On the surface and in the newspapers, the life and death of Chris Farley seemed like just another True Hollywood Story. From his early days on stage at ImprovOlympic and Second City through his blockbuster stardom on Saturday Night Live, it all seemed like a life lived too fast and cut short by indulgence and excess. But that is only a small part of who Chris Farley was and what his life meant.
Far from the Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Strip, Chris grew up in an idyllic Midwestern suburb in a deeply religious, wholesome, and well-to-do Midwestern family. But that life belied the reality of a family crippled by addiction and held captive by their inability to fix it in time.
Drinking was the tie that bound the Farley family together. Mr. Farley's penchant for nightly scotches to giving his underage sons money for alcohol would only open Pandora's Box to Chris's addictions. In THE CHRIS FARLEY SHOW we hear from Kevin Farley and Holly Wortell about an incident around Christmas-time in Chicago. During Chris's second season on Saturday Night Live, he drank so much in his hotel room that he ran smack into the plate-glass window and smashed right through it. The waist high radiator kept him from falling fifteen feet to the ground. But this near death experience didn't stop him. Drugs and alcohol made Chris more comfortable in his own skin and around people, especially women. Chris's Tommy Boy co-star, Julie Warner, remembers Chris as a deeply lonely, self-deprecating man who wanted companionship, but didn't know how to get it. And from his family we know that through all of his battles with weight and addiction, Chris turned to religion to help rid him of his demons.
There was a pious, quiet side of him that you would never know unless you sat with him in church. His deep religious beliefs carried over to the movie sets where Chris would perform superstitious rituals prior to each take, sometimes holding up production. The constant tug-of-war between good and evil took a toll on Chris and only deepened his addictions. Yet no matter what, Chris was thankful for each day he had and wanted to give back to those who weren't as fortunate. Chris's friends and family didn't even know the extent of his generosity until after his death. Once a week for five years, Chris took out and befriended a near homeless man named, Willie. If Chris was away for work, he would send Willie postcards and always brought Willie back a souvenir. At the one-year anniversary of Chris's death, St. Malachy's (Chris's church) held a memorial mass. Willie was there wearing a hat given to him by Chris. He stood up to speak. He talked about Chris and all he had done for him and the strength he gave. It was just another example of how Chris touched people's lives.
Tom Farley, Jr.
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