Corey Haim prolonged tragic Hollywood tradition
Wednesday, March 10, 2010; 8:56 PM
LOS ANGELES -- Corey Haim's story is sadly familiar in Hollywood: A teen talent who discovered drugs as he tasted his first success and whose personal problems increased as his star-power faded.
Haim died Wednesday at 38, another chapter in Hollywood's tragic history of careers ravaged by drugs.
Brittany Murphy's career was rebounding when she died at 31 in December from pneumonia and prescription drugs.
River Phoenix was 16 when he starred in "Stand By Me" and 23 when he died of a drug overdose outside a Hollywood nightclub.
Haim died at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, His mother called paramedics after he collapsed while getting out of bed at his apartment.
Haim started working in TV commercials at 10 and was a big-screen heartthrob at 15. The star of 1987's "The Lost Boys" discovered drugs while making that movie.
"I was working on 'Lost Boys' when I smoked my first joint," he told the British tabloid The Sun in 1994. "I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack."
Haim said he went into rehab and was put on prescription drugs. In 2007, he told ABC's "Nightline" that drugs hurt his career.
"I wasn't functional enough to work for anybody, even myself," he said. "I wasn't working."
Haim had returned to the spotlight in recent years, appearing in the A&E reality TV show "The Two Coreys" with "Lost Boys" co-star Corey Feldman. The show was canceled in 2008 after two seasons. Feldman later said Haim's drug abuse strained their working and personal relationships.
Haim was ill with flulike symptoms before his death, and police said he was taking over-the-counter and prescription medications.
An autopsy will determine his cause of death. There was no evidence of foul play.
"He could have succumbed to whatever (illness) he had or it could have been drugs," police Sgt. William Mann said. "He has had a drug problem in the past."
Feldman said he wept when he learned Haim had died.
"This is a tragic loss of a wonderful, beautiful, tormented soul, who will always be my brother, family, and best friend," Feldman said in a statement.
Troy Searer, an executive producer of "The Two Coreys," said Haim's "heart and his potential were only outmatched by his demons."
Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction-medicine specialist and star of VH1's drug-treatment reality programs "Celebrity Rehab" and "Sober House," said the lure of Hollywood attracts many potential addicts.
"There's a higher incidence of addiction among celebrities," he said. "It's not the Hollywood-ness. It's the fact that addicts show up in Hollywood and addicts are likely to die."
Pinsky added: "Young Hollywood only reflects what's going on in the culture at large."
Jennifer Gimenez, an actress and recovering drug addict and alcoholic who appears on "Sober House," said Hollywood's ultra-competitive environment can lead some people to seek escape in substances.
"I don't feel like Hollywood takes you down," she said. "I just feel like it co-signs it a lot."
Gimenez found success at 14 as a model and suddenly had to shoulder adult-sized responsibilities. Add the pressure of working in a competitive industry, and a person predisposed to addiction succumbs, she said.
Successful actors are not immune to the dangers of addiction. Heath Ledger was poised for superstardom when he overdosed in 2008 at age 28. He posthumously won the Oscar the following year for his work as the Joker in "The Dark Knight."
Haim's career outlook had been improving in recent months, and his neighbors told reporters the actor was looking healthier and getting stronger.
He had a role in the 2009 Jason Statham action flick "Crank 2: High Voltage" and was making appearances to support his new film "American Sunset," billed on his Web site as the first film he had starred in "since he left the business on a sabbatical."
Haim's agent Mark Sterling and producers of "American Sunset" did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
Searer said he last spoke to Haim about six months ago, when the actor "seemed incredibly positive."
"He had done a few smaller films and things seemed to be on the upswing for him," Searer said.
Haim, however, seemed sadly prophetic when he was interviewed by CNN's Larry King in 2007, calling himself "a chronic relapser for the rest of my life."