Welcome to Different Perspectives, an essay series designed to offer a new, more positive perspective on an entertainer or piece of entertainment that fans and viewers may not have considered.
It’s May 24, 2010, and I am standing in the basement of Annabell’s Cocktail Lounge in Akron, Ohio. If you haven’t been to Annabell’s, allow me to paint you a quick picture. The place is small, about the size of any corner watering hole. It’s usually filled with a colorful collection of young artists, hipsters and drunks. A Yelp user review describes the customers of Annabell’s as “Cheers meets the Star Wars cantina.” In other words, the place is a unique hangout for those who follow an alternative path.
Below the main bar is a concert venue. The walls are painted jet black, and between the noise and thumping footsteps of the patrons above, it feels as if you are in a bomb shelter during an apocalypse. The ceiling leaks, it’s hot and muggy, and it smells of booze and sweat.
This is where dreams and ideas are born. Where bar patrons become fans of performers. This is a place where people, like you or me, put their heart out on the line and share their vision of the world with others. It is a place that, in the warm summer months, feels almost like hell. But to any artist hoping to rise the ranks, this place is everything. It’s where you begin, where you celebrate, and where you return to. It’s home.
This is where I met Corey Feldman.
I’ve been a fan of Feldman, and his frequent costar Corey Haim, since I was about 6 years old. It started with movies like Gremlins, The Lost Boys and The ‘Burbs, and continued on with other hits like License to Drive, Stand By Me, Dream a Little Dream, Friday the 13th Part 4 (and 5) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Feldman voiced Donatello for two of the three live-action films).
It’s an odd experience being a fan of two actors who are often lumped into the “Teen Beat” category and idolized by preteen girls. It put me in a strange place that made me an easy target for ridicule and bullying.
But I saw something in both actors, something that spoke to me. They were likable and relatable on many levels. They were geeks, like me. When Haim died, I was deeply crushed. It was like losing a long lost brother whom I had cared about, but never met. As a writer and filmmaker, I had hoped to one day work with “The Two Coreys.” It was a silly dream, perhaps, but they were a part of my youth, and I owed it to them.
The week Haim died, I found myself in a nasty argument on Facebook with an old friend over whether Haim had been the victim of a drug overdose. “Haim’s a drug user. That means he’s a loser,” my friend contended. His compassion was flattened by his own brute arrogance.
“We don’t know how he died,” I argued. “But if Feldman thinks he was clean, he was clean.” I pointed to the video above and went on to talk about how drug abuse was a sickness that haunted Haim. I spoke of Haim’s sexual abuse, and how that had damaged his soul. My friend simply couldn’t see that.
“Once a loser, always a loser. I’m glad he’s gone,” he told me.
My friend didn’t even apologize after the autopsy came back and revealed that Haim did not die of an overdose, but of pneumonia. Regardless, my friend and I no longer talk. There’s no reason dealing with someone that mean, that close-minded.
I’ve long been compelled to write about Corey Feldman, but it’s a touchy, personal subject. Feldman is a polarizing figure, he even admits as much. He is a trusting man, not unlike his old idol, Michael Jackson. As such, he tends to find himself on the defensive in interviews. He adores his many fans just as much as he seemingly despises aspects of the media and the public eye. You would too, if you were attacked every time you so much as breathed on TV.
So, I am here to tell you that Corey Feldman deserves your respect.
Back to 2010.
Feldman’s band, Truth Movement, had booked Annabell’s as part of a tour to promote their newest album, Technology Analogy. Unlike so many glossy, over-produced stage productions, Feldman rocked out old school. The band was tucked into a tiny nook, but they made the space work, and the show was actually quite brilliant, complete with gonzo set pieces and some great tracks that really rocked the house. Feldman pushed himself to his limits, and probably beyond. Sweat poured from his body and you could almost see him lose weight on stage as he reached the end of his set.
Unsurprisingly, the venue proved to be far too tiny to sustain the legions of Corey fans who flooded the small basement to watch him perform. I frowned every time someone made fun of him, though. Most did not come to mock him, to be sure, but there were some who took pleasure in destroying his art. They threw out tired movie references and pretended Feldman was some kind of trained monkey, doing tricks for our entertainment. One drunk patron kept yelling “Do Mouth from Goonies!”
