In his new memoir, “Me,” music icon Elton John doesn’t shy away from addressing his issues with substance abuse and addiction. From his first line of cocaine with former lover-and-manager John Reid, and the reckless behaviors that followed, to his eventual admission into a rehab facility — he puts everything on the table, including other notable celebrities’ similar struggles.
John, 72, says that he became a sort of Hollywood helper to fellow celebrities struggling with addiction. “I suppose because I was a high-profile addict who turned his life around very publicly, I became someone that my peers looked to if they had a problem,” he said.
He explains not only that he got Rufus Wainright into rehab after Wainwright was “taking so much crystal meth that, at one stage, he’d gone temporarily blind,” but also that he is Eminem’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.
John says that he’s tried to help multiple performers struggling with addiction, laughing that it’s “become a bit of a running joke — Elton always springing into action whenever a pop star has an issue with drink or drugs — but I don’t mind at all.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t always successful.
Dionne Warwick asked him to help her niece once, the late Whitney Houston, but Houston never got back to him. George Michael also didn’t respond well to John’s offer of assistance, taking out an open letter in Heat magazine asking John to mind his own business.
Another musician who shunned his help was Billy Joel. While performing a series of live dates with Joel, John noticed that his fellow pianist’s problem with alcohol: “He would wash medication for a chest infection down with booze in his dressing room, then fall asleep onstage in the middle of singing ‘Piano Man.’” When he approached Joel about potentially getting help, he was quickly dismissed as judgmental.
Outside of the music industry, he also helped other friends in high places, most notably Donatella Versace. After the death of her brother Gianni, who John claimed never knew about her cocaine problem, he staged an intervention that resulted in her checking into rehab.
Ultimately, John says, “if someone is in a state and needs help, I call them, or leave my number with their manager, just saying ‘Listen, I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.’”