Preemptive Strike on the Tabloids

Times Staff Writer

Teen star Drew Barrymore’s account of her drug and alcohol addiction in this week’s People developed partly as a preemptive strike against the tabloid press, according to the reporter who interviewed the 13-year-old actress for the first-person account.

Todd Gold of the magazine’s Los Angeles bureau says that at least one tabloid writer was on Barrymore’s trail, apparently after overhearing a comment in a studio commissary.

Garbled Accounts

“He heard someone say something like, ‘Yeah, Drew can read (for a part) after she gets out of rehab,’ ” Gold explained, noting that tabloids did run short, garbled accounts of Barrymore’s hospitalization. The tabloid reporter began staking out rehabilitation centers in the Los Angeles area and eventually spotted Barrymore’s mother paying a visit to one, Gold added, noting that the tabloid type passed himself off as a medical professional.

By picking a magazine that offered a first-person format, Barrymore, now free of drugs and alcohol, was assured that her story would be told her way, said Gold, who also collaborated with singer David Crosby for a similar article in April, 1987. Compared with the long lead times for other magazines, the fact that the weekly could do the story fast also was a plus, Gold said.

Other factors played a role in getting the story for People, said Gold, who got a call from Barrymore’s publicist--and a friend of the reporter’s--proposing the story. The idea of giving an interview came from Barrymore’s therapists who saw an up-front account as a way for the young actress to deal with public curiosity about her problems, Gold said. “From now on she can say, ‘Yes, I have a problem, I’ve talked about it’ . . . and put it behind her,” he said.


“First and foremost” Barrymore wanted to tell about her slide into drinking and cocaine abuse to ‘help other kids,’ ” Gold said. The article is accompanied by an interview with an expert on juvenile alcoholism who said Barrymore’s peers are “a depressed generation.” The expert added, “Too many children feel that no one cares about them, and too many of them are right.”

Gold couldn’t say whether the actress, best known for her roles in “E.T.” and “Irreconcilable Differences,” also might have picked People because she’s a fan of the magazine. But he “saw a stack” of back issues at Barrymore’s home, he said.

Barrymore’s narrative of her nightmare seems to pull no punches. She admits to taking her first drink at age 9, smoking marijuana at 10 and using cocaine at 12. She has been through two drug rehabilitation treatments.

“From the time I became famous in ‘E.T.,’ my life got really weird,” Barrymore told People. “One day I was a little girl, and the next day I was being mobbed by people who wanted me to sign my autograph or pose for pictures or who just wanted to touch me. . . . I was this 7-year-old who was expected to be going on a mature 29.”

Following a relapse, Barrymore says she took a credit card from her mother’s purse and flew from New York to Los Angeles.

“In L.A., we went to my house, blasted the stereo and decided to take my mother’s BMW to go out to dinner,” Barrymore recalled. “Even though I’m 13, my driving is pretty good. . . .

“Stacy and I drove around Hollywood for awhile. At one point we were being tailed by a cop, which was frightening because we had the coke on the dashboard. But once we got out of that, we went shopping. By that time my mother had reported the credit card stolen, but we still managed to buy several hundred dollars’ worth of clothes by conning the sales people.”

Since the magazine appeared Monday, Gold said he has received a number of calls about the story, including one from a mother interested in finding treatment for her daughter and three from book publishers interested in publishing the teen-ager’s life story.

Fruit on the Bloom

If this is April it must be strawberries--on the cover.

So goes the thinking behind California Food, a monthly set to debut this spring as a sort of hybrid--a trade publication with consumer appeal.

As envisioned by Stan Jones, executive director of the California Commission for Food and Wines, the glossy magazine to promote California crops to about 20,000 food executives around the country may also appeal to food fanatics who just can’t learn enough about the state’s real fruits and vegetables.

With the consumer angle in mind, Jones said each issue--bearing artful photos of the big crop of the month on the cover--will include regular features by leading chefs on how they use California products and by the heads of wineries about various aspects of wine-making.

Jones said it’s premature to estimate how big California Food could grow as a consumer magazine. But two magazine publishers already have expressed interest in acquiring the magazine for its potential beyond the narrow world of food wholesalers and retailers.

Unlike many trade magazines aimed at a specialized audience, California Food promises to be an attractive package. Prototypes shown by Jones contain a generous use of color and attractive, uncluttered layouts--including what may be a first, a center spread on avocados.

Presidential Perfection

Richard Nixon had a deep and abiding concern about furniture and interior decoration. In fact, the former President and Californian, who resigned in disgrace in 1974 because of the Watergate scandal, spent a good deal of time writing memos to his staff and his wife about fixing furniture, acquiring furniture and preserving historic scuff marks on the Oval Office floor, according to an article in the January issue of Washingtonian magazine.

Excerpted from the book, “From: The President, Richard Nixon’s Secret Files,” (edited by Bruce Oudes) the selected presidential broodings show a taste for minute detail as well as global issues.

In a January, 1969, memo to his wife Pat, Nixon fretted that he needed an end table beside his bed “which will accommodate two Dictaphones as well a telephone.” The impersonal memo, in which Nixon refers to himself in the third person, also reported that he needed a bigger table in his room for night paper work. “The table which is presently in the room does not allow enough room for him to get his knees under it,” Nixon wrote.

When the Oval Office floor was refurbished, Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman cautioned another staffer that “The President wants to be sure that the cork segments in the doorway leading to the terrace, which bear the marks of President Eisenhower’s golf shoes, are carefully preserved and removed. . . .”