Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oh Steve, Say it Ain't So

Before I head to bed every night, I do one last wide sweep of the internets. I check my mail, make a move or two on Scrabulous on Facebook, dance through bloglines to see who has updated since I ate dinner and troll through the discussion boards for Guster and Barenaked Ladies to see what's new in the little fan worlds.

Jo sent me a link to that troll P.Hilton (you know who he is) last night. He posted a story about Barenaked Ladies lead singer Steven Page being arrested in upstate New York, charged with possession of coke and pot.

Now, a lot of musicians, actors, and rock stars do drugs. A lot of pot smoking, coke snorting, alcohol... a lot of it comes with the lifestyle of having money, free time on busses that travel long distances and somewhat addictive personalities. More than somewhat. And sometimes it gets totally out of hand and they die an early and sad death, like Heath Ledger (I have noticed a lot of his movies are being broadcast as his latest, posthumous release gets ready to hit theatres, and I'm really sad watching him because he really was a good actor even though I never really got it why so many people worshiped him the way they did).

I'm not surprised when I hear people are arrested in possession of controlled substances. And I'm not surprised to hear that one of my all time favorite musicians, writers, and people was caught in a situation that landed his ass in jail. Not surprised.

But this time, I'm actually sad. Honestly, just plain to the core saddened to hear this news. And I'm processing things and looking at it like it's an opportunity, that whatever Steve needs help with right now in his life, he can get that help and get ironed out and get safe and happy.

Bandmate Jim Creegan told the newspaper in an interview about this "It's so new. We just heard about this and we just want to fight these charges and hope that everything goes all right. We want to keep on playing and being a band... We're fighting the charges and hopefully they'll just go away."

A lot of this echoes Clayton for me personally. I'm glad Steve has bandmates like Jim who are going to stand up beside him, not behind him, and help him. But even if the charges "just go away" there is the problem that he may need some very serious intervention. It is where we failed Clayton.

When Clayton was just hanging around with girls who did heroin, keeping them safe and getting them through times when they tried to kick it, he thought he was helping them and assured me repeatedly that he was okay. The fact was he was surrounding himself with people that he was calling friends... although he wasn't using the stuff, he was deep in it. He distanced himself from us when he started using, we kicked him out of our house and it was frying pan into the fire. From a distance, we tried to work with him, convince him to get help. We tried to get his attention back to the things that mattered, point out that he was in the viper pit and needed to escape before it was too late. But he'd already been bit. And we lost him. And that was several months before he died.

Steve Page was arrested in a house where there was cocaine present. No mention of a field sobriety test or blood test for whether or not he was under the influence of any class whatever controlled thingie. I'm not so naive to say "oh, he was just sitting there, and it belonged to the girl! He never did it, I'm sure!" Nope. I'm not that silly.

But I look at it this way. Several times Clayton was sitting on a couch where there was a table in front of him that had all sorts of drugs on it. At that time, he wasn't using. But eventually, he did start using, it got worse and worse, and it eventually ended his life. Not a promising career, but a life.

Now, in our society, millions of people go through huge battles with drugs. Some of them are sickly famous like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Robert Downey, Jr. They've got careers, they're healthy, they're doing well. 20 some odd years of battling their problems have clouded public opinion of them, but Steve Tyler played the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and Robert Downey, Jr. has a hit movie on his hands. They're not in jail, not suffering that we can see from here. They aren't branded with a giant scarlet A for Addict on their chests except when people sit back and think about their pasts and how they've "beaten" the dragon after riding it for so long.

Steve has always written some amazingly depressing songs with really bouncy happy tunes. Some really dark songs about depression, madness, suicide and self-loathing. I am certain the past few years, where CD reviews were posted by writers who listened to one track off the release and continued to label them the "clown princes" of Canadian pop rock, haven't made him feel the super stellar star he was with "Stunt" and "Maroon." So whatever he has got going on that has brought him to sit at dining tables in homes with women who have coke at the ready; whatever has brought him there instead of at home with his sons and his band, gets worked out and made well.

I'm hoping that Steven Page, for what it's worth, doesn't have to look back 20 years from now like Robert Downey, Jr. and say "well, that's when it started and the next two decades were a blur."

I want Barenaked Ladies "Behind the Music," not Motley Crue "Behind the Music." And the genius that is Page and Robertson, I don't want it destroyed. It doesn't need to be genius like Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison.

If worse comes to worse, hopefully he'll get some good music out of this experience and work it out that way. I don't love him or admire him any less. I just hope he does something that makes me admire him more and get out of the mess he finds himself in quickly, successfully, before it is too late.

I don't know. In the meantime, he's due back in court tomorrow. And I hope he'll be okay.

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