Bob Forrest: Doing 'Celebrity Rehab' in the 'Southland'
On Thursday, Jan. 7, VH1 premieres the third season of "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew," a reality series in which internist and addiction-medicine specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky treats the participants at his in-patient facility in Pasadena, Calif.
Of course, Dr. Pinsky (in photo, right) doesn't work alone. Among his most valuable assistants is drug counselor Bob Forrest (in photo, left), a hat-wearing musician who takes a no-nonsense approach to helping addicts break through their walls of denial and self-delusion.
On this particular day in the fall of 2009, Forrest is in a common area of an upscale housing development in Playa Vista, Calif., which is standing in for a rehab facility. He's acting as a consultant to the then-NBC police drama "Southland," which, after a sudden cancellation, makes its TNT premiere on Jan. 12 with episodes that have already premiered on NBC.
This particular episode, in which Officers John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie, right) visit an addicted colleague (C. Thomas Howell), will air sometime in or after March, when as-yet-unseen episodes begin on TNT.
Asked about the idea of an addicted police officer, Forrest says, "(There are) lots of law-enforcement officers. There are high rates of addiction in any of the thrill-seeking occupations -- the medical profession is the highest rate of addiction in America.
"They save lives. They're going to change the world, so the motivation that gets you into an occupation like that is similar to law enforcement."
According to Forrest, addiction among law enforcement is more often alcohol than drugs.
"It's alcohol, always," he says. "They do abide by their ethics, but they're hard, hard drinkers. ... I've treated more cops than celebrities. I hope the LAPD doesn't mind, but it's all the different PDs. There's an intensity. You get the endorphin rush; you get the adrenaline; everything is on high alert.
"Soldiers are coming back now with this high rate of addiction. They report to me, because I have counseled a couple of people who've come back from Iraq. 'Bob, yesterday doesn't exist.' That's the greatest line I ever heard from an addict of this type -- law enforcement, prison guards and soldiers -- yesterday doesn't exist, because today is the day you could get killed.
"I think policemen think like that, too. I have another policeman, who was a homicide detective for 20 years, who said, 'I've seen more death than anything.' He had retired. He'd been a heavy drinker, then he retired and just became a drink-to-the-death guy. And he turned around. He's doing all right.
"Where there's breath, there's hope, I always say, and this is an accurate portrayal."
Unlike his purely advisory role on "Southland," Forrest appears on-camera in "Celebrity Rehab," and sometimes that's a challenge.
"You can't curse a lot," he says. " I'm always with Drew. He's so articulate. I cuss a lot when I'm on my own. Drew's a real steadying influence in my life. When I first started to work for him -- because I worked with musicians, where you can really say or do anything you want -- and he wanted me to work at the hospital with him.
"He said, 'Just be you. Just do what you were doing at MusiCares, and just be you. I'll back you up.' And I'm like, 'OK.' I'm cussing, and I'm saying all these outlandish things. After about three weeks, 'Did you say ...', whatever it was, 'I don't give a f--k whether you get sober or not,' I think I said to a patient, just to shock them. It's all for value. It has clinical value.
"I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Bob, there's a difference between pushing the envelope and not even considering that there is one.' And he just slammed my door. That's the maddest he's ever gotten."
(Photo at right, from the right, Season Three participants Heidi Fleiss, Mackenzie Phillips and Lisa D'Amato. Participants not shown are Tom Sizemore, Dennis Rodman, Mindy McCready, Mike Starr and Joey Kovar.)
Asked what's particular about celebrity addiction, Forrest says, "The only two industries I've ever been in are show business and the helping business. What happens with the helping business -- people become psychologists because they think it's going to solve their problems.
"In show business, I think a lot of people want love. The Anna Nicole Smiths of the world, they think that being in show business, they will then feel loved. There's no way to feel loved but to work on having an internal world that feels love and doesn't need applause or anything like that.
"The psychologists who get into it and want to solve their own problems, can't solve their own problems. It's very similar. Plus, the idea was, I was a singer, so it was always about how much you draw and how many records you sell. One guy told me years ago, 'It's butts in seats, that's what matters.'
"And so, then, now, I'm in the recovery industry, and it's really heads on beds."