Sadly, it’s no surpriseBeverly Godfrey: I think America would be taking a step in the right direction if we stopped reporting that the next big celebrity death was caused by a drug “overdose.”
By: Beverly Godfrey, Duluth News Tribune
I think America would be taking a step in the right direction if we stopped reporting that the next big celebrity death was caused by a drug “overdose.”
When the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday, it wasn’t because he failed to follow the proper dosage. It’s because he was using heroin, and there isn’t a safe way to do that.
I gasped and shuddered when I heard the news. Celebrity deaths are like that, affecting us sometimes deeply even though we never knew the people.
Actor Cory Monteith was 31 when he died July 13 alone in his hotel room, also from using heroin. He was one of the stars of “Glee,” a TV program my daughter likes. Although the actor was 31, he played a teenager on the show.
“I didn’t think of him as someone who could die,” my daughter said.
That’s how you’d like to feel about anyone your age. At 46, Hoffman was only a few years older than me.
The first celebrity death I recall was Elvis Presley. I was 6 when he died in 1977, and I didn’t know who he was. I heard the king had died, so of course, I thought he was the king of the United States, not the king of rock ’n’ roll. His was another life plagued by drug use.
Elvis lived to be 42, so I’ve outlived him. It’s hard to look around my life and imagine doing everything he did by now. It can take me months just to make a dental appointment.
I was about my daughter’s age when Jon-Erik Hexum died at age 26 in 1984. He was the time traveler on the short-lived TV series “Voyagers!” Despite his hunky appearance and Renaissance Festival outfit, his character needed help from a history-nerd kid to fix the timeline. That last part is what appealed to me more than the first, truth be told.
Hexum shot himself with a prop gun while goofing around, not realizing the force would be enough to kill him.
My parents used the event as a teachable moment about gun safety. I probably sound similar when explaining how drugs killed Monteith — and Hoffman, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland and so many more.
Will these teachable moments ever turn into cautionary tales that mean something to young people? It’s sad to know that for too many, it won’t make a difference. People will keep doing dangerous drugs, thinking they’re being careful, not believing it will kill them — or maybe not even caring if they die.
I should stop gasping in shock when I hear the news.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.