Joey Pants Goes Off - Page 2

By Chris Gardner 06/27/12

The esteemed character actor and Sopranos star Joey Pantoliano (aka Joey Pants) talks alcoholism, depression and his darkest secrets (hello, shoplifting) in this exclusive interview.

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One of the great scenes in the book is one that is perhaps funny but also very indicative of the life of an alcoholic: when you’re drunk and embarrass yourself in a hotel room in New York with Bill and Hilary Clinton and Harvey Weinstein. Have you heard from any of them since the book has come out?

No! (Laughs) And Harvey produced the book! But we talked about it beforehand. It’s one of those situations when my angels and my Higher Power were keeping me safe because that thing could’ve turned a whole different way. The President could’ve turned to his staff and said, “Get this guy off my back” and they could’ve thrown me out. Or Harvey could’ve said, “That guy has a line through his name.” Man, to think of all the times that I jeopardized my future by the insanity that was released when I took a drink.

Recently actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Demi Lovato have come out and talked about their own issues, specifically bipolar disorder. Since writing this book and speaking out, have you heard from other actors?

Absolutely. And a lot of them have said, you know, “I don’t want this out.” If you look at my advisory board [for my charity, nkm2.org] it’s a treasure trove of extraordinarily gifted artists who are supporting the idea of talking openly and not just abandoning the shame but sharing the joys of living and emotional intimacy when you can say how you feel and get confirmation from another person, who is saying, “No kidding, I feel the same way.” What we are promoting at nkm2.org is that it could be cool and trendy to talk about your mental “diseasiness.” Let people grasp the fact that most of us who are creative deal with these issues and they are normal human issues.

Is your central mission now helping others?

Yeah, absolutely. The simplicity of service and helping others is really the whole meaning of life. It’s really symbolic and similar to what you learn as an actor. You know, in acting, they are always saying things like spontaneity, living in the moment, relaxation, concentration. And they say the same thing in the 12-step program. 

One of the principles of the program is anonymity. Do you think that principle is outdated?

A lot of it is about fear of failure. If someone were to say that I’m a member of “Blah Blah Blah Anonymous” and then they go out and drink or commit suicide, people will say that it doesn’t work; the program doesn’t work. But I think that’s horseshit. It’s an individual decision.

You write in the book that alcohol and sex are your two biggest addictions, but that you were a high-bottom alcoholic who never got fired from jobs. However, your sex addiction seemed to take a higher toll, at least emotionally. How did those addictions feed into one another?

I only drank when I got really depressed. I could go two or three months [without a drink]. But the sex addiction was more of a love addiction. It didn’t need to be physical. If it became physical, it became like icing on the cake. It was almost humiliating because in order for me to enjoy myself, I had to fantasize about my wife when I was with another woman. I didn’t think it mattered and what really slayed me was how hurt [my wife] was when she found out. It destroyed me. But now I think my number one addiction is food. 

Did you discover that after you got sober? 

Well, it changes. Let’s be honest, one symptom is just as deadly as the other. The shopping is also a terrible thing. Two years ago, I didn’t have a good year, and I found myself in a department store and I stole a shirt. I’m at the counter and I’m thinking, “What did you just do?” I found a way to go back and take the shirt out and leave it behind. Talk about humiliation! That’s what is so great about these rooms. I need to find a way to live, but they wanted to take away all my hobbies. 

So then what do you do with yourself?

(Laughs) Then you write a book!

This is your second book. Do you have another in you?

Yeah, I’ve got it lying around on my computer. What I’m learning from the research I’m doing on my family is that that I could find another story as interesting and do it the with same diligence that I do with this story. I could call it a novel and change the names.

Is that next?

I like nonfiction. I really do. And Joey Pants is starting to become a character. He’s always been a character. 

Chris Gardner is a freelance writer currently residing in Santa Monica, California. His work has appeared in People, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Out and The Advocate. This is his first piece for The Fix.

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Chris Gardner is a freelance writer currently residing in Santa Monica, California. His work has appeared in People, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Out and The Advocate. You can follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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