"Philip Seymour Hoffman, The needle and the Damage Done."

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun…”   Neil Young

hoffman1Forty six year old, academy award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead. Another drug related death. Heroin overdose. Found laying on his bathroom floor with the friggin’ needle still sticking out of his arm and about 50 small plastic packets of heroin in his possession. Unbelievable! It almost sounds like a scene from one of his movies, a dark, troubled character looking to relieve his inner pain meets an untimely end. It’s a shame the talented actor was haunted by demons and such a tortured soul. Even his great success as an actor of stage and screen, and director did little to fill the emptiness that haunted him. Like many a tortured souls seeking relief, Hoffman took to alcohol and drugs to fill the void and ease his pain, a temporary fix to a permanent problem .

The other morning one radio talk show host was drawing comparisons between Hoffman and the late, great John Belushi who died of a heroin overdose back in 1982. A brilliant comedian, actor and musician, Belushi was also a troubled soul who sought solace through drug use, but as far as I’m concerned, the comparisons end there. Purportedly Hoffman had been through a long period of being clean, not Belushi. He was a party animal well known for drug use. His fame was established through his comedic skits and characters he portrayed on Saturday Night Live, his party hardy character Bluto Blutarsky in the movie Animal House, and for being one half of the musical act the Blues Brothers. Although quite talented his role in Animal House was his most successful. Roles in other films were lackluster and fell flat and did nothing to further his acting career. Of course he was only 33 and with the right career choices he may have gone on to have a very promising future and a great actor. 

Hoffman on the other hand was an established actor. He was renowned in the industry as an actor and director in both movies and plays as well. He was a phenomenal actor who poured his heart and soul into the characters he portrayed, he owned every role he ever accepted. Hoffman had was nominated for an academy award three times and won the Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Truman Capote in 2006. I really think Hoffman is the type of actor Belushi might have aspired to be. Funny, I guess another comparison with Belushi can be made. They both played Capote. Belushi did a hilarious take on Capote on SNL.  

Tragically Hoffman who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse before “getting clean” more than twenty years ago. He joins a long list of the rich and famous who have died as a result of heroin or other drugs including prescription drugs. Off the top of my head there are Belushi, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Jim Morrison, Michael Jackson, River Phoenix and Heath Ledger. And we both know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Heroin related deaths are on the rise in the United States. The deadly high is the cheapest available. On the street a single hit of heroin is around $10 while some prescription pills like Oxycodon, Vicadin or Hydrocodone  are $40 – $80 a pill. No wonder heroin use and deaths related to its user are increasing.  

1391461107477.cachedPolice speculate that Hoffman’s death may be the result of a bad strain of heroin that has been making the rounds recently on the East Coast. This heroin, referred to on the street as “Bud Ice,” “Income Tax” or “Theraflu,” has been mixed with  Fentanyl a powerful opiate and has been linked to more than 20 overdoses last month and a number of premature deaths. Another theory being circulated is that Hoffman overdosed because he hadn’t done heroin in a very long time and may have forgotten how much to use. He may have done too much of a dose of a product that has become much more potent over the course of time. Either way Hoffman’s is gone and his lose is tragic. What a shame.

In reading about his death I came across this quote by one of Hoffman’s friends and collaborators, actor Eric Bogosian that I believe is a very fitting testimonial to Hoffman.

“Courage was his forte, always.  In this world of creative enterprise, it is ultimately up to the artists to decide how high a bar he or she will set for themselves. Phil set his bar on the highest rung, on a rung above the highest rung. He pushed himself relentlessly until finally his efforts virtually redefined the very endeavor we call acting. That’s what he wanted. He wanted to rock the world.”  

And rock the world he did….

Just a Thought…




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