Robert Blake, alcoholic
Top Story: Could actor Robert Blake have had Bonny Lee Bakley murdered?
The trial of Emmy-winning actor Robert Blake, star of the 1970s hit series “Baretta,” began in late December. Despite the fact that Blake is a known alcoholic, many commentators are reluctant to accept the possibility that he may be guilty of hiring someone else to murder his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. While a court of law needs to make this determination, we are certainly entitled to conclude in our own minds that he may have committed this nefarious deed.
Blake’s mother divorced his alcoholic father at a young age and remarried a man who, Blake claims, was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive. This apparently occurred even while, as a child star, Blake appeared in almost 90 movies. Along the way, Blake was expelled from five schools and, when he was drafted in 1950 at age seventeen, was so rebellious of authority he spent time in an army stockade. The behavior, while not unheard of in a child suffering from physical and psychological abuse, more likely suggests that Blake’s alcoholism began at a very young age (probably by 14, when his movie roles seem to have dried up for several years).
Returning to Hollywood after the Korean War, he acted in movies (including a highly regarded role in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”) and did stunts for over two decades before landing the part on TV’s “Baretta.” All the while, he was tyrannical on the set and is reported by many to have “behaved badly.” He was capricious in interviews, refusing to answer many questions, prone to angry outbursts and terminating interviews at any moment. He was foul-mouthed and extremely moody. Some producers simply refused to work with him. Based on behaviors alone, we would ascribe an 80% probability that he drank alcoholically (see the Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator). In fact, he has admitted he “drank heavily” and used other drugs. The fact that Blake has been, at times, what many consider an amazingly insightful actor, is no impediment to alcoholism.
Another observer says that while Blake has been hot-tempered and even violent, no information could be found that he ever used other people to do his dirty work, such as having his wife slain. One could conclude that Blake was a lone wolf, certainly not trusting enough to pay for and depend upon another to commit a murder. Yet, the behaviors of a practicing alcoholic – or one who is abstinent, but has not undergone ego deflation – are unpredictable. If he’s an addict, he is capable of anything, including murder for hire.
Blake is reported to have undergone thirty years of therapy. His is likely a classic instance of therapists trying to explain and excuse misbehaviors because of childhood abuse. Yet, many others who have been abused have not triggered alcoholism and have grown up emotionally and behaviorally. Because therapists are trained to look in the wrong direction for explanations of poor behaviors, nothing was ever done to arrest Blake’s addiction, however obvious it may have been. Therefore, therapy was doomed to fail, leaving open the possibility of far greater tragedies.
Robert Blake, if guilty, is now playing the role of his life. Reportedly, he has done a lousy job of it. When he was told his wife was dead on May 4, 2001 (after leaving Bakley alone in their car, having “forgotten” his gun at the restaurant a block away), an officer testified he cried out, put his hands to his head, but didn’t shed a tear. Egomaniacs not only show no remorse, but also have none. If found guilty, the first step will be taken towards deflating his ego and, ultimately, his ability to find redemption.
Runner-ups for top story of the month: Jeremy Carter, 17, former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, charged with burglary, underage drinking and marijuana possession; his father, who previously denied that a bottle of rum found in his back pack could be his, said, “My son is innocent….He will be exonerated.” Larry Eustachy, Associated Press college basketball coach of the year in 2000 and sober since April 23, 2003, reporting that when ex-wife Stacy found him drunk one night in early 2003 and told him he “might have a problem,” that this was “the only time in my whole life anyone had ever said that to me. Ever.” The Economist Magazine, for failing to understand the root of the problem when reporting on despots Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Sapamurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, concluding that “the most obvious reasons why despots behave badly is because they can.” Judge Floyd H. Schenk, who required that convicted young DUIs spend time at trauma centers and the county morgue, dead from complications of Alzheimer’s. Actor Jerry Orbach, who played detective Lennie Briscoe on TV’s “Law & Order” in what could be the greatest portrayal ever of a recovering alcoholic in a continuing role, dead at age 69 from prostate cancer (and who, in a day and age of PSA tests, should not have died from this highly treatable disease).
Under watch: Former Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland, a once-popular three-term Republican, while pleading guilty to corruption and admitting he traded influence for more than $100,000 in flights to Las Vegas, vacations and repairs to his vacation cottage, asked that the people “appreciate and understand what we have tried to do over the past 25 years in public service.” Bernard Kerik, former police commissioner of New York City, previously fined for pulling two cops off the beat to research his memoirs, reported to have had connections to the mob, living above his means and, despite declaring bankruptcy and ignoring an arrest warrant for failure to pay his debts, kept two mistresses, nominated and quickly withdrawn for chief of Homeland Security due to having kept an illegal nanny. Jerome Schneider, pleading guilty of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, detailing the complicated tax shelter scheme he promoted that he now admits was bogus (anyone who thinks he’s more powerful than the U.S. government must think he’s God). Dodger center fielder Milton Bradley who, after pleaded guilty earlier in the year to disorderly conduct (yelling at a police officer, using profane language), served a three-day jail sentence in December for traffic stops that went “awry.” Lisa Montgomery who, after having carefully plotted the kidnapping, confessed to strangling a pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett, cutting her open and removing a nearly full-term girl. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” star Vincent D’Onofrio, allegedly missing workdays and infuriating co-workers with “confrontational” behavior (too bad: while his portrayal of a combination Freud, Columbo and Sherlock Holmes is brilliant, I noticed there have been moments on-screen when he looked high as a kite).
Note to family, friends and fans of the above: we give the benefit of the doubt by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. One absolute prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain. To give sobriety a chance, the enabling must stop.