Whether they fill us with Schadenfreude, indignation or pity, celebrity scandals barely register for most of us beyond their initial headline shock. But for former bad boys Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, the latest tribulations of Tinseltown's troubled stars make for uncomfortable comparisons to their own turbulent youths.
"It's like seeing a younger male or female me," Haim said of the feeling he gets when he hears about another celebrity meltdown. "It's unfortunate."
But Feldman said these pitfalls are inevitable for anyone under the constant glare of media scrutiny, which is old hat for the pair. Rising to fame in the early and mid-'80s — Feldman in films such as "The Goonies" and "Stand by Me," Haim in "Lucas" and "Firstborn," and the duo sharing the screen in "The Lost Boys," "License to Drive" and more — the two Coreys were child stars who seemed destined to coast into middle age with every conceivable advantage. But drug use and well-publicized "bad choices" sank both, leaving their careers and personal lives in tatters before a recent resurrection on reality TV.
It's a pattern that seems to repeat itself every time a young celebrity bursts into the limelight — increasingly so in recent months — with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan all in the middle of possible career-ending meltdowns (see "Lindsay Lohan And Nicole Richie Got Off Light? Experts Disagree," "Britney Spears 'Meltdown' Chronicled In Revealing Magazine Article" and "Paris Hilton Says She's Never Used Drugs? Not So Fast ...").
But for the latest round of troubled teens, knowing the past doesn't make them any less susceptible to repeating it, Feldman said.
"I think that anybody who's got what appears to be a gold-paved road is going to find that they're going to have problems later in life because life doesn't work that way. Reality is that we hit speed bumps," he said. "I don't think everybody needs to get slammed down as hard as I did, but [if you're famous and young] I think that you're going to have to run into some walls along the way."
Some of those mistakes, of course, are part of growing up, Feldman argued. "All kids make mistakes. All kids," he said. But many of those issues are exacerbated by a cult of celebrity ... which slaps the Lohans and Hiltons of the world with one hand while buying Us Weekly or clicking on Perez Hilton with the other.
"Everybody wants to point the finger: 'Britney this and Lindsay that. These damn kids, they get too much too fast. It's their damn problem.' Well, it's not their problem. It's society's problem," Feldman insisted, his voice rising. "With these kids, not only are we throwing them under the spotlight, but we're pointing fingers and laughing. That's society's shame for doing such a thing. That's wrong."
But now that they're clean and clear, off drugs and back in the spotlight in positive ways, can Feldman and Haim share the secret to help the current crop of messed-up stars find their way through the fog?
"I can't. No one can," Haim said. "All these years, I still get asked plenty of questions [about] how to help. Until they're ready to help themselves, no one can help them. That's the way it is."
And that, truly, is what separates those who ultimately piece their lives back together from those who continue to self-destruct, the pair reiterated: the ability to find self-worth and "keep that core," Feldman declared. "Know that [you're] a good person and don't need other people's opinions."
"[Rehab] didn't work at the beginning because I was doing it for everyone else. 'Mom, I love you. Dad, I love you. I'm going to get clean for you! I'll do it for you,' " Haim recalled. "Everyone but me. I think when a person gets it for themselves — however they get it — that's a great day for them."
Listen up, Brit and LiLo: It's a moment of startling emotional honesty, said Feldman, that not only shocks you to the core but, somewhat paradoxically, also makes you more likely to get help from those around you.
"I don't think anybody can be angry with a guy who says, 'I'm going through a hard time. I need some help,' " Feldman said. "I always acted like everything was peachy and hunky-dory. I don't believe that anymore. 'Hey, I'm having a hard time. Things are rough.' I think that opens the door to getting yourself help."
It's a mantra that today's stars only seem to follow after they've been busted, with publicist-released apology statements or requests for privacy ubiquitous reminders of the barrier between celebrities and fans.
But for those who find healthy ways to embrace the madness, those who come out on the other side like Feldman and Haim (who are set to star together in "The Lost Boys 2": see "Corey Feldman And Corey Haim Salivating Over Long-Awaited 'Lost Boys' Sequel"), it's a prideful feeling of accomplishment and experience — the kind of feeling they hope for Lindsay and Paris and Britney and all the troubled child stars who come after.
The road of life is long, they said, and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn't have to be an oncoming train.
"I don't see my life as a series of mistakes," Feldman insisted. "I see my life as a series of lessons. So yes, I made some bad choices, but those choices were an opportunity for me to grow and to learn. When you come out the other side, you can feel this overwhelming strength."
"A lot of people say, 'It's great to see you,' " Haim said. "I don't know what else to say except, 'Thank you. It's great to be seen again.' "