But as the evening went on, the mood changed. Some might have come to make fun of Corey Feldman and his band, but by the end of the night, they were all having fun. Through hard work, tough skin, care and showmanship, Corey had won them over.
As the concert came to a close, he returned to the stage for an encore. He asked the audience what they would like to hear. Dozens of fans threw out suggestions for Michael Jackson songs and tracks like Dream a Little Dream or Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. The drunk patron yelled “Do Mouth from Goonies!” another dozen times.
That’s where I came in. At well over six feet, I towered over most of the audience. And in that moment I met eyes with Corey. I yelled, “Cry Little Sister!” His eyes twinkled, he pointed at me and nodded. It was probably the cue he was waiting for, though he scrambled to find the lyrics and sheet music for the band.
What followed was one of the single coolest encores I have ever witnessed (you can watch him perform the song at another concert shown below). The audience exploded with cheers. They loved it. Corey had left them clapping, howling and screaming for more. It was a perfect concert. And it was also symbolic of who Corey Feldman was, and where he was going.
Annabell’s felt like a beginning, a new chapter for the actor. In the years leading up to that May 2010 concert, Corey Feldman had been hit with some tough emotional waves. In June 2009, Feldman’s friend, Michael Jackson, had passed away. A few months later, in late 2009, he got divorced, an event that has seemingly shaken his foundation of trust. And in March 2010, just months before the concert, his friend and longtime screen star, Corey Haim, had suddenly died.
Making matters worse, over the years, Feldman’s image had been painfully dragged through the mud by exploitation artists and journalists hoping to get clicks for mocking him. He had been scrutinized, ridiculed and bullied by the media. But it was time for Corey to move on to bigger and better endeavors. It was time to put it all out there once more. It was time to revive his old fans, turn some naysayers, and find a new audience all at the same time. And it worked.
It’s now 2013 and Feldman is working around the clock. He has a new solo album, Ascension Millennium. He’s got several films – both mainstream and indie – rolling out in the near future, not to mention a half-dozen other film projects in the pipe. In addition to his film appearances, he is voicing the role of Slash on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and recently he narrated (and appeared) in the absolutely terrific 4-hour Friday the 13th documentary, Crystal Lake Memories. He also has a new book, the cleverly titled Coreyography – a memoir about his roller-coaster private life, his tarnished public persona, and the work that made him a star.
But there is a shadow that looms over Corey’s career. There are those who still enjoy picking and prodding at him in public.
His critics point to his latest venture, Corey’s Angels, as something of a sticking point. Corey’s Angels is a modeling and talent agency of sorts, similar to how Playboy operates. And like Playboy, Corey’s Angels also happens to occasionally hold lavish lingerie parties.
Ostensibly, Corey’s Angels may seem, to some, like a dream crafted by a man struggling to overcome a bitter divorce or a failing career. It may also look like prostitution, perversion or deviancy to others. If nothing else, a cash grab (the parties run upwards of $250). But I do not know what Corey’s Angels is, not completely anyway.
Like so many journalists, writers and critics who have made their own judgments, I have not seen one of his parties, that is, outside a few articles that seemed destined to turn the venture into a punchline.
I have not yet experienced Feldman’s new brand of entertainment. But I have written about sex and alternative lifestyles. In 2013, I completed a nonfiction narrative on the subject. In that book, I detailed strip clubs, sex dens, adult theaters and swing clubs. I saw it all and I can say this … Corey’s Angels does not appear to fall into the sexual spectrum so many critics have categorized it.
If nothing else, it falls into that same gray area explored by the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Hugh Hefner, or any Average Joe who’s eaten at a Hooters. Corey’s Angels seems to be an idea where beauty is idolized, happiness is king, and careers begin to find their footing.
To be honest, I would relish in the opportunity to experience a Corey’s Angels party at his mansion. I would love to have the full perspective. But for now, I’d prefer to any judgments at the door. Not everything is what it seems. It never is.
