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Authors: Gary Stromberg

The Harder They Fall

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The Harder They Fall

“The strength of these always honest and affecting anecdotes is, in fact, their variety of paths to recovery; the diversity should help this excellent volume appeal to a wide audience.”


“Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a complex medical problem. However, one of our major obstacles to effective treatment and recovery is stigma.
The Harder They Fall
provides us with stories of courage, passion, commitment, and triumph. Each depicts their own struggle with a debilitating disease and their ultimate decision to choose life over death. These stories are very inspirational and will serve to provide help and hope to those who may still be suffering, as well as put a face on recovery. It is an excellent read for all of us who have been affected by addiction.”

, President, National Council
on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

“Read this book! Here are the
winners in life. The best and the brightest with devastating illnesses, living clean, sober, confident, happy lives. If you want to know about alcoholism and addiction and how to get ‘weller than well,’ read this book!”

E. S
, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, National Naval Medical Center, and for twelve years the Psychiatric Consultant to Congress

“These compelling and intimate narratives provide an illuminating look at celebrity … the addiction, the loss, and the recovery process.”

, Director, Addiction
Recovery Services, MusiCares Foundation

“Here are the stories of twenty-one celebrities who had everything until their abusive chemicals showed them that, at the bottom, they had nothing at all. These pioneers in the modern drug abuse epidemic eventually each found their way into recovery, even redemption. They tell of the joy of finding a way of being that is more precious than fame and fortune.”

L. D
, M.D., White House Drug Czar
for President Richard Nixon
and President Gerald Ford (1973–1977)
and author of
The Selfish Brain

The Harder They Fall

Celebrities Tell Their Real-Life Stories
of Addiction and Recovery

Gary Stromberg
Jane Merrill


Center City, Minnesota 55012-0176

1-651-213-4590 (fax)

©2005 by Gary Stromberg and Jane Merrill
All rights reserved.
Published 2005
Paperback edition published 2007 with the addition of photographs and two profiles (Glenn Beck and Hugh Masekela)
Printed in the United States of America
No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any manner
without the written permission of the publisher

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Stromberg, Gary, 1942-
     The harder they fall: celebrities tell their real-life stories of addiction and recovery / Gary Stromberg, Jane Merrill.
        p. cm.
     ISBN 978-1-59285-156-0 (hardcover)
     ISBN 978-1-59285-476-9 (paperback)
     Ebook ISBN 978-1-59285-976-4
        1. Celebrities--Drug use. I. Merrill, Jane. II. Title

HV5824.C42S87 2005
616.86’092’2--dc22                                                                                         2004060938

Any viewpoints and opinions expressed in this book belong to the authors and interviewees, and are not necessarily endorsed by Hazelden.

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Jacket design by Theresa Gedig
Interior design by David Spohn
Typesetting by Tursso Companies

To David and Emily, and in memory of Fred E.


To my four stars—Emma, Burton, Julie, and Rosalind



by Lewis Lapham

to the Age of Aquarius nobody was better informed than the late Terry Southern. As a writer, he favored the darker shades of comedy (the screenplay for
Dr. Strangelove
, the preposterously pornographic novel
); as a pilgrim on the many roads to expanded consciousness, he experimented with every form of substance abuse rooted in an ancient religion or known to modern science. His satirical pieces occasionally appeared in
Harper’s Magazine
, and late at night in one or another of the uptown bars that catered to the New York literary trade, I sometimes came upon the author himself, contemplating what was left of the ice in a glass of gin, remarking on the number of his talented acquaintances—actors, authors, film directors, action painters, stand-up comics, lead guitarists—who had gone missing in the forests of addiction. He attributed the casualty rate to the heavy prices paid for the promise of transcendence, and in a season marked by a sharp upturn in the bad news incoming from the American dream of military grandeur in Vietnam, I remember him saying to the assembled company at a table in Elaine’s, “There is no power on earth that can loosen a man’s grip on his own throat.”

I don’t know whether the lyric was his own, or whether he borrowed it from a California Zen master or a Bob Dylan song, but by 1969 the point was not one that provoked an argument. The social revolutions of what was proving to be a not-so-joyous decade had rallied to the cry of freedom, in all its tenses and declensions—freedom for and freedom from, freedom then and now. The word appeared on everybody’s tie-dyed shirt or sign, went well with protest movements and psychedelic dope, marched south for civil rights, drifted west with the surfboards and the sun. And yet, as had been noticed by both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway during a previous age of American exploration in the wilderness of the self, freedom had its faults, seldom turned out to match the commercial advertising copy, went more or less directly south.

As an editor often exposed in the early 1970s to writers newly arrived on the heights of commercial celebrity or literary reputation, I noticed that their fear of failure was surpassed by their fear of success. So also but more obviously, similar states of anxiety descended upon the movie stars and the musicians. Becoming suddenly famous, they were granted license to say and do as they pleased, to ask and have and send the bill to Zurich. Being American, they had been born in the assurance of their certain virtue and perfect innocence. The money and the television cameras taught them otherwise. At liberty to discover in themselves traits of character of which they had no prior knowledge—also criminal tendencies, monstrous wishes, perverse desires, a comprehensive repertoire of antisocial behaviors—some of the most observant members of the troupe turned away in horror from what they saw in Medusa’s mirror. Terrified by the freedom to play any role or tune that might come fantastically to mind, they looked for ways to turn to stone—acquired inhibitions, developed a capacity for the self-inflicted wound, applied for early admission to the nearest cage. A drug or alcohol addiction served the purposes of the prison cell, which, by the fashionable standards of the day, established one’s credentials as an enemy of the system or the state but offered the further advantage of remaining silent while seeming cool.

