Cameron Douglas (pictured with his father) was just seven when he discovered his father Michael’s drug issues
Cameron Douglas was just seven when he discovered his father Michael’s drug issues. His frustrated mother, Diandra Luker, was furious when she found a bag of marijuana among the film star’s possessions.
‘Do you know what this is Cameron?’ she asked him. ‘Your father is using drugs.’
It wasn’t long before Michael — the star of Fatal Attraction, Wall Street and Basic Instinct, and the son of 102-year-old screen legend Kirk Douglas — had his young son handing out joints at star-studded parties.
Sadly for Cameron, that was just the beginning of his near-lifelong relationship with drugs. By the time he was 26, his father had tried to have him kidnapped off a New York street, hiring three burly men in a black van to grab him and take him off to rehab.
Two years later Cameron was thrown off a film set in Ireland where he had the lead role in a horror film. After a week, he’d run out of heroin and had flown to Germany to find more.
The perils of being the offspring of Hollywood royalty are well-documented: insecurity, self-absorption, myriad temptations and emotional pressure to emulate or outdo a famous parent. Many have stumbled — but few as spectacularly as Cameron Douglas, who by his early 20s was a heroin addict and hardened drug-dealer who carried around a Glock handgun and kept a loaded shotgun under his bed.
Now 40, he served nearly eight years behind bars for drug offences before being released in 2016. Sober for the past six years, he has written a candid memoir about his troubled life and difficult relationship with his father.
His frustrated mother, Diandra Luker, was furious when she found a bag of marijuana among the film star’s possessions. Pictured: Cameron and daughter Lua Izzy with his partner Vivian Thibes at home in Los Angeles
For his part, Michael Douglas praises his son as a ‘wonderful kid . . . he was a sweetie’.
But according to Long Way Home, published by Knopf in the U.S. this week, Michael — now married to Catherine Zeta-Jones — was largely absent — and not much fun when he was home. Michael has admitted some revelations in the book made him ‘wince’ with pain, but considers it fair. Cameron was the only child of Michael’s first marriage to Luker, 13 years his junior and a diplomat’s daughter. She was only 19 when they wed in 1977, eight weeks after they met. She had Cameron when she was 20.
Luker hated the druggie, hedonistic world of showbusiness — which was unfortunate, as she was married to one of Hollywood’s party kings. She was so innocent of Tinseltown debauchery that at their wedding — guests included Warren Beatty, Gregory Peck and Jack Nicholson — she asked why three people had just gone to the lavatory together.
For his part, Michael Douglas praises his son (pictured) as a ‘wonderful kid . . . he was a sweetie’
Michael threw a 21st birthday party for her in Los Angeles, but when she came down with tonsillitis, he didn’t cancel it.
As she lay ill in bed upstairs, he partied downstairs with the rock band Foreigner until she threw them out at 5am.
Cameron was obsessed with stepping out from the long shadow cast by his father, just as Michael had been with his own father, Kirk — the star of Spartacus and Paths Of Glory from Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age.
Twice-married Kirk, who never hid his many infidelities from his wives, once said he was ‘born aggressive and will probably die aggressive’, adding that he felt ‘pretty good’ about being the most disliked actor in Hollywood. Aggression and addiction ran through the family. Cameron said that, as a child, he was so terrified of provoking his father Michael’s ‘wrath’ that he developed a nervous tick, repeatedly curling his hair into corkscrews.
‘At the dinner table, if I reached for the salt and accidentally knocked over my glass, he’d explode with anger or else brood silently, his jaw clenched,’ he says. ‘When he was around, I walked on eggshells.’
On holiday on a Californian lake, Cameron and his friends went off on jet skis and got lost. When they returned after dark, Michael was apoplectic. His arms flying around, his voice high-pitched, he was more manic than any character in his films, said Cameron’s scared friends.
Cameron’s beautiful but flighty mother had married too young and clearly struggled to cope. She filled their opulent homes — in California, Manhattan, a Colorado ski resort and Majorca — with a menagerie of exotic and dangerous pets, including a serval (an African wild cat) and an aggressive capuchin monkey.
When eight years into the marriage she learned Michael was having an affair with Kathleen Turner, his co-star in the adventure film Romancing The Stone. Diandra insisted the family move back to New York, away from Hollywood’s temptations.
Cameron insists he worshipped his father, even if the latter was so often away filming. When Cameron turned eight, Michael decided his son needed a more constant male presence in his life.
While lunching with Diandra at a restaurant near their California home in Santa Barbara, he spotted a Hispanic junior member of staff and decided on the spot he was just right, even though the man couldn’t speak English. Joaquin moved with them to New York and spent the next two years looking after Cameron from dawn to dusk.
Cameron (left with father Michael) was the only child of Michael’s first marriage to Luker, 13 years his junior and a diplomat’s daughter
‘He woke me up, he took me to school, picked me up, played with me, bought me Nintendo games,’ says Cameron who added that he often told Joaquin he loved him more than his parents.
Joaquin left after two years when Diandra found vodka bottles under his bed. And Cameron was soon following the familiar route travelled by over-entitled Hollywood children raised in homes rolling in money and luxury but short on parental care and attention.
Michael, now 75, let Cameron smoke as a child and didn’t keep him away from his drug-fuelled parties in Majorca — where guests included Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito and the movie director Oliver Stone.
