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The other night, I watched a film called “Bob and the Monster.”

On the face of the title alone, you’d likely expect some sort of story about a monster that lives under Bob’s bed. Bob could be a child, and the monster could come out to introduce himself. Perhaps they become friends – or maybe the monster comes out to scare the shit out of Bob.

Not quite.

“Bob and the Monster” is a 2011 documentary by filmmaker Keirda Bahruth – a look at rocker and recovery advocate Bob Forrest, longtime frontman for punk outfit Thelonious Monster but perhaps best known to the general public as the shoot-from-the-hip counselor on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

The film is the story of Forrest’s transformation from dangerously addicted indie rock star to the respected beacon of recovery he is today.

I decided to put this film into my queue after talking to my friend Casey King, a physics professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College here in the Grand Strand area. King is also the organizer and founder of the college’s long-running Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series – which for 12 years has featured an impressive roster of celebrity speakers, most of whom have overcome the burden of addiction.

We’re talking about folks like Louis Gossett, Jr., Mackenzie Phillips, Danny Trejo, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and many more. This year, Forrest spoke on March 5, followed by Dr. Drew Pinsky on March 12.

For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to write about the series in The Sun News, a McClatchy paper here in Myrtle Beach. This year was no exception. CLICK HERE for the February 19 story. I was able to speak with Pinsky via telephone, and Forrest got back to me with some awesome email content – thanks to King.

King has said many times that he wants to change the face of recovery – and that change is happening as more and more professional people come forward in their recoveries and make their stories known.

“It no longer has quite the stigma that it had 15 years ago as I began my journey,” he said.

He has always been gracious enough to make sure I got seats for the recovery events I covered, but this year my gig schedule conflicted with the Thursday events – and I wasn’t able to see either man’s presentation at the college. Because I am moving toward six years of sobriety, these events are important to me – and King knows this.

I was happy when he told me about a talk Forrest was to give at the C3 Coffee Bar in Conway (right up the road from Myrtle Beach), presented by Lighthouse Behavioral Health Hospital. I’d be there with bells on.

When I arrived, I found King, and there was Forrest – unassuming and real. From what I gathered, the crowd was made up mostly by mental health professionals – and Forrest delivered a compelling talk, not only about his struggles with addiction, but also about the problem of how to reach today’s young people who are struggling with substance abuse, a decidedly entitled demographic.

What struck me was how ardently Forrest pursued the sex-drugs-rock ‘n’ roll thing. There was a good deal of cache attached to it, especially if you were a young rock musician in Hollywood. I daresay many of us went into that lifestyle with our eyes open. Forrest himself said in “Bob and the Monster” that it was his goal to eventually shoot heroin.

Today’s dynamic is not so straightforward but every bit as deadly.

My “inspiration” was a biography of Jim Morrison called No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman. I was a happy kid. I wonder what my life would have been now if I hadn’t decided to drink and do drugs.

After Forrest’s presentation at the coffee bar, he and many of us convened for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant called El Patio in Conway. It’s good to know that there are folks who give a damn about recovery in our neck of the woods. Methodologies and approaches may vary, but hope remains that folks can and do recover.

Forrest’s advice to those in the throes of addiction is this:

“First and foremost, don’t die. Especially nowadays, with fentanyl in almost everything and tens of thousands of people dying of overdoses every year, being safe and not dying is the absolute most important thing.”

He said he had overdosed and been revived a few times and was starting to think things were not going to end well for him.

“But of course that wasn’t true at all.  What I figured out is that as long as you don’t die, amazing things can happen.  It takes time, but life becomes this amazing adventure.  I was able to be there for my son, and I have two more small kids now. They’re my life, and they remind me what’s important.  It comes down to love – and to just being here with each other.  Life can be brutal and harsh, but it can also be such a beautiful, poetic experience.  And it doesn’t last long.  So we need to forget about all those BS trappings of ‘this car is going to make me happy’ or ‘this toy is going to make me happy.’ I think a lot of us who’ve come through recovery know that better than ‘normal’ people do. It’s relationships. It’s music. It’s nature. It’s experiences. It’s love.” 

Forrest now has his own recovery center, Alo House. It is his hope that anybody who needs help knows that they are there and that they really care. Reach out by clicking the link above.

Andre Pope – Photo: Scott Smallin

On Tuesday, the world lost a real gem – Andre Pope.

I met Pope with my brother on the same day we met veteran podcaster Dave Slusher, whom Chris had arranged to meet after listening to his podcast and discovering that he lived in Conway. I had agreed to tag along that day probably 12 years ago. We got together at Bummz Beach Café in Myrtle Beach.

I knew nothing about both of those guys, except for the fact that my brother always mentioned Slusher when he talked about podcasts. I was still relatively new to the Grand Strand, having moved here in 2005.