The twenty-three traveler’s tales collected in this book at hand prove the exceptions to Southern’s heavy rule of thumb. Each individual speaks to his or her own experience of wrestling with what they mistook for a muse of fire or an angel of deliverance. They testify not only to their own particular courage and strength of will but also to the truth of Sigmund Freud’s general theory of
Civilization and Its Discontents
, predicated on the recognition of never-ending war between the instinct toward life and the instinct toward death, Eros and Thanatos, contending for “the evolution of civilization” and “for the life of the human species … this battle of the giants that our nursemaids try to appease with their lullaby about Heaven.”


Our gratitude goes first to the individuals who welcomed us into their lives and gave us their stories.

We also thank those who led us to them: Claire “ToneeQua” Baker, Tony Barger, Bob Barney, Sarah Brown, Doc Danner, Nicolette Donen, Joel Dorn, Steve Farhood, Paul Fishkin, Rift Fournier, Shep Gordon, Trudy Green, Peter Himberger, John Kaye, Amy Kurland, Jennifer Lee, Toby Mamis, Michelle Marx, Tony Morehead, Thom Mount, Dean Peterson, Sooze Plunkett-Green, Walt Quinn, Arnie “Tokyo” Rosenthal, Joe Safety, Bill Stankey, and Ethlie Ann Vare.

There were others who helped us refine our conception of the project: Janie Chang, Tom Connor, Jacques de Spoelberch, Chris Filstrup, Laurie Filstrup, Emma Filstrup, Diane Glynn, Alan Katz, Stacey Kivel-Green, Jordan D. Luttrell, Leslie Pallas, Donnie Wahlberg, and Wayne Zimmerman.

And finally those who made this book a reality: our learned literary agent, Drew Nederpelt; the extraordinary editorial team at Hazelden—Becky Post, Kate Kjorlien, and especially Karen Chernyaev, our wise and gentle editor; and Kim Weiss, head of public relations at HCI.

Locally, our heartfelt thanks go to the reference department of the Westport Public Library and our fellow grunters at the Westport, Connecticut, YMCA.

The authors and Hazelden gratefully acknowledge the following:

“We’ve Only Just Begun,” words and music by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, copyright ©1970 Irving Music, Inc., copyright renewed, all rights reserved, used by permission. “NyQuil” from
by Raymond Carver, copyright ©1986 by Raymond Carver, used by permission of Random House, Inc. “Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya,” by John Creaux, ©1998 Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI) and Skull Music (BMI), all rights on behalf of Skull Music (BMI) administered by Warner-Tamerlane
Publishing Corp. (BMI), all rights reserved, used by permission, Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc., Miami, FL 33014. Excerpts from
Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences
Richard Pryor: Here and Now
used by permission of Richard Pryor and Jennifer Lee. “It Seems to Me” by Harvey Shapiro from
How Charlie Shavers Died and Other Poems
(Wesleyan University Press, 2001). ©2001 by Harvey Shapiro and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. “The Rhinoceros” by Richard Morris in
, published by The Smith in Brooklyn, New York, ©1968, reprinted 1991, p. 68, reprinted with permission. “Man’s Feet Are a Sensational Device,” from
The Poems of Marianne Moore
by Marianne Moore, edited by Grace Schulman, copyright ©2003 by Marianne Craig Moore, executor of the estate of Marianne Moore, used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. “Welcome to My Nightmare” copyright 1975 Sony/ATV Songs LLC, Ezra Music, Early Frost Music Corp. All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Songs LLC and Ezra Music administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Lace and Whiskey” copyright 1977 Sony/ATV Songs LLC, Ezra Music, Early Frost Music Corp., All By Myself Publishing. All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Songs LLC and Ezra Music administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Poems for the Young and Tough” from
The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain: New Poems
by Charles Bukowski, edited by John Martin, copyright ©2004 by Linda Lee Bukowski, reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc. “My Battle with Life” from
Northside Poetry
by Tone One, copyright ©1999 by Anthony Matos, published by Writer’s Club Press, used by permission of Tone One. “Empty Stage” and “Nothingsville, MN” from
The Beforelife: Poems
by Franz Wright, copyright ©2000 by Franz Wright, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. “Baptism” from
Walking to Martha’s Vineyard
by Franz Wright, copyright ©2003 by Franz Wright, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. “Heartattack and Vine,” written by Tom Waits, ©1980 Six Palms Music Corp., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission. “Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn,” by James Brown, ©1970 (renewed)
Dynatone Publishing Company (BMI), all rights on behalf of Dynatone Publishing Company (BMI) administered by Unichappell Music Inc. (BMI), all rights reserved, used by permission, Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc., Miami, FL 33014. Excerpt from “Tear It Down” from
The Great Fire Poems 1982–1992
by Jack Gilbert, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House. “A trumpet like a sharp plow…” by Bei Dao, translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong, from UNLOCK, copyright © 2000 by Zhao Zhenkai. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

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