Aged 12, Cameron crept around the guest houses on the idyllic Balearic estate, ‘climbing balconies and seeing more than I was supposed to: beautiful grown-ups doing the things that beautiful grown-ups living lives of excess do’. When guests were out, he and a friend went looking for any drug stashes.
Aged 12, Cameron crept around the guest houses on the idyllic Balearic estate
Cameron started abusing drink and drugs when he was 13 — buying marijuana in New York’s Central Park and experimenting with hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD.
He now believes he started taking drugs as a ‘path out of loneliness’ and got in with a bad crowd because he craved friendship.
As his parents’ marriage disintegrated, Cameron was kicked out of a string of expensive schools for drug use in the early 1990s.
Around that time, his father went into rehab for drink and drugs addiction. Cameron says Michael did this to placate his wife after she caught him in bed with someone else.
She later hired private detectives to tail the errant Michael, showing Cameron surveillance shots of the actor at the Beverly Wilshire hotel with another woman.
Cameron reveals Diandra wasn’t blameless, entertaining ‘gentlemen friends’ while Michael was away.
Aged 17, Cameron started taking heroin. He injected it as well as liquid cocaine. Soon he was so helplessly addicted that he was injecting cocaine three times every hour.
His often absent parents had no idea of the extent of his drug problems. Diandra even believed he kept the stuffed toys in his bedroom out of nostalgia. In fact, he stashed his drugs in them.
More for the adrenaline kick than the money, Cameron started robbing motels, armed with an air pistol that looked like a real gun. He liked to fight and, in his late teens, had a violent altercation one night with his father.
Returning late to the family’s Majorca home, Cameron accidentally woke Michael, who jumped naked out of bed and confronted him angrily. They ended up ‘manhandling’ each other and Cameron hurled Michael against a wall.
It was, says Cameron, a ‘turning point . . . something fundamental and unspoken had shifted in the way we saw each other’.
Diandra filed for divorce in 1995, the following year. By then, Cameron’s delinquency was so uncontrollable he was made a ward of court after a judge ruled his mother couldn’t handle him. He spent the next few years bouncing between juvenile detention facilities, rehabilitation centres and camps for troubled teenagers.
At 19, Cameron spent four months in adult jail for carrying a gun, managing to hide his famous heritage until his father visited one day in a chauffeur-driven limousine.
Fellow prisoners soon nicknamed him ‘Hollywood’. But Cameron and Michael weren’t the only family members with serious drug problems.Michael’s brother, Eric, died of an overdose in 2004 aged 46. Eric, a failed actor was gay and closeted.
Cameron believes Eric, ‘tormented’ by his sexuality, feared the other Douglas males’ ‘square-jawed breed of masculinity’ meant he would never be accepted.
To be fair to his father, Michael repeatedly tried to sort out Cameron’s problems with spells in rehab and also helped him break into acting.
But his efforts were defeated by the vice-like grip of his son’s addictions. Cameron was furious in 2004 when Michael hired three men to whisk him off to rehab. The men ‘tried to reason with me’, says Cameron who responded with violent threats.
They looked at his father and shook their heads, making clear they were calling it off. Although he asked Cameron to be best man at his New York wedding to Zeta-Jones in 2000, Michael was utterly exasperated with him. As he began a new family with Zeta-Jones (they have two children), the star spoke bluntly to Cameron.
‘I’m not going to nurture a relationship with you because I think you’re going to die,’ he said. ‘You’re going to overdose, or someone’s going to kill you, or you’re going to kill someone. I’m trying to prepare myself emotionally for that.’
By then, Cameron had become a dealer, selling highly addictive crystal meth and cocaine and robbing other dealers at gunpoint.
He narrowly escaped getting into serious trouble after he was stopped one day by a man who stuck his head into his car. The man was a Secret Service agent trying to warn him that Bill Clinton’s entourage was approaching. Cameron sped off, dragging the agent along; miraculously, the man escaped serious injury.
He insists his father didn’t know the extent of his criminality, but Michael knew it was serious. At one point, he called his son to say he’d heard the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was looking at him.
‘Get out of your house immediately, they’re coming for you!’ he warned Cameron. In 2009, by then a heroin addict for nearly five years, armed DEA agents ambushed Cameron in a New York hotel room and arrested him. They let him go out quietly through a back exit to avoid embarrassing his famous family.
He admitted drugs possession and distribution charges, and both Michael and Diandra acknowledged their parental failings in court documents as part of the defence’s attempt to reduce his sentence.
Michael kept in touch with his imprisoned son more than when the younger man was free, writing to him every week. Grandad Kirk wrote every fortnight. Cameron rewarded them by including portraits of them on his heavily-tattooed torso, even if Michael was ’embarrassed’ by the gesture.
But prison was no obstacle to Cameron’s addiction: his sentence was doubled after he was caught with drugs behind bars. He also got into several vicious fights to show he was no ‘pushover’. Hearing this news, a delighted Kirk said: ‘That’s my boy!’
As a result of his offences in prison, Cameron spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.
When released in 2016, Michael kept his distance, amid rumours that Catherine Zeta-Jones was anxious to insulate her family from her troubled stepson.
Cameron, now drug-free, has a young daughter with his yoga-teacher girlfriend Viviane.
He is anxious to get back into acting: perhaps he may yet ensure the Douglas dynasty lives on.
He says he feels deep gratitude that his family never gave up on him, but, given his unsettling revelations, one might wonder if they feel they truly deserve it.