Chris Farley was a comedic genius is every sense of the word. He was a Saturday Night Live legend during the show's golden era of the early 1990s, he stole the show with small parts in Wayne's World (1992), Billy Madison (1993), and Coneheads (1993), and later took centre stage in the cult classics Tommy Boy (1995) and Beverley Hills Ninja (1997).
But in the early hours of December 18, 1997, Chris Farley died of a drug overdose. And the reasons and circumstances surrounding that fatal night are desperately sad.
It doesn't matter what you do for a living, how successful you are, or how much money you have, depression and addictions can affect all of us. Farley was crippled by them.
He was an exceptionally talented actor who was tortured by these dark and unrelenting demons throughout his life. He would have been 51 this weekend, very likely at the pinnacle of his career.
Life in the fast lane...
Six months before his death, longtime friend and journalist Chris Nashawaty wrote that he recalled seeing the comedy legend at the opening of a new Planet Hollywood in Indianapolis.
According to Nashawaty, he was morbidly obese, sweating buckets and completely off his face on drugs or alcohol, or both.
He was dousing himself in milk - but nobody seemed to find it very funny. Nashawaty said he told Farley he needed to "take it easy" to which he replied,
"I want to live fast and die young."
He was found dead in his Chicago apartment 6 months later after a four-day drinking and drug binge, but his problems were deeper and darker than his addictions.
Anxiety, self-loathing and depression...
The problem was that Farley never seemed able to pin down whether his fans were laughing with him or at him. He believed himself to be no more than a "fat man falls down" type of comedian. He was wrong, but tragically, he just couldn't see it that way. Anxiety and self-loathing were his death sentence, his destructive appetite for food, drugs, and alcohol was just the bullet that killed him.
We shouldn't judge him for his addictions. Alcoholism and drug addictions are diseases like any other, they're not irresponsible indulgences.
His friends and family had remained hopeful. In the weeks before his final days, Farley had, and not for the first time, been trying to get clean.
He had been to a celebrity-friendly detox center in Minneapolis named Hazelden. It was his 17th visit. Fat farms, cold-turkey stages, drug purges - Farley tried it all, but he just couldn't kick his demons.
He arrived back from the center earlier than his friends had expected. He was still massively overweight (almost 300 pounds) but apparently seemed happier, he was drinking but he wasn't drunk.
Watch the top 10 Chris Farley moments in this hilarious video.
He reportedly spent the next few days attending mass at a catholic church and seemed in high festive spirits with Christmas just a couple of weeks away. He even bought a giant decorative tree for his apartment. But sadly, he wasn't able to sit around it with his friends and family opening presents on Christmas day.
At 8.30am on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 16th, Farley avoided seeing his friends, instead calling a $300-per-hour call girl named Autumn. She alleges she spent that afternoon with Farley. He was smoking pot and drinking maniacally. According to Autumn, Farley was more interested in her scoring cocaine than her sexual services. She said,
”I don’t think he knew what he wanted. You could just tell he was on a rampage…. He just kept bouncing from room to room.”
Two days later he was found dead in his apartment.
Don't judge him.
We can all empathize with Farley's problems. Just because somebody is a famous actor, it doesn't mean they that aren't affected by the psychological insecurities and emotional frailties that destroy the lives of a great many of us.
When Farley died, we lost a once-in-a-generation actor. He must never be forgotten.