Walk On The Wild Side

R.I.P. Loui Reed


My Life With Drugs Rock n Roll and Addiction



By Gary Stromberg, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Gary Stromberg, who runs the PR firm The Blackbird Group, co-founded Gibson and Stromberg, a music public relations firm that operated in the 1960s and 1970s and represented The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Muhammad Ali, Barbra Streisand, Boyz II Men, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, The Doors, Earth, Wind & Fire, Elton John, Three Dog Night and Crosby, Stills & Nash. He’s co-written several books that deal with addiction, including “The Harder They Fall.” His fourth book, “She’s Come Undone,” is due out this spring. He is active in service work to help people recover from addiction.

(CNN) — The Whitney Houston headlines last week sent a familiar shiver through me.

In the 1970s, I ran one of the leading entertainment business public relations firms. Celebrity clients were wildly indulging themselves, accountable to no one. It was money, power and prestige, with no one to say, “That’s enough.”

Drugs and alcohol were endemic. Today, the conversation revolves around prescription drugs, but back then we were into more basic mind-altering substances: pot, psychedelics, cocaine and heroin.

To be truthful, I had an amazing run before it all turned to garbage.

Gary Stromberg

Gary Stromberg

My office, on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, was set up like a huge living room with couches, overstuffed pillows on the floor, rock star posters lining the walls and a coffee table, the centerpiece of which was a large crystal bowl, filled at all times with a generous supply of cocaine.

The house rules were “help yourself if you’re here on business — but no take-outs!” We were regularly visited by our clients, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Doors and Steppenwolf. As you could imagine, my office was a very popular place.

But 29 years ago, I stood at the precipice with a decision to make. With a career of impressive accomplishments in the rear-view mirror, I had what looked like only despair and death ahead of me. Alcoholism and drug addiction had rendered me into what the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.” The choice seemed simple. Choose life or death.

Do I acknowledge I have a problem, or do I continue to live in denial?

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Do I listen to my friends and family, or do I seek my own counsel?

Do I continue to deteriorate mentally and physically, or do I say, “I’ve had enough?”

Do I choose to live, or do I want to die?

If I once had a dream, I thought, it was long ago shattered. If I once had a dream, it’s floating face down in a bottle of Jack Daniels. If I once had a dream … ahh, screw it, I ain’t no Martin Luther King Jr.

Throwing in the towel and surrendering to admitting I had a serious problem should have been the obvious thing to do, given the state I was in. But at the time, change seemed impossible, unimaginable, incomprehensible and downright insane. Insane was the right word, all right, but it described my state of mind.

Alcohol and drugs are subtle foes; cunning, baffling and powerful. I seemed to be the last one to know I was in big trouble. When my high-profile career started to fall apart, it was other people’s fault. When my substantial income dried up, my business manager was to blame. When the beautiful house I so dearly loved was finally foreclosed, it was the bank that was screwing me. When she finally couldn’t take it anymore and left, I knew she was the type to do this to me. When my friends began to disappear, they were scum and didn’t deserve me. And when, at last, my only friends, my drugs and alcohol turned on me, I knew it was over.

And so a journey of unimaginable proportions began.

Not to any outward destination. No rehab, no trip to a far-off spa. I didn’t move to another city, as if a geographic change would fix it. No, I didn’t have to travel anywhere, except into the mirror, and by peeling the onion of my soul. The journey was within, to at long last discover where the real problem resided.

It was, of course, in me.

What a surprise — with the loving help and support of a 12-step program, I found the real culprit. We in recovery refer to alcoholism as a spiritual sickness. And if you look that up in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of me. “Mr. Spiritual Sickness of 1982.”

If you ask me nicely, I might show you a picture of that lost soul that I still carry around in my wallet. Yes, I had long hair and a beard, the smug look of false confidence on my face and even the obligatory turquoise jewelry of that era. But look more closely, and you’ll see in my eyes shallow pools of emptiness, pupils like pinholes from the daily consumption of narcotics. As a friend remarked when he saw the photo, “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.”

After you shake your head in disbelief,and look up at me again wondering how this was possible and how I became such a different person, I will offer you an explanation.

I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who was spared from a life of misery, incarceration and death. I’ve been spared from the life of self-centeredness that led me to care very little about others and only about myself. I’ve been spared from the countless fears of inadequacy, failure, success, intimacy and anything else that threatened my well-guarded defenses. I’ve been spared a life of darkness and shown a path into the light.

We don’t yet know why Whitney died, but we know she struggled with addiction. It’s a pity that now, Whitney will not have the option I had.

