of my young clients, Christopher Pettiet, age 24, died of a accidental
drug overdose last Wednesday, April 12.
I met Chris a good 10 years ago, when he was best friends with Tobey Maguire, to whom, in my bumbling fashion (and for sad lack of Tobey having a better offer) I was makeshift manager.
Chris was hip and cool and rich at that time ó and the most flashy and successful of a young trio of actor/friends centered by Tobey and bookended on the other side by Leonardo DiCaprio. He starred in "The Young Riders" TV series, and in several films and TV movies, including "Don't Tell Mom the Baby-sitter's Dead."
Chris was on the small side when he was a kid. He was tiny and all legs and big blue eyes, and would most commonly sit like a frog when he was talking to you. He loved to surf, sneak out of his bedroom window at night to run around with his friends, listen to obnoxious music so loud that it would literally make his car bounce up and down with the bass-beats. He grew up to be over 6 feet tall, every bit as hip and cool, and, when life got tough and acting jobs became fewer, just about impoverished -- living from one small residual check to the next.
I ended up working as his manager for the past four years, always desperately walking the fine line between giving Chris support, covering up his problems and occasional catastrophes, and forcing him to face facts and take responsibility for the numerous things he did, and did not do, which made life much harder for him. I'm proud to say that I cheated and schemed and lied on behalf of Chris to keep him in favor with his agents and casting directors, and keep his career moving forward regardless of all the personal problems which kept coming forth to clobber him -- some of his own making, some just cruel fate.
I'll take it as a compliment from Chris that, for all my pompous, self-important arm-chair quarter-backing on how he should live his life (as if this colorful, mess of a life which is my own qualified me to advise anyone on how to do anything!), he never fired me as his manager for more than five hours at a time.
Chris would never, ever, admit to me that he had a problem with drugs, but so damnable old and so painfully experienced and opinionated, I spent the past two years trying to convince him to go with mutual friends to AA meetings (he went to a couple), or find some other organization to help him get a better handle on his life.
It's bitterly ironic that Chris cared so much about my opinion on innumerable things, yet felt he could never admit to me that he had a drug problem (despite the fact I obviously knew). How sad and stupid that Chris would think it would lessen my opinion of him or make me see him as anything less than just simply Chris, who I cared about and wanted to help.
I've reached a point in my life where, in order to preserve what little sanity I have left, I believe my achievements are more worthy than my failures. And I truly believe I helped Chris through a lot of difficult years and situations, and truly do not believe the loss of Chris is my failure ó but isn't it strange how what you believe is not always in agreement with what you feel?
Now the armchair quarterback is back in his office, alone and pounding these damned typewriter keys, wishing I could have found a word or a gesture or a strategy that would have not only prevented this stupid outcome for Chris, but could have convinced Chris of all the terrific things he could have had, and could have been and, in fact, all the wonderful things Chris already was. Including flawed, which we, all of use, are.
I know that, just these few days later, Chris is already of The Past, which I can never, ever change. And I know that now, I can only take his unnecessarily fear-filled friendship, his earnest love (and his sometimes frog-like beauty), and reinvest it in some future Chrises.
Whose futures, with this secret, unspoken piece of Chris which I shall so tenderly and lovingly place within them, should turn out -- please God -- much finer and brighter for the troubles Chris had to go through.
Chris' mom, Helen, had asked that, in lieu of flowers, anyone who would like to remember Chris should please do so by making whatever small contribution they might care to, to the young people's acting studio where Chris got his start ó and always felt appreciated and welcomed, even as an adult. It would have made Chris happy to know that some other young, hopeful kids, could find the support and opportunity he found there.