This Friday is Valentine’s Day—and there is no “M” in Valentine—so stop saying Valentime’s day. The title of this article comes from a 1998 movie (and a song) about the tragic and short life of Frankie Lymon. Lymon, just like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, died of a heroin overdose in the month of February. Lymon was born in 1942 and died in 1968 at the age of 26.
The 1998 movie starring Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, and Larenz Tate playing Lymon, began in a courtroom with the three widows fighting over Lymon’s estate. As the story unfolds about Lymon’s rise to stardom at the age of thirteen with the group Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, each of the women explains why she should be declared Lymon’s legal widow and entitled to his estate. The film is entertaining to say the least as each woman describes how she met and married Lymon. Halle Berry plays the second wife who marries Lymon as she herself pursues her own singing career with The Platters and later as a solo artist. She marries Lymon then leaves him in charge of her Hollywood Hills home while she goes on a 4-month tour. When she cannot reach Lymon by phone she sends her sister to the house. The sister finds the house abandoned, practically destroyed, and foreclosed on. Her bank account has also been raided by Lymon and he is nowhere to be found. Lymon is a heroin addicted drug addict.
The second wife, played by Vivica A. Fox, meets Lymon in a department store where is purchasing expensive cologne. Lymon is smitten with her and her small dog—a “some-a” dog, a “some of this and some of that” mutt. Lymon married again (no divorce from the first wife) and not long after Lymon’s drug addiction leads to their eviction and trouble with the drug dealers who beat Lymon for not paying for drugs. Lymon’s addiction also causes him to dangle Fox’s dog out a high rise window and the dog falls to its death. Fox has had enough.
Lymon’s meets and marries his third wife (again no divorce from the first two) played by Lela Rochon who is a school teacher somewhere in Georgia. They have a big church wedding and set up house only to have the Army show up and arrest Lymon for being AWOL.
Lymon attempts several comebacks with his “Doo-Wop” singing style but comes face to face with new music. Little Richard adds a special flair to the movie with his usual “whop-bop-a-loo-lop” antics. As the courtroom drama winds down a judge has to decide which woman is Lymon’s lawful heir. During one cross examination of a record producer it is disclosed that the producer, last name “Levy” made as much as $4 million off Lymon during his career—however Lymon never made a dime off all that singing. Lymon’s death comes not long after he collapses on stage during a performance—due to drugs. He tries to “get back to singing” only to be told to “get outta here” by the same man who made $4 million off him. Lymon later meets up with an old drug dealer, gets some heroin, injects himself and dies on a bathroom floor. The judge awards Lymon’s estate to the first wife, but that ruling is later overturned and the third wife is declared the legal wife—she gets $15,000 and the lawyers make out like bandits.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love is as much about drugs as it is about love and marriage. Throughout the movie the viewer is left laughing and crying at the same time as Lymon’s self-destructive behavior destroys his wives and himself. Lymon turned to drugs to try to mimic the high he has previously gotten from adoring fans—or he turned to drugs to avoid dealing with himself as a human being without all the adulation.
Phillip Hoffman’s recent heroin related death has brought out the usual “why do some people take drugs” evaluations. Hoffman seemingly had everything, a stellar acting career, three beautiful children, plenty of money and accolades, but he died on a bathroom floor with a heroin needle stuck in his arm. Lymon died the same way almost 50 years ago. Part of the current evaluation about the increase in heroin use also focused on doctors as “legal” drug pushers of prescription drugs. Some said that many lawfully prescribed, opiate based pain killers are gateway drugs to cheaper, illegal, street drugs such as heroin. Some commentators went so far as to say that too many doctors are doing exactly what “street” drug pushers are doing—getting people hooked on drugs that led to serious addictions. What is the solution to drug use? Why do so many people fall in love with drugs?
Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.