My heart raced, as I feared the eulogy I’d always been preparing in the back of my mind for Jason’s eventual overdose would finally find an audience.
Immediately, I called Jay’s cell and received a message about discontinued service. I called every number I’d ever had on the boy, but could not locate him. Then, as if on cue, the phone rang.
“What’s up, Moves?”
“You’re alive!” I yelled.
“So are you,” he responded.
“I just read you were missing and presumed dead, you asshole!”
“In a fucking tabloid. You were supposed to be at Slamdance in January for that ‘R.S.V.P.’ movie, and when you didn’t show and you couldn’t be found, the filmmakers reported you missing.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m driving to Jersey. I’m finally gonna settle this bench warrant thing and surrender myself to the cops. HBO’s doing a documentary about me and the drugs.”
He might as well have said “Moves, guess what? I’ve always secretly been Jesus Christ Himself, and I’ve decided to head back home to be with my Heavenly Father, so I’m busting out The Rapture a bit early. Start praying you don’t get ‘Left Behind’, sir. Also, I’m gay.”
“There’s this guy with HBO, and he’s doing a documentary about me getting off dope. So they’re taking me to Jersey, where I’m turning myself in and hoping I don’t go to jail.”
“Yeah. It’s fucked up. But I was calling because they want to interview you when they get back into town. Would you be down for that?”
“How much am I allowed to say?”
“You can say whatever you want, sir.”
“Then they’re gonna need a lot of film. Are you still using?”
“Yeah, but only ‘til I get to Jersey. Then, no matter what happens with the court, I’m quitting dope. I’m tired of living like this, sir. It sucks.”
“Good for you, man,” was all I could muster. By this point, I’d heard it all before.
“But if I can get clean, do you think I can come live with you guys again?”
“I always said you could live with us, as long as you quit doing drugs, sir.”
“Alright. Because I’m gonna do it this time. So start making up my room. Nayng!”
I hung up relieved my friend was still alive, but not very confident in his latest clean-up effort – particularly if he was doing it on-camera.
I called around to see if this HBO documentary was legit, and discovered it wasn’t: yes, the filmmaker had gotten some exploratory money from HBO, but there was no deal or commitment in place for any documentary. The next time Mewes called me from on the road, I told him as such.
“Really?” he said, gravely.
“As near as I can tell,” I replied.
“That sucks, because the guy made me sign some papers.”
“Papers that say what, exactly?”
“That I’m doing the documentary and that he’s my new manager.”
“I thought it was kinda weird. I told him I didn’t want to sign anything, but he forced me to.”
“Were you high at the time?”
“Yeah,” he muttered, kind of ashamed.
“Well this may be the first time that being on junk might pan out for you – legally speaking.”
“Don’t worry about it. Meantime, when’s your court date?”
“Call me after it’s over.”
“If I’m going to jail, I don’t know if I’ll be able to call you.”
“Excellent point. I guess if you’re calling me, then that’d be a good sign.”
“Be humble in that courtroom, sir. And don’t shoot up beforehand.”
“I won’t, Moves. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Good luck.”
The next morning, I woke up and smoked a pack of cigarettes, waiting for Mewes to call. On one hand, I didn’t want him going to jail; the dude was far too pretty to make it out of there an anal virgin. On the other hand, maybe a few months in county would scare him straight, and finally make the boy realize that steering clear of junk for the rest of his life was the best option – at least as far as the well-being of his brown-eye was concerned.
When the phone rang, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Though I’d long wanted Mewes to be drug-free, rectal torture wasn’t the preferred impetus I’d hand in mind.
“What happened?” I asked.
“The judge gave me a choice: a year in jail, or six months court-mandated rehab.”
“Easy decision there.”
“Not really. Six months in lockdown? I don’t know if I’ll make it.”
“Just for the record, you DID choose rehab, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah. Like I wanna get ass-raped and shit…”
“Good boy. Where’s the rehab? Can you go back to Promises?”
“Nope. I’ve gotta do it in a Jersey rehab. Guess where it is?”
Marlboro, New Jersey was about half an hour away from Highlands, the town Mewes and I grew up in. It was infamous for being the home to the area’s only Mental Hospital. As kids, it was invoked by our parents as a correctional tool, as in “If you don’t start behaving, we’re shipping you off to Marlboro!”
“They’re throwing you in the Booby-Hatch?!”
“I guess the mental hospital closed down. They run a rehab out of one of the buildings there now.”
“When do you start?”
“Tomorrow. Tonight’s my last night to shoot up.”
“You sure you wanna even bother shooting up one last time?”
“Oh, I’m sure. If I’m quitting forever, I wanna boot one last time.”
“Was the documentary crew allowed to shoot in the court room?”
“Yeah. But the camera guy told me something weird. He said the director was disappointed when I only got rehab. He said he doesn’t have the ending he wanted to the doc. What’s that mean?”
“You’ve gotta even ask that question?”
“I don’t trust that guy. He’s kinda shady.”
“Not your problem right now. For the next six months, all you’ve gotta think about is getting and staying clean. And you can’t bolt from this rehab, sir.”
