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Still Crazy After All These Years

Page 3 of 6

Outside, on the patio, looking out toward the pool, Charlie lights up another Marlboro Red ("I do 40 a day – no, 30") and holds forth as he does, in the most amusing of ways, with his growl of a voice. First order of business, of course, is Chuck Lorre, the proximate cause of the meltdown. "I can't help myself with this guy, sorry," Charlie says, looking like he doesn't really want to help himself anyway. "He's a turd. A turd! The good news is, he's no longer stuck to my shoe." Charlie's main beef with Lorre (and he has bazillions of them) was Lorre's refusal to write more episodes when, surprise, surprise, Charlie finished a show-mandated 2011 stint in rehab earlier than expected (it was done at home, which Denise Richards nicknamed Sober Valley Lodge, in a record two weeks). Lorre's decision not only cost Charlie a bundle of money but also the rest of Men's cast and crew. So, Charlie went off. But nothing has explained what fueled Charlie to go off the way he did, carpet-bomb style. Everyone thinks drugs, due to his long history of drug abuse, primarily with cocaine, "banging seven-gram rocks, because that's how I roll," and the like. But he insists no drugs were ingested; he took several drug tests during that time, all of which came back negative. "Charlie smoked cigarettes like a chimney, but other than that, no drinking and no drugs," says porn actress and former Sheen goddess Bree Olson. "He was just pissed off. And not afraid to show it."

"I am on a drug," he told ABC's Andrea Canning. "It's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body."

Bipolar disorder was the next most common explanation, but Charlie wasn't having any of that, either. "Wow! What's that mean? Wow. And then what? What's the cure? Medicine? Make me like them? Not gonna happen. I'm bi-winning. If I'm bipolar, aren't there moments where a guy crashes in a corner, like, 'Oh, my God, it's all my mom's fault'? Shut up. Shut up! Stop! Move forward."

So, if not drugs or mental illness, what was it?

Taking a stab at it, Charlie says, "I don't think it was just the show. It was too much people-pleasing, not enough breaks, over 30 years, forming into one focused tsunamilike release," and then he kind of tosses his arms up in the air and sighs.

"I haven't gone through a psych evaluation to see what was behind the whole episode," he goes on, "but for, like, a two-week period in there, I was the most famous person on the planet! Here's why I think it had such resonance and crazy cosmic traction. It wasn't 'win' or 'won.' It was 'winning' – the middle of an act. Clearly, a guy gets fired, his relationships are in the toilet, he's off on some fucking tour, there's nothing 'winning' about any of that. I mean, how does a guy who's obviously quicksanded, how does he consider any of it a victory? I was in total denial. 'We're winning.' Kooky shit."

He stops, thinks about that, maybe hoping his thoughts on the matter will clarify themselves. After a while, when they don't, he says, "Oh, man, what is my life? I don't even know, dude. Here's the good news. It was exciting as hell, being on the apex of that wave as it was cresting. Exhilarating. But, yeah, it feels like certain ripples have reached their shores." Pause. "Whatever the hell that means."

And there he lets his explanation, such as it is, rest. He can do no better. Truly, he's as perplexed as anyone. "I look back at tapes of me live and I don't know where it all came from," he says. "It's very bizarre. It's like one giant, long poem, played by some weird character, about things that aren't totally grounded in anything real."

Perhaps not, but what the episode owes a lot to, in a way that will always be particular to Charlie, is his love of two movies, Apocalypse Now, starring his father, and Jaws, starring a great big goddamn shark. He's seen both of them well over 150 times. He's obsessed with them. He knows them by heart – "line for line, word for word, and he's still watching them constantly, to this day," says Olson. And it's from great moments in those films that many of his seemingly out-of-nowhere Sheen-isms are derived: from Apocalypse, for example, the "tiger blood" and "warlock" riffs; and from Jaws, the "torpedo of truth" business. And maybe it's the influence of both those movies together that led him to take on Lorre, a puny Kurtz figure at best but with certain monomaniacal tendencies, and the CBS/Warner Bros. cabal, shark-toothed, with a gaping, devouring maw, the way he did, brandishing the only weapons he had, his ramped-up verbal skills and his straight-out-of-the-movies willingness to do whatever it takes to kill the much-bigger, much-stronger enemy, his own fate be damned. Or something like that. But the point is, in this light, his actions, though perhaps ill-advised, can only be considered heroic. And throughout, he never made excuses for what he was doing or hid behind obfuscations, which is one of the great things about the guy and why people like him so much and continue to root for him.

"He's an extraordinary man but deeply flawed, as we all are," says his father. "I'll tell you one thing about him, though. He's never once lied his way out of a situation. He takes the rap. He's done that all his life. His honesty is breathtaking."

Indeed, it can be. Right now, for instance, he's off the wagon and making no bones about it. "I mean, the shit works. Sorry, but it works. Anyway, I don't see what's wrong with a few drinks. What's your drink? Tequila? Mine's vodka. Straight, because I've always said that ice is for injuries, ha ha." And so into the home bar he walks, actually going for some tequila tonight, a bottle of Don Ramon Platinum, lining up a shot, downing it with a Coke chaser, but not before saying, "Here's to us and those like us," a traditional warrior's toast, most often said when looking back upon battles past, which makes it perfect for Charlie, at this point in time.

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