FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is News & Notes. Dr. Drew Pinsky is well known for his advice to young adults on the racy MTV and syndicated radio show, "Loveline." Last year viewers saw Dr. Drew help drug-addicted celebrities battle their addictions on Celebrity Rehab. The show followed addicted celebrities as they underwent detoxification and drug treatment at a facility in California. Well, VH1 has teamed up with Dr. Drew again for a second season of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." This season's cast includes actor Jeff Conway, Nikki McKibben of American Idol, actor Gary Busey and Rodney King. The acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in Rodney King's beating precipitated the 1992 LA riots. In this scene from the show, some of the other participants try to figure out who Rodney King is.
Unidentified Man # 1: I heard that dude that got beaten up by a cop - Rodney King. That's him, right?
Unidentified Man # 2: That's not him, no, no. He's an actor. He was in "Boyz n the Hood."
Unidentified Man # 1: I thought he did sports.
Unidentified Woman: I thought, yeah...
Unidentified Man # 1: He was All-American. Basketball Player?
Unidentified Woman: Yeah.
CHIDEYA: How are you doing?
Dr. DREW PINSKY ("Celebrity Rehab"): I'm fine, how are you?
CHIDEYA: I'm doing great . You know, this is actually a very wrenching show to watch. I mean, folks here are really hurting. So, how do you balance what could be seen as the voyeuristic aspects of what you're doing with the medical and psychological aspects of what you're doing?
Dr. PINSKY: Well, I - you know I'm so, sort of, bewildered by people who see this as a sad story, because the fact is this is a disease that afflicts one out of eight Americans. This is a common condition. It is the disease of our time. People die of it every day. It's a sad disease that has a treatment, and the treatment is quite inspirational. I, for one, am sick and tired of people talking about the treatment of a severe life-threatening medical addiction, the treatment of chemical dependency, what some people call rehab, as though it's some sort of spa treatment.
In fact, there are - because there's very little regulation on the residential levels, some of it is only that, and so people do get very confused about what this is, what the disease is, how it's treated, and we thought it was time to pull the curtain back on that. And the fact is the presence of the cameras didn't harm anybody, in fact it seemed to inspire most, if not all, of the patients, and they get better. And I, and I think other viewers will be absolutely transfixed and inspired by what they - where they go with this. It's a sad disease, that's a fact, but to put people in an environment where they can deal with it in a realistic way, and transform, and get better, well there's nothing sad at all about that. It's hard to watch, but all addiction is hard to watch.
CHIDEYA: Is there anything that makes it different for people who either are famous or have been famous at some point, in terms of trying to get sober and stay sober?
Dr. PINSKY: Really no. And in fact the original treatment idea - we were going to - the original idea for the show, I wanted to put regular people in with the celebrities, just to make that point, just to show that we treat everybody the same. In fact, as soon as you treat an addict as special, you undermine their ability to stay sober. But as I was interviewing some of these potential, sort of, regular folks so to speak for the program it became increasingly clear to me that they couldn't really render an informed consent. They did not fully appreciate what it would mean to be on camera and to be exposed in this way, while the celebrities fully understood it.
In fact Mary Carey, who was in the first season, sort of summarized it for me, because I - every day I was sort of making sure that this wasn't troubling for them, they were OK, that the cameras didn't bother them. And finally Mary Carey says to me, she goes look, Drew, I've done everything in front of a camera, this is not a problem. And I thought, yeah, OK, you guys do understand what this is. And in fact, when it did air, I still had concerns that when it aired, it would shame them, or expose them, or make them feel bad. It did, it make them - it made them want to feel like they could be an inspiration to other people.
CHIDEYA: Well, we want to bring in Rodney King who was on your show. And Mr. King how are you?
Mr. RODNEY KING (Cast Member on "Celebrity Rehab"): Pretty good, yeah.
Dr. PINSKY: Hi, Rodney.
Mr. KING: Hi, Dr. Drew.
Dr. PINSKY: Hey, buddy, how are you?
Mr. KING: Pretty good, thanks.
Dr. PINSKY: Excellent.
CHIDEYA: So, one of the things we see in the show is you puking your guts out before you go into rehab. What were you - what brought you to the moment where you said, you know what, I'm actually willing to go on TV and show people my recovery. What brought you to that point?
Mr. KING: Well, pretty much everything I do a lot is exposed on TV, now anyway, and so I just felt that it would be best to, you know, show other people, not just kids, but you know, show other people, not just kids, you know, of big - the world, how, you know, this thing called disease is a struggle, and don't be embarrassed to, you know, get yourself some help. I feel that if they see other addicts on TV exposing this type of thing, you know, that they'll - hey, you know what, this is not so bad, let me go get me some help. Because, you know, earlier on you couldn't find help, or you just got teased about it, and you died a real bad death, you know, it was real tragic.
CHIDEYA: Rodney, you sound - your voice sounds very crisp, and there have been times when you have spoken, you know, you obviously went through something that few people can imagine. Being beaten the way that you were, having it end up on video tape, and subsequently, having, you know, an entire city in flames over, you know, a fundamental difference of how they viewed what happened to you. But it happened to you, not to anyone else, and there have been times in the past, to be honest, when you haven't sounded so crisp. So, are you sober right now?
Mr. KING: Yes, I am sober. I've been sober for about four months now.
CHIDEYA: How does that feel?
Mr. KING: It feels good. You know, once again, you know, I've been in and out of rehab, and you know, each time it's a different - it's a change. And this time it really was, you know, a good experience for me, you know. At the age of 43, it feels good to be clean, you know, for four months.
CHIDEYA: Mr. King, you're a symbol of different things to different people. Of injustice, of survival, of reconciliation. What do you want for yourself? I mean, now that you're sober, in particular, what do you want for yourself as a man?
Mr. KING: You know, just to be seen as a man and as a decent human being. Not just a -some person who's running down the street, you know, drunk and running from the cops, you know? A person who is all about speaking peace, and speaking of change, you know, for the world.
Dr. PINSKY. I got to say that I promise people will perceive him in this program in the way that he wants to be perceived, because that's who he is. And people will be surprised and pleased and delighted by this man in my opinion.
CHIDEYA: Well, gentlemen, I want to thank you both so much for coming on.
Mr. KING: Thanks.
Dr. PINSKY: It's our pleasure. Thank you.
CHIDEYA: That was Doctor Drew Pinsky, of VH-1's reality show, "Celebrity Rehab, with Doctor Drew". He joined us from NPR studios in New York. And Rodney King joined us by phone. The second season of "Celebrity Rehab, with Doctor Drew" premiers October 23rd on VH-1.