||[25 Apr 2002|04:06pm]
ahaha i don't even know what to think about this...
Northern California dad takes ecstasy and gives it to his kids in HBO documentary>
Midlife high:Northern California dad takes ecstasy and gives it to his kids in HBO documentary
Jonathan Curiel, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, April 25, 2002
National anti-drug campaigns all target teens and college students, saying young people are the most likely to try and abuse cocaine, acid, speed and other illegal substances, but the documentary "Small Town Ecstasy" proves that even middle-aged parents are prone to these mind-altering stimulants.
The movie, which will premiere at 10 p.m. Sunday on HBO, follows a Northern California father named Scott who -- going through a midlife crisis at age 40 - - takes ecstasy for the first time, then becomes addicted to the highs it gives him. Scott dyes his hair, goes to Bay Area raves with his three youngest kids (a 15-year-old daughter, and two sons, ages 13 and 18) and gives wild kisses to strangers as the camera tracks his new behavior. Before turning 40, Scott had never even tasted hard liquor.
"It just makes me feel good," Scott, the son of a preacher, tells the filmmakers about using ecstasy, taking other drugs and dancing at raves. "I love it."
Scott, who appears to maintain a steady job, is among the 3.3 percent of Americans 35 or older who used an illegal drug at least once during a 30-day period in 2000, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The same agency reports that 8,000 Americans ages 26 or older used a hallucinogen between 100 and 299 days in 2000.
There is certainly widespread anecdotal evidence that large numbers of middle-aged men and women use ecstasy, which is also known as MDMA, and other illegal drugs.
"I know people in their 50s using MDMA," says Steven Wm. Fowkes, executive director of the Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute in Menlo Park, who says he uses the designer drug GHB but not ecstasy. "For 30 years, it's been popular. That's a long time. People who were in their 20s (when they first tried it) are still using MDMA today."
In one scene of "Small Town Ecstasy," Scott is at a party in Sacramento with his children and their school-age friends drinking alcohol, smoking dope, snorting cocaine and "rolling" and "chilling" on ecstasy pills. At one point, Scott gives his 13-year-old son, Sam, cash to buy drugs, prompting the 18-year- old son to tell his father, "That was a dumb idea."
Will Scott, who lives in Calaveras County, be jailed for his escapades with his kids? Will he regret supervising his children's growing drug use?
HEALTH, FAMILY PROBLEMS
"Small Town Ecstasy" has an agenda: to show that ecstasy -- one of the most abused illegal drugs in the United States -- can lead to long-term health problems and unforeseen schisms in families like Scott's. Heavy users of ecstasy suffer from depression and memory loss, the film says. In the middle of "Small Town Ecstasy," Scott is arrested (and released) after authorities find drugs in his apartment.
"A very strong message that we wanted to impart was about the dangers of ecstasy," says Arnold Shapiro, the movie's executive producer. "You don't come away from the film saying, 'My God -- I have to start taking that drug.' "
Yet the danger of drugs is only one thread in "Small Town Ecstasy." Scott's charisma and vulnerability, and his family's onscreen ups and downs (Scott's newly divorced wife, Sheri, is interviewed extensively) turn the movie into a 1 1/2-hour look at life in "average America." Scott and Sheri were high school sweethearts who got married right after graduation; for years, Scott was known more for helping his children with homework than popping pills with them.
"He had the same dreams I did," Sheri tells the camera before attending a family-court hearing that rules that Scott's visits with their children must be supervised.
"What we found so appealing is that it became bigger than the drug and rave scene," says Allison Grodner, the film's supervising producer and Shapiro's longtime work partner. "It's about the family struggling to stay together."
Scott and his children let the filmmakers take candid, intimate shots of everything from rave parties to animated family discussions about their drug use. One shot shows Scott crying as he talks about the Harry Chapin song "Cats in the Cradle." Scott never lets his last name be used, nor does he give away the exact town in Calaveras County where he lives, though it's possible he'll become more public after Sunday's airing of "Small Town Ecstasy." Along with the rest of HBO's subscribers, Scott and his family will see the movie for the first time on Sunday.
Veteran filmmakers and documentarians who have won many national awards, Shapiro and Grodner say they have sympathy for Scott, even though they don't condone his drug use.
'THIS ISN'T A BAD MAN'
"We all come from not-perfect families," Grodner says. "If he were just bad,
I don't think you could watch it. But there's something redeeming about him --
something about his lost childhood and him trying to experiment. Should he do it at the expense of his children and at this age? No. But there are different sides to him, and I'd hate to say across the board that he's a bad person. People may realize that he's a flawed person, and clearly he loves his children and they adore him. This isn't a bad man."
Scott, who likes the fact that drugs make him more extroverted, tells the filmmakers he enjoys "hooking people up" at raves and giving them drugs or car rides, saying, "I'm just a middle-aged crazy."
At the film's outset, his naivete is captured when he says, "I'm not going to get in trouble for this, am I?"
Says Shapiro: "We caught a man in a midlife crisis."