the sad clown

  Working under Close, Chris learned that the best way to connect with his audience was to get to their souls. Rather than going for the easy joke, Chris was told to react with total honesty. Close believed that, in seeing someone else face their fears and weaknesses, the audience would identify with that character and the humor would be more personal and complete.
  Chris was also forbidden to invent characters who were just stereotypes. Close wanted characters with quirks that made them different. He said he would rather see a comedian work through an idea to its logical conclusion, no matter how awkard, than stick with what was safe.
-- 19

  Chris was always funny on Saturday night, but he was funny around SNL's offices during the week too. For a while he went around with one eyebrow taped up high on his forehead so he'd look like John Belushi's mad pirate character. And just to make his friends laugh, he would purpose fall down hard, often hurting himself.
  Everyone around NBC apparently loved Chris. "But he never did get away from that show-off thing," said coproducer Mike Shoemaker. "He was a gentle, sweet soul, who connected with people, but he had trouble talking to girls."
  When Chris wasn't on stage, he might be found in church or working at a soup kitchen, a side of his personality that he kept very quiet. His small apartment in Lower Manhattan was filled with pictures of his family and paintings of sad-faced clowns.
-- 27

  On at least two occasions Lorne Michaels had to inform Chris, "You have to leave the show and go into rehab." In 1992 Tom Arnold staged an intervention for his friend that some said kept Chris sober for three years.
  Others aren't so sure Farley ever stopped abusing his body after he really got started. On one occasion when Chris was supposedly "on the wagon," Spade went to use Chris's phone and found beer cans everywhere and "weed laid out." Chris insisted the cans and the marijuana belonged to someone else. When Spade didn't buy it, Chris started crying and admitted, "I have a problem."
  Then there was "The Fatty Arbuckle Incident," which the cast of Saturday Night Live teased Chris about for years afterward. But the allegations were anything but funny. Supposedly Chris started "coming on to" a female extra and wouldn't leave her alone when she complained. This incident got its name because, back in the 1920s, a famous overweight comedian named Fatty Arbuckle had ruined his career when he attended a wild party where a girl died.
  Chris was also getting tried of always being "the fat guy who fell down." He wanted to move on, but it seemed the public wouldn't let him. Would he ever break free to show what he could really do?
-- 29

  Chris's older brother Tom was frustrated with Hollywood's attitude toward drugs and excessive partying. He told Rolling Stone, "Every time I read something in the paper, it's like . . . 'It's good for his career, so he's got to lose some weight.' . . . When is someone going to be concerned about his well-being? . . . I'd rather have a live bum than a dead ex-star."
  Chris insisted he wanted to be a good Catholic but that he was powerless over his personal demons. He said he wanted to settle down with a nice girl and have children. It worried him that this might never happen.
  Month after month Chris fought his cravings for food, alcohol, drugs, and sex. Some said he was going the final mile in his obsessive quest to relive Belushi's life. They pointed out that Belushi had died of a drug overdose at 33, and Chris was fast approaching that age. Others believed that Chris was actually afraid to lose weight. They thought that maybe he was thinking people only watched him because they like to see "the fat boy fall down."
  But a fan who met Chris on the beach while the comic was filming Black Sheep probably put his finger on the real problem. Seeking to pay Chris the ultimate compliment, the fan said, "If you like how he acts you will like him even more in person, he is absolutely the same." In other words, Chris was always "on." He was caught in a terrible trap that was partly of his own making. He'd been playing the outrageous party-guy moron for so long he couldn't stop. On-screen or off, he felt he had to be the person his fans expected.
  "No one can be 'on' 100% of the time," Del Close warned him. "Human beings aren't 1,000 watt fuses; we're 15 watt fuses, and we blow."
  Chris was almost ready to blow when he finished his last starring role in a movie. During the filming of Almost Heroes in the fall of 1996, Chris was forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily. When he did a voice-over for Dream Works, a real-life, full-time baby-sitter was assigned to him, the role David Spade had played on-screen.
-- 40


