Monday, August 26, 2013

The Hangover's Over

Former boxing champ Mike Tyson is no stranger to controversy. After being the youngest man ever to win major heavyweight titles at 20, "Iron Mike" followed up his victory by getting convicted and imprisoned for rape. Back then, it was hard to believe anyone would ever say his name in public again.

He followed that up by trying to resuscitate his boxing career, fighting Evander Holyfield twice in the 90s. The second time, you'll remember, he had a little ring-rage and took a bite out of Evander's ear. Which took a big bite out of his boxing career, too. He started stacking on the pounds and nobody would've been surprised if he ended up on a permanent TKO.

But then Hollywood came calling. Although he'd been in smaller productions previously, it was his portrayal as himself - an over-the-top, tiger-loving, face-tattoo-wearing former champ - in the smash comedy The Hangover that won him mass appeal. His honesty, his uniqueness, his willingness to spoof himself, was just what he needed to turn his image around. He's been in a total of 21 titles now, including a one-man Broadway show soon-to-be an HBO film directed by Spike Lee.

Through all of this, Tyson battled his addiction to drugs and alcohol, including a 2006 DUI and cocaine possession charge. But for the last three years, Tyson claimed he was sober.

However, he's now admitted he's been lying about that - and that he's a "vicious alcoholic" who's afraid he might die. He's been sober for about a week now and claims that's a "miracle" for him.

Here's hoping Mike finds the strength he needs to battle this particular opponent. Addiction can be a tough one ... but judging from his life story, you probably wouldn't want to bet against him. ;) Here's the full story from Fox Sports. And more about the new film, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.

And here's his confession two days ago about his ongoing battle against addiction ... Good luck Iron Mike!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Plot Thickens

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department has put a 'hold' on the investigation into Lisa Robin Kelly's death last week because the case is being labeled 'suspicious.'

Kelly was declared dead by the doctor at her Cali rehab clinic last Thursday at around 8am. However, the L.A. Coroner's Office didn't find out about the death until noon when they saw - get this! - a post about the story on  (Just trying to picture this, btw. Pathologists eating lunch while surfing TMZ with a dozen body bags in the background. "Hey, dude. Ya see this?" Only in L.A., right? ;)) 

The Coroner is also calling into question the initial cause of death. The on-call doc declared it an embolism at the time, but the M.E.'s office says that's impossible to determine without an autopsy. According to the clinic, Kelly was also on rehab drugs, but the toxicology report isn't in yet so that remains to be seen.

I was a mid-level fan of That 70s Show back in its hey-day - not uber, but I tuned in often enough. I quit before the show did, but all this talk of Kelly's death had me morbidly curious. So I PVR'd a few episodes Kelly was in. She was in about 50 eps next to Ashton Kutcher's 184 and Mila Kunis's 201. 

(These two, as you probably know, are now a real life couple. There are even new rumors of an engagement.  It's strange to watch them in scenes together all those years ago. It makes you wonder ... did the romance start then? Were they just friends? Did they have some 'deal' going on they'd hook up down the road? After Ashton surfed on Demi's juicy fame and age-difference tabloid shocker news for a few years? I know she's hot and super-fab, I know!! I L-O-V-E Demi - and Kutch and Mila btw - but c'mon! You've thought of it too! Anyway, the real-life plot of That 70s Show is way more intriguing than the TV series ever was.) 

So back to Ms. Kelly. I apologize for the tacky digression. The actress was absolutely lovable as the sexy, dumb blonde Laurie Forman. Her role ended in 2003 when she left the cast ('Laurie' supposedly went to beauty school). After that, she basically fell off the radar - except for DUI's and other legal run-ins. So I've been trying to piece together the events that led to her death at such a young age, when she clearly had so much going for her. 