“I know. The judge said if I leave the program early, bam! Two years in jail.”
“And I hear you’re not allowed to sign yourself out of jail.”
“Yeah. Listen, I gotta go, but I’ll call you when I get to rehab.”
“Cool. Keep your nose clean, boy. And I mean that literally.”
When I got off the phone, I called Marty Arbus, the lawyer the doc crew had hired to represent Jason in court. I explained my connection to Jason, and he said Mewes had filled him in on my relevance to his life. I asked Marty to go over the judgment with me, in case Mewes had left anything out. He, too, expressed concerns about the documentary director.
Apparently, the guy was representing himself as being tight with not only me, but Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as well. Marty went through a list of claims the guy had made, 99% of which could be easily refuted by someone in the know, and then echoed the sentiments the cinematographer had expressed to Mewes in regards to the director’s reaction to Jay getting off with rehab. It was becoming more and more clear that Mewes had fallen in with an opportunist with shades of being a Con Man.
Said Con Man called me a day later to discuss doing an interview for his documentary. I told him I didn’t think the film was a good idea, particularly if it featured, as I was told, footage of Mewes shooting up. When I said the whole affair seemed tabloid-show exploitative, the guy suggested we pray about it, and ask God for guidance on the subject. That’s when I got really nervous. After an hour on the phone with him, I came to the conclusion that the man was shifty, to say the least.
April 6th, 2003, Jason Mewes checked himself into court-mandated rehab. I called the Marlboro facility that afternoon to see how he was doing, but was refused phone access to the boy. They said Jason wasn’t allowed phone usage for week one, but I could write him as much as I liked. I penned the first letter I’d ever written to Jason, expressing my pride in him for finally dealing with the bench warrant and encouraging him to stick with the program.
At the start of week two, I was able to speak to Jason on the phone for two minutes, during which time he told me he was forced to cut his hair and scrub a toilet with a tooth brush at the rehab. I reminded him it was better than jail time, and that if he got and stayed clean, he could come live with us again. Before I could say more, the phone was taken away.
A few days after our brief conversation, I received a reply to my letter from Mewes. What follows is, verbatim, Jason’s response, via snail mail.
It was so good to get your letter. It made me really happy. Thank you for not giving up on me. I love you and your family (my family) so much. I can’t tell you how good it felt to read, and hear on the phone from you that when I do the right thing I can be in your lives again. I love you and miss you all so so much. I can’t wait to see Harley. I hate myself for missing out on her growing up. I don’t want to miss out on anymore months or years. And I miss laughing with you our walks. Kevin your like the Father I never had. In times financially and always emotionally and mentally. I’m sorry for hurting you. It was never intentionally. And I never wanted to hurt your family. I hope you know that in your heart. As for this place, it is so hard to concentrate on why I’m here and I sincerely want to. I’m tired and broken. I don’t want to live like this no more.
This place is filled with people who don’t give a shit they have to be here. I got elbowed for being a so called ‘Rich Boy’ and the counselors keep pointing out ‘He’s a junkie’ which I am, but in 3 meetings they embarrassed me for people asking for autographs. And people say stupid shit like ‘He never worked so hard’ (we have jobs sweeping and mopping). It sounds petty but it is making things tougher, more uncomfortable, and harder to concentrate on why I’m here. There’s more but hard to explain.
Give everyone a kiss for me.
I had to chuckle at the irony of Mewes being tagged a “Rich Boy”, but felt for him in regards to the autograph situation. Apparently, whenever someone would ask for his signature, a counselor would dismiss Jason as a junkie, and state that junkies weren’t to be looked up to. There was some wisdom to the approach, but it sounded awfully harsh. Still, I had to trust that these professionals knew what they were doing, and assume that they figured harsh was what Jason needed at that point.
Two months into his stay at the Marlboro rehab facility, I had to fly east for a comic book convention in Philadelphia. Since I was going to be on the same coast, I made arrangements to visit Jason at the rehab. I waited in the front office of the clinic, and after a few minutes, I was met by a female counselor. She asked me to take a walk with her, in advance of seeing Jay.
The woman requested that I tell her everything about my situation with Mewes, and for the next half hour, I spilled my guts, telling her pretty much the same story you’ve been reading here these last few weeks. When I was finished, she said “You don’t seem to think the movies have much to do with Jason’s problems.”
“What – our movies?”
“I guess they’ve had an effect, inasmuch as it’s how he earns, and a lot of that money has wound up in his veins. But the few times he’s been able to clean up and stay sober for any period of time has been while we were making the movies, so I tend to think of the flicks as having a positive influence on his life.”
“He plays a drug dealer in your movies.”
“A weed dealer, yeah.”
“And he’s drug-dependent in real life. You don’t think one has something to do with the other?”
“Not really. I think being born to a heroin-addicted Mother and all the things I’ve been telling you have more to do with how Jason came to be an addict than playing a weed dealer in some comedies. I mean, Anthony Hopkins has played a killer cannibal, but from what I’ve heard, he’s never confused his role with his real life.”
“That’s a convenient analogy.”
“Look, I’m sure he’s talked about his Mother in counseling sessions with you. You’ve gotta see the role she’s played in his life.”
