Inside Artie Lange’s last chance

Inside Artie Lange's last chance

28 Temmuz 2018 - 02:00

Artie Lange is a man obsessed with the chances he won't take.

What, he wonders, will he miss if he isn't willing to find out? For him, the thrill of the chase is just too good to pass up.

He's the opposite of risk-averse. Call it risk-addicted.

The risk of being a diabetic and performing stand-up comedy with high blood sugar.

The risk of doing heroin at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway while starring in an HBO series.

The risk of not showing up for court after being charged with heroin possession.

The risk of cheating on his girlfriend with 11 strippers in Las Vegas. 

"What if?" just isn't something he said he ever wanted to face, so he went all in. 

This premise goes a long way to explain why Lange's behavior, characterized by decades of drug addiction, can seem so self-destructive.

But Lange, now approaching his 51st birthday, didn't expect to make it to 25. Today he says his fading health has him determined to stay alive.

"I get nervous now, because now I wanna live," he says, speaking to NJ Advance Media on July 17 for the release of his latest memoir, "Wanna Bet? A Degenerate Gambler's Guide to Living on the Edge" (St. Martin's Press). 

"Now I do care about it, and I think that maybe I've done too much damage," Lange says. 

But there was that one risk that paid off big time — the risk, in 1991, of leaving the safety of his $70K longshoreman job at Port Newark to try making it as a comedian. 

Andrew Miller | For NJ Advance Media
Heroin, probation and rehab

Lange, a dyed-in-the-wool (dyed-in-the-gabagool, he might say) New Jerseyan who grew up in Union Township, is best known for the near-decade he spent as a regular on "The Howard Stern Show" starting in 2001 — and, of late, for his part on the HBO series "Crashing."

However, over the length of his 25-year career, he has become just as associated with cocaine and heroin — his very existence seeming like a constant comeback story. Thanks to a recent brush with that last risk, he has just embarked on four years of probation

Currently, Lange is enrolled in an outpatient drug treatment program, "six hours deep" into 50 hours of community service. Lange is serving his community by performing comedy just a stone's throw from his home, at a senior center in Hoboken.

"Literally it says, 'Try to make them laugh,' so that's been a challenge," he says, especially when the audience had never heard of him.

One 86-year-old man, for instance, is convinced the "MADtv" alum is a congressman, not a comedian. 

"If someone was given a picture of me and had to guess my occupation, they wouldn't guess show business for like a year. They'd guess chimney sweep before show business," Lange says.

Essex County Sheriff's Office

The current state of Lange's flattened nose — perhaps the most obvious marker of wear and tear in recent years — is owed to the complete demolishment of his septum after 30 years of drug abuse (it didn't help that he also accidentally snorted glass a few years ago when trying to suck up smashed OxyContin tablets).

In June, he was sentenced in state Superior Court in Newark to four years of probation after pleading guilty to heroin possession. Just weeks before, he was asked to leave the "Artie and Anthony Show," his podcast on Compound Media, because of his frequent absences.

In May of 2017, State Police had stopped him on the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield and reported finding a bag of heroin and straw in his lap and a total of 81 decks of heroin. It was the second time he had been arrested in two months, after police alleged that they found Lange with cocaine and heroin in his Hoboken parking garage.

When Lange didn't show up for court on the Bloomfield charges, he was arrested in December and spent five "brutal" days in Essex County Jail, which produced a haggard mug shot and a flurry of headlines.

Andrew Miller | For NJ Advance Media

Last month, the judge, allowing Lange to avoid further jail time, meted out the probation sentence with a warning. 

"Mr. Lange, the ball's in your court now," she told the comedian. He would be the only one, she said, with the power to prevent what she called a "sad ending" to his story.

Lange, of course, has been through this kind of rehab before. His most recent attempt was an abbreviated effort at the beginning of the year.

"Now, the difference is the fear of jail," he says. Slip-ups won't just be slip-ups this time around — they could mean an end to work altogether if he's incarcerated. No acting, no stand-up and no touring.

In all of this, Lange has always referred to heroin as his one regret. While cocaine was an instrument of chaos in his life, he says he'd rather tackle people than let them try heroin.

"Nothing knocked me on my a** like heroin, with the physical withdrawals," he says. "It's the worst." 

St. Martin's Press
A 'degenerate gambler'

Lange's latest book "Wanna Bet?" was written with Anthony Bozza, the same co-author who helped pen his 2008 memoir "Too Fat To Fish," which hit No. 1 on the New York Times' best-seller list, and the 2013 follow-up, "Crash and Burn."

In the new book, Lange talks about benefitting from an "idiot's luck" that he says has followed him all his life.

He was first arrested for cocaine possession 23 years ago in Los Angeles during an incident in which he took a swing at a police officer (something he also says he did 17 years later in France). He credits music legend Quincy Jones, the producer of "MADtv," for getting him special treatment in jail and a lawyer who was able to get the arrest expunged from his record (though after spending time in jail in 1996, Lange ultimately did not return to the show). So when Lange got arrested again in 2017 for heroin possession, "it was technically a first offense, according to them," he says.


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