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Is 'Heroin chic' sweeping Hollywood?

Heroin

August 2, 1996
Web posted at: 1:20 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Mark Scheerer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- What's the hottest trend in show business today? To hear some people tell it, it's heroin.

A number of high-profile celebrity drug busts and two new movies, one a highly acclaimed film from Scotland, give some people the impression that heroin is chic all of a sudden.

The movies are "Trainspotting," which follows the escapades of some charming Scottish junkies, and "Basquiat," director Julian Schnabel's first film, about his friend and contemporary Jean Michel Basquiat, a young artist who died of a heroin overdose.

Melvoin

Then there are the real-life drug cases. Actor Robert Downey Jr. ran away from rehab as did Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. Smashing Pumpkins keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin overdosed, and Jimmy Chamberlin got drummed out of the same group after being charged with possession of heroin.

Even in the world of high fashion, a current trend toward dark-eyed makeup and ashen skin paints a gaunt, burned-out look. "Heroin chic" is what some pundits call it. The question is whether all the media exposure will foster a curiosity about the drug. The stars don't think so.

Transpotting

"If you shove it under the carpet, that's when kids find it interesting, and that's when they get into it," said Shirley Manson, lead singer of the alternative band, Garbage. Her band was the opening act for Smashing Pumpkins when heroin ODs derailed their tour. Manson says there isn't anything glamorous about smack and rock and roll.

"I think the more we talk about it, and it's de-glamorized, then we might have a chance of fighting this kind of problem," she said.

One of the stars of "Trainspotting," Ewan McGregor," says the movie neither condemns nor condones. However, "I can't see that someone will come away from the movie and think, 'I'm going to try that,' because you see too many horrific things, really," he said.

Public Service Announcemnet

The truth isn't always a deterrent, noted a Detroit-area drug counselor, who warned that young people can think they're invincible. For him, personally, "Trainspotting" would be an effective deterrent, Dr. Michael Boyle of Henry Ford Hospital said. "As I looked at that movie, there were enough negative consequences that I saw that certainly would be there to discourage its use."

Some in the entertainment business have gone so far as to suggest that pop culture personalities often serve as surrogates for society at large.

"We want people to go there for us. And I'm afraid we are partly responsible for rock star deaths as well, because in some way, on some level, we encourage our idols to push out there, to smash up hotel rooms, to do all that kind of thing," said Danny Boyle, who directed "Trainspotting."

Phil Lynott of the band Thin Lizzy was a heroin fatality in 1986. His mother Philomena, who has written a book about him, has some common-sense words for rock and roll fans. "Thank you for loving him and loving his music. But do not follow his lifestyle."

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