Remember the opening credit  sequence with the cast rotating in the front and back seats of a car singing "We're All Alright!"? In the early days, Lisa was in those shots, singing away happily. Naturally, being in such a small percentage of shows, she wasn't in nearly all of them. Yet those scenes are indelible. And both Ashton and Mila went onto such huge success. Kutcher in the news and commercials all the time. Watching Mila's rise to Hollywood superstar. She even made #1 on FHM's 100 Sexiest Women In The World list back in May - the same month Kelly filed for a restraining order from her husband after domestic abuse problems (she was also charged with spousal abuse back in 2012). I just hope she wasn't watching a lot of TV Land repeats or reading too many tabloids. Could really put the zap on an actress's head. No wonder she drank. 

OBVIOUSLY I'm kidding. Partly, at least. As most experts will tell you, alcoholism is a disease and you don't need a 'reason' to develop it. But I'm a writer! I think about these things. Plus, I'm of the theory that not every case of alcohol abuse/addiction/dependence is a disease.  I've come too far with my own condition through cleansing to feel that I have some incurable disease. However - I also wouldn't take anyone to the mat for disagreeing with me. Because I know there's still much we have to learn about alcohol and the human condition. 

By the way, Ms. Kelly also suffered from a congenital heart defect - and more than likely, it helped contribute to her deteriorating health and early death. One thing is for sure, as more details arise, I'll be on the case. 

That's enough of my Perez/TMZ/National takeoff. I had no idea I had so much to say about the AshDemMil love triangle. But the L.A. County Coroner obviously surfs TMZ every now and again, too. Must be summer. ;) 

Friday, August 16, 2013

That 70s Showdown

More bad news out of Hollywood. Troubled actress Lisa Robin Kelly died Wednesday night at a rehab facility after checking herself in for alcohol addiction. Only 43 years old, she played the oldest Forman sister on That 70s Show. Lisa had been fighting alcoholism for years and had been arrested four times since 2010 - for DUI among other things.

Initial reports suggested the star may have been using drugs because needle marks were visible on her arm when paramedics arrived at the California rehab facility. However, her boyfriend reported that the marks were actually made by nurses trying to find a vein to extract blood when he took her to the hospital on Sunday. At the time, her BAC was .34 - potentially fatal.

Lisa was actually forced to leave That 70s Show in 2003 because of her alcohol abuse problems ... That was only ten years ago. And now she's gone?

More details will surface in the coming days, I'm sure - but here's a report from There's more info and some pretty heartbreaking photos, too. A physical time lapse of the toll the addiction was taking on her ... :( RIP, Lisa.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Big Blackout

Blackouts. I remember them well. Um ... that didn't make a lot of sense. But you know what I mean.

What I do remember is waking up the next morning after blacking out and being depressed, scared, guilty and full of self-loathing. Because I couldn't remember what happened during my blackouts, but they usually involved a lot of ugly, vicious fighting.

It was those horrible blackouts that caused me to start experimenting with my Cleanse System in July of 2003. Meaning, ten years ago I was still only a month into my first long (6-month) cleanse.

I was also waiting to go on my U.S. book tour for my first novel. Naturally - vanity thy name is first-time author - I wanted to look and feel my best so on August 14th, 2003, I had booked a little trip to the dentist to have him fill a chip in my top left incisor.

When I got to the dentist's office, I walked into the room and the dental assistant was waiting for me. I noticed right away she had a TERRIBLE cold. She was also pregnant, so she wasn't taking anything for it and was extremely symptomatic. Cough, cough, sneeze, blow. She's take off her latex gloves to mop things up, but she'd handle them as she did so, and then put them back on again. So those gloves were full of happy, healthy little rhinoviruses.

"I'm not going to catch your cold, am I?" I asked, finally. We were still waiting for the dentist to show up. "Because I've got a book tour to go on in four days."

"No, you'll be fine, I'm sure." Smile. Grin. Cough.

Yeah, right.

I was in the dentist chair still waiting for him to arrive, when all of a sudden, all the power in the room - and the rest of the building - went off. A peek out the window told us that the power had gone off in the rest of the city, too.

In fact, as we know now, on August 14th, 2003 - an anniversary that just passed yesterday - the power went out all over the eastern seaboard. The assistant and I traded horror stories about terrorist attacks - this was, after all, less than two years away from 9/11.

