Tatum O'Neal, the child actress who won an Oscar at age 10 and then got heavily into drugs, booze, and self-destruction, was arrested last night for trying to buy coke not far from her Lower East Side apartment. Her situation is sad—she's struggled with serious addiction for a long time, but has reportedly been clean for two years. The second thing to be said, though, is: A veteran wealthy druggie was "spotted handing money to a street dealer," seriously? That method is far too gauche for the sophisticated cokehead.
O'Neal got busted by narcotics cops on Clinton Street between Grand and East Broadway—hardly a bad neighborhood. The cops just happened to be doing a drug sweep, and she got swept. Terrible timing.
This is why people have connections, call their dealers, and have their drugs delivered to them safely. And for celebrities who are veteran coke champs, one would expect a ton of numbers on speed dial precisely to avoid the need to trot around the streets at 7:30 p.m. in search of crack.
Our theory: she really was committed to getting sober, and had thrown out all of her drug dealers' numbers. In fact, this could all be a blessing in disguise for her; she told cops, "Today was the first time I was relapsing, but you guys saved me!" Sweet!
Then she tried to say she was researching a part, and begged to be let off. That one didn't go over as well.
Even assuming that she was going to buy drugs no matter what, the actress made two serious mistakes that you can learn from. The first was buying crack in the first place. In New York, the Rockefeller drug laws set harsh mandatory minimum sentences for possession of just five grams of crack—a standard that used to be 100 times lower than that of powder cocaine, though the disparity has been closed somewhat. Still: legally speaking, you are always safer buying powder in New York.
Second, she should never have engaged the police in the lying conversation that she did. She was caught up in a sweep; they weren't going to let her go no matter what. Saying "Do you know who I am?" and "I'm researching a part" is simply foolish, because together they're an acknowledgment that she did, in fact, buy drugs. Better to say nothing and let your lawyer sort it out later. Scientific studies show that cops can't even identify intoxicated people accurately, never mind spying contraband from across the street; deny, deny, deny. Legally speaking.
In any case, those of you who are happy and well-adjusted drug users would presumably not be so stupid as to put yourself in a position to be arrested on Clinton St. in broad daylight. Those of you with serious problems would, which is all for the better. And Tatum O'Neal was prevented from returning to crack smoking, which is certainly worth a night in jail. It's a happy story, really!
Of course, the NYPD was supposed to have nipped this whole problem in the bud a century ago, according to this NYT story from 1908: