As I am certain every one of you knows, the extraordinarily talented actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died recently of a heroin overdose in New York City. In what is a very heart-wrenching aspect of the story, he had been clean and sober for over 20 years before relapsing onto prescription painkillers and booze a few months back (people say.) He had been going to 12-Step meetings even close to the time of his death, and he’s leaving three young children behind. A total bummer.
What’s weird is that the police decided to go on a manhunt for the specific people who sold the drugs he OD’ed on, and then arrest those people in particular. Why? People must die of heroin overdoses in NYC all the time, right? More than one a day, surely. Does it matter especially much if a famous person OD’s on your drugs? As opposed to, say, a struggling single mother, or a homeless person? They first tested his body to see if the heroin had been laced with fentanyl, a pharmaceutical heroin analog, which has caused deaths in nearby Pennsylvania. It hadn’t. He had just gotten good old regular drugs, from his dealer, who did him a solid there. The internet briefly hyperventilated about how there were 50 bags of heroin found in his apartment. This also seemed stupid. He’s rich and famous—he’s supposed to walk out in the freezing cold to Avenue C every single day? The man can’t stock up? Isn’t there a polar vortex or something?
This is like a person drinking themselves into a fatal alcoholic coma and the cops say: “there was a full bar at his house, with 2 unopened bottles of gin, and one of vodka in the freezer he had forgotten about, and some Kahlua that was 20 years old, because, seriously, Kahlua? AND 4 cases of beer!” People who die of drug overdoses other than this type usually die because they are also drinking. Like, say, they OD on valium and xanax and muscle relaxers—except oops they also drank a bottle of vodka! Tragic prescription drug overdose! Even in the case of heroin overdoses people often make dumb miscalculations because they are wasted drunk. But America doesn’t have a drinking problem so whatever.
The actor’s apparent overdose set off a special manhunt for the source of the narcotics due to his celebrity status. “An internal email went out to all supervisors [!? what, even?—ed] asking if anyone has had any experience with those brand names of drugs,” a police source told the New York Post. The dozens of baggies of heroin found in Hoffman’s West Village apartment were marked “Ace of Hearts” and “Ace of Spades,” although the drugs found in the Mott Street apartment were reportedly not stamped with the same names. The investigation is continuing, the Times reports.
“Spades” or not, Robert Vineberg, 57, and Thomas Kushman, 48, were charged with felony drug possession, while Max Rosenblum and Juliana Luchkiw, both 22, were charged with misdemeanor drug possession.
The high-profile death has put a spotlight on the existence of branded bags, “a fevered underground marketing effort in a city that is awash in cheap heroin.” Just last week, a Bronx bust included a creative collection of stamps including “Lady Gaga” and “Government Shutdown.” (Historically, brands also include “Grim Reaper; a skull and crossbones; D.O.A.,” according to the Times.) Heroin seizures are up 67 percent in New York over the last four years.
John was wondering whether these unfortunates could use, in their defense at trial, that ain’t nobody never would have bothered with them at all if their famous friend hadn’t screwed them over by accidentally on purpose dying like that. Because, seriously, what? Now, I favor decriminalization of all drugs, so I’m unusual, and recognize that heroin dealers are not the most popular people in the world. But look, someone’s got to sell heroin otherwise no one will get any heroin. Really. Somebody would have sold Mr. Hoffman those drugs. If they weren’t laced with anything then he maybe killed himself (it’s a sort of suicidal hobby anyway) or he maybe got a batch from one source that was much purer than that from another source, or maybe he just f#$ked up really bad and got greedy when he was heating up that spoon. But why these patsies? Was there going to be a national outcry?
Also, the “feverish underground market” thing is ridonk, NYC has always had this. I have to admit “Government Shutdown” is really winning my heart right now, though. New York Magazine interviews a heroin blogger here if you want to read about this weirdly fascinating branding. There was a famous bust of a dealer when I lived in NYC in the 90s who had gotten his glassine envelope stamp, “Poison” in a Coca-Cola font, done in blue on the bottom of his pool in the Dominican republic. That was how the DEA caught him. There was a photo in the Village Voice, it was hilarious. Named after the nauseating perfume, I think, in an ouroboros of death-wish imagery that was liable to make you puke your guts up. He was an up-and-comer because so many people were dying using Poison that it was a form of advertising! Lines around the block for his unusually pure goods, apparently. That guy I can see going after. The schmucks of Hearts up there on Mott St who weren’t even holding the right brand? I would be willing to bet a lot of money that they were just using buddies who copped for him because he was rich and paid for their dope. What did they ever do but sell the bullets someone put in a revolver and spun to play Russian roulette time after time after time? And then take the revolver out of his hand and put it to their own temples and spin the cylinder and dry-fire? And then hand somebody else the revolver and another .45 calibre bullet? And then…? (and here I must say there are many more than 6 chambers in this venomous pistol.)
Obligatory, but I’m really getting a ‘using the product vibe’ off these people that disqualifies them from being Superfly. Nonetheless, you got to get mellow y’all.