CHARACTER LEAKAGE: For all his smoothness, there is a touch of the rural exorcist about Dr. Drew.
Finally. Into the great secular church of recovery, within whose precincts one finds dramas of redemption and perdition as vivid as in any mediæval fresco, they have penetrated at last: the crooked and backwards-scuttling camera crews of reality TV. Who knows why they waited so long? Recovery is made for them. Everyone’s in pain; everyone is chained to his or her own developmental “arc,” either upward or downward; and you can barely move without treading in some of that “character leakage” so prized by reality-TV producers. And there are some wonderfully famous and exhibitionistic addicts out there. The cast list for Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (VH1, Thursdays at 10 pm) reads like a bad stand-up routine or a sci-fi movie about the colonization of a distant planet. A porn star, an Ultimate Fighter, Brigitte Nielsen, a contestant from American Idol, one of the Baldwins . . . And Dr. Drew Pinsky himself, of course, sleekly acerbic co-host of radio’s Loveline, wielding his diagnostic jargon like a switchblade.
The show began, six weeks ago, exactly where A&E’s Intervention always ended: at the gates of the rehab facility. And what a picture they made, the stars, rolling up for treatment on the coattails of their goodbye binges. Jeff Conaway, ex of Grease and Taxi, leered insensibly out of an open car door, chin on chest and a champagne glass hanging from loose fingers. Mary Carey, porn queen and former candidate for governor of California, pinballed around the hallways asking random males whether they wanted to fuck her. Daniel Baldwin, second-most-senior member of the hellraising Baldwin fraternity, arrived sober but reeking of BS. “How are you?” asked Dr. Drew. “Blessed by the Lord, thank you!” rejoined Daniel, much too eagerly. Later that evening, when Jeff had been further sedated and Mary relieved of her porn DVDs and her writhing basket of dildos, Daniel confided that his presence in the Pasadena treatment facility, in the ninth month of his sobriety, was part of a privately ordained ministry in which he planned to use his celebrity status to combat the nationwide scourge of addiction. “Mmm-hmm,” said Dr. Drew.
“Your addiction wants you to do this. . . . Your addiction wants you to do that. . . . ” For all his smoothness, his lavender ties and powder-blue shirts, there is a touch of the rural exorcist about Dr. Drew. “That monkey’s on your shoulder,” he tells Seth “Shifty” Binzer of the band Crazytown. “I can see it. I can just see it sitting there.” With Mary Carey he pursues a therapeutic strategy that seems dangerously schizogenic, encouraging her to separate “Mary Ellen,” the ballet-loving little girl she once was, from “Mary,” the Babylonian floorshow she now is. And it works! Mary takes a ballet class and weepingly rediscovers her physical poise, the effect of her arabesque penchée only slightly vitiated by her enormous boob job.
Other patients are less tractable. Chyna the female wrestler will not cop to having used steroids — ever! — despite having suggestive episodes of mania in her past and shoulders like Captain America. Might she be bipolar, Dr. Drew wonders. What are her earliest memories of family life? “Lots of alone time in the basement,” says Chyna. Daniel Baldwin, meanwhile, is speedily undone. He checks himself out of the facility after a couple of weeks, in gusts of self-justification (“The environment here is not conducive to my sobriety!”), shortly before it’s discovered that he’s been sending dirty text messages to Mary Carey. Now that’s some dandy character leakage, kids. That’s eau de realité. Or as we used to call it back in the Old West: human nature.