Sometimes, it’s best to learn the details of a potentially dangerous situation only when it’s well after the fact. If you’re hanging off a cliff, you don’t want the person pulling you up to say “Fuck, look at that drop below you! If you don’t make it, you’re gonna pancake against those rock so hard, you might just atomize!” Only after you’ve gotten your two hands, feet and ass on terra firma do you ever really need to know how bad it was truly looking.
So naturally, when I learned the whole story of how Mewes had burned a dealer at my house months after it went down, I was filled with a mix of rage and relief.
It was a Tuesday, of that much I’m sure. Jen, still early on in her pregnancy, was out shopping, Stephanie had been at work in Red Bank, and Judy was cleaning the house. It was week two of the boy’s move back into the Oceanport joint, after he’d been caught smoking coke in the upstairs hallway bathroom. I was spending a lot more time babysitting Mewes, keeping him preoccupied in an effort to distract him from the desire to shoot dope.
We were sitting around watching TV when I got the call from Mosier, who was asking that I come to the office and sign off on our “Dogma” picture lock before it got sent to Skywalker Sound for the pre-mix. Without Jen around to take over Mewes duty, I was between a rock and a hard place: the boy was still feeling like shit from withdrawls and didn’t want to take the ten minute ride to the office with me, knowing he’d be then stuck sitting around for two hours while I went through the flick.
“Besides,” he observed. “Columbo’s on.”
Uncharacteristically, Mewes was (and still remains) a massive “Columbo” and “Murder, She Wrote” fan. Had we been a Nielsen family, A&E and USA would’ve displaced ABC and NBC as the nation’s most watched networks, based solely on the amount of hours Mewes spent sacked out on the couch, engrossed in the crime dramas, desperate to solve the mysteries before the protagonists. Given his choice between porn and Cabot Cove, Mewes would forego double-penetrations for double indemnity plots.
With the boy enthralled by the cockeyed flatfoot in the trench coat, I came to the conclusion that it was okay to leave him by himself for a bit. He was flat broke, and I was secure in the knowledge that there was no other loot in the house with which he could make mischief in my absence. So I left him there to lay around and watch TV, pulling Judy aside on my way out to ask that she look in on Jay from time to time to make sure he was staying put. Without a car or cash, I figured there wasn’t much trouble he could actually get into.
I was wrong.
No sooner had I pulled out of the driveway before Mewes was on the horn with a dealer in Keansburg, giving him directions to my house along with instructions to bring a bag a dope. The boy then tried to bum forty bucks off Judy, who – as a former alcoholic herself – knew not to give the kid more than enough cash to buy a pack of cigarettes. Three dollars in hand, Mewes put his half-assed “Mission: Impossible” into action.
The backyard of our Oceanport house was situated at the end of a cul de sac, and it was there that Mewes met his dealer, unlocking the gates in the wooden fence that still afforded an easy view of the flat-roofed house. Maintaining a faux study of the windows, he told the dealer that they had to make the exchange quickly, as “Kevin’s watching me from the house.” The dealer didn’t know I wasn’t home, but since the customer was always right, he palmed the bag of dope and extended it out of the driver’s side window of the car toward Jason. Instead of doing the same with the money and shaking hands to make the dope swap, Mewes tossed the crumpled three dollar bills across the dealer into the passenger seat, snatching the dope from the man’s hand in the process. He then dashed into the backyard, quickly locked the gate, and ran into the house.
It didn’t take Columbo to deduce that three crumpled dollar bills was thirty seven crumpled dollar bills shy of the true purchase price, nor did it take a keen, Jessica Fletcher-like power of observation for the dealer to figure out which house Mewes had run inside. Pulling around to the front door, he rang the bell. Mewes told the oblivious Judy to inform whoever was there that he wasn’t home. Judy maintained the party line, even when the dealer said “But I saw him run into this house a minute ago. I KNOW he’s here.” Unwilling to cause a ruckus over thirty seven bucks, the dealer let his longtime customer off the hook with a warning of “Tell him he owes me double now.”
Blissfully unaware of all this, I wound up giving Mewes the boot from my house again anyway, shortly after Stephanie’s departure. He’d backslid and been caught, at which point I sent him packing back to his Mom’s, where his drug abuse took on a new facet: Oxycontin dependency.
Mewes’ Mom, ravaged by HIV, was regularly prescribed the morphine replacement that provided the same numbing pain-relief minus the eventual tolerance build-up. One could become inured to the effect of morphine over time, necessitating larger doses to kill discomfort, but Oxycontin didn’t come with these same strings attached. Apparently, the same dosage that relieved pain one week into usage would do the trick one year in, regardless of user-frequency. Mewes’ Mother started sharing her pills with her son when he was penniless and unable to purchase heroin. Since he wasn’t spiking up to get high anymore, I mistakenly viewed this as a step toward recovery for the boy, and invited him to accompany us to Cannes that May for the world premiere of “Dogma”.
