The entertainment industry is not all glee and games.

I get breaking news from CNN pushed to my iPhone, as I’m sure a lot of you do as well.  And I’ve read some pretty sad things over the years.

But for some reason, the death of Cory Monteith hit me a little harder than any of the other alerts I’ve received.  And I only made it through a season and a half of Glee.  

Maybe it was because he was only 31.  Maybe it was because he was talked about as one of the nicest guys on the planet.  Or maybe it was because he was dating Lea Michele, who I remember from my days as the Associate Company Manager on Ragtime, and my heart is breaking for her . . . especially since she was standing by him during his recent troubled times.

Or maybe it was because he was on a show called Glee – so how could anything so the opposite of glee” happen to him?

Cory had a history of war with substance abuse.  He had fought a battle and won when he was nineteen thanks to a family staged intervention.  “I’m lucky to be alive,” he was quoted as saying after he came through it.

Just a few years later, he dove head first into the entertainment industry . . . and after a few years of bangin’ round the boards, he submitted a tape of himself drumming on tupperware which got the attention of Ryan Murphy, who forced him to sing something . . . anything . . . and the next thing you know, this Canadian kid with a troubled past, was a big star in Hollywood, and loved by millions, and making millions.

I’m not going to begin to guess what happened or when it happened or how it happened.  I don’t know where Cory got off track, and I don’t know why the rehab he checked into just a few months ago didn’t take.

But I do know this.

Success in the entertainment industry . . . on either coast . . . can be an awesome thing.  It can bring the adulation of screaming fans.  It can bring you more money than you ever thought you’d have in a lifetime.  And it can bring you a sense of power and invincibility that might even trump the power of politics.

And that’s why it’s so essential for us to look out for each other, and especially the kids in our biz who achieve overnight success.

Because the bright lights of Broadway and Hollywood can be blinding.  And losing good people like Cory just can’t continue.  

Our deepest condolences to the the Monteith family, the Glee family, and everyone out there battling with addiction.

I’m making a donation in Cory’s memory to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (did you know that 90% of alcohol and drug dependencies begin in the teenage years?).  Join me.


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  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    This one really got to me too. Maybe because it took me back to the death of River Phoenix, who I knew a bit. The loss of bright young talents is always so hard to take, especially when they are good, kind people as well. The very sensitivity that makes them extraordinary can be the thing that makes life so difficult for them. It is hard to know what to do.

  • Ezgi says:

    It’s heartbreaking to see him lose the war, especially after trying to help himself with such determination. I am also really, deeply saddened by this loss and my heart goes out to the Glee family as they all seem like genuinely good friends. Thank you for the donation idea, what a wonderful way to honor a good man’s fight.

  • Diana Lipkus says:

    Was Cory Monteith struggling with Mental Illness? Often the use of elicit drugs or overuse of prescribed drugs is a form of self medication for an underlying mental illness. Mental illness usually begins in the teens, as Cory’s drug use/abuse began in his teens. Mental illness could be severe depression, bipolar disorder, Schizoaffective disorder , or Schizophrenia or even a personality disorder and more. I wonder if your readers might consider a donation to their local mental health organization such as NAMI. I wonder if information about an underlying Mental Health struggle in Cory will be revealed, especially considering the reluctance to reveal mental illness due to stigma that we all should be aware to work towards changing so people seek effective medical treatment. RIP Cory.

    • Harry Zimbler says:

      I was moved by your blog. It is indeed a sad, sad story. The world can’t afford to lose such talented people so young. What a terrible waste…

  • Kathi Gillmore says:

    I’m keeping a close eye on you…not that you need it. But that’s what friends do. K

  • Jane says:

    I’m going to say something unpopular here. Our society condones drug use. We think it is ok and cool to smoke pot. Everyone I know is ok with pot. But for those people – esp young people / teens trying to feel cool and fit in — and those with addictive genes it is a gateway drug. In order to be cool you have to do more and dangerous drugs. But as a kid you don’t know if you have addictive genes. Some people can stop or smoke in moderation. Others go on to heroin. We need to tell people pot and other drugs are not cool and don’t even try it as it could be a time bomb going off in your life. The culture of drugs are cool and pot is harmless is to blame. It’s in the movies. It’s in TV and its in Theater whenever there’s a show about young people. Drugs are not life affirming and they will impede your goals and your life – even pot.

    • Derek says:

      Spot on target, Jane. And what kids don’t realize is that once the Heroin
      ( Opium ) links up with Opioid Receptors in the brain, there is no turning back. Heroin affects the chemistry of the brain and statistics prove ( in my country, South Africa ) that 98 percent of heroin addicts will never, ever recover. And I’m living in a city infested with Tanzanian and Nigerian heroin dealers – and a government too useless to stop the pandemic.

  • When I heard a performer from Glee passed away, I thought he was a teenager. But, he was 31, a grown man. It’s a shame a man of 31 couldn’t handle the success he probably desperately wanted. Is show business that toxic? Or, should I ask, is success in show business that toxic? It sure seems like it. My sympathies to this young man’s family.

  • Bill Williams says:

    I lost my son to a heroin/alcohol/benzo accidental overdose when he was 24, just last December. It took six weeks in the hospital before we removed him from a respirator and had him die in our arms.
    Silence about addiction is a killer. Please read this essay about William’s death from the New York Times. And do give to a cause that will make a difference.

    • Derek says:

      Dear Bill, thank you so much for sharing your very sad story. You can see my reply to Jane above. I want to make copies of this and give it to members of our local government. It is the kind of powerful testimony that can go a long way towards forcing people to wake up and take appropriate action.

      • Bill Williams says:

        Derek: You may certainly forward my essay to whomever you think will benefit from reading it. Please be sure to give proper credit to the Times. Thank you. And thanks for your kind words.

  • Stuart Green says:

    Dear Ken, Albeit of a sad tone, well said and well taken.

  • Liz says:

    I am the mother of a talented son and as much as you want to keep them safe, you are never in charge of who they meet and what can influence them. You can only hope you helped them prepare for life and you always question if you’ve done enough. There is no blame here except for those who said they loved him and still provided the path to addiction. His talent will sadly outlive him but his talent will hopefully be how he is defined from now on.

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