At first glance, Corey Feldman’s house looks ridiculous. A crooked Christmas wreath hangs on the front door, even though it is late January. Feldman’s assistant lets me into the two-storey home in the hills of Los Angeles, and when I walk into the living room I have to bite the insides of my cheeks to stop myself from gasping: hanging above the fireplace is a drawing of Feldman from his 80s teen glory years. The bookcases are packed with vintage toys, most still in their boxes, most from Feldman’s own movies: there’s Goonies merch, Gremlins memorabilia, The Lost Boys souvenirs. And, of course, there are the inevitable posters of his films, including License to Drive and Stand By Me. It’s like a parody of how one might imagine a former child star’s house to look: one part Neverland to two parts Norma Desmond. I haven’t even mentioned the picture of Michael Jackson – with whom Feldman was friends as a child – in the front hallway, greeting you as you walk past.
I was a big Feldman fan back in the day, and maintain that his performance in Stand By Me equals River Phoenix’s more acclaimed one. But standing in his living room I find myself doing what most others do about Feldman these days: “Look at this guy,” I think, giving in to the siren call of snark. “What a joke!”
Feldman, 48, eventually appears and he doesn’t look much less absurd than his house. It’s hot outside, but he is in a lavishly patterned shirt, a waistcoat and suit trousers. He still has that thin-lipped wide grin that made him so recognisable as a child actor, but set alongside his skinny build, it now emphasises his jagged, cracked appearance. But he’s very solicitous, making sure I have a drink, that I’m comfortable on the sofa, even though he’s having a terrible day. We’ll get to that, but first, I have to ask, doesn’t he find having all these old toys around him a bit, well, depressing?
“No, not at all,” he says. “The experiences that were bad weren’t working on Gremlins or Goonies. This is all the fun stuff.”
And then I belatedly realise Feldman isn’t showing off his past glories. He’s hugging close the all-too-brief pocket in time when he was starting to get away from his exploitative parents, but before he was sexually molested as a teenager. That tiny sliver of his childhood that was not ruined by the adults who should have been looking after him.
Back in the mid to late 80s, Feldman was known for being one of the most popular teen pin-ups in the world. He and his fellow child actor Corey Haim – best friends and frequent co-stars – were known as the Two Coreys. Girls covered their schoolbooks in Corey stickers, called up the Coreys’ cash-in phone lines, stood outside their homes screaming. Those days are long gone, and now Feldman is better known for something else. After Haim died at the age of 38 in 2010 of pneumonia, after years of painfully public substance addiction, Feldman spoke out about the sex abuse he and Haim suffered in the film industry.
“The biggest problem in Hollywood,” he repeats, mantra-like, “is paedophilia.” His fellow former child actor Alison Arngrim has said, “I literally heard that [the Two Coreys] were ‘passed around’. The word was they were given drugs and being used for sex.”
According to Feldman, Haim was raped by “a major Hollywood figure” while making the 1986 film Lucas. Reviewing that film, Roger Ebert predicted that Haim would “grow into an important actor. He is that good.” He was, but instead he became a bloated and bankrupt shell of a man, forced in later years to appear on reality TV shows in which he was so out of it he hardly knew where he was. “He made me promise before he died that I would get the truth out,” says Feldman. It would be an understatement to say this has become a crusade for him, much to the dismay of Haim’s mother, Judy, who agrees her son was abused, but says Feldman is exploiting his memory.
Today, Feldman is pacing around his house anxiously because his long-promised documentary, which he wrote, directed and financed, is likely to be delayed yet again because of a problem with the insurance. It is provisionally titled Truth: The Rape of the Two Coreys. Feldman says he not only names his and Haim’s abusers after almost a decade of hints and promises, but also taps into what he insists is a conspiracy to protect them. The fact that he can’t get his film out is, in his eyes, proof of this. “Nobody wants to go after the bad guys,” he says and he shows me emails from lawyers denying him access to police reports and video footage. “What the hell is really going on here?” he asks.
It must drive you crazy with frustration, I say.
“Do I look crazy?” he asks, eyes blazing.
The truth is, surrounded by his toys, raging about “deep, dangerous” conspiracies, yes, he absolutely does. But Harvey Weinstein hired ex-Mossad agents to discredit journalists who were investigating him and women who accused him of rape. So crazy can sometimes be the truth.
