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Cory Monteith’s legacy

The Glee star spent one of his last evenings making plans for a charity close to his heart


 
‘Let’s dream big’

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

On the floor above the East of Main restaurant, on the fringe of Vancouver’s Chinatown and the cusp of the Downtown Eastside, is the rehearsal space for Project Limelight, a children’s charity so dear to the heart of 31-year-old Cory Monteith that he spent the last Thursday evening of his life making plans for its future.

Limelight is not unlike Glee, the hit high school musical TV show that made Monteith a star. Glee is about outsiders who are elevated and redeemed by the power of music, song and dance. It worked fictionally for Monteith’s character Finn Hudson, the naive high school quarterback who finds a home in the glee club—and gets the girl. For a time, it worked in real life, too. Monteith was a lost boy until acting gave him the passion and focus, and Glee provided him with fame and a platform to do good things. And here, too, he got the girl. On the show, she was Rachel Berry, his love interest. In reality, she is Lea Michele Sarfati, 26, who was a Broadway singer and actress before Glee came along, where she met this sweet, complicated Canadian, and they became a couple.

Tragically, she was not with him on this visit, for she was known as a steadying, sobering influence. Police say he died alone in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim sometime on the morning of July 13. Autopsy results released Tuesday found he died of a toxic mix of heroin and alcohol. There is nothing to suggest it “was anything other than a most-tragic accident,” the B.C. Coroners Service said in a statement. Monteith had checked himself into rehab this spring to deal with a recurrence of drug and alcohol abuse that had plagued him during his teen years on Vancouver Island.

Monteith seemed robust and enthused on Thursday, July 11, as he dined at East of Main with his Vancouver agent, Elena Kirschner, and Maureen Webb, a casting director, who had known Monteith since he was 19, full of unfocused potential. Webb is a co-founder of Project Limelight with her sister Donalda Weaver. Monteith requested the meeting because he wanted to do more to help the program, which runs on volunteers, grants and the profits from the restaurant, which the sisters also operate. “He was very open to using his star power to attract other people and money,” says Webb. “He said, ‘Just use me however you want.’ ”

Limelight takes about 20 children at a time from the Downtown Eastside and introduces them to a series of mentors from TV, film and theatre. The kids go through a four-month free program of acting, singing, dancing and rehearsal before they put on a show at the Simon Fraser University theatre in the Downtown Eastside. “It looks like a professional production put on by eight- to 12-year-olds,” says Webb, flashing a tired smile. “Most of them had never been on stage, let alone acted. They’ve probably never been to a theatre.”

Monteith was in from the beginning two years ago. “We wanted it to be inclusive. We wanted it to be a place that kids were proud to come to,” says Webb, “a place that was cool to belong to.” Glee, in microcosm. “Kids really need a place to go, to feel like they belong,” Monteith says in a promotional video for Limelight. “When I was a kid, I struggled a lot with who I was and, you know, where my life was going . . . I was fortunate to have the arts inspire me.”

He related to the kids: Some were from single homes and humble means, much like himself. Weaver’s eyes light up when she talks about the transformations she’s seen. “There are so many changes in these kids. We didn’t expect it to be that fast, or that dramatic.” Maybe they’ll never go into the arts, she says, but they can stand in front of their classes for a science project, or be high school valedictorians, or run board meetings. “That’s powerful,” says Weaver. “That’s success.”

One of the last photos of Monteith was taken by Kirschner, his agent, that night. It shows his profile against the restaurant window, his face unreadable; a dark silhouette. It’s a moody shot for what was an uplifting evening. He was talking about coming back soon, about ways to finance air conditioning for the stifling rehearsal room upstairs, about someday helping Limelight get its own theatre. Why not? “Yeah,” he said, “Let’s dream big.”


 

Cory Monteith’s legacy

  1. How touching..He gets lots of LOVE and Respect and He was a drug addict and alcoholic which I understand…Mr Wonderful died from Heroin of all things..I think about Whitney Houston and how the press and others
    dogged her terribly and spoke of Her like a dirty dog.. but this guy is Mr Wonderful..makes me sick

    • I wanted to curse you out when I read your comment, I wanted to yell
      at you and call you names, but Cory would never have done that. He
      showed kindness to all, regardless of whether or not they deserved it,
      so I’ll now try to do the same.

