Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth

Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth

Title: Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth

Author: Jack Sutherland (as told to John Sutherland) 

Review by Sam Pryce

In the preface to this memoir, our first impressions of its author are given by the actor Mickey Rourke, who dubs Jack Sutherland, with some certainty, ‘the biggest fuck-up I have ever known in the whole of my life.’ It’s a bold opener, setting a frank, forthright and startlingly honest tone for the thrilling yet (quite literally) sobering tale to come.

The rivetingly-titled Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth: The Adventures of a Personal Assistant Who Really Could Have Used One Himself cuts no corners when it comes to confession. Jack Sutherland, once a PA and chauffer to the stars, has lived a life scarred by abuse, mental illness, sex and drug addiction, but also blessed with money, fame and friendship. His adoptive father is the renowned author and literary critic John Sutherland, who has written this book with him, occasionally interfering with his own wry footnotes and sardonic asides. It is this aspect, this duality in authorship, that makes the book especially fascinating, providing an insight into addiction, confession and how it impacts upon our closest relationships.

Jack had a particularly difficult experience growing up. Born ‘Irish and illegitimate’ to a woman he never met, Jack was handed over for private adoption. Although brought up by two highly-qualified, ‘egg-headed’ parents, his father’s raging alcoholism cast a dark shadow over the household. On top of this, Jack struggled for years in coming to terms with his homosexuality, blighting his teenage years with drink, drugs and eventually a suicide attempt. This put him in a rehabilitation centre at 16, from which he soon emerged clean, sober and openly gay – and he’d stay that way for the next fifteen years.

Celebrity world

Stars Cars and Crystal Meth

Stars Cars and Crystal Meth: ‘A thrilling yet sobering tale.’

From 1993 onwards, Jack began work in the world of celebrity, starting in music video production and later as a chauffeur and personal assistant, becoming a ‘Jack of All Trades’, if you will. And, of course, in this section, there are many compulsively readable passages about his up-close encounters with the stars. Ahead of their Monster world tour, REM took on Jack as the PA to Michael Stipe, who proved to be an understanding and considerate presence through the latter part of Jack’s adolescence. In fact, there are four chapters devoted solely to ‘The Kindness of Michael Stipe’. Other celebrities with whom Jack struck up a rapport include drag queen extraordinaire RuPaul (who tells Graham Norton and, indeed, the whole country a story involving Jack’s foreskin and 22 marbles), Britney Spears, Ryan Seacrest and his hero Richard Branson.

However, his deadly penchant for chemsex and crystal meth soon took hold of the wheel and steered Jack’s life into intoxicated despair. As his crystal-crazed addiction grew, Jack became prone to rages, put on ‘a ton of weight’ and smashed up just about every important relationship in his life. He made another suicide attempt, much more extreme and determined this time, filling himself with vodka and antipsychotic pills; but thankfully, he failed. The remainder charts Jack’s winding road to recovery, after botching his job with Mickey Rourke and hitting rock bottom in Indonesia and Singapore. The final chapters, where Jack speaks of the clean and sober position he’s in now, are more thoughtful, introspective and rather empowering.

Addiction

John Sutherland, sober now for over thirty years, detailed his own struggle with alcohol addiction in his memoir Last Drink to LA. But it seems that helping Jack to write his own took its toll on John’s mental state. John writes, ‘You shouldn’t, in parent-child relations, know “everything” – at least, not after infancy. Changing a grown man’s nappies is no work for a father. […] Depression, Jack’s ailment, is, I think, contagious. At times, particularly in the later, grimmer, sections, I’ve felt so low I’ve seriously considered talking to my doctor. If I was still drinking, I would have been dead drunk around page 230.’

This book, on the surface, works as your standard sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll read, crammed with riveting anecdotes of excess, yet it also grows to be a moving journey towards recovery and acceptance in the life of the addict. Its sheer courage and candour surely will help future addicts come to terms with their own problems, but any reader would be refreshed and touched by the unwavering honesty with which Jack and John Sutherland present to us an uncensored life.

Review by Sam Pryce

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