I remember the first time I ever met Charlie Sheen. It was about 2 a.m. and I was riding the elevator in the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City back to my room. The elevator stopped and Sheen got on with with a beautiful and very drunk blonde girl. They were both wearing open bathrobes and leaning on each other for support. Since I was staying at the hotel to attend a press junket for Navy SEALs, a film that Sheen was co-starring in, I knew exactly who he was. Even then in his clearly altered state, he was jaw-droppingly handsome and exuded that rare but very real aura of star power.
I was supposed to interview Sheen in the morning for the lame movie I'd just seen about Navy SEALs fighting terrorism, but I maintained my journalistic distance and stared straight ahead. The elevator stopped at my floor and as I got off, I could hear Sheen and his paramour snicker.
Screencrave.com Ignore the bad 80s hair.
The first time I ever saw Sheen was in the movie Platoon. I lined up outside to see it one frigid New Year's Day in Toronto back when movies were important enough for me to plan my life around them. As soon as the film unspooled, I knew that Sheen was being groomed for stardom. He had the acting intensity, the looks, and the lineage. Wall Street sealed the deal. Sheen was a bona fide star and living the Hollywood life to the hilt. It didn't hurt that his father was a well-respected actor and activist, or that his brother Emilio was as popular and laid-back as Charlie was wild and unpredictable.
The next day dawned at the junket and I made the rounds of interviews. Only one person was missing -- Sheen. The day wore on and the publicists became more frantic, his co-stars more edgy, until finally Michael Biehn intimated that Sheen was living up to the role he was playing in the movie -- an irresponsible showoff who endangers the lives of his fellow SEALs. SEALs have a history of getting away with antics that would get anybody else court martialed. As it became clear that Sheen was a no-show, everybody went to the hotel bar and had many, many drinks. The head of publicity came out and said they were doing everything they could to get Sheen to do a press conference the next day.
Rumours flew that he was holed up in the hotel on a coke and booze-fuelled bender and that the head honchos of Orion Pictures (now defunct) had personally begged him to do the publicity he was contractually obliged to perform. I shared my bathrobe tale, and someone else added that they'd seen him drinking in the sauna with two buxom babes. Who knew? The man's reputation was already legendary.
When Sheen finally made an appearance in the late afternoon of the following day, it was spectacular. After keeping the press waiting more than an hour in a cavernous ballroom, he sneaked into the room and took a seat. But with his superpimp attire, he didn't stay unnoticed for long. Dude was wearing a white suit and gold jewelry that would have done Superfly proud. Topping it off was a snazzy fedora with a feather in the band, and an unmistakable twinkle in the bad boy's eye. Once Sheen had our collective attention, he passed around headshots of himself in the getup. It is one of my few regrets that I threw that bizarre photo away a couple of house moves ago otherwise I would post it here.
What was most telling about the incident is that Sheen was enjoying himself immensely and didn't give a rat's ass about what anyone thought. His skin had a greasy shine to it, his pupils were dilated, and if a man could be said to swagger sitting down, he was. I don't remember much about the actual press conference, or even the stories I wrote, but I have an indelible recollection of the power he wielded that day. He had the rapt attention of everyone in that room because no one knew what he might do next.
When I stopped in at the gift shop later, the woman behind the counter admired my swag bag, which I gave to her, and she told me that Sheen had charged thousands of dollars to Orion outfitting himself at the boutique next door earlier in the day. She said he was an excellent tipper.
Sheen isn't the first actor to choose booze and the pleasures of the flesh over a serious film career -- although he prides himself as a professional and is always on time and prepared -- and he won't be the last. He's been hugely successful on his own terms. The Hollywood code of ignoring bad behavior in favour of raking in cash remains sacrosant. I won't pass judgment on Sheen although I sure as hell wouldn't want to be married to him. I'll leave the finger wagging to the armchair moralists who are thick upon the ground when it comes to the blame game. One thing I know for sure is that Charlie still doesn't give a damn about what any of us thinks of him.
dipity.com On the set of Navy SEALs. Wasn't he pretty?