What do you do when you lose the best actor of our generation?

Unfortunately, in the six years of writing this blog, I’ve done more “farewell” blogs than I would like to.  I’ve lost friends.  I’ve lost associates.  I’ve lost people that I’ve never met, but who influenced my life daily.

And yesterday, we all lost someone who I consider to be the greatest . . . absolutely the Jackie-Gleason like greatest . . . actor of my generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was my generation’s Brando, Pacino, De Niro . . . you know, those guys whose last name is awe inspiring all by itself.  He was an enormous talent, making us laugh (I still chuckle just thinking about his “Make it rain!” character in the sloppy comedy, Along Came Polly), and making us cry (people doubted his ability to tap into the pathos of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesmanbut he found a well deeper than most actors could ever even dream about).

Look at the versatility . . . from his breakthrough minuscule performance of a sniveling prep school kid in Scent of a Woman to his Oscar winning performance in Capote.

And I have no doubt we would have seen him back on Broadway soon enough.

But we won’t.

Because yesterday, Philip Seymour Hoffman, at the just-getting-good age of 46, who graduated from Tisch just one year after I arrived on campus, passed away.

He died suddenly, tragically, and also, like a character in a Eugene O’Neill drama . . . symbolically.

Rumor has it that he died with a needle in his arm.

It’s heart-crushingly sad.  And honestly, I couldn’t give a crap about the performances that we’ll be deprived of by Mr. Hoffman’s passing.  I’m more concerned about the children of Mr. Hoffman, who will be deprived of their father.  And what about his zillion friends, many of whom are in the Broadway industry, who will miss the “amazing man,” that they all say he was after working with him on shows like Salesman, Long Day’s Journey, and True West.

It also makes me incredibly mad.

People like Philip shouldn’t be dying.  And drugs like the ones found in his West Village apartment, that in some cases can be purchased online . . . are snuffing out lives way before their prime.

A few months ago we lost the barely-out-of-puberty Cory Monteith to an overdose.  And remember Heath Ledger.  Whitney Houston.  Amy Winehouse.

And we could keep going back . . . what about Chris Farley, Kurt Cobain, Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley . . .

Want more?

How about Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, or Justin Bieber.

Oh wait.  They’re not gone.  Thank God.

But they could be.

Philip explained that himself.  After he first kicked his habit in his early twenties, he said this about why he did it:

You get panicked . . . I was 22 and I got panicked for my life, it really was, it was just that. And I always think, ‘God, I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden are beautiful and famous and rich.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I’d be dead.’

Unfortunately, just one year ago he admitted to falling off a 23 year old wagon.  And yesterday, the beast of addiction tragically bested him.

What are we going to do to help those that get caught up in the dramatic cyclone that is fame and success in the entertainment industry?  (The NBA and the NFL have introduction seminars for their rookie players to help them enter their high dollars and high stakes world, maybe we should as well?)  What are we going to do to rid our cities of heroin bags labeled with cutsey names like ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Ace of Hearts’ that were found in Phillip’s apartment?  What are we going to do . . .

I’m going to start by making a donation to The Actors Fund.  They help those battling addiction in our industry.  And you can help The Actors Fund as well with a donation.

And if you have a friend or family member that’s battling this disease, help them get help.  Because blogs like this shouldn’t exist.


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