His once-promising career in tatters, his family and finances ravaged by his drug addiction, former Party of Five star Jeremy London is now claiming he was kidnapped and forced to get high. Jacob Bernstein talks to addiction specialists about what to make of the tale.
The way Jeremy London later told it, it was one of the worst days of his life.
On June 10, while attempting to change a flat tire on his car, he was abducted by three men and taken on a 12-hour joyride, during which he was forced to smoke crack cocaine and distribute drugs and alcohol in a gang-infested part of Palm Springs.
“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” the Party of Five star said in a video statement provided to RadarOnline. “First of all, I want to say [the incident] actually did happen... I thought I was going to die. Thank God I made it out alive.”
He added: “I had a gun put to my head. I had my family threatened. We’re working closely with the Palm Springs Police Department to get the rest of the guys. There’s one guy in custody. There’s two more out there.”
“I think that when people are found with drugs, just as when they’re found with lipstick on their collar, they have all sorts of excuses.”
If he suspected people might be skeptical, that’s because they were.
Indeed, in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, the case has been a source of particular fascination and gallows humor. While to other segments of the population the story has seemed terrifying and bizarre, with recovering addicts there’s been a knowing nod—a remembrance of what it was like to minimize one’s problem and tell outrageous tales to keep from getting caught.
London’s personal history hasn’t exactly helped establish his credibility. He has a long history with substance abuse, and a neighbor recently told reporters that he’d been begging to wash their cars for cash. And London’s twin, Jason, said his brother’s story didn’t “add up.” He urged him to get “psychological help.”
Last week, Radar reported that London had recently lost custody of his child and was being regularly subjected to drug testing. A positive test could have terrible consequences for him. (His spokesman, Dominic Friesen, confirmed that actor is being tested, telling The Daily Beast, “Jeremy is currently undergoing drug testing for his custody case and has passed all thus far.”)
One recovering addict I spoke to had posted a status update on his Facebook page: “Look! It’s the old ‘They kidnapped me and forced me to take cocaine excuse.’ Yawn.” Another said, “I immediately thought of the Six Feet Under episode where the gay guy gets kidnapped and forced to do drugs. Anytime something sounds too much like a television episode, it’s suspect.” A third said, “I’m sorry, but that’s such a lie. I have a friend who told that same story. When she withdrew all the money from her grandmother’s bank account, she claimed she was kidnapped and that they stole it from her. She even said she was raped.”
Plus, this person pointed out, most people who resort to crime because of their drug use don’t want to share their goodies with resistant kidnap victims. “For someone to say they were abducted and forced to do drugs is absolutely ridiculous. Who the f--- is going to force you to do drugs? For what? It makes no sense.”
That skepticism was echoed by three out of three addiction specialists reached by The Daily Beast. Combined, they have more than 60 years’ worth of experience treating drug addicts; all three were listed recently in New York magazine’s recent Best Doctors issue.
In each case, the specialists said they wanted to avoid casting aspersions on a man they hadn’t treated, but that they'd never encountered a person who was forced to consume illicit substances against their will.
“I can’t recall anyone ever being forced to take drugs, though I’m sure in the history of humanity someone has been,” said Kenneth Rosenberg, an addiction psychiatrist in private practice on the Upper East Side and a member of the voluntary faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College.
“People experience peer pressure, but I myself haven’t ever encountered anyone who’s been forced to take drugs,” seconded Marc Galanter, a professor of psychiatry at New York University with a practice on the Upper West Side. “Often you see people in denial that are greatly at variance with reality. It wouldn’t be surprising for someone to make a statement that seems nonsensical.”
Added Carol Weiss of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, “I think that when people are found with drugs, just as when they’re found with lipstick on their collar, they have all sorts of excuses.”
Nevertheless, the police did arrest a 26-year-old man in the Palm Springs area, Brandon Adams, in connection with the case. “Like I’ve told everyone else, we’re not going to falsely arrest anyone,” Detective Frank Guarino told The Daily Beast.
Still, he couldn’t provide any specifics of what the evidence against Adams was, citing an ongoing investigation. And the suspect has been emphatic that London’s story is only partially true. “There was no gun. There was never a pipe,” Adams told RadarOnline. “We got drunk, and I hooked him up with some Ecstasy and Xanax, and we took a joyride and partied for hours.”
Back in Hollywood, where London’s been struggling for the last several years to find work, one veteran publicist expressed what appears to be the dominant industry view: extreme doubt. “In the pantheon of ridiculous excuses celebrities have told, this probably sits somewhere in between getting mercury poisoning from sushi and the M&M defense.” (For those just tuning in, actor Jeremy Piven claimed in December 2008 that he had to pull out of a Broadway production of Speed-the-Plow because he’d eaten too much raw tuna; in 2005, film producer Harvey Weinstein alleged that his legendary temper tantrums were the result of his blood sugar being out of whack.)
Some have even begun to suggest that London’s story has a tinge of racism—an outlandish story with a “look-at-what-the-black-man-did-to-me” component.
But London continues to insist he's been telling the truth. On Wednesday, his attorney, Catherine Lombardi, told People magazine that her client had filed restraining orders against his brother and other members of his family to “stop giving unauthorized interviews to the press. What they’ve said is false, misleading, and harmful to his personal reputation and career.”
Rosenberg, one of the addiction specialists, said he hoped that people would be sympathetic to London’s plight. Shortly before this piece went to bed, he called back to add: “A thing that’s very important to remember is that the major reason addicts lie is because of shame. As crazy as the stories are that they concoct, they often feel their addiction behavior is so terrible, so shameful that any other story, no matter how ludicrous it appears, would be a better substitute than the reality of their addiction.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.