If Corey Haim were alive to Google himself today, these options that would pop up on the search list: “Corey Haim movies,” “Corey Haim drugs,” “Corey Haim fat,” “Corey Haim molested.”
Such is the punching-bag that fallen celebrities become in this overheated pop culture.
As a point of interest, click “Corey Haim molested” and you come to a bizarre exchange on the recent car-wreck “reality TV” show The Two Coreys, in which fellow used-to-be-stars Haim and Corey Feldman referred to being sexually assaulted years earlier by the same unnamed person. Countless gossip sites spun the identity of that person into Michael Jackson.
Like Jackson, Corey Haim died young. But, unlike Jackson, there was no obvious redemption looming on the horizon.
The Toronto-born Haim, 38, died early Wednesday morning at Burbank’s Providence St. Joseph Medical Centre of what the LAPD described as an apparent accidental prescription-drug overdose.
For about three years in the late ’80s, Corey Haim was the hottest teenager on the planet. For most of the past two decades, he’s been someone to feel sorry for.
Are the two connected? Certainly, and in many complicated ways. At 16, Haim did not have the skill set to know how to behave in a world where thousands of fan letters were directed his way every week, and he could have anything he wanted. In a 1988 People profile, he was headed to the premiere of the Two Coreys’ hit comedy License To Drive and making plans.
“We’re going to take a shower together,” he’s quoted as saying to girlfriend Lala, “and then you’re going to go home and do your makeup and hair and get dressed.” He then turns to his mom Judy and says, “We’re calling a limo, aren’t we Mom?”
For a kid who initially didn’t want to be an actor, Haim embraced being a star as any teenager might.
Feeling sorry for him was the furthest thing from my mind on the one occasion I met him. It was 1987, and NBC was launching a ridiculous short-lived sitcom called Roomies, in which Haim and Burt Young (Pauly from the Rocky movies) played college roommates — one an underage wiz kid and the other a “mature student.” A bored Haim was left doing most of what passed for talking, as an NBC exec struggled to get a hung-over Young out of his hotel bed. You seldom saw a story on Haim that quoted him uttering more than a sentence at a time.
There was his acclaimed Hollywood debut as the gifted outcast in Lucas. There was The Lost Boys and Dream A Little Dream (both, again, with his wingman Feldman).
And then, it was over. We’re talking New Kids On The Block over. Duran Duran over. Steve Guttenberg over. Arsenio Hall over.
Imagine the emptiness.
Like many Hollywood actors, Haim did not stay long in school. In Toronto, his scholastic career lasted as long as Grade 8 in North York’s Zion Heights Junior High. By then, he’d already become a recognizable child actor with roles in the movies First Born, Secret Admirer, Murphy’s Romance and Stephen King’s Silver Bullet.
A move to L.A. beckoned, and with the glamour, the inevitable “treats.” Haim would make his first claim to having “kicked drugs” at age 17, the height of his career. He made the ironic announcement live on Arsenio Hall’s show.
Drugs (he once tallied his problem substances as cocaine, crack and up to 85 prescription drugs a day) and the fickleness of fame hit Haim hard in the ’90s, when virtually all his movies were direct to video.
In 1997, he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing assets that included a 1987 BMW, $100 in cash, clothing worth $750 and $7,500 worth of “residuals and royalty rights.” By 2001, he had fallen to the level of subject matter for a special E! True Hollywood Story episode. He was reported anecdotally begging for money for a slice of pizza, he was wasted in interviews, and sadly seen trying to assemble a cheesy “Corey’s back and better than ever!” promotional video for casting agents.
It would not be his last attempt at high-profile begging. After the cancellation of the Two Coreys reality show (which Feldman said he’d refused to continue because of Haim’s continued drug use), Haim bought an ad in Variety saying, “This is not a stunt. I’m back. I’m ready to work. I’m ready to make amends.”
Pop culture, however, was not quite ready to have him back — except, sadly, as a punchline.