Friday, December 18, 2020

Chris Farley and his Demons


On December 18, 1997, one of the most famous and beloved comedians Chris Farley was found dead inside his rented 60th-floor high-rise apartment on Chicago’s Miracle Mile. He was only 33 years old, like his hero John Belushi.

In the days before his death, it is said that he would have put Nero to shame, binge eating, binge drinking, binge everything. He was seen drinking at a bar called the Crobar and at a bar called Karma, at the Cheesecake Factory, at the Berghoff Cafe and at the Hunt Club with his brother John, where he did a Wolfman Jack impression and let strippers drape themselves over his body.

On Monday, December 15, he engaged in a post Second City reunion pub crawl.
On  Tuesday, December 16, he reportedly paid an exotic dancer named Autumn $300 to come to his pad and give him a lap dance. He rolled a joint. He drank vodka and OJ. The girl danced. He seemed disoriented and unstable. 

In the early morning hours of December 17 he hit a large upscale bar with his brother and assistant and left with two prostitutes. He hit another party in Lincoln Park at 6:00 AM that same morning, where he made the acquaintance of a stripper named Heidi. According to Heidi, he spent hours ingesting massive quantities of coke, heroin and booze before they went back to his apartment where more drugs were consumed. Chris was so far gone by this point he couldn't even get up. Heidi got up to leave and asked to be paid, but Chris tried to keep her there saying that a friend hired her. As he lay on the floor hardly able to breathe, Heidi walked away, not before snapping a photo of him. This was at 3:00 AM on December 18.
John Farley found him at 2:00 PM that same afternoon sprawled in the apartment entryway, clad only in his pajama bottoms, just as Heidi left him. He had not slept in four days. When he was officially pronounced dead, a friend placed rosary beads in his hand. His funeral was on December 23rd at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.

When asked about his heroin and cocaine use, Chris Farley once said: “I worry about talking about this, because I worry about kids who might think, ‘Whoa, man, that’s cool!’ Because in some ways, that’s what I did with my hero, Belushi. I thought that this is what you have to do to be cool. But all that shit does is kill someone. It is a demon that must be snuffed out. It is the end.”

And for Farley, it was his end. But there was more to the man.

Chris Farley was a lifelong devout Catholic who regularly attended Mass. His churchgoing continued during his SNL days, and while living in New York City, he’d visit nursing homes and volunteer at soup kitchens. He believed that any homeless man had the possibility to be Jesus so it was best to help everyone. But few knew of his volunteerism during his lifetime, including his brothers.

Life as a celebrity in New York and Hollywood affected him in many negative ways. He had been to drug treatment seventeen times before his death. On the Sunday before his death, he attended evening Mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church and prayed just like he used to do during his Second City days, where he began his comedy career. Then he went to an AA meeting. But nothing seemed to be working.

According to his friend and fellow classmate at Marquette University, Catholic priest Fr. Matt Foley: "Most of us, we’re much more complex than people portray us to be. There’s the public persona and then there’s the person you know as a family member and a friend. Chris was that character people think he was, but he was not that character all the time. He also had a reflective side, a spiritual side and a very caring side."

When Fr. Foley was in the seminary, Farley would come out to visit him, and they’d play basketball or talk about faith. “He was very religious,” Fr. Foley said of Farley, who attended daily Mass while at Marquette.

“He was very much aware of his struggle, but I think he was a good Catholic in practice because he recognized God’s saving grace,” Fr. Foley said.

Of these struggles Farley once spoke shortly before he died: "I have a tendency toward the pleasures of the flesh. It’s a battle for me, as far as weight and things like that. But I’m curbing them because I want to continue to do comedy, and the two don’t mix. So I try to fight those demons. I used to think that you could get to a level of success where the laws of the universe didn't apply. But they do. It's still life on life's terms, not on movie-star terms. I still have to work at relationships. I still have to work on my weight and some of my other demons. Once I thought that if I just had enough in the bank, if I had enough fame, that it would be all right. But I'm a human being like everyone else. I'm not exempt."