The Tragic Death Of Corey Haim

Show business is notoriously brutal and always has been. Human beings are valued solely as commodities, like walking pork belly futures, and pressured to produce beyond any reasonable expectation of mental, emotional, or physical health. And those are just the successful ones.

It's heartbreaking enough to read of adults who have collapsed under the strain of entertainment. Whether it's alcohol (Errol Flyn, dead at 50), medications (Judy Garland, 47), or opioids (Bobby Driscoll, Disney's Peter Pan, 31), there are so very many ways to cope with the pressures of success (or loss of it). Some are healthier than others. Some, as above, are fatal.

It's especially difficult for children in the business. There are legal protections now, but those only came into effect after tragedies. The Coogan Law, as the Screen Actors Guild explains, requires that a portion of children's show business earnings be placed into a trust account, so that they don't grow up and discover that their parents had spent all the money that had been earned being young and talented and adorable, as happened to Jackie Coogan.

Besides the money, there's the emotional and developmental toll show business takes on children. The successful kids find themselves in a rarefied atmosphere that isn't healthy for most adults, let alone someone who has yet to learn healthy professional and personal boundaries, or self-protection. The greed of adults, including the adults who should be sheltering children, too often takes over. It was true for Jackie Coogan, darling of Charlie Chaplin, in the 1920s.

He wanted to be the next James Dean

And it's true in the 21st century. It was certainly true for Corey Haim, darling of the '80s, and dead at 38.

Haim was born in Toronto and got the acting bug by attending auditions with his older sister. He landed some TV commercials, then was cast on The Edison Twins on Canadian TV, as The Guardian relates. That led to Los Angeles and his first film role, 1984's First Born, where he shared the screen with other up-and-coming young actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Sarah Jessica Parker, says Biography. His work in the title role of Lucas in 1986 earned rave reviews from film critics, including Roger Ebert, who wrote, "If he continues to act this well, he will never become a half-forgotten child star, but will continue to grow into an important actor," said CNN.

The cast of Lucas included other notable young actors — Winona Rider and Charlie Sheen among them — but perhaps more specifically, Haim would later claim that the set was where he first encountered drugs and alcohol. "This would begin an ugly spiral into drug addiction that led to marijuana, cocaine and eventually crack," wrote Biography.

But first there was more stardom. It's generally agreed that his real breakout performance was in The Lost Boys (1987), directed by Joel Schumacher and pairing Haim with another Corey — last name, Feldman.

Corey Haim and Corey Feldman were friends and colleagues

They would become friends, colleagues, and hellraisers, eventually working together in seven different films and along the way, experiencing significant addiction and substance abuse.

Haim wasn't without ambition. He wanted to be the next James Dean, he told The Los Angeles Times at one point. "I know I can do it. Dean made only three movies, and he's such a legend. People think he's so brilliant. He was so raw. I just want to be known like [Dean] was known. I just want people to think that I'm really, really good."

And while many people did think he was good — really good; Ebert wasn't alone — drugs and alcohol quickly got in the way. He continued to work into the early 1990s, but he also made trips to rehab to deal with his substance issues, which in time included an addiction to Valium. He continued to work in the industry, but by the mid-1990s he was relegated to straight-to-video productions. There were more efforts to get straight, but as he admitted to Larry King in 2007 (quoted by CNN), "I think I have an addiction to pretty much everything. I mean, I have to be very careful with myself as far as that goes, which is why I have a support group around me consistently."

He was sharing an apartment with his mother, Judy, when he died

In addition to his addictions, Haim's weight ballooned — over 300 pounds at one point, by his estimation. Despite numerous attempts at staying clean, he kept relapsing, at one point suffering a drug-related stroke, said The LA Times. Haim and old friend Feldman reunited for a 2007 A&E reality series, The Two Coreys, in which Haim moved in with Feldman's family, which "supposedly has something to do with helping Corey H. get his career/life back on track," wrote the TV critic for The LA Times. It lasted just over a year.

Haim was sharing an apartment with his mother, Judy, when he collapsed on March 10, 2010. He'd been suffering from "flu-like symptoms" for a few days. She helped him into bed and called for an ambulance, which transported him to a Burbank hospital, where he died.

Immediately, and to no one's surprise, there was speculation that Haim had died of an overdose of one kind or another. The coroner's report told a different story: While there were traces of "a list of drugs" in his system, said CNN, his actual cause of death was pneumonia — "an extremely large" level of swelling in Haim's lungs. Said Feldman, "This is a tragic loss of a wonderful, beautiful, tormented soul, who will always be my brother, family, and best friend."