Friday, January 8, 2010

Last days

The guesthouse of a friend in West Hollywood where Casey Johnson died this past Monday.
January 8, 2009. Cold but not so, yesterday in New York. Midtown was very quiet when I went down to Michael’s at noontime. The hordes of tourists that jammed the sidewalks along the Golden Mile of Fifth Avenue (Bulgari, Tiffany, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef, Bergdorfs) had gone. Even the cab drivers were saying the city hadn’t completely returned from holiday. Although last night Swifty’s was jammed with likely suspects in the mid-evening dinner hour and full of chatter.

Last time. The body of Casey Johnson was flown by private jet from Los Angeles to New York, accompanied by her two younger sisters and her toy poodle Zoey who is almost 20 and had been with her since she was a young girl.

Casey Johnson. Photo: Patrick McMullan.
The last month of her life began with an increase in the level of hijinks which seemed to be performed for public access and attention, a kind of Warholian Reality Housewives, that have left a trail of misconceptions and and false reportings about the heiress’ last days.

Contrary to reports all over the world, she did not die in the house she had been living in on Mulholland Drive, nor had her body gone unnoticed for days. The Daily Mail in London published pictures of the house where she died, referring to it as rat-infested and rundown. Wrong house, boys.

Casey had left the house on Mulholland where she had been living for some time – after essentially being evicted for non-payment of rent.

In the past couple of months she was living in this guest house belonging to an old friend of the family. As I’d reported here before, the West Hollywood house was a refuge that had provided for her in the past (when she first moved to Los Angeles).

Its owner is a woman who has known Casey and her family all her life. The move was not only a solution to her current financial situation and need of shelter, but also a haven, a stable, secure place that was, also contrary to all mistaken reports, impeccable and immaculate in its maintenance.

She was not broke, as has also been reported frequently. Although for reasons only known to her trustees and members of her family, she had extended herself to a point she couldn’t manage. This was part of a larger conflict the woman was having in managing her life. In the last month she’d taken to selling things to raise money.
The guesthouse bedroom, occupied at the time of this photo by DPC when visiting Los Angeles.
She’d got into a public argument with a Hollywood celebrity who calls herself Tila Tequila whose maiden name is Tila Nyugen. The two met only a few weeks ago. For some reason, probably to gain public attention, the two announced they were getting married. This was a joke played on the media, and the media of course fell for it, and so of course did everyone else. P.T. Barnum had a famous word for it. The alleged 17-carat diamond that Tequila/Nguyen was sporting was a giant zirconium ring. The twitterings about conjugal circumstances were pure fantasy that made good tawdry copy. Almost a week later, the media is still listening to her rap.

Whose madhouse? The nadir, however, had come when another woman, a “model,” an Englishwoman, allegedly in this country without visa, accused Casey of stealing some of her clothes, including underwear. The woman called the police. The LAPD responded by going to Casey’s Mulholland house. It must have been a slow night. They handcuffed her, arrested her, booked her on grand larceny charges and locked her up in a holding cell with the other women. So much for alleged scantie stealing in the City of the Angels.

The Englishwoman of the alleged missing underwear had previously been given a Revillon fur coat by Casey as well as other expensive garments in one of Casey’s moments of what a friend of mine calls “inconsequential generosity.”
The guesthouse living room.
Ironically, Casey was bailed out by her landlord, the man who owns the Mulholland house. Despite his business predicament with the young woman, he told a friend he “liked her and felt sorry for her” and wanted to help.

Two Things: Who was this child/woman, who fell in with the sleazier side in a town of glitzed up grifters? And who was this child/woman whose evicting landlord went to bat for her when she was arrested and thrown in jail?

Her friends who had known her all her life are all in mourning for her. No one had any illusions about her difficulties, about her mood swings, her depressions, her excesses. There were no secrets about Casey. She didn’t hide anything; everyone who knew knew everything about her. And they mourn her.
Pool and gardens on the West Hollywood property.
Then there was the child whom Casey had first seen on a tour of an orphanage in Khazakistan. Ava, now 3 and a half. In the last months, she gave up custody of little Ava to her mother, at her mother’s suggestion, to assure the child of a good home and education. Casey did not fight this, contrary to many published reports. She told friends that she knew the child would be safe with her mother.

She knew.

Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes which she had battled all her life, was the source to the story of this woman’s young life. Until her death, frankly, I had no idea what a scourge and dilemma diabetes is. Coincidentally this week on NPR there was an interview with a man named Dan Hurley about his book Diabetes Rising: How a Rare Disease Became a Modern Pandemic ...

Hurley mentioned that Casey had a history of hospitalization for severe low blood sugar. He speculated that although he didn’t know the cause of death, “I do know the terror of waking up in the back of an ambulance with severe low.” This is what its victims are up against, and they are growing in number.
The main house.
She was alone the last weekend of her life. The Tila Tequila/Nguyen business was only the media version of reality, not Casey’s life. The party was over. Her hostess had been away for the holiday. She was alone New Year’s Eve. (“Casey was too proud to tell anyone she didn’t have anything to do or anyplace to go.”) The housekeeper heard her talking animatedly on the telephone on Saturday.

When her hostess returned to Los Angeles on Sunday night late, she could smell stale cigarette smoke in the living room of the mainhouse which Casey had access to. That was a “no smoking” zone but in this case she was pleased to know Casey had been there and relaxed, and maybe watched some TV (the guesthouse was packed with her belongings removed from the Mulholland house).
The patio.
The guesthouse was dark at that late hour, and so it wasn’t until late Monday morning that Casey’s hostess went over to yoo-hoo her guest to wake up, get outta bed. When she got no reaction, out of curiosity she went to look into the bedroom to see if Casey were there.

She saw her guest lying there peacefully, looking beautiful. The hostess lifted her arm. It was cold to the touch.

She called 911 first, she called Casey’s mother and Casey’s father.

She believes Casey had slipped into a diabetic coma the night before. Casey, she said, was always “meticulous” about getting her shot. So it wasn’t probable that she hadn’t given herself the insulin. And there were no signs of any meds anywhere. But there is a point, in the progress of this disease, she said, that the insulin isn’t as effective. Casey after a lifetime of struggle with her condition, may have reached that point.
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