Remembering Heath Ledger For His Life, Not His Death
On the afternoon of January 22, Heath Ledger was found dead in his New York City apartment.
A week later, I’m still unsure which is worse – that a tremendously talented young actor died, that I probably learned about it before his family, or that his family heard about it from the media, the same way as me.
From the moment the news was released, nearly every media outlet seemed to toss journalistic integrity out of the window in favor of reporting rumors and speculation. We saw pictures of Heath’s body carried out of the apartment in a body bag, TMZ had a live stream outside of the Frank Campbell funeral home on Fifth Avenue, similar to their feed outside of the Britney Spear’s court hearings (after many of their readers protested the funeral home feed, TMZ finally took it down), and Tinsley Mortimer, a New York socialite, was speculated to have used Heath’s sudden passing as a photo op, getting her nails done at a salon next to the funeral home and not so close to her own home.
There is no glamour in dying. Upon death, there should be no indignity. Yet at every turn, the stories ran wild – Heath Ledger died in Mary Kate Olsen’s apartment; pills were STREWN around his room, Heath was depressed and had a drug problem.
With celebrity comes endless scrutiny, yet in life, Heath Ledger was spared from a lot of it because of his low key profile away from the glare of Hollywood. But his death was another story entirely, and it wasn’t just paparazzi outside of the building. New outlets were there right next to the gossip photographers, covering the coverage of the event just to get a burning headline.
As I saw and read rumor after rumor, I couldn’t help but think Heath would have been horrified by the all of the press and innuendo.
The initial autopsy reports have comeback inconclusive. The suspiciously rolled up $20 bill was tested and there were no drugs found. In fact, not a drop of alcohol and not a bit of anything illegal was at the scene.
Mary Kate Olsen’s name was tossed around because the masseuse called her three times on Heath’s phone. Maybe she knew that the two were friends or that they were more. I’ve read conflicting reports that the masseuse may have known MK having worked for her or she may have known her security people.
Heath Ledger spoke of his insomnia and anxiety in a November 2007 New York Times interview. The pills in his apartment were anti-anxiety pills and prescription and over the counter sleeping pills.
I feel a need to come to Heath Ledger’s defense, even a week after the fact, because as someone who watched and read his interviews and was such a fan of his work, I’m livid that his words were taken out of context. I am disgusted that someone who cannot defend himself is being called so many things that he probably never was. To continually tie his death with ‘drugs’ diminishes his accomplishments in his short life. His life should be remembered for what a loving son and brother he was to his family, what an adoring father he was, what a brilliant actor he was and was going to continue to become.