Anyway, the dentist eventually came in - and the emergency generator came on. He fixed the chip in my tooth with old Sniffle-head coughing and hacking away with her smeary, sloppy latex gloves all over my mouth.

Oh, please don't let me get a cold. Oh, please don't let me get a cold ... 

My procedure was just finishing up when I heard the reassuring tones of my husband's voice out in the waiting area. He had somehow managed to wedge open an emergency exit in my dentist's building and come up the stairs to rescue me. I had - naturally - worn new book tour shoes just to break them in. A hop on the subway would've been fine. A five-mile trek home because there were no subways? Or cabs. Or anything else? Not so good.

Out on the street, we still didn't know what was up. But we got in the car and made our way home. Past people directing traffic on their own. Past cops who were glad to receive water bottles from kids on the street. Past absolute traffic mayhem on an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon. The fifteen-minute drive took more than two hours.

When we got home, we waited for the power to come back on. We waited and waited. (We waited for almost three days!) And in that time, yes, I developed the worst cold I'd had in years. In fact, I woke up the very next morning coughing and sneezing.

One of my home remedies for dealing with colds was to drink a couple of big glasses of white wine, bundle myself up, scarf and all, and tuck into bed to sweat it out for a couple hours.  I even still do that, except when I'm on a cleanse. Of course, ten years ago, I was just one month into my first cleanse so I couldn't drink wine and bundle myself up. Nor could I drink wine on the street with everyone else ...

That's what I remember being one of the hardest challenges of that blackout - and of the whole first cleanse, actually - walking down the street late at night, as the people in all the other buildings sat on their stoops by candlelight, stringing guitars, singing folk songs, laughing, talking - and drinking a lot of booze. Man, it was a great excuse to party.

And, God, I wanted to party, too. :(

I remember we went to the little ice cream shop down the street and the owners were handing out free ice cream to whoever wanted it - because it wasn't going to last without the power. We got a big dish of strawberry and took a table in the restaurant on the corner where other people were eating whatever they could scavenge at the outdoor tables. I remember sitting there sharing that dish of ice cream. It was so quiet and dark - no traffic or streetlights - just the hum of voices and laughter, the only light coming from flickering candles and the headlights of the odd car slowly driving by.

That ice cream was yummy. But man, I still could've used a drink. I really felt I 'missed' a lot of the drama of that event because I couldn't get drunk. But ... at least I didn't have a hangover during the worst blackout in recent history. Hangovers without hot showers and hot greasy food suck. ;)

Anyway, I went on my book tour a day late because of the cold - and I was still quite sick. Oh - did I happen to mention all this was happening while the SARS epidemic was going on? Toronto was very hard hit during that horrific time. The World Health Organization had even put us on a travel advisory, warning people to stay away.

I remember boarding the plane for the first stop on the tour - in Minneapolis - and seeing all the signs warning that people who were coughing or had fevers would not be allowed to travel. Nobody flagged me on those flights, but more than a few people I met on the tour were a little ... ahem ... concerned about my cold symptoms. Because they knew I was from Toronto and back then, everyone knew about SARS. I kept having to reassure people: "Ith's nod THARS, I promith. Idth jusd a code!"

Everyone was really nice to me, anyway. :) I met some amazing people.

By the way, the big Blackout of 2003 wasn't the only time I could've used a drink on that first long cleanse. I wanted one - at least one! - quite a few times on that book tour, too. But it was cranberry and soda for me. In fact, there would be no drinking for me for another five whole months ...

In the years since that big blackout, they've upgraded the grid in the northeast in the hopes of preventing another disaster. I sort of look at cleansing the same way. It upgraded my grid. Because honestly, life is much better without blackouts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brains on Booze

You know what really surprised me about the trip to NYC?

Getting back - and not feeling depressed.

I was expecting to feel down because it was my first non-drinking day in almost a week and reality was beckoning. In all the ways reality has a tendency to do after a vacation. But as much as I know cleansing works, I was still surprised that I didn't feel blue or anxious that day. In fact, I was in a great mood - all day and night. Even without a drink.

