UPDATE: For those confusing the point of this post with the allegations across the internet about Haim being involved in a “massive drug ring”, let me confirm that the coroner’s report and Haim’s mother are both on record that he died because of pneumonia unrelated to the drugs in his system at the time of his death. This post is about the key moments in Haim’s life and the tragedy that many people ultimately participated in as he “fell from grace”. END UPDATE
Whenever I sit down to write about a life lost on this blog, I think about Gay Prof’s comment that a blog is an inappropriate place to memorialize another human being. I’ve always maintained that it depends on the blog and its purpose, including whether or not it is overrun with comment trolls who will take even the most respectful post and turn it into a bashfest. I worry that any post on Corey Haim runs the risk of the latter no matter what type of space is used to say goodbye. And yet, I can’t let his loss go without comment precisely because I believe people will lose the plot in discussing him and what he did or did not give us.
This is not a post about Haim’s films which were often poignant in the 80s and throwaways in the 90s. Nor is it about the loss of a child actor with great promise who “pissed it away” with drugs. Instead, I want to talk about several critical moments in Haim’s life that I believe shaped who he became and how he died.
In the ill-fated and often demeaning reality show The Two Coreys, Corey Haim quickly degenerated into the butt of Corey Feldman’s new wife’s jokes. She acted as though he was some bastard child dragging Feldman down and encouraged Feldman to act the same. Often underneath her temper-tantrums, her insertions of herself into events meant to honor the work or friendship of the two Coreys, and her judgments about his life were her own insecurities about the bond that remained between her husband and his former co-star despite all the ways Haim was coming undone. Haim’s temper-tantrums and conflicts with her came from the same place: a desire to find and retain love in a sea of low self-esteem.
While she had no way of knowing the impact of her behavior on the shape of the show and subsequently on Corey Haim’s perception of himself and his friendship, Haim ultimately spelled it out for her during therapy session on the show and again during a fight. In short, he claimed it was devastating having his one time best friend mock his life, his few accomplishments, and his attempts to get clean. He retaliated against both Feldmans in Canadian gossip magazines further eroding the once air tight friendship between the two Coreys. Both Coreys claimed victim status as a result, as the show drove a wedge between the two that was the last hold Haim had on life.
In the same show, Corey Haim finally admitted that his drug addiction began in the midst of child sexual abuse. According to him, Feldman introduced him to the man who sexually molested him and gave him drugs to get through it. Haim never stopped self-medicating as the molestation continued and his attempts to avoid their abusers was met with resistance from Feldman. For Feldman’s part, he denied none of it; instead, he explained that he too was being molested at those events and that he had “remained friends with his abuser” so that he could not possibly have understood what Haim needed him to do.
The story of two young boys shining bright in Hollywood whose lives spiraled into drug addiction and a series of failed comebacks subsequently masks the core abuse issues in their lives. Just as the reality show depicted Haim as a joke who was never and could never be clean again (pun intended) it denied the thing that changed him forever. Worse, in wanting to depict his life as a success story, Feldman used the show to erase his own failings at Haim’s expense. The show once again placed the two boys in a relationship where their shared problems were shouldered by “the weaker” Corey.
The reality is that Corey Haim was the younger and more inexperienced of the two. He looked up to Corey Feldman, who at the time had a thriving career as a child actor. The two quickly bonded and became a shared household name in the early 80s. In Haim’s mind, their friendship and Feldman’s experience meant that Feldman should have been strong enough to watch over him. As a child, seemingly handed over to a predator, Haim had no way of understanding that his hero and best friend, was just another scared boy experiencing the same abuse “next door.” Nor could he understand how his urge to avoid abuse and report it could be so antithetical to Feldman’s coping strategies. Where one boy shrank in horror and desperately looked for help, the other internalized his abuse and searched for love and affirmation through his friend and abusers alike. They were children, left to fend for themselves. The need for a confident and comforter and the difference between how they survived solidified the bond between them for decades.