      Why can’t you be compassionate to both? No one worth their salt treated Whitney Houston as anything less than the amazing woman she was. There will always be idiots on the internet trying to mask their terrible thoughts with anonymity but no one who would proudly put their face with their comments would ever say a bad word. I understand feeling sad over what parts of the media turned Whitney’s legacy into but how dare you insinuate Cory was merely a drug addict and alcoholic. I cannot believe that’s what you got out of reading this article. He was a kind, kind man .. in his 4 years in this industry, not ONE PERSON had a bad word to say about him. Not when he was alive, not now. He stopped to thank doormen and drivers and even annoying paparazzi. He skipped out on event interviews to spend more time signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. He spent his vacation time trying to help as many people as he could. THAT is why he gets love and respect, because he truly earned it, because he was the absolute best kind of person and that you would try to make him seem like anything less is heartbreaking. We all have our demons, and addiction is perhaps the worst. He tried, he wanted to be better, but it ends differently for everyone, and sadly he, despite how badly he wanted to be a good role model and have his happy ending, is a reminder of the tragedy it can lead to.

      • THANK YOU. We Cory fans who met him know what the man was like, how kind, generous and giving he was to his fans. How he touched everybody with his smile and kindness. He was such a great guy, those who didn’t know him cannot appreciate him and do not understand.

  2. Street heroin taken alone is a dangerous drug, mixed with alcohol and/or other CNS depressants (eg valium) the risk of death is greatly amplified. The risk becomes even greater after a period of abstinence (rehab, incarceration etc) with a loss of tolerance. Unfortunately the ones that cannot properly understand and fear these dangers are likely to eventually die. These deaths should in no way be glorified however popular the decedent.

    • Nobody is glorifying Cory’s death. He was a big part of Hollywood and he was much-loved .. this is a celebration of his life and his talent and the good he did. Just because the last chapter in his life was dark doesn’t mean he had nothing to contribute to the world and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about him. He was brave enough to be honest about his problems, hoping he could help as many people as possible .. even now, I’m sure he’d have no problems with his story being told in the hopes of changing at least one life.

      “the ones that cannot properly understand and fear these dangers” is a rather pretentious and condescending remark. It’s not as easy as understanding or fearing .. Cory knew all too well the dangers. He voluntarily sought rehab this past spring – no one voluntarily admits themselves into a treatment facility unless they truly understand that they need to fix something. What no one talks about is how addiction is a mental illness. That it’s not stupid people being stupid, that it’s not as easy as “1-2-3 okay, I quit!” .. it consumes your mind and your soul and every living, breathing moment is a battle. This isn’t just about Cory, this is about very real, very good people being judged as “selfish” and “dumb” for not being able to fight the demons that try so very hard to overpower them. They don’t succumb because they’re lazy, or they don’t care or they don’t want to try, and until society stops making addiction seem like something only losers go through, as if anyone would make the decision to live in that world of utter darkness, it’s going to keep happening.

      THAT’S why Cory’s story is important, because if an addict can be redefined and seen as not just a haggard junkie on the street but also a good, kind, decent man, we can end the stigma and raise awareness and analyze where the system is working and where it’s failing. There is no glory to dying alone in a hotel room, and I have yet to see anyone make any glory out of it. This is about honoring a wonderful man and hoping that he can serve as an example for the many people he so desperately wanted to help.

  3. Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket Cory’s funeral. Well I all I can say to that is I’d like to see them try. Cory is being buried in Canada, we have way
    different rules her. They’re used to all the freedoms of the US
    constitution to show there evil. well guess what, Canada’s different.
    They can try all they want, we don’t have to be nice. So come on WBC,
    were waiting for you. RIP Cory, the demons can’t hurt you anymore.

    • Cory was cremated on Tuesday. No funeral. And WBC isn’t allowed to cross the boarder, as they’re well aware. It was an empty threat.

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