In asking the judge for leniency in his son Cameron’s drug-trafficking trial, Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas said that his own fame was to blame. Can living in the shadow of a parent’s spotlight be hazardous to a child’s health?
On Tuesday, the younger Douglas was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of heroin possession and conspiring to sell crystal meth. In a letter to the judge, dad Michael Douglas wrote, “I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father. I’m not sure I can comprehend it with two generations to deal with.” (He was, of course, referencing his own dad: showbiz legend Kirk Douglas.)
Michael also cited his “bad marriage” to his first wife, Diandra, and the fact that he was often away filming, so his son had no male role model to look to.
Hooked on drugs since entering his teens, Cameron Douglas refused to get help. His family eventually cut the cash supply, and he turned to dealing to fuel his addiction. He went to rehab once in the ’90s, but it didn’t take.
In his letter to the judge, Michael Douglas also touched on the genetic weight of addictive tendencies. “[Cameron] is an adult and responsible for his own actions,” he wrote. “But we do know that genes, family and peer pressure are a strong influence on a substance abuser.”
Luckily for him, Cameron caught a big-ass break when the judge considered letters on his behalf (like the one from his dad) — as well as his current state of sobriety — and gave him his “last chance to make it”: a mere five-year sentence, when he easily could have faced ten.
There are so many celeb kids who eventually lose themselves in a life of drugs and assorted brands of debauchery. Dr. Michelle Golland, our resident therapist-mom, weighed in on how fame could potentially be hazardous to a child’s health:
“What Michael Douglas said about identity was true,” says Golland. “A famous parent makes it harder for children to create a sense of their own identity. They feel there’s nothing they could do to reach that pinnacle, or seem that interesting. It also can create a sense of entitlement and put these kids in a situation where drugs and alcohol are available, and people may look away more. The same thing I wrote about entourage members applies to celebrity children: Who can really speak up and say, ‘Michael Douglas, you really should draw a limit’? And as in any job that pulls the parent physically away — like military families — it’s very hard for these kids if they feel their parent’s job is more important than them.”
Sober for the first time as a grownup, Cameron is grateful for the reprieve. “I’d like to apologize to my family and loved ones for putting them through this nightmare of my making,” he said, adding, “I believe, your honor, things will be different this time.”
What do you guys think? In spite of all the conveniences and privileges, can a parent’s celebrity still be tough on a kid?