Even though they only discussed the abuse once in front of the cameras the dynamic between them spoke of it at every turn. People constantly questioned why Feldman, whose only claim to fame as an adult was as a failed preacher, a z rate rocker, and actor in minor and staring roles in a handful of B movies and reality tv, remained friends with Haim, who was universally known in Hollywood for his drug addled burn outs on and offset. Feldman never told them it was because he felt guilty for encouraging Haim’s self-medication and taking him to events with abusers; his guilt its own symptom of choices a child should ultimately not have been left to make. Everyone, including on the show, argued that Feldman was good for Haim. Feldman had helped resurrect Dream a Little Dream II and made sure Haim was still signed to the project despite another descent into drug addiction that left his character locked in a jail cell during most of the movie and doomed it to “straight to video”. Feldman also got Haim re-signed to Lost Boys II, an opportunity Haim blew in a flame so bright it was impossible not to see even when you looked away. Yet Haim constantly registered his fear about returning to those films and those glory days. He resisted Feldman’s insistence in a way that had to recall other forms of resistance in their childhood, and at one point Haim even said that Feldman “always forced him to do what he wanted” regardless of what Haim wanted or needed. Haim’s recasting of Feldman’s help as bullying can only be understood in the context of their abuse history.
The Two Coreys ended with a drug intervention that included their closest friends questioning whether Feldman had any reason to ever befriend Haim again. Worse, Feldman and his wife did the final voice over for the truncated season, mocking Haim and declaring that he was no longer their friend. Is it any wonder that when Feldman’s facade of being the better Corey was washed away in a contrived scene for their reality show where Haim outed their abuse history , that the show quickly degenerated into massive infighting, Feldman’s increased denials of their friendship, and Haim’s return to serious drug use?
Ultimately, you cannot talk about the life of one Corey without the other. Corey Haim is dead at 38 because he wrestled with demons neither Hollywood nor his best friend wanted him to really reveal. His inability to come to terms with being sexually molested, the silences surrounding it, and the years of drug related acting out that cost him everyone he loved, killed him. As children, neither Corey should have been put in situations where they were each others only defense against predators and where their only escape was drugs and each other. In many ways, Corey Feldman needed Corey Haim to be weak in order to be strong and in many ways, Haim needed the same thing. As long as the two played their parts there was always someone to blame and someone to run to; there was always the chance to re-enact the worst moments of their lives, without actually speaking of it, and hope to finally get it right. The dynamic between them is shared by countless abused children, especially young boys whose abuse is often hidden.
If Hollywood had not been so invested in their image and exploitation, they could have become spokespeople for abused children who encouraged young boys to seek help instead of becoming poster children for the anti-drug movement while they were on drugs themselves. And maybe, just maybe, being a somewhat accomplished painter would have sustained Haim if the lean years still came for him at the end of it all. Even it did not, Haim could have lived his life in classrooms and social service centers leading the way out of shame and silence for young male abuse survivors instead of at the bottom of a bottle of booze and pills.
So when the urge to mock him comes, remember who Corey Haim really was and what his death can still teach us.
UPDATE: Corey Feldman is now saying he is foregoing Corey Haim’s intimate funeral with family and friends in order to plan a media friendly memorial instead.
UPDATE II: If you are here from IMDB, you can verify the information in this post with a simple google search, reading their interviews, & watching the interviews and reality show on youtube. All information in this post is verifiable, look it up. No one involved in writing this post claims to know either Haim or Feldman & this is made clear in the text and the comments. For those claiming Feldman was not abused or that he did not remain friends with one or more abusers, this information is common knowledge and here is some video corroborating it:
Feldman discussed his abuse publicly in several interviews, Haim was less forthcoming because of long held shame from being abused and told to keep quiet for so long. Haim has discussed his sense of guilt and his feelings that Feldman treated him like he was guilty and “needed to get over it” (a feeling many people who are abused have because of a stigma and struggle) on television and in interviews he did in Canada. Abuse denial is one of the reasons so many people keep silent and suffer, let’s not add to that just because it is easier than seeing people some of us grew up with as flawed, broken, or survivors.