Common Bond

Ron Wood, Steven Tyler, Keith Richards, Alice Cooper, Michelle Shocked, Kim Deal, Joe Cocker, Joe Walsh, Ozzy Osbourne, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Bowie, Slash,  Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Warren Zevon, Mouthpiece, Morning Again, Culture, Earth Crisis, Undertow, Strife, Steve Earle, Nikki Sixx, Aerosmith, Billy Idol, Steven Adler, Eddie Van Halen, Allegiance, Casey Jones, Bonnie Raiit, Champion, Down to Nothing, David Crosby, Embrace Today, Eyes To The Sky, Have Heart, Liferuiner, Righteous Jams, Stick to Your Guns, Throwdown, Jonathan Richman, Ted Nugent, Stalag 13, Judy Collins, Justice League, Uniform Choice,  Minor Threat, State of Alert (S.O.A.), Government Issue,Teen Idles, Reno’s 7 Seconds, Boston’s SSD, DYS , Negative FX; California, Cause for Alarm, The Abused, Bad Religion, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, 7 Seconds, Judge, Bold, Chain of Strength, Uniform Choice, Slapshot, Eminem,

…to be continued…

While I was connected almost entirely to the punk rock music scene in the 80s, Elton John was donning his gay apparel and playing and writing some really amazing music. Nothing alike in our approach to music and fashion, we share a common bond. I some times walk into a meeting and think the people there have nothing in common with me, but then we share our experience, strength and hope and realize we are the same.

I love gay AA meetings, because I get to see and be inspired by amazing courage. People getting sober despite of the prejudice and imbalance and unfairness of society. Getting sober in spite of being disowned by your own family and having serious illness and the courage still overcomes. Getting right-sized and humble saves us and why it works.

Hats off Elton!!

Your story took so much courage.

Elton John speaks of drug addiction days

Pop icon Elton John has talked of his darkest days addicted to drugs and alcohol, his most outrageous outfits and being disgusted at himself for not being able to operate a washing machine. 

John, 60, says his most self-destructive period came in the 1980s, a period which preceded him wearing such outfits as a Donald Duck costume on stage.

“The height of it, the showmanship, was probably the tour I did with the orchestra when I came on beforehand, and you know, the outfits were just beyond belief,” he tells Enough Rope with Andrew Denton in an interview to air on Monday night on ABC television.

“I mean punk hair-dos and punk wig, yellow pink hair, that was, you know, soon after that it was, you know, that was a pretty low time, even though the orchestral shows were fantastic in Australia.”

John lists getting sober among his life’s great achievements and talks about how he chose “boot camp” style rehabilitation rather than the luxury many celebrities favour.

“I really was at the end of my tether and so I really needed to wise up,” he tells Denton.

“I went away for six weeks to a hospital in Chicago, which wasn’t a fancy treatment centre. I read about Malibu places with televisions and swimming pools, I’m sorry, I don’t get it. When you have a severe problem like I had you didn’t … know how to live a life properly.”

He said with sobriety came his independence, something he hadn’t embraced since he became the superstar known as Elton John.

For a man renowned for his extensive wardrobe, it was just as well he says that he learned to operate a washing machine.

John says when he lived by himself for the first time he tried to adopt as “normal” a lifestyle as someone in his position could.

He says the breakthrough made him capable of an adult relationship with his now life partner David Furnish.

“I’ve come a long way … I now have a loving relationship with someone, (it) took me forty three years to find out how,” he says.

But not all days are rosy for the artist behind Crocodile Rock, Tiny Dancer and the hit musical Billy Elliott.

“I do have blue days but they’re very few and far between and I know how to cope with them so much better,” he says.

“I have a person to help me cope with them and I don’t run away and lock the door anymore. I use to run away into the bedroom and lock the door.”

Tom Waits

Mike Douglas Show 1977

You Got What I Want and I’m Gonna Get It

Alcoholics Anonymous is a program of attraction. Many times we have heard, “Stick with the winners.”

In meetings you will meet people who have a spiritual quality that you desire. That quality is some thing you want for yourself and so you hang out with that person and maybe he or she becomes your sponsor or it’s someone who just shares some cool wisdom or this person becomes a close friend and you both grow together spiritually. This is how the “WE” in AA works. From the first step, your first meeting to the 12th step where one becomes of service to others, it is all a big circle of give and take.

I want what you’ve got.

Don’t worry, wanting what others have in AA isn’t stalking. It is true admiration and respect.


One Way or Another

(I’m Gonna git cha)

It is a miracle really that any of us can get and stay sober.


I Want It ALL

Rocketed into a Fourth Dimension

We seem to get in our own way. There is a better plan…

There is a solution.

“…there was nothing left but for us to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”

You Can’t Always Get What you Want, but ya might get some thing better…

Let Go and Let it Happen…

Trust in the betta’ plan.