A Lost Boy Forever: Corey Haim (1971 – 2010)

If it wasn’t such a crass cliché, it would be doubly tragic – the gifted child superstar, seemingly impervious to the illicit allure of fame, falling from grace so hard and for so long that his abuse and confused body can no longer take it. Too much drink, too many drugs, and the nagging realization that, without them, the pain of addiction is simply too much to bear. But it’s not just the craving for cocaine or illegal thrills. It’s the dependency on the limelight that, when gone, leaves a void so massive that no amount of misdeed can cure it.

So it’s no surprise then, given his recent “high” profile, that former kid vid actor Corey Haim was found dead on 10 March of what is being reported as an ‘accidental’ drug overdose. One look at his current demeanor tells the sad story. Haggard, face wearing his three decades of death wish debauchery, the former Lost Boy has now truly vanished forever. Any end to a story like this is cheerless, no matter the age (a mere 38) or the circumstance (an infamous public battle with dope, as well as with friends like Corey Feldman who tried – unsuccessfully – to help fight the demons).

Though he acted off and on during the last few years – perhaps most memorably as Amy Smart’s mullet-wearing boyfriend/pimp in the hilarious Neveldine/Taylor action epic Crank: High Voltage – Haim remains forever attached as an ancillary member of that iconic ’80s group, the Brat Pack. The acting clan created by home video and its ready access to Hollywood’s increasingly commercial product, the cult of cute personality swallowed many a rising talent. Haim was no different. At the start of his career, he was the cute kid with the slightest hint of sadness and confusion behind his eyes, making memorable appearances in such high profile projects as Stephen King’s werewolf film Silver Bullet, the Sally Field/James Garner comedy Murphy’s Romance, and the geek clever coming of age effort Lucas.

His transformation into attempted teen idol began with another horror reinvention – Joel Schumacher’s kitsch high camp creepshow The Lost Boys. It was here where he met future motion picture partner Corey Feldman, himself an equally noted child actor and TV sitcom star at the tender age of eight. Being roughly the same age (Haim was six months younger than his new best friend), they shared a similar arrested adolescent view of life – and need to escape. Soon, they were being paired up in such low rent releases as License to Drive and Dream and Little Dream.

More importantly, they both became tabloid fodder, the tales of nightclubbing and recreational pharmaceuticals (and complementary run-ins with the law) erasing much of their commercial credence and attendant audience goodwill. By the time the ’90s rolled around, Haim was a source of regular ridicule, while his pal had disappeared into a surreal obsession with Michael Jackson and a possible career in music. They drifted through most of the pre and post millennial moments, making occasional appearances (Feldman, most memorably, on Howard Stern’s radio show) while continuing to clash with notoriety.

By the time the whole Greed decade nostalgia reemerged and was rocking in full force, Haim has become a poster boy for the unpleasant and the painful. He didn’t really work from 2002 to 2007, eventually appearing in several direct to DVD knock-offs and a bizarre A&E reality series (The Two Coreys) which reunited him with Feldman for a combination fame freak show, train wreck, and attempt at sobriety. An unnecessary Lost Boys sequel saw the duo reprise their previous turns, cameos (including Haim’s during the credits) created to appease and reapproach their long dormant fanbase. But it was clear that, while his former buddy was trying to building something new and lasting for himself, the other Corey was continuously hindered by the haunted spirits of his past.

The details are too tawdry and ambiguous to go into. He talked about physical and sexual abuse, injuries and the need to dull the ache, the emptiness of being a celebrity at an early age and an afterthought by 20. He argued that drugs blunted the barrage, turning off a brain bulldozing its way through reasons why he was no longer bankable. Feldman, amping up the tough love treatment, refused further contact with Haim until he dealt with his addictions. Of course, as with any codependent situation, they stayed in touch, even making enough amends to discuss co-starring in yet another entry in the Lost Boys franchise (labeled The Thirst). Haim eventually backed out.

And now this sad twist of TMZ fate. He was busy as of late, several projects completed with more on the horizon. He seemed content to trade on his disrepute for a small speaking part, hoping that he could rebuild his reputation – and his career. Based on his work in the ’80s, it was clear he had talent, a flawless ability to play teen recklessness with a nuanced amount of naiveté and inferred innocence. He was a cornerstone of the films he made as a youth, key to making efforts like Bullet or Romance resonate. While others may have been the star, he often was the soul.

Part of the reason he lost that ability as he aged was the studio suit’s desire to make him the lead, not part of the ensemble. Haim wasn’t really built to be the man in the middle. Instead, he seemed perfect as a performer who could shade the sidelines, a character actor in the making that just needed the right roles, and Tarantino-like career guidance, to go from fad to force in a business that tends to chew up children and spit them out. No one expected him to be another Ron Howard or Jodi Foster. But along with friend Feldman, Haim seemed like the kind of kid who could make some manner of transition. Clearly, this was not the ending many expected.

But at least now he’s at rest. People can stop mocking him and instead try and make sense of his overall impact. Few from the ’80s have such aggressive staying power – scandal laden or not – as Haim. He’s iconic, part of an overall approach to the time period that can never really be erased. Sure, you can slam his personal choices, using the tired “wasted opportunities and talent” line like it truly means something. Until you’ve become an international obsession – and then been quickly divested of same – you can’t really comprehend why individuals like Corey Haim chose the finale they do. We can guess, but never truly know. That is why he will always be a lost boy – figuratively and plainly.