The stage was set for disaster. At an SNL cast reunion in Aspen in March 1997, Chris was heavier than ever and sweating buckets. His friends were very worried about what might happen to him.
  In August he got kicked out of a Malibu rehab clinic for disruptive behaviour. "He was obsessed with Belushi," said his drug counselor. "Chris thought he needed to be loaded to excess in order to be accepted."
  The following month Us magazine ran an article entitled "Chris Farley: On the Edge of Disaster." Writer Erik Hedegaard wondered if Chris would live long enough to fulfill his dream of playing Fatty Arbuckle. It would have been his first chance at a serious role.
  On October 25, 1997, in a Saturday Night Live tradition, Chris was slated to return as guest host. He arrived direct from a rehab center, and although he was supposed to have a chaperone, he was alone and already bombed. The entire week was one big party, according to one source.
  Lorne Michaels and the staff of SNL agonized over whether to let Chris do the show. Michaels was later criticized for his decision, but it was a tough call. Michaels explained, "I think it was tremendously important to Chris that he host the show. There was no question that he was in trouble, but the thing that made Chris Farley beautiful was that he was funny, and how do you deny that to someone who is a performer?"
  The show's first sketch was too close to the truth for comfort. Tim Meadows is trying to convince Michaels that Chris is fit to be guest host. Michaels asks Meadows how he can be sure that Chris won't screw up, and suddenly Chris bursts into the room. "Because I won't!" he shouts. Then he brings out his "sponsor" from AA in the form of Chevy Chase, known for his own substance abuse problems. Meadows concludes, "Fatty falls down, ratings go up."
  Other sketches had Farley playing a shy Catholic schoolboy, his Matt Foley character, and Hank Williams Jr., who is recording a Monday Night Football song. As usual, Chris put everything he had into his work. At times it appeared he could barely breathe, and there were rumors that oxygen tanks awaited in the wings just in case he needed them.
  The reviews were mixed, but one said, "An instant classic. . . . It was the funniest [SNL] show in a long time. . . . Farley's overall presence gives the show [an] . . . A + ."
  After that Chris went back to rehab for a few weeks and then home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. He told his friend Jillian Seely, a reformed alcoholic, that the SNL gig had been a nightmare for him. He began drinking more heavily than ever. Jillian tried hard, but she couldn't help Chris. "I know he wanted to get sober," she told Rolling Stone. "But it was like he had cancer and the chemo treatment didn't work any more."
  In December Chris was back at Hazelden, a rehab center in Minnesota he'd visited so often a friend claimed they should name a wing after him. He spent just one night there, returning to Chicago on December 11. Over the next few days, he went to Mass, baked Christmas cookies, bought a pretrimmed Christmas tree, and talked with Jillian about Almost Heroes and the potential Fatty Arbuckle movie. He even went to an AA meeting.
  But a few days later Chris began a final binge of epic proportions. He partied into the night at a club called Karma, where he joked about having a heart attack and passed out $50 tips. Then he went back to his condo to freebase cocaine.
  The next day, Monday, he showed up at a party at Second City, where he seemed normal enough. Later that night, however, Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls star with his own problems, met Chris at a nightclub and had one of his bodyguards take the comic home.
  On Tuesday Chris hired an exotic dancer to entertain him at his condo while he drank vodka and consumed cocaine and heroin. He was passed out on the floor when the dancer left at 3:00 A.M. on Thursday.
  It was on Thursday afternoon around 2:00 P.M. (December 18) that his brother John discovered Chris's lifeless body. Chris was lying on his back in his pajamas with a bloody liquid coming from his nose and white froth coming from his mouth. The fluid and froth immediately made the experts suspect the death was drug related, although Chris had been known to have high blood pressure. Some wondered if he'd finally had the heart attack he had pretended to have so many times before.
  On Friday, Cook County's medical examiner announced that death was due to "opiate and cocaine intoxification" with "severe narrowing of the coronary arteries as a significant contributing condition." The opiate was heroin breaking down to morphine in the body. The doctors explained that the drug levels in Chris's body weren't outrageously high, but his veins were so clogged he should have had a heart bypass. "When you have a heart like he did," said one doctor, "it doesn't take a lot to push you over."
  Memorial services for Chris were held in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, but the funeral itself was in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. At Queen of Peace Catholic Church, his family and friends--including Michael Price, Pat Finn, and his old Boy Scout leader--heard Father Foley (the real Matt Foley) give a magnificent eulogy. Security guards were there, too, protecting celebrities like Chris Rock, Dan Aykroyd, Adam Sandler, Tom Arnold, and Lorne Michaels from reporters and the curious.
  David Spade was not there. When asked about that, Spade explained that he'd been devastated by the death of a close friend when he was 21, and he just couldn't stand to see Chris "in a box."
  The following prayer was one that Chris carried in his wallet for years. It appeared on the back of a program handed out at his funeral:

      As I stumble through this life,
      help me to create more laughter than tears,
      dispense more happiness than gloom
      spread more cheer than despair.

      Never let me become so indifferent
      that I fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child,
      or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

      Never let me forget that my total effort is to
      cheer people, make them happy, and to forget, at
      least momentarily, all the unhappiness in their lives.

      And in my final moment,
      may I hear You whisper,
      "When you made my people smile,
      You made me smile."

  Chris's last movie, Almost Heroes, was released in 1998, after his death. Most of his family went to a private screening at Planet Hollywood in Los Angeles, but for the people who loved him, there were more tears than laughs.
  His parents vowed to use Chris's death to warn others that drugs can be fatal. They gave permission to Rebos House (a group of nonprofit rehab centers) to use Chris's picture on billboards and posters to be put up in schools. A new branch of Rebos House was later named after him.
  The posters showed a smiling Chris Farley, and under the image were the words "Drugs and Alcohol Can Kill the Laughter in Anybody."
-- 43

-- Chris Farley - They Died Too Young

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