Whitney's Death Should be a Lesson

Michael Reagan

2/23/2012 12:01:00 AM - Michael Reagan

Another tremendously talented American who had riches and fame beyond most people's dreams has killed herself with drugs. Whitney Houston's life was wrecked and cut tragically short at 48 because she became mired in the self-destructive hell of drug use.

In the late 1970s my birth brother was living in L.A. and working as a writer on "Laverne & Shirley," the number one-rated TV show in the country. It was pretty heady stuff for a 21-year-old kid from Ohio.

I remember him telling me how cocaine and other drugs were becoming increasingly popular with the creative crowd in Hollywood at the time.

He had more money than God and he found himself facing a tough choice: Put his money up his nose like everyone else or leave town.

He chose to leave. Many other young people we know never made the right choice with drugs and their lives ended like Houston's.

Sunday night at the Academy Awards, Hollywood will be handing out Oscars to its brightest stars. At some point, tears will be shed for Whitney Houston.

She will be remembered, as she should be, for her great singing. But you can bet your favorite movie star's Malibu beach house that the drug lifestyle that sent Houston to an early grave will be conveniently forgotten.

Instead of pretending its chronic drug problem doesn't exist, or acting like choosing drugs is simply another lifestyle choice, Hollywood needs to take a strong stand against drug use. Illegal and legal.

The Academy Awards this weekend would be a good place to start doing the right thing. As an industry, Hollywood needs to start saying "No" to drugs.

Baseball is saying "No." Pro football is saying "No." Cycling, for Pete's sake, is saying "No." In the '80s my stepmother Nancy was saying "No." In the '70s my 21-year-old birth brother had the sense to say "No."

Isn't it time for Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry to clean itself up? Dr. Drew does what he can, but he can save only one celebrity drug addict at a time.

Hollywood needs to do more than cry at funerals. It could do so much more in the fight against drugs if its grownups had the guts to use Hollywood's enormous cultural influence for good (for a change).

Where are the Public Service Announcements, Mr. Spielberg or Ms. Jolie? Why aren't Hollywood's best and brightest cranking out anti-drug PSAs?

Why do we only hear people like Tony Bennett calling for the legalization of drugs? The answer is not to legalize drugs, it's to get people to stop using them.

Come on, Hollywood, come together. For all of us, help "Stop the Madness" now. Speak as an industry with one voice: "No more drugs."

I grew up in Hollywood as the son of an Academy Award-winning actress. My mother Jane Wyman lived to be 90, dammit.

I want all the young talent to have the same opportunity my mother and so many others have had. I'm tired of watching our Michael Jacksons, Heath Ledgers and Whitney Houstons die young because of drugs. The list goes on: Elvis, Chris Farley, John Belushi, and so many more.

As a country we must stop glossing over the tragedy of drug abuse. We should learn a lesson and work on the solution..