise, and nobody else around.

At least he didn't go the David Carradine route. Or the Michael Hutchence route.

Which makes me there somebody who keeps statistics for masturbation-related deaths, regardless of whether or not drugs are involved?

Is it Wes Bentley?

No? Well, somebody should--how else are we to know if there's an epidemic afoot?

I'd hate for masturbation deaths to sneak up on us like AIDS did, with centuries of "well, clearly this healthy 27 year-old died from a nasty cold/pneumonia/headache" impeding awareness of a clear and present danger...


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