I know people who've never dealt with a problem might think this is setting the bar a bit low. "Big deal, you're  not depressed when you're not drinking. Cry me a river." But it means a lot to me. Because sobriety used to equal depression. So I LOVE feeling good when I'm sober. I'm convinced that's what regular cleanses allow me to do.

By the way, there's more evidence to support the idea that problem drinkers are probably hardwired to be that way - at least according to the newest study out of McGill University.

Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Marco Leyton, who led the study, discovered that certain people have a measurably greater dopamine response to alcohol than others - and this response could be one of the factors that contributes to addiction problems. (btw, dopamine - as we know - is central to our feelings of reward and well-being. It initially evolved to promote vital activities like the search for food and sex, but it's also become the center of much new addiction research. Including mine.)

To conduct the experiment, Dr. Leyton and his labbies studied a group of 26 individuals of varying risk for alcoholism (aged 18-30). They questioned the subjects about their drinking habits and conducted several specific personality tests. Then they gave each of the subjects either juice or alcohol. In the latter case, three drinks in 15 minutes. Whoa! I'm not even sure I could handle that. And I'm practically a professional.

Anyway, afterwards, all the subjects were given PET scans which measured dopamine response in their brains. Not surprisingly, individuals who were already considered high-risk drinkers had a greater dopamine response to alcohol than others. These individuals also indicated lower "intoxication markers" - meaning, they felt less drunk than their low-risk counterparts. So with both of these factors at play - a bigger buzz from drinking and the ability to drink more - naturally, these people could be more prone to developing a problem.

By contrast, some of the subjects who didn't have a significant dopamine response were actually more susceptible to the sedative effects of alcohol. So rather than feeling a rush of joy/bliss/euphoria ;) when they drank, they just started to feel (yawn) kinda sleepy.

I bet we all remember people like that, right? I do, anyway. Friends who just couldn't drink as much as I did or who got stupid drunk too fast or who were snoring by 11p. I thought they were just wusses - turns out they just had different brains. Hey! I didn't think they were wusses. Pussies, maybe, but ... I'M TOTALLY KIDDING!! But I definitely knew there were people out there who just didn't "get" alcohol the way I did. And science is beginning to explain why. Thanks, science!

Although the results are preliminary, Dr. Leyton thinks discovering this link between dopamine response and alcohol consumption could be a step toward identifying, preventing and treating addiction problems. He also thinks it could help the friends and families of alcoholics understand how they got that way. The results of the study will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research in January. For more info, here's the full article from Medical News Today.

Hmmmm ... I wonder if Dr. Leyton needs any more volunteers over there at McGill? I could definitely see myself partying in the name of science. Yeah, right. That's just what I need. Another reason to drink. Forget it! I'll stick to writing about it instead.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Big Grape

Yesterday was my first cleanse day in almost a week! We decided to skip off to New York for a bit of a break and as per the rules, no cleanse days when you're on vacation! You're probably thinking New York in August? H-O-T!! B-U-S-Y!! C-R-A-Z-Y!!

But the weather was unbelievably perfect the whole time - warm, but not sweltering, blue skies and no humidity! (Yeah, Ms. Meteorologist at your service here.) Plus we stayed at the Essex House overlooking Central Park and somehow, the Park eased all the stress of August in the city. (btw, the hotel looks a little dated from the outside, but it was just lovely!

We had an incredible suite on the 32nd floor with a view of the Park that was ... well ... life-changing. To watch the sun come up over the Upper East Side every morning? To see the place, so ominous and huge and black at night? Wow. It was just amazing.

Being on the Park is actually quieter than most places in Manhattan - even with the horse-drawn carriages and the bagpipe player who insisted on entertaining us every morning. The trees, the ponds, the sheer breadth of the place, somehow absorbs the harried pace of the city, not to mention the sound of traffic and sirens. I've never stayed Uptown before - but it's quite a treat. Especially if you can spend a lot of time in the Park. Usually, New York vacations are anything but relaxing - exciting, exhausting, fun, sure - but relaxing? Not really. Yet the natural beauty of the Park made every hour you spent there feel like a whole week at summer camp.

