In a new unauthorized biography entitled Petty: The Biography due out November 10, author and musician Warren Zanes writes about Tom Petty admitting he was a heroin addict in the 1990s. The book marks the first time Petty has publicly opened up about his heroin use — a fact which Petty even had edited out of Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary Runnin’ Down A Dream.
Though Petty: The Biography is unauthorized, the idea for the book came from an interesting source: Tom Petty himself, says Zanes, according to a phone interview he did with the Washington Post.
“He didn’t want it to be authorized because he felt like authorized meant b******t. He said, ‘I want it to be yours. And I can’t tell you what you can and can’t write.'”
The one thing Petty was worried about in granting an all access pass to his life to Zanes, was fans and readers romanticizing his addiction. It’s something that’s been seen countless times before in the world of sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll — take, for example, Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who openly capitalized off of the incredibly scary but often-times romantic notion of his addiction in his autobiography-of-sorts The Heroin Diaries — and Petty didn’t want that for his story, Zanes reflected in his phone interview.
“The first thing he said to me on the subject is ‘I am very concerned that talking about this is putting a bad example out there for young people. If anyone is going to think heroin is an option because they know my story of using heroin, I can’t do this.’ And I just had to work with him and say, ‘I think you’re going to come off as a cautionary tale rather than a romantic tale.'”
If you’re doing the math, Tom Petty, who was born in 1950, becoming a heroin addict in the 1990s would put him in his 40s at the onset, and throughout, his addiction. So how does a musician, who survived the Rock ‘n’ Roll heroin craze of the 1970s and 80s become a junkie when he’s pushing 50-years-old? According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Zanes touches on the reasoning in Petty: The Biography.
Has anyone narrowed down Tom Petty's heroin addiction window to include his appearance in The Postman?— Cotton (@LogFlume) October 8, 2015
“That happens when the pain becomes too much and you live in a world, in a culture, where people have reached in the direction of heroin to stop the pain. He’s a rock ‘n’ roller. He had had encounters with people who did heroin, and he hit a point in his life when he did not know what to do with the pain he was feeling.”
Tom Petty wasn’t the only Heartbreaker to harbour a smack addiction. Howie Epstein, the band’s bassist, was famously booted from the band due to his addiction, not long before his death of “drug-related complications” in 2003, which makes for a pretty hypocritical twist, considering Epstein and Petty would have each been addicted to heroin around the same time. Zanes explains, however, that Epstein was always a Heartbreaker. The band had sent him to rehab, that they did everything they could to keep the band together, but “it got untenable.”
While it may come as a surprise to many people that Tom Petty once had an addiction to heroin, it’s not exactly the shock of a lifetime. Anyone who’s ever watched the creepy music video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mary Jane’s Last Dance — in which Petty, playing a morgue assistant, steals a dead body from the morgue (played by Kim Bassinger), dresses it up in a wedding dress, and proceeds to play house with it, before ultimately tossing the body into the ocean — knows the singer had to be on something during the video’s concept stage.
Are you surprised at Tom Petty’s admission that he was once a heroin addict? Sound off in the comments below.
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