Jason pointed out that he’d never been abroad before, so he was anxious to make the trip. In reality, he was anxious to get his hands on the copious amounts of readily available heroin he assumed was waiting for him in France, after having seen the film “Killing Zoe”. Filled with expectation and worried he might be caught holding and wind up in a foreign jail (a’la “Midnight Express”), he opted against bringing Oxys or heroin with him on the plane.
By the time we landed in the South of France, Mewes was going through some pretty heavy withdrawls, throwing up more than once in the forward-cabin bathroom on the plane. When we arrived at the hotel, he immediately took off on a desperate hunt for brownstone. What he discovered rather quickly was that film – particularly movies about bank robbers – doesn’t always offer accurate depictions of the real world: the streets of Cannes weren’t teeming with the junk “Killing Zoe” promised. Unable to score, he hit a local pharmacy, where he discovered that Codeine – a prescription drug in the U.S. that’s derived from morphine – was sold in over-the-counter forms in Europe. He bought a one liter bottle of liquid Codeine and a 24 pack of Codeine tablets, taking half of the 24 pills and washing them down with the full bottle of the narcotic, hoping for an effect approximate to the high his Oxys and heroin afforded.
What would probably stop the heart of a normal person had zero impact on Jason. His tolerance level was so built up after years of drug abuse, that all the Codeine ingestion gave him was a sour stomach. Returning to the hotel from doing press, Scott and I found a French Doctor standing in Mewes’ room, demanding payment. Mewes had called the concierge and told them he’d fallen, hoping to be prescribed Oxycontin. The Doctor refused both to fill the ‘scrip and to leave until he’d been paid for his emergency house call. As I peeled off some francs to pay the man, the English-limited physician tapped his fingers to his forearm, nodded at my friend, curled up on the couch and sweating heavily, and barked “Le junkie! Le junkie!”
Our five day stay at the fest was successful as far as the film was concerned, but tumultuous thanks to Mewes. Unwilling to do press or attend the actual Palais screening of the flick (the legendary red carpet walk up to the grand, main theater of the film festival), Jason begged and pleaded to be sent back to the States. But since it would’ve cost an additional grand or more to change his already expensive airline ticket, Scott and I declined.
By the time we did fly home as a group, Mewes was belligerently detoxing, unwilling to speak to anybody, convulsing with “the shakes”. As the Cannes-to-London flight was touching down, Mewes did something that would get him shot by a Federal Air Marshal in the post-9/11 climate of today: he got up and started stalking the aisles of the plane, opening up all the overhead bins, searching for a blanket. Mere feet from the wheels hitting the tarmac, the British Flight Attendants screamed at Jason to sit from their buckled-in positions at the front of the craft.
“SIR! TAKE YOUR SEAT NOW!”
“I’m cold and I need a blanket,” Mewes yelled back.
“SIR, IF YOU DON’T TAKE YOUR SEAT IMMEDIATELY, YOU’LL BE PLACED UNDER ARREST AT THE GATE!”
“FUCK YOUSE!” Jason shouted, punching overhead compartments on the way back to his seat, where he hurled himself into his chair, adding, for good measure “ARE YOU HAPPY, YOU LIMEY FUCKS?!”
Keeping the boy away from his Mother, his source for Oxycontin tablets, became a priority. Once again, I moved him back into the Oceanport house. Once again, we tried to quit cold turkey. After a month, Mewes was still in pain, but managing to stay clean, so long as he was watched.
In June, I had to fly out to Los Angeles for an appearance on the Mtv Movie Awards, where I was to present with Ben Affleck. Not wanting to leave the boy behind, Jen and I took him with us. We stayed at the Sofitel on Beverly, across from the Beverly Center Mall.
The awards show presentation went off without a hitch; the same can’t be said for the rest of the L.A. trip.
Around one a.m. four nights into the trip, Mewes rang our room, waking me up.
“Moves – I just took a cab back from some party and I don’t have any cash to pay the driver. Do you have twenty bucks?”
“I don’t have any cash on me.”
“What do I do about the cabbie?”
“Just… come up to my room and I’ll give you my ATM card. Take out forty bucks, pay the driver, and keep the other twenty.”
When he knocked softly at the hotel room door, I passed the ATM card out to Jason and said “Just slip this under the door when you’re done with it. I’m going back to sleep.”
“Alright. Thanks, Moves.”
The next morning, the ATM card wasn’t where I asked him to leave it. I called Mewes’ room but got no answer. I called down to the valet parkers to have the rental car brought up, but was told that the car had been taken out already. This is when I started putting two and two together and quickly phoned the 24 hour hotline for my bank.
“Yeah, I’ve lost my ATM card,” I offered. “Can you tell me the last time it was used?”
After a minute of tapping keys, the customer service agent said “About twenty minutes ago. A hundred dollars was withdrawn. When was the last time you had the card in your possession, sir?”
“Around one a.m. pacific.”
