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"From what I've seen and what I've experienced, and what I know that's out there - it's not for a child."
Along with Hollywood Men and Hollywood Women, this short documentary series that showcased present-day Hollywood turned to the town's younger generation for Hollywood Kids, which was to result in footage that was every bit as shocking as the previous shows in the series.
Numerous children of celebrities are interviewed including the granddaughter of Robert Mitchum and the daughters of John Wayne and Peter Sellers along with celebrities themselves such as Jackie Collins and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Local residents also contribute much to the show - "Everyone's trying to outdo each other," states one real estate agent describing the acutely competitive nature of Hollywood society. Along those lines, a Beverly Hills therapist sums the situation up with the statement that, if you live in Hollywood, "you're in a beauty contest from the day you dropped from your mother's womb."
Expanding on this, the show goes on to highlight that, at Beverly Hills High School for example, the quality of the cars to be found in the teacher's parking-lot pales into insignificance compared to the vehicles belonging to the students. To teachers, Hollywood kids are now saying, "Who are you? You can't be making more than $25,000 - $30,000 a year. My mother makes that in a day! Why should I possibly do your homework? Why should I listen to anything that you're saying?" At this point though, the show promptly changes direction and the program makers begin to demonstrate various results of that kind of logic. One of the first subjects they look at is drug abuse.
One contributor compares the drug scene in Los Angeles to that of the fashion philosophy that applies to clothes. The latest designer item comes in, and everybody's got to try it, and more accurately, be seen trying it. In what has become a quite vicious circle, that particular craze will then drop away, only for another one to immediately come along and take its place.
After about half an hour of the show, the next person to be interviewed is Paul Peterson. A former child-star himself, Peterson played the character of Jeff Stone in the situation comedy The Donna Reed Show which ran from 1958 through until 1966. His wisecracking but sensitive character quickly became a favorite with viewers and as a result Peterson became one of the very first "teen-idols". After experiencing this crushing phenomenon at first hand, Peterson later founded A Minor Consideration, a non-profit, charitable organization that offers help to celebrity kids who may be experiencing difficulties brought about by their celebrity status. Peterson recalls the time he approached River back in 1992 with an offer of help, only to have that offer immediately rejected.
Peterson then talks about the events the following year outside the Hollywood night-club, the Viper Room, and suggests that if someone at the scene had revealed just which drugs were involved, the paramedics might have been able to save River. This was an argument that occupied much of the media's attention back in November 1993 but whatever happened that night, it's hard to believe that such an antidote exists, one powerful enough to overcome not one, but eight lethal doses of heroin.
Also interviewed is an individual who was outside the Viper Room that night and witnessed the scene first hand, Ron Davis. Bearing a striking resemblance to The Thing Called Love's Dermot Mulroney, Davis is introduced as a "celebrity photographer" rather than a straight-forward member of the paparazzi, and in this case at least, this subtle distinction is well deserved. In what became a well-documented but nevertheless selfless act, Davis decided to put aside thoughts of his own career and chose not to take any photographs of the scene that was quickly unfolding before him that night. This was an act of thoughtfulness that was thousands of miles away, both figuratively and literally, from the act of desecration that was soon to take place in a Florida Funeral Home just a few days later.
Davis recalls how, as the tragedy of that night played out, both he and the other people at the scene almost began to look forward to River's seizures. "At least you knew he was still alive," he chillingly recalls.
Still obviously shocked by the events of that night, Davis seems frustrated by the lack of urgent action that failed to take place that evening. He recalls the Viper Room doorman, yelling at the River's group of friends to call the Emergency Services. Echoing Peterson's earlier comments and remembering the group's reply of "he's fine, he's fine," Davis talks about their "lying and making excuses for his reputation's sake. Even trying to protect him then - when he was dying."
After an abrupt commercial break, the subject matter then turns to prostitution at which point about half a dozen local prostitutes are interviewed as they work the streets. Some of them have opted for the "grunge look" whilst others are more clean cut and refer to themselves as "professional entertainers." Although the documentary demonstrates the fact that both this and the previous subject, drugs, are deeply connected, it is revealed that many of the young people working the Los Angeles streets are doing so for nothing more than the thrill of it. When someone talks about the logic of "I'm really getting Daddy now, because I'm for sale!" this attitude sounds vaguely familiar and it takes a few moments to place it. It comes as something of a surprise to realize that for the last few minutes, we have been looking at the real life Mike Waters and Scott Favor.
It's estimated that 10,000 runaways arrive in Hollywood every year. What these young children seek getting off the bus in downtown Hollywood is a million miles away from what they find themselves looking for a few months later, after the money has long since run out. "This is only a temporary thing for me," declares one young rent-boy, "until I get back on my feet and get a regular job like everybody else and start living my life like everybody else."
A regular life "like everybody else".... After a year or two in Hollywood, it's seems that they wish for nothing more than what they ran away from in the first place.
Yet another tragedy, courtesy of the streets of Hollywood.
"They were living the lie - 'You can't possibly have River Phoenix in trouble with a drug problem. He doesn't even eat meat!'
- Paul Peterson