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Hollywood Stars Walk as Prosecutors Target Rush -
January 14, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Check this out: The Beverly Hills Police Department has served a subpoena on the banking records of a Hollywood star.

A recent report in the National Enquirer that the celebrity had a pill addiction ­ proof of this came from a paid tip to the tabloid from the star's maid - has caught the notice here in Tinseltown among the cops and the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

Authorities, unable to prosecute the star on the basis of an addiction alone, are examining whether the celebrity engaged in money laundering or doctor shopped their prescriptions, a felony in California.

Pretty heady stuff.

But it never happened, and probably never will.

Such star treatment doesn't seem to apply to Rush Limbaugh , who developed an addiction to painkillers after a surgical procedure in the late 1990s.

The charge of doctor-shopping is practically unheard of on the Left Coast, where celebrity visits to Dr. Feelgoods followed by ritualistic visits to rehab centers rank up there with the number of stiletto heels in Paris Hilton's closet.

The list of the addicted and famous is huge.

It includes such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor ,Robert Downey Jr. ,Kelsey Grammer ,Tim Allen ,Matthew Perry ,Charlie Sheen ,Billy Joel ,Christian Slater ,Ozzy Osbourne ,Jack Osbourne ,Ben Affleck ,Paula Poundstone ,Tawny Kitaen and Nick Nolte .

Somehow, whether for pain or thrill, Tinseltown poppers or would-be shoppers never seem to be pursued with the same vigor as Rush seems to be.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Those in La-La Land who end up seeking professional help for their drug problems are generally praised for their courage, honesty and freshly lipo-sucked abs. Then they're given a plum role in an Aaron Sorkin series.

Just Some of the Famously Addicted

One recent example of a celeb who hit the rehab trail is Ozzy Osbourne , the heavy-metal rocker who became a star of "reality" TV. When Osbourne's addiction to prescription painkillers became a news story, there was plenty of talk about prosecution. But not of Osbourne. Instead, authorities started pointing accusatory fingers at the doctor who had treated him.

According to the Los Angeles Times, physician-to-the-stars Dr. David Kipper allegedly dispensed 13,000 doses of more than 30 drugs to Osbourne in only one year. Osbourne said the doctor gave him tranquilizers, amphetamines, opiates, anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic drug. Treatments were carried out in "hotel detoxes," a celebrity favorite typically done anonymously in private luxury suites. In 2003 Ozzy's 17-year-old son, Jack, checked into Las Encinas rehab clinic in California. The clinic provides treatment for alcohol and drug abuse.

Evidently, the staff protected the privacy of Ozzy's offspring during the visit and declined to confirm the addiction, although Jack later admitted that he had become addicted to prescription drugs, including OxyContin.

Matthew Perry had an overly friendly encounter with painkillers. He entered rehab in 1997 for the "early stages of chemical dependency." People magazine reported that he became addicted to Vicodin as a result of problems with a wisdom tooth and pain related to injuries from an accident on a watercraft.

In 2001, Perry entered a rehab hospital again. This time, though, his publicist indicated that it was for an undisclosed ailment. The publicist told the public that Perry appreciated the concern of the fans and thanked them "for respecting his privacy."

In 2002, when actress Tawny Kitaen beat up her husband, all-star pitcher Chuck Finley , she was charged with spousal injury and battery. She was also accused of using a long list of prescription drugs.

After Finley charged in legal documents that Kitaen suffered from "addiction" and "inattention to parenting," she reportedly admitted she'd become addicted to prescription medications and said she was starting rehab. Her lawyer told the press that the charges would be dismissed when the treatment was finished.

Charlie Sheen , son of Martin Sheen and star of the sitcom "Two and a Half Men," has been a drug addict, heavy drinker (two quarts of vodka a day) and frequent Heidi Fleiss flyer.

