Russell Brand usually plays the fool in his movies. But he has written a very smart blog post about addiction, his own addiction, and his friend Amy Winehouse’s addiction and death this weekend. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: the entertainment industry is not doing enough institutionally to stop enabling its addicted artists and start helping them.This is a town that has no notion of personal responsibility, much less corporate responsibility. (Witness how long it took for the moguls to realize that closing the MPTF’s intensive care facilities was not a humane idea even if it made financial sense.) In the mid-1990s, the music industry took a long hard look at its addiction problem and its role before more artists died. But that was back-burnered when National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences president Michael Greene was forced out.
The film and TV business has never taken a leadership role on this issue. No mogul has ever proclaimed that showbiz, like sports, should adopt a unified tough love policy and refuse to work with addicted artists unless they got help. But that would involve pulling the plug on recording projects or concert tours or movie productions or TV shows — no matter the expense. And ultimately Big Media must agree to drop addicted artists who refuse treatment. It’s telling that Amy Winehouse not only made millions with the song whose lyrics include “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’ but also that she was found dead a month after a big concert tour where in Belgrade she’d stumbled around the stage. Or that Charlie Sheen has boasted about his rampant drug use and yet Hollywood just made a high-profile deal for a new sitcom starring him. It’s shameful greed.
Here are excerpts from Brand’s blog post:
When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone…
… Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. I was 27 years old when through the friendship and help of [a] treatment centre, I found recovery. Through [it] I was introduced to support fellowships for alcoholics and drug addicts which are very easy to find and open to anybody with a desire to stop drinking and without which I would not be alive.
Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticized at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease.”