Believe it or not, the Park was originally established not just for wealthy Manhattanites to have a pretty place to show off their parasols, but to offer "working-class New Yorkers a healthy alternative to the saloon."  Ha! Talk about a civic experiment that worked out!

Having said that, you can actually get a drink in the Park and (naturally) a few of my personal highlights included doing just that. I was super-excited about the trip because the last time I was in New York, I was on a 28-day cleanse. To be honest, even the Big Apple is more interesting with fermented grapes.

The first morning, we headed out fairly early, wandering the Upper West Side and going into the Park (I'm doing some research for my novel there.) We had already been out a couple of hours when the clock was just striking noon. "Whaddaya wanna do now?" the hubs asked.  "I know!" I said. "Let's go to the Boat Pond for a drink!" Because last time we were in NYC, we were there but had to drink iced tea and lemonade!! Wah-wah!!
The Boat Pond (or Conservatory Water) was modeled after similar ones in Parisian parks and there were quite a few kids - and even more grownups! - twirling the remote control sailboats around the water. We sat at the green iron tables in the sun-dappled shade of Knish Nosh, the conservatory water snack bar, and I had a lovely - if teensy and plastic - glass of pinot grigio and soaked up the sights.

Another memorable park tipple was at the Boat House which boasts being the only Manhattan resto on a lake. This was my second glass of wine for the day in the Park. We were actually headed back to the hotel, but when we saw the place, it was just so elegant and picturesque, we had to stop for a drink. Plus it was pretty entertaining to watch the tourists flail about the lake on rented rowboats - banging into each other like so many bumper cars. Everyone everywhere was in such a good mood! Well, almost everyone.

It's always fun to people watch - especially on vacay - and there was a particularly interesting couple at the Boat House that day. I noticed her right away. Her bleached blonde hair, her pouty lips, her gorgeous sunglasses, her this-season Prada saffiano bag, her schmancy black suit - and diamonds, diamonds, diamonds! We're talking French Revolution-level diamond-wearing, mid-afternoon in Central Park! Judging from her perfect, lineless skin - and that natural pout - she was possibly twenty-two.

Her husband, on the other hand was sixty. Probably closer to sixty-five. White-haired, pot-bellied and casually well dressed (read blue suede Tod's moccasins). Despite his lovely date and the snazzy shoes, he was slouched forward as if he was feeling badly about something. She pounded back two glasses of white wine for every glass of red he had - and they did not say a WORD to each other the whole time we were there. I have no idea what the spat was about - possibly he wouldn't buy her that pair of $5000 Louboutins or something. Or maybe they just never talk at all. Because she was still ignoring him when we saw them again later that night! 

What are the odds you're going to see the same couple six hours apart in Manhattan? I mean, even if you are all staying Uptown. The hubs and I were heading out for a swishy Italian dinner at Sirio at The Pierre.  Here's a shot of the bar there. I just love bars! Go figure. All the bottles, the lights, the labels.

Anyway, on our way there, we walked up 5th Avenue, chatting about the day, excited about the night, when who do I spot? Well - first I noticed the platinum blonde hair (you haven't seen that shade since the 50s) - and then, holy crap!! A diamond choker that flashed like strobe lights around her neck. We're talking red carpet diamonds here. The hair was up, the LBD was short and the heels were sky high. She and sugar-daddy walked side-by-side, not holding hands - and still not talking. Her arms were crossed, her little eyebrows were furrowed (she was pre-Botox age) and the pout was even worse than in the Park! She seemed to be seething about something - I have no idea what. I started to think ... Were they possibly father and daughter on some kind of getaway? Who knows? I just wanted to stop them and say: "What is your story, man!? It's freaking me out!"

Here's some footage of our view from the Boat House patio. You can see the couple I'm talking about sitting next to the pond, the man's back to us. Btw, this is the only time I remember her even looking at him - let alone anything else.  I apologize for the shaky framing and whatnot - had I thought I was going to post it, I would've tried to be a little more Kubrickian. ;) Next time!