Feldman was born and raised just outside Los Angeles, the son of a largely absent musician father and a former Playboy Club waitress. According to him, his parents looked at their baby, saw a potential money-making machine and sent him to auditions from the age of three. His mother peroxided his hair when he was four and put him on diet pills just a few years later to improve his chances of getting roles. (Feldman legally emancipated himself from his parents when he was a teenager, just as Drew Barrymore and, later, Macaulay Culkin later did, too. The history of child stars and their parents is rarely a happy one.)
Feldman worked steadily, progressing from adverts to sitcoms and finally movies. He says he loved being on set with other kids and the chance to get away from what he describes as his miserable home life and occasionally violent parents. He describes this brief happy period in his 2013 memoir, which, like Feldman’s house and Feldman himself, looks at first glance completely absurd. It is called, inevitably, Coreyography, and in the acknowledgments he thanks, among others, Hugh Hefner “and the rest of the Playboy family” and “Katherine Jackson and the Jackson family”.
But again, first impressions do Feldman a disservice because Coreyography is pretty good. It evokes that weird bubble in the 80s when Hollywood was suddenly overrun with child stars – Ricky Schroeder, Sean Astin, the Phoenixes, Ethan Hawke – as the entertainment industries tapped into the exploding children’s market. Many of these films were made by Steven Spielberg, who comes across in the book as a kindly figure, if, retrospectively, one with questionable judgment. He invited Michael Jackson to his sets and introduced him to the child actors, including Feldman. Spielberg drew the line at allowing the kids to go to Jackson’s hotel room with him, but only because he worried they might be too rambunctious for the pop star.
Feldman met Haim when the two were cast in The Lost Boys and it seemed to them that they were destined to be best friends: they had the same name, were the same age (14) and were even the same religion (Jewish). According to Feldman, Haim confided in him that his rapist had told him: “If you want to be in this business, you have to do these things.” Just a year later, Feldman has said, he was regularly being molested by Jon Grissom, now a convicted paedophile, who was hired by Feldman’s father to look after him. In an attempt to get away from Grissom, Feldman went to stay with a man he calls “Ralph Kaufman” in the book, since identified as Alphy Hoffman, who ran a social club for young Hollywood stars. Feldman says he molested him, too. “I needed some normalcy in my life,” Feldman writes in his memoir. His parents weren’t an option, “so I called Michael Jackson”.
Two years ago, I interviewed Rob Reiner, who directed Feldman in Stand By Me, and we discussed the fates of the four young child stars in it: River Phoenix overdosed at 23, Feldman claims he was abused, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell got through unscathed. I asked Reiner if he thought that reflected a child star’s chances: 50/50 that they would end up OK. “I don’t know if it’s reflective of child actors exactly, but more about whether child actors have enough of a familial foundation to withstand the difficulties,” Reiner replied. In other words, the problem is the parents, not the movies. After all, despite Feldman’s claims of a conspiracy in the movie business, the few men who he has named so far as abusers were hardly top-level Hollywood executives and unlikely to be protected by anyone.
Feldman bristles when I tell him Reiner’s theory. “I think that’s a nice excuse. I love Rob, but he’s off base. What happened to Corey Haim on the set of Lucas was, yes, of course, because his parents were negligent. But there were bad actors on the set who shouldn’t have been there and have been protected since,” he says.
There have been many rumours over the years about who Haim’s alleged rapist was, and Haim’s mother is not alone in suggesting that Feldman is stringing out the big reveal for his own benefit. “Why doesn’t he just name him?” she has said, echoing various journalists’ pleas. Feldman retorts that he can’t because he will be sued. But given that he names the man in his movie, can’t he tell me now?
“Well, the insurance hasn’t come through yet,” he reminds me. “Also I don’t want to give it away because I need people to see the movie.”
At 14, Feldman and Haim were two of the biggest young stars in the business. By 19, they were washed up, their addictions rendering them unemployable. Few falls have been faster or crueller. But Feldman insists the drugs were just an excuse for the industry, desperate to wash its hands of them.
“What person in Hollywood didn’t do cocaine in the 1980s? And how many were publicised? Think about that!” he says. That may be true, but I don’t know of many other Hollywood figures who sold their CD collection to buy crack, as Feldman did, or appeared on TV out of his mind on drugs as much as Haim did. By any standards, Feldman and Haim’s addictions were horrific. Feldman cleaned up in 1995, but, although he continues to act in small projects, his career has never recovered.