“I’m showing ten withdrawls since then.”
“Totaling about how much?”
“Looks like eleven hundred dollars.”
After putting a freeze on the account (and lamenting to Jen about how I’d never been able to withdraw more than four hundred bucks a day off my ATM card while Jason was somehow able to siphon over double that in the span of ten hours), I got on the horn with Mosier and filled him in on the situation. The valet parkers called to let us know the car had been returned, and Mos and I went banging on Jason’s door. He wouldn’t answer, so we called the front desk and told them our friend had locked himself in his room and we feared he might have overdosed. Hotel security opened Jason’s door, where we discovered a room in total upheaval: furniture tossed, curtains torn down, burnt sheets and comforters stripped from the askew mattress. Jason was curled up in a ball on the floor, staring at the ceiling. After confirming he was still breathing, we ushered the security guy out. Mewes admitted to the theft and detailed his eventful previous ten hours.
He’d taken the money and the rental car and tried to score junk around town. Unsuccessful, he’d come back to the hotel and phoned the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai, the hospital a block down the street, and told him he’d thrown his back out in a fall off his bed. An ambulance had picked him up and brought him to the hospital where the doctors could find nothing wrong with him. He insisted that he’d aggravated an existing back condition, the only medication for which would help was Oxycontin. The doctors denied his request for the heavy narcotic, instead writing him a prescription for the weaker Vicodin – a drug that, along with Percocet, Mewes had outgrown years prior, building up an enormous tolerance level against them. He’d then taken the rental car anew and hit a bunch of pharmacies that refused to fill his prescription without proper credentials. Defeated, he’d returned to the hotel and trashed his room.
For years, I’d been urging Mewes to check himself into a rehab program I said I’d gladly pay for. For years, Mewes had declined, insisting he didn’t think he could handle being in a place he wasn’t allowed to leave, kicking amongst strangers. At this point, I finally had him over a barrel, in a position where rehab was no longer a choice.
“You’re going to rehab today, or you’re going to jail for theft,” I told him. “It’s that simple. You stole enough for me to prosecute you, and that’s what I’m gonna do unless you enter a program by tonight.”
He laid there for a beat, staring at the floor, until he finally said “Okay.”
Scott and I researched some L.A. rehabs online and found one called Anna Cappa Steps, a few hours outside of the city. I called them to see if we could admit Jason that day, and they obliged us. We drove Mewes out to the clinic and checked him in, at which point I gave the people in charge my numbers and told them to contact me if there were any problems. Before we left, I sat down with Mewes.
“This is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself.”
“Can’t I just go home with you and kick at the house in Jersey? I swear, I’ll do it for good this time.”
“I don’t believe you anymore. You go through this program and get clean and I can start believing you again. You’ve gotta do this now.”
He was tearing up. “Alright, Moves,” he said. “I understand.”
The next day, Scott and I went into an L.A. studio with Jeff and Brian to record some voiceover for the “Clerks” cartoon we’d sold to ABC. Mid-session, my cell phone rang.
“This is Steps. You’re the contact for Jason Mewes?”
“I am. What happened?”
“Jason’s having a hard time with the program and wants to sign himself out.”
“It’s only been A DAY.”
“A LONG day, Mr. Smith – during which Jason’s screamed at his nurses and been a disruptive force in the program. People are trying to change their lives here; they don’t need this kind of distraction.”
“He’s one of those people that needs to change his life too, ma’am,” I said. “Once he gets used to the program, he’ll be better, I promise. But, please – don’t kick him out.”
“This is a voluntary program, Mr. Smith. We’re not kicking him out; he’s kicking himself out. And right now, we’re inclined to accommodate him.”
“Can I speak with Jason, please?”
I was put on hold. The next voice I heard was the boy’s saying “I can’t take this place, Moves! Lemme go back to Jersey and kick in the house! All these people are assholes and they’re treating me…” He pulled the phone away from his mouth and yelled out into the room “THEY’RE TREATING ME LIKE A FUCKING BABY!!!”
“You’re acting like a fucking baby, Mewes. So show a little spine and quit crying.”
“I wanna leave!”
“You can check yourself out if that’s what you want. But if you do that, I’m having you arrested for theft.”
“You can do this, man. The first few days are always the hardest, but once you get past that, these people can really help you.”
He took a calmer approach. “I’d rather have you help me.”
“I’ve taken you as far as I can. Nothing I do works. Nothing I do has ever worked. You need professional help.”
After a long beat of silence… “Alright, Moves.”
“You can do this.”
I hung up. After half an hour, I called back and asked to speak to the program director who’d called me earlier.
“How’s he doing?”
“Much better now. He apologized to the nurses and he’s cooperating. He says he’s serious about getting off drugs.”
Relieved, I went back into the recording studio. Twenty minutes later, my cell phone rang.
To Be Continued…
Peep a much healthier, totally sober Mewes in the new “Clerks II” online-exclusive trailer!