“I’m not Jason’s counselor.”
Suddenly, I was flush with the notion that Marlboro was, indeed, still a mental hospital, and that I’d just spent the last hour talking to a psychopath.
“You’re not Jason’s counselor?”
“No, I’m in admissions. I checked him in.”
“Two months ago?”
“How long did you deal with him when you checked him in?”
“About an hour.”
“You talked to the kid for an hour two months ago, and because of that, you think all of his drug problems stem from playing a weed dealer in the movies?”
“I think there are correlations there, yes.”
“No offense, but based on your limited exposure to Jason, I think that’s an asinine conclusion to draw.”
“You’re being very defensive.”
“With all due respect, you’re being very myopic.”
The woman gave me the once-over and then directed me back to the main building. “You’ll meet Jason in the conference room. You have a half hour to talk to him.”
“A half hour?! I flew all the way here from Los Angeles to see the guy!”
“And you’ll see him. For one half hour. Have a seat, Mr. Smith.”
Stunned and resentful after spending all that time talking to someone who was almost completely unfamiliar with Jason’s case, I paced the room while I waited. Five minutes later, Jason was brought it.
It was the first time, since he was a kid, that I’d seen him with short hair. His long locks completely gone, he looked like a boy band front man. Beyond that, however, he appeared healthy.
During the half hour, we talked about the rehab, which Mewes hated like poison.
“Of course you hate it,” I offered. “You’re not allowed to shoot up here.”
“It’s not that. I can deal with not doing drugs. But the people treat me like shit here.”
“It’s not Promises, that’s for sure. They don’t cater to the patients as much, it seems. But I’ll say this much: Promises dug a lot deeper than ‘he plays a weed dealer in movies so he shoots heroin in real life’ for a root cause.”
“That ain’t even the worst of it. These motherfuckers go out of their way to treat me like shit because I’ve been in the movies,” Jason whispered. “And I don’t ask for special treatment or nothing either. But because I get recognized from the movies by the other patients, the people who work here come down on me, telling people I ain’t shit and that I’m a scumbag like them, or a bigger scumbag because I’ve had all these breaks and I still turned to drugs. I’m not even allowed to go outside and smoke as much as other people who’re in the program. They let me go outside three times a day for five minutes each time to smoke.”
“Can’t you smoke inside?”
“Fuck no. But everyone else gets six smoke breaks a day and I only get three. It’s fucked up. And I told you I got elbowed for being a ‘Rich Boy’, right?”
“I thought that was pretty funny.”
“I keep telling these people that I ain’t rich, but they don’t believe me. It sucks, man. This place is almost like jail without the ass-fucking.”
“But you’re staying put, yes?”
“I gotta, man. Or else I go to the jail WITH the ass-fucking.”
Soon, the woman from admissions returned to usher Jason away. I gave him a hug and headed back to Philly for the con.
By odd coincidence, my sister Virginia was also in Philly that weekend. Since she lived in Japan with her husband and two children, my parents were rarely ever able to see all three of their grown children at once anymore. Seizing the opportunity to do so, my Mom and Dad flew up from Florida with my Brother for a family reunion of sorts. My parents attended my Q&A at the Con that Saturday, and afterwards, we all went out to eat at Morton’s Steak House, for what would turn out to be my Father’s last meal.
It was a great night of good food and fun conversation. My parents got to chill with their three offspring and their respective spouses, the only notable exception being my brother’s husband Jerry, who was stuck at work in Florida. When the night ended, I gave my Old Man a kiss and put him in a cab with my Mom. The next morning, I got a six a.m. phone call from my brother Don, telling me to get down to the hospital immediately. After two strokes and a cardio episode six months prior, my Father had succumbed to complete heart failure in the wee hours of the morning, following our get-together the night before. As devastating as it was to lose him, considering the man spent his last night on Earth surrounded by loved ones, putting away some delicious food and laughing it up, it wasn’t a bad way to go.
Funeral arrangements were made for two days later, back home in Jersey. I called the Marlboro rehab to request Jason be granted a day pass to attend the funeral, since he’d known my Dad pretty well from back in our Highlands days.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” the woman said.
“This is my Dad’s funeral,” I pushed. “The man was like family to Jason.”
“I appreciate that. But Jason’s not allowed to leave the premises.”
“I think these are extenuating circumstances, don’t you? Tell you what – I’ll pay for a counselor to escort him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“If you think that’s our only concern about this proposal, then I’m afraid you’re being myopic, Mister Smith.”
Burned by my own term thrown back in my face, I talked to Mewes and told him not only that my Dad died, but also that the rehab wasn’t going to let him out for the wake. Needless to say, he was disappointed and pissed.
Following the funeral, I headed back to Los Angeles. When I checked my messages, I discovered Marty Arbus, Jason’s lawyer, had phoned with what he deemed “an emergency”.
“What happened?” I asked, returning his call.
He let out a heavy sign and said “Jason bolted from the Marlboro rehab this morning.”
To Be Continued…
For a look at a much healthier, non-fugitive Mewes, check out the exclusive online “Clerks II” trailer here.