The NFL is doing something about concussions, when is Hollywood going to do something about drugs?

As Philip Seymour Hoffman is remembered for his abilities as an actor, his death should be a wake-up call to an industry awash in substance abuse and the misery and death it causes.

Instead of the romantic recollection afforded each new casualty of the entertainment industry’s tacit endorsement of drug and alcohol abuse, Philip Seymour Hoffman should be remembered as the man whose death drove Hollywood to tackle the cancer in its soul. Arguably the best actor of this generation has fallen prey to an addiction and a lifestyle that have killed scores of entertainers over scores of years.

Hollywood had a substance problem and Philip Seymour Hoffman is just the tip of the iceberg.

And Hollywood needs to set its house in order.

Instead of being a haven for the drug culture, Hollywood should join the fight against it.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Nicole Smith, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Corey Monteith. Don’t forget Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Lenny Bruce, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe and, ironically, Truman Capote.

Drugs aren’t just part of the plot, they are part of the culture, perhaps a too-common temptation in an industry where money and creative temperaments are combined under high pressure and privilege.

And this one is just one more.

A good-hearted genius who, in the end, picked 50 bags of heroin over three little children. So deep were the hooks of addiction in him that he chose to be a junkie instead of a dad, and he chose to endanger his life – and all that that entailed – rather than resist the demons that called his name.

This isn’t an unavoidable consequence of the creative lifestyle, but it is a particular danger to the creative soul. And the industry that is home to those creative souls – and which has so much power to set an example in this society – ought to do more to protect them. Yes, the NFL has had to recognize a danger common to its industry, Hollywood should now do the same.

Instead of being tolerated or even encouraged, drug use must become a pariah in Hollywood. If entertainers can rally themselves to fight AIDS and other scourges, they can rally themselves to fight this plague. Instead of accepting substance abuse – be it drugs or alcohol – as part of the culture of show business, the entertainment industry – music, television and movies – must reject it and stigmatize it. It must be chased from Hollywood lives and Hollywood parties.

And it should be scrutinized in Hollywood scripts.

Not under threat or force of government, but at the direction of conscience, in an industry that has far too many funerals every year.

Songs and shows, and the people who make them both, should build society, not degrade and endanger it.

Because for every Philip Seymour Hoffman, there are countless other Americans, from every corner of society, who suffer just such ignoble ends. There are families torn apart and children hurt, crimes committed and talents lost. The difference between Philip Seymour Hoffman and an entire army of Americans is that the press paid attention when he fell apart, but turns a blind eye when the rest of us do the same.

And the entertainment industry, which does so much to shape contemporary American culture, should shape it more responsibly and positively.

And it should start at home.

It should look after the sons and daughters of America whose talents and drive push them into its ranks. It should recognize that they face a special set of challenges and a dizzying set of temptations. There may also be something to the artistic personality that makes it particularly susceptible to intoxicants and addictions, and the spiral to which they unavoidably lead.

The entertainment industry is massive, in its reach and wealth, and it ought to better accept its responsibility to be a safe workplace. Not just in the recording studio and on the sound stage, but in the larger culture of the industry that embraces and swallows so many. Instead, people are swept up into a world of parties and excess that poses real threats to their happiness and safety.

The NFL is doing something about concussions, when is Hollywood going to do something about drugs?

If the only response is a maudlin montage at the Oscars, and a standing ovation to a memory, then Philip Seymour Hoffman will truly have died in vain. His children will weep and his mother will mourn and it will all accomplish nothing.

But if his death can purchase from his industry an emotional investment in fighting drug use and alcohol abuse, then his legacy to the craft he loved may be that it becomes safer and more protective of other poets and artists who are drawn to it. They didn’t do it for Corey or Heath – or any of the dozens of others – but maybe they will do it for Phil.

And maybe the realization that drugs are dangerous in Hollywood will send the statement that drugs are dangerous everywhere.

Maybe at long last we can gain the resolve to just say no to the first offer of an illegal or misused prescription drug.

And maybe one day the passing of a star like Philip Seymour Hoffman won’t be predictable.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2014