I picked up the book along with Nick Offerman’s Paddle Your Own Canoe. Both memoirs are also available on Audible, narrated by their respective authors. If you are a Kindle owner, I suggest picking up both the book and the audiobook for maximum enjoyment. Both narrations are outstanding and add quite a lot of texture to their tales.
I had actually read very little about either book and assumed both would be a funny jaunt through history as seen through the eyes of two of my all-time favorite entertainers. What I got instead was an eye-opening experience. I planned to swap back and forth between both books, but once I sunk my teeth into Coreyography, I couldn’t put it down. In less than two days, I had read the whole book.
It was actually strange returning to Offerman’s memoir, which serves as a complete contrast to Coreyography, from Offerman’s lighthearted upbringing to his success as an entertainer and husband. Corey was famous, but he didn’t quite have Offerman’s luck.
I liked Corey Feldman before I read Coreyography. And I respected him. I have defended his character and his work over the years, even though I sometimes chuckle at his outlandish ways. He’s a sensitive entertainer and a wildly fascinating entrepreneur. But he’s also a frustrated, peaceful human being whose perspective is often glossed over and forgotten for no good reason.
Coreyography is as much about Feldman’s life as it is about setting the record straight. The book is a demand for his respect, and he earns it. He not only starred in some of your favorite films from the 1980s, but he’s also suffered more than a lifetime (or two) of pain, all before he was in his 40s. He and his friend, Haim, were a victims of child abuse and molestation. Together, they bonded over their success, but also over their darkest secrets. They both fell to drugs. They both made terrible decisions. They were both haunted men. But Feldman endured. He broke free of drugs. He cleaned himself up. He returned to entertaining his fans with fresh ideas and fistfuls of love. He even helped inspire his friend to do the same.
That didn’t change how some have perceived Feldman. He is still, for whatever reason, a punching bag for some media outlets. Perhaps it was his gimmicky reality TV stints, or all the self-referential cameo appearances (he admits to loathing these decisions in his book). Either way, it is not fair. After years of bullying, abuse and sexual molestation, Feldman is still getting picked on.
A friend once described her life as being on “hard mode.” That sentiment has stayed with me over the years. I think it fits well with Feldman’s persona. He’s continued on, despite his critics. And he’s found his fans. He’s active on Twitter, retweeting and commenting on nearly every tweet that’s sent his way. He’s still trusting, too. It might be considered a fault, but it is who he is, and it’s what has made him the bright, shining enigma that he is today.
On some level, his book is actually about awareness of child abuse and molestation in Hollywood. It serves as a stunning warning to those who want to enter that world. Hollywood can be a place where dreams come true, but it’s also a place of extreme darkness, and not every corner is safe. Feldman saw it first-hand, and he tries, quite passionately, to convey that message.
Feldman is not a perfect person. None of us are. I’m not asking for people to be fans of him. If you like his work, and I know there are a lot of you, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s also fine. But that doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to bully or publicly mock him. There’s a lot to respect about Feldman. He’s worked hard to change the face of Hollywood, to stop molestation and child abuse. His only desire, it would seem, is to keep pushing that message until something can be done. He even admits, as busy as he is, he isn’t in the public eye much anymore. So when he is, he’s a pistol, firing out passionate arguments and defending himself.
But Corey Feldman has also changed people. He’s made several genre and cult classics. Films that inspire young writers, actors and filmmakers. He’s made people laugh, cry, and howl with joy. His music speaks to his fans and helps him find peace. And his book reveals his tragic, brutal upbringing, and his ultimate redemption. He is a man who constantly puts himself out there, even with the odds stacked against him. He is always trying to achieve the dream of every man – to be remembered for one’s successes, not your faults.
Like anyone who brushes past the negative aspects of our culture, the criticism and the destroyers of creativity, he deserves your respect for trying, and for sometimes succeeding. He deserves your respect for shaping nostalgia of the 1980s. But most of all, he deserves your respect for enduring the depths of hell and raising awareness about molestation and pedophilia.
And soon enough, like that night in Annabell’s, he will win the crowd.
Different Perspectives essay series:
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