It infuriates Feldman that while the movie industry pays at least lip service to #MeToo, it has completely ignored his allegations of paedophilia. “They go to the Sag [Screen Actors Guild] awards and they get all dressed in black and they honour Patricia Arquette. But why was I not invited?” he asks.
It may well be that there is a conspiracy of silence around paedophilia – it still seems bizarre that Haim was omitted from the In Memoriam section of the Academy Awards the year that he died. But there is no getting around the fact that part of the reason Corey Feldman has been ignored is because he is Corey Feldman. He is often portrayed in the media as a sleaze and a crackpot, and he has done plenty to earn both titles. His regularity on reality TV and decidedly weird appearances on daytime TV have not helped his credibility; his attempt, a few years back, to turn himself into a 21st-century Hugh Hefner, living with a troupe of lingerie-clad women known as “Corey’s Angels”, did even less.
Does he regret that?
“No, no. It was spun to look like a negative, but it was never a negative,” he insists, his eyes fiery again.
At this point, a tall young woman with long blond hair appears and sits quietly behind him. I assume she is his PR, but she turns out to be his wife, Courtney, a former Corey’s Angel.
“Courtney’s life was saved because of the Angels, because what we were doing was helping girls. I said: ‘I want to give you the opportunity to not have to sell yourself or be a stripper or porn star. We’re going to give you the support you need, like a family would, so that you don’t need to go do those things,’” he insists, outraged that his desire to save women by moving them into his house, and charging men to attend parties with them, has been so egregiously misunderstood.
Feldman is right that people do tend to look away from stories of paedophilia. The one recent exception to that rule has been the case against Jackson. Ever since Dan Reed’s documentary, Leaving Neverland, was aired last year, most people have accepted that Jackson was, in all likelihood, a paedophile. Except for Feldman. Seemingly determined to constantly undermine his own cause, Feldman has scoffed at Jackson’s accusers and insisted Jackson never touched him in all the time they spent together. After enormous online criticism, Feldman rowed back a little last year, saying: “I cannot in good conscience defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous crimes.” Today he seems to be rowing back on the rowing back; there is, after all, the portrait of Jackson in the front hall and I spot at least one photo of Jackson with Feldman. When I ask about them, Feldman insists his response to the Jackson case is based on experience: he wasn’t abused by Jackson, so of course he defends him. Given that he now styles himself a defender of child victims, this makes little sense, and I suspect the truth is more complicated: he desperately needs to believe that at least one adult from his childhood wasn’t out to damage him.
When it comes to sexual assault, victims are often deemed to be not perfect enough: their sexual history too louche, their behaviour afterwards too wild. Yet predators pick off the vulnerable and survivors sometimes process trauma in deeply damaged and self-destructive ways. Instead of these factors being taken as evidence that something terrible has happened, too often they are cited as reasons that the victim should not be believed. The focus is placed on the effect, not the cause.
We are going to have to learn how to make room for imperfect victims, and to understand that the key to their stories lies in their imperfections. Few are more imperfect than Feldman. It was easy to believe the accusations against Weinstein when they were coming from such impeccable sources as Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie. Things are a little more complicated when abuse allegations are coming from a former child star who does wacky things on TV. Really, you need only to look at Feldman and Haim to know that something, somewhere, went extremely wrong. But that requires you to look at them and not turn queasily away.
While Feldman and I talk, Hollywood is deep in awards season, and another former child star, Joaquin Phoenix, the brother of Feldman’s late former co-star and friend, is scooping up all the best-actor awards for his performance in Joker. Meanwhile, Feldman is desperately trying to find a way to release his self-funded documentary about the abuse he suffered. There really are no guaranteed paths in life.
We talk about his teenage son, Zen, and when I ask if he would let Zen go into the movie business, his eyes pop out in horror: “Hell, no!” There is no doubt that Feldman is trying to use his trauma for good: he says he is working with the Screen Actors Guild to improve safeguarding laws for children on movie sets, and he is certain that his movie “will save thousands”. He just doesn’t understand why people won’t listen to him and why they laugh at him. He mentions another recent article that cast doubt on his credibility. “It wasn’t nice, you know? Why would they do that?” he asks, his eyes wide, and he doesn’t sound like a 48-year-old man trying to deal with the media. He sounds like a child who, once again, has been let down by the adults around him.
This content was originally published here.