I’m not sure what prompted me to read Long Way Home (2019), written by Cameron Douglas, son of Michael Douglas and grandson of Kirk Douglas. I think it’s because I read an article or maybe even a book by someone who met him when he was a child and thought he was a nice kid. Nice kids, unfortunately, go off the rails sometimes, particularly when they grow up too privileged and lack discipline. That’s what happened to Cameron Douglas, who has spent a significant part of his life behind bars.
I grew up watching Cameron’s dad, Michael Douglas, in movies like Romancing the Stone, The War of the Roses, and Fatal Attraction. I always liked Michael Douglas. I especially liked him in Romancing the Stone, though the sequel to that film, The Jewel of the Nile, sucked donkey balls. It’s hard to believe that a movie star like Michael Douglas, who is also the son of the late movie star, Kirk Douglas, could produce a son who would get in so much trouble with the law. But Cameron, who is also the son of Diandra Luker, chose a different, destructive path. Now aged 41, he seems to have turned over a new leaf with his partner, Viviane Thibes, and their daughter, Lua Izzy Douglas, who was born December 17, 2017.
What the hell happened?
Cameron Douglas seems like he should have had an easy life, but by the time he was thirty years old, he was a drug addict, a thief, and in deep trouble with the law. When everything came crashing down in Douglas’s life, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Five more years were also added to his sentence due to incidents that occurred while he was in prison.
There were signs Cameron was going to be in trouble long before he wound up in federal lockups around the country. When he was growing up, he went to private schools, a couple of which were known for dealing with disciplinary cases. He mentions Provo Canyon School, which was recently in the news because Paris Hilton was sent there when she was a teen. Hilton said that the school was “torture” for her and Cameron Douglas also mentions that it’s a place where kids don’t want to be sent. He went there in handcuffs as a teenager, encountered the mostly Mormon staff, and ended up having an affair with a staffer named Cynthia who had initially invited him to play chess.
From there, Cameron’s life only got more complicated. His stints in rehab and arrests became more and more serious until he was finally busted for dealing drugs in 2010. At one point, he was even the subject of an intervention by famous interventionist Candy Finnegan, who is well-known for being on the show, Intervention, on the A&E network.
Through it all, Douglas describes how his family reacted. Michael Douglas seemed to want to help his son, although sometimes he did so in bumbling ways. For instance, Cameron had a dog named Junior that he shared with his then girlfriend, Erinn, who apparently shared his drug problems. Cameron’s dog was bred with a female dog Michael owned. Michael tried to keep Cameron’s dog, claiming that Cameron was too messed up to care for the dog properly. Naturally, that pissed off the younger Douglas. Junior, whom Cameron loved very much, eventually died of cancer. Cameron broke up with Erinn, in part, because she hadn’t properly taken care of his dog by getting him to a vet before the cancer got too bad.
Michael Douglas also tried tough love, interventions, “kidnapping” his son and taking him to rehabs… none of it worked. Finally, he sort of withdrew, after divorcing Cameron’s mother, who had caught him cheating. He married Catherine Zeta-Jones and had two more children, Dylan and Carys, while his eldest son, Cameron, was incarcerated.
Cameron’s mother, Diandra Luker, is described as sort of a free spirit who grew up in Mallorca, Spain. She married Michael Douglas when she was just nineteen, having only known him for six weeks, and they stayed married for seventeen years. Throughout their marriage, Michael abused alcohol and had “flings”, including with his former co-star, Kathleen Turner. I got the sense that Diandra is a bit flighty, although she had Cameron when she was very young and they sort of “grew up together”. Basically, it sounds like Cameron’s parents were focused on a lot of other things, rather than raising their son properly. But it’s hard to judge them, given the lifestyle they had. Maybe it would have been noble for Michael Douglas to stop acting in movies and take care of his son, but it probably would not have been realistic.
Much of Long Way Home, written historical present tense, is about Cameron’s time behind bars. He admits that he’s intrigued by prison culture and attracted to it. Prior to his time in prison, Cameron kind of played around at acting without much success. He tried to be a D.J., too, but he often messed up those opportunities by abusing drugs and blowing his professional obligations.
I didn’t really like Cameron’s use of historical present tense, although the book is pretty well-written. I don’t know why that style was so irritating to me. It’s the way I used to write papers about books I read when I was an English major. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it.
I was kind of impressed by Cameron’s comments about his parents and grandparents. I was especially impressed by what he has to say about his dad, who really does seem to care a lot about Cameron, as well as Kirk Douglas, who was proud of Cameron, even though he’d done seven years in prison. Cameron had a tattoo made of himself, Michael, and Kirk. Michael was reportedly uncomfortable with it, but Kirk, who died a few months ago at age 103, reportedly thought it was very cool.
Cameron Douglas has apparently changed his way of living. He got out of prison and is now working to better his life. The change seems to have occurred when he was in prison and he realized what a waste of time it is. He started keeping more to himself or hanging out with people who didn’t want to go back to prison. He started to meditate, quit drinking prison booze, stopped using heroin, and began reading excellent books by renowned writers. It was as if he learned to use his time wisely as a man in his 30s instead of in grade school, when most people learn.
I mostly liked this book. I think Cameron Douglas is very honest about his struggles and I never got the sense that he doesn’t realize how very privileged he is. He admits that he has advantages the most people will never have, and getting out of prison and integrating into a more law abiding lifestyle is easier for him than it is for most people who are incarcerated. He includes some photos, too, which were interesting.
Although I know that he has a lot more help than most people do, I’m glad that he’s trying to change his ways. It would have been better if he had shown more respect for his privileges when he was much younger. A lot of people will judge him because of all he has. Personally, I find it hard to judge him. I don’t know what it’s like to be him, or what it was like to grow up with a father who is a movie star. It may seem like that would be awesome, but the reality of that lifestyle may be that it’s empty and fake. Money can’t buy happiness, and the more money a person has, the more likely it is that he or she will be surrounded by people who aren’t “real”.
I think some people failed Cameron when he was growing up, although I find it hard to judge them, too. They were caught up in the chaos of fame and money. Ultimately, it’s sad, because so many “normal” people look at the wealthy and envy them. But they have problems, too… and that kind of an empty existence can make the escape to drug use attractive, particularly for someone who lacks discipline and strong role models. I commend Cameron Douglas for waking up and changing his life, even if he wasted years in prison. On the other hand, maybe the time wasn’t really wasted if he learned something and straightened himself out. I’m glad to read that his parents and stepparents didn’t abandon him. Catherine Zeta-Jones, in particular, seems to have been pretty decent to Cameron, even though he was incarcerated. His family did visit him while he was in prison, including his much younger half-siblings.
I’m not one of those people who thinks people who get in trouble should automatically be thrown away. I think most people have some redeeming qualities and deserve a chance to change their behavior. I have noticed a lot of people think Cameron’s book is “self-serving” and “whining”. Frankly, I’m not sure why those people would read this book in the first place. They don’t seem to have any empathy for people who screw up– (and everyone does, to some extent). As long as he’s done dealing drugs and committed to raising his daughter, I don’t begrudge Cameron Douglas for sharing his story. Maybe someone will learn from it or relate to it.
I would recommend Long Way Home, but only to those who aren’t going to dismiss Cameron Douglas out of hand for being born to “Hollywood Royalty”. He can’t help that. And yes, he should have spent his time as a youth more wisely, but again– as long as he’s learned from his mistakes, it’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.
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