Fairfield County native writes of Hollywood, alcoholism
Published 1:40 pm, Thursday, October 17, 2013
Claudia Christian paints an idyllic portrait of childhood in Weston and Westport in her well-reviewed memoir, "Babylon Confidential" (BenBella Books, $16.95), and then the terrible dislocation of the family being moved to Texas and California because of her father's work.
Those moves made Christian all the more determined to become an actress, a job that has given her a huge fan following as part of the "Babylon 5" crew on the ever-popular science-fiction TV series, but also pushed her toward the alcohol abuse that nearly ended her career and her life.
"Who knows what would have happened if we didn't leave Westport," Christian said during a recent phone interview. "I might not have become an actress."
"Babylon Confidential" takes readers behind the scenes in Hollywood and into Christian's encounters with celebrities like George Clooney and her long-term relationship with Dodi Fayed, but it is the harrowing material on the actress' battle with alcoholism that makes "Babylon Confidential" impossible to put down.
"No one sets out to be an addict," Christian writes in the book. "You never consider that one day you'll find yourself sitting at a bus stop ... as the morning traffic passes by, your hands shaking as you try to get the vodka-spiked orange juice past your lips. You don't imagine that you'll be close to death in a detox clinic with a total loss of muscle function, dehydrated and hallucinating."
More Information$16.95, BenBella Books Inc.
The actress says she never thought twice about lifting the veil on her alcoholism.
"In order for it to be taken seriously, I had to be as brutally honest as possible," Christian said. "As cliche and as naive as it might sound (however), I do think that everything happens for a reason. We all have some sort of destiny ... even little old me can have a positive effect."
After a stint as a model, Christian made a smooth transition to acting while in her teens, landing work on such early 1980s TV series as "Dallas" and "T.J. Hooker."
The actress broke into films with a hilarious performance as an alien-possessed stripper in the 1987 cult film, "The Hidden." By the time she was 23, Christian played opposite Michael Keaton in the 1988 cocaine addiction drama, "Clean and Sober."
"Babylon Confidential" includes a nasty physical confrontation with Cliff Robertson and a skeevy encounter with "L.A. Law" star Corbin Bernsen, but looking back, Christian said she didn't rack up half the Hollywood horror stories of her female peers.
"I consider myself incredibly lucky. ... There was one episode with (producer) Robert Evans, when I read for a film, that was a clear casting couch (move), but I didn't bother to put it in the book, because every actress has a Robert Evans story," she said.
"Had I been a little older I don't think I would have been as shocked by Cliff Robertson ... but I was only 19," she said of a moment on the set of "Falcon Crest" when the veteran actor grabbed her by the throat and said, "If you ever turn away from me when we're running lines I will (expletive deleted) destroy you."
By the time of her rather gross encounter with Bernsen -- in the middle of preparing to shoot a scene -- Christian was savvy enough to turn the moment to her advantage by agreeing not to file charges if the producers would help to finance an independent film script she still hopes to make.
Christian, 48, is busy acting and does a lot of voice-over work, but her main focus is getting the documentary on alcoholism and the Sinclair Method, which helped get her back on track, finished.
"I'm hoping we'll be done early next year. My dream is to get it on PBS and then to post it everywhere. Not everybody will buy my book, but a documentary can reach a lot of people," she said.
In last week's column about John Searles and his wonderful novel, "Help for the Haunted," there was a bit of confusion on my part in describing his family dealing with his sister's death.
John dropped me a note after the piece appeared online: "The part where it says I was so young to be faced with tragedy, I was actually talking about my youngest sister, who was 13 when our other sister died. She was so young to be faced with such tragedy but showed remarkable strength. (I was actually into my 20s at the time it happened.) It was my youngest sister who I realized I was channeling as I wrote ...."
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