Monday, October 12, 2009

DJ AM Offered Help To Teens, But Couldn't Save Himself

Source: The Toronto Star

After Adam Goldstein (a.k.a. DJ AM) was found dead of a drug overdose in August, was there really ever any doubt that his recently shot reality series, Gone Too Far, would be broadcast?

It's like questioning why there are so many posthumous Tupac Shakur albums. The heady mixture of death, art and commerce is just too intoxicating for the companies involved in making the decisions to pass up.

In this case, after a moment of concerned hand-wringing, MTV moved back the premiere of the eight-episode series – in which the former addict counsels teenage users and their families and offers them a stint in rehab – from its original start date of Oct.5 until tonight, an entire week later. The press release touted that it had the "consent and support" of Goldstein's family, but the broadcaster did not send out screeners for review, so like many people out there, I'll be watching out of morbid curiosity. After all, it's not like AM was an artist of any real note.

Really, the club owner and mash-up deejay was famous for his liaisons and celebrity friends as opposed to his musical impact. He started out as a member of Crazy Town and co-owned the nightclub LAX. His initial fame came from dating people like Mandy Moore and Nicole Richie, alongside whom he appeared on The Simple Life. He also did an Entourage cameo.

He was likely best known for surviving a plane crash last year along with his friend and collaborator, Travis Barker from Blink 182. He's a very "now" celebrity, in that his fame was fuelled by the tabloid and paparazzi culture that had him as the go-to celebrity party deejay. Even his Wikipedia page states that "DJ AM had evolved into a prominent brand ..."

I saw and heard DJ AM play at Toronto's Ultra a few years ago and, fittingly, Paris Hilton was in the house. The snob in me is glad to say I was there on assignment, as opposed to desire. He did know what he was doing, rocking the club and getting the crowd into it, although I'd say he didn't sound all that different or all that much better than what you'd hear in almost any club in town.

But then, people were there for the scene, and they enjoyed basking in the refracted glow of dubious L.A. celebrity.

If you can get past the sordid details of AM's death, what I find interesting is the seemingly dichotomous nature of drug-related shows on television. They are either high-end cable series like Weeds, Breaking Bad and (to a lesser extent) Bored to Death, or they're brutal reality series like A&E's Intervention.

The former provide a supposedly sophisticated area of distinction from network shows (which generally avoid drugs as a plot device other than in sanitized addiction storylines) and, despite showing some consequences, they can't help but glamorize aspects of the drug life.

Gone Too Far falls into the rehab show category, but what I am curious about is how much of AM's jet-set deejay life will get into the series, which, more than being a recovering addict, is what might make kids pay attention.

Come to think of it, perhaps TV is not doing such a bad job of conveying the reality of drugs. The two messages seemingly getting through with both types of shows are that drugs can be fun and amusing or they can destroy your life. That may be simplistic, but it's hard to argue with.

The irony here, of course, is that the host of a drug-intervention television series died of an overdose shortly after the series wrapped. Goldstein was an admitted crack cocaine addict who kicked the habit before he became famous. He was sober for 11 years, which is impressive considering his life in and out of clubs and parties. He credited his cleaning up to a friend, another recovering addict, which likely served as the inspiration for the series.

Here's how he described Gone Too Far to the Associated Press: "Basically, it is pretty much like teen Intervention. I do an intervention for the MTV generation. A sibling reaches out to me, asks for help. Or a parent reaches out, asks for help. I show up, I offer them help. I'm a recovering addict so, to me, that's the one bond that we have. I can tell them what I did. I offer them 90 days in treatment. I follow up with them and help them get sober."

It's a noble goal. If anyone watches this show, and is motivated to get help, then it's absolutely worth it.

In interviews, Goldstein talked about the show as his "second chance" and his redemption.

Too bad he won't see if it has any effect, or whether the object lesson of his life – and death – may overshadow the desired message.

Gone Too Far airs tonight on MTV at 10 p.m.

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