Andre must have been like 27 then, although I perceived him to be younger than that. He was cordial and kind – and as I would find out would be a through-line in our friendship, always willing to help.

He told me that he was then a partner in an outfit called 803 labs. We talked about blogging, podcasting and social media – and it wasn’t long before the subject of tech meetups came up – and how cool it would be to launch an event in Myrtle Beach.

I’ll be damned if those guys and others didn’t put together an event called CreateSouth, which took place for several years.  My brother and I provided the entertainment for two of these. Another friend, Paul Reynolds, helped me get set up with my first Blogspot blog.

Andre leaves behind a wonderful wife, Heidi, and two awesome kids – Memphis and Ryder.

I’d have to say that Pope was a renaissance man, and somebody else recently referred to him on Facebook as a doer. He was a major proponent for cycling in our area, an expert pit master, entrepreneur, designer and family man. He taught graphic design at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and was creative director at a graphic design/marketing/advertising firm called Design Cypher.

At Bummz circa 2007 – Seated: Andre Pope, Dave Slusher / Standing: Roger Yale, Chris Yale

Early on, he invited me to lunch at Magnolia’s at 26th, a southern-inspired buffet here in Myrtle Beach. The man genuinely loved meeting and getting to know people, which is why I wasn’t surprised that he was also involved with a coworking space called Cowork MYR. He was a consummate connector.

Andre was one of my go-to sources for stories, especially during my time writing for Weekly Surge, a McClatchy product and local alt-weekly under the umbrella of The Sun News – and this covered a variety of subjects from tech to social media to cycling and more. He was a busy guy, to be sure, but never once did he turn down an interview request. He provided credibility to whatever piece I was working on, was always patient and never failed to teach me something.

For a while, he would look slightly different every time we saw him – perhaps with low sideburns at one time or a totally different getup the next – so much so that my girlfriend always told him that she was never sure if it was him. That was a trip – and I wonder if anybody else noticed that over the years.

Pope at a meetup at Liberty Tap Room & Grill Circa 2008

He was also a part of a group that I call the “yeah, man” guys – meaning that this was his way of saying “you’re welcome.” I loved that.

When I last saw him, he was resting in a camper outside The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where a packed benefit was going on in his honor. My brother, his wife and my girlfriend and I only visited him for a few moments. I gave him a hug and a peck on the top of the head and told him I loved him.

I swear to God, the man said to let us know if there was anything he could do for us.

That was Pope for you.

My heart goes out to his sweet family. Andre leaves a void that can never be filled. I will miss his intellect, his humility and his “yeah, man.”

Alexakis HGTC1

With Casey King and Art Alexakis Photo: Gene Ho

On February 21, I went to see Everclear’s Art Alexakis tell his recovery story at the 12th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

When he was growing up, Alexakis went through more than a kid should ever have to go through – raped by neighborhood teenagers when he was a pre-teen, a father who abandoned him and his older brother’s fatal overdose when Alexakis was 12. Not long after this, his girlfriend committed suicide.

He started shooting up at 13 and suffered a near-fatal cocaine overdose when he was 22.

Alexakis got his shit together well before he enjoyed success with Everclear, which was a staple on alternative rock radio in the 1990s with such hits as “Santa Monica (Watch the World Die)” and “Everything to Everyone.”

Event organizer and HGTC physics professor Casey King did a terrific job yet again this year. The event was well-attended, and Alexakis fielded thoughtful questions from audience members after his talk. It was also good to see photographer Gene Ho there again this year – memorializing the moments of the event and snapping attendees with Alexakis afterwards.

Gene was also Donald Trump’s campaign photographer. He is currently on a tour to support his book, TRUMPography, which chronicles the campaign with behind-the-scenes stories and, of course, photos.

Alexakis shared much of his story in a piece I wrote for The Sun News, the McClatchy affiliate here in Myrtle Beach. You can find that story HERE.

The Addiction and Recovery Lecture series is a four-part weekly event every year. It usually includes speakers, student panels and other presentations focused on recovery – with one night handled by a group called FAVOR, or Faces and Voices of Recovery, which is headed up by Dr. Victor Archambeau.  See my previous blog post for a FAVOR event last year.

Last night marked the third such event I have covered about Casey King, et. al., for The Sun News. Last year, it was Mackenzie Phillips and the year before, Danny Trejo.

I’m well into in my fourth year of recovery. Alexakis has been clean and sober since 1989. When a man with so much recovery time speaks, it’s a good idea to listen.

My takeaways from his talk included the importance of being present and aware, no matter how hard that may be. That rung a bell for me, because I catch myself overthinking “what-if” scenarios or “time traveling” – thinking about the future, say, a deadline or an upcoming gig – or beating myself up over some event in the past.

Alexakis also talked about channeling addictive tendencies into creative pursuits. I am on board with that, but sometimes that channeling impacts my ability to be present.