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Heroin becomes the cocaine of the '90s

Hollywood is in the grips of a heroin addiction, with Robert Downey, Jr., as its latest casualty

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”I call it the good boy and the goat boy. Those parts of me that are only out for my own instant gratification. Delayed gratification is not something that I was raised with a concept of.”
— Robert Downey Jr., in his documentary The Last Party, 1993

While seated curbside on a glorious stretch of Broad Beach Road in Malibu, Jenny Curtis, 8, and her sister, Chelsea, 6, will tell you that they’ve seen the goat boy. They live down the street from Robert Downey Jr. in a neighborhood of $2 million homes overlooking the Pacific and have witnessed, perhaps without understanding it, what happens when the worlds of Hollywood and heroin collide.

The two girls, the daughters of Bill Curtis, a magazine publisher, were getting ready for bed the night of July 16 when their mother went into their older brother Daniel’s bedroom. ”She saw a clump in the bed,” says Jenny, ”and she thought it was Daniel playing a trick on her.” Lisa Curtis, who had left the doors to the house open after burning a chicken dinner, pulled back the covers and saw a stranger, a man wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts who appeared to be asleep. It was Downey and he was unconscious. His jeans were on the floor. ”We were scared,” says Chelsea. ”We didn’t know him.” The girls’ mother called the police, who came with paramedics. They gave Downey a shot of Narcan to wake him as the children watched. After Downey, 31, was taken away, Jenny says, ”the policeman came back and said that [Downey] would say he was sorry.”

So far, Downey still hasn’t tendered his apologies in person, and perhaps that’s not a surprise: His Malibu misadventure was just one in a recent string of run-ins with the law. In June, not long before mistakenly stumbling into the Curtis home, apparently under the influence of drugs (he told a friend his limo driver dropped him at the wrong house), Downey had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence and with possession of heroin, crack cocaine, and an unloaded .357 Magnum. Since then, the actor, whose career peaked three years ago when he won an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Chaplin, has been on a steepening downward spiral. Friends of Downey say he has managed to function professionally throughout at least 10 years of frequent drug use, building an impressive career in films like Less Than Zero (in which he played an ill-fated cokehead), The Pick-Up Artist, Air America, Soapdish, Natural Born Killers, Short Cuts, Home for the Holidays, and last year’s Restoration. But it caught up with him this summer. ”Robert is an addict,” says Michael Hoffman, who directed him in Soapdish and Restoration. ”It’s frustrating. I love him and I think he’s f—ing up his life.”

After being arrested for trespassing at the Curtis home July 16, Downey was ordered by Malibu municipal court judge Lawrence J. Mira to the Exodus Recovery Center in Marina del Rey, where Kurt Cobain went shortly before his heroin-related suicide in 1994. When Downey walked out of Exodus for four hours July 20 before returning to the facility, he was arrested a third time for violating the conditions of his bail. After a court appearance July 29, he was released to a lockdown treatment center with 24-hour surveillance while he awaits trial.