He checked into drug rehab in 1990 but fell off the wagon. In May 1998, Sheen overdosed in his home. To avoid jail he entered rehab, and this time the treatment stuck. Hollywood patted Sheen on the back and gave him a Golden Globe for his role in the foundering "Spin City."

Then there's Aaron Sorkin himself, leftist creator of the Democrat fantasy series "The West Wing." Busted for drugs in April 2001, he was sentenced to a "diversion program."

Chums insisted Sorkin's drug bust was a one-time lapse, but he proved them wrong in August 2001 when he boasted to a magazine that he had abused crack cocaine as well as marijuana and said, "If you use drugs long enough you forget how to celebrate without them."

Secret Addictions

Billy Joel , who has admitted to past problems with substance abuse, called off some concert dates in his Face to Face Tour 2002 with Elton John to seek help.

His record label initially stated that the cancellations were due to throat problems. But news surfaced that the singer/songwriter entered Silver Hill rehab center in New Canaan, Conn., to battle a "specific and personal problem that had recently developed."

Silver Hill is one of the preferred addiction treatment centers. Clients include Nick Nolte ,Liza Minnelli ,Diana Ross ,Michael Jackson ,Gregg Allman and Mariah Carey .

In 2001, Ben Affleck sought treatment for alcohol abuse at the exclusive Promises rehab facility in posh, trendy Malibu. Clients of the center include Charlie Sheen, Christian Slater, Tim Allen and Paula Poundstone.

Promises has become a popular destination for celebrities in need of rehab.

According to the facility's Web site, Promises offers "individualized treatment for drug addiction, alcoholism and other chemical dependencies," which includes "daily educational lectures, relapse prevention skills, group therapy sessions, equine therapy and art therapy."

Another celeb who took the Promises path in 2002 was Diana Ross . According to her publicist, she was treated at the Malibu facility to "clear up some personal issues."

Celebrity Criminal Law 101

After being arrested the previous year on charges of committing lewd acts against a child and child endangerment, Paula Poundstone completed rehab in 2002.

The D.A. had dropped the charge of lewd acts. Poundstone pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment and a misdemeanor. She received a sentence of five years' probation and six months' drug treatment.

Nick Nolte had an unforgettable mug shot moment in 2003 that made the post-captured Saddam Hussein look GQ worthy. Nolte was charged with being under the influence of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a chemical compound known as the "date rape" drug. Three days after the arrest, he checked into a drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation center. Later he headed for Silver Hill.

Things recently got complicated for Nicole Richie .

Paris Hilton 's sidekick on "The Simple Life" appeared in a Malibu courtroom on a felony drug-possession case three days after the TV show debuted. Richie is on court-supervised probation, a common form of celebrity justice. She's due back in court in March for another report to the judge.

Robert Downey Jr. has a history of substance abuse dating back to 1996, when the actor was arrested for, among other things, being in possession of heroin, crack and cocaine.

After walking away from his court-ordered drug rehab program, he was sentenced to three years' probation. He violated parole and was sentenced to six months in jail.

In 1999 Downey started a three-year prison sentence for another parole violation. In 2000 he was arrested for cocaine and Valium possession. The following year he was honored twice over with a Golden Globe and an Emmy. And so it goes.

Time to Crack Down

In Florida, authorities have had a similar attitude toward persons with addictions ­ until Rush Limbaugh .

The Palm Beach Post recently reported that over the last five years, the number of cases of doctor-shopping that have been fully prosecuted in Palm Beach County is zero.

This tidbit hasn't seemed to deter the prosecutors who now are on a fishing expedition, rummaging through Rush's financial and medical records in an apparent effort to get him.

Add to that the bevy of pundits, partisans and paparazzi who are now digging for dirt on the legendary radio personality but who have typically given a "who cares" look at Tinseltown malfeasance.

As the Limbaugh case moves forward, you can bet that 20 million of his closest friends will be watching ­ and hoping he gets equal treatment under the law and a fair shake.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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