...Continued from page one
PLAYBOY: Did you really sleep with 5000 women?
SHEEN: [Smiles] Funny. Good start. OK, I want to set the record straight. That interviewer baited me, and I should have seen it coming. He said, "So, Wilt Chamberlain claims he slept with 20,000 women. Is that something close to what you would assume for yourself?" I said, "No, I'm not old enough. That's impossible. Plus, I once broke it down for Wilt, and during the time span he claimed, there would have to have been a girl every 36 minutes." The interviewer said, "Well, how many? Ten?" I said, "No." He said, "Five?" I said, "I don't know. I honestly have no idea. It's speculative and borders on preposterous. Plus, I didn't count." He pushed, "Well, five?" Finally, I said, "Fine. Fine. Five." And he ran with it.
PLAYBOY: We did the math, too. That amounts to one a day for almost 14 years.
SHEEN: It's pretty far off for me [laughs]. Plus, I was in some long relationships that would have made it impossible.
PLAYBOY: Nonetheless, like many things in your career, the story seems bound for showbiz folklore—as attested to by this quote we read at Inside.com: "The only buzz the new Spin City is getting is for the rock-star tour bus Charlie Sheen has parked on the studio lot. And, given the recent publicity about Sheen's love life"—meaning the 5000 women—"we don't even want to think about what might be going on inside the bus."
SHEEN: Two things: One, I got rid of the bus.
SHEEN: At first I tried to make it available as a Spin City clubhouse, but it didn't work where it was parked. Then I asked myself, If Barry Bostwick or Heather Locklear had one, would I be hanging out in it? And I realized, No, that's their private space. At the same time, I got tired of feeling like a separatist or an elitist. I wanted to be in a dressing room next to the other actors, in the mix right there on the stage. It was too much of a spectacle, so I just walked in one day and said, "This thing's got to go." I still own it. It'll be out on the road, being rented by other people, to pay for itself.
PLAYBOY: That's one, what's two?
SHEEN: I heard recently in Jay Leno's monolog that I call myself the Machine. I've never called myself the Machine. It was a nickname my friends gave me in the old days because when they were all ready to go home or to the ER, I was always the last guy standing, insisting that the party continue. Jay said that with the number of hookers I must have slept with, I should call myself the Automated Teller Machine. [Smiles] That's kind of funny, and it's nice to be talked about, but still.
PLAYBOY: Do you want the media to drop your past and get on with it?
SHEEN: I guess there's a part of me that still embraces or revels in generating some kind of media buzz or controversy. Why? Because it's immediate attention and it fuels that part of the fire. I don't want my life to be beige and boring and unquotable.
On the other hand, there have to be more important things going on in the world than my past. But I know that no matter what I do from this point forward—if the show's a hit, if I make movies that are hits, if I do great social work— it's always going to be "the former erst-while embattled news fodder." So I understand why, when I slip a little with something quotable, it's latched on to. It's because they can no longer write about my bad behavior. I'm not creating any wreckage or generating any headlines.
PLAYBOY: That wasn't always the case. How bummed out were you to be the guy publicly fingered in the Heidi Fleiss trial, while so many other Hollywood notables remained nameless?
SHEEN: They went for the easiest target. But it's OK. I was one of the few guys who were single and young. If I took the bullet, it would soften the attack on the whole community.
PLAYBOY: Are you still paying for sex?
SHEEN: [Shakes his head] I shut that down. I did it a couple times after I got sober and it didn't feel like it was in keeping with the kind of progress I'm making. It felt like the old me. It felt cheap and stupid. They had more fun than I did.
PLAYBOY: Maybe they should have paid you.
SHEEN: I didn't want to mention that [smiles].
PLAYBOY: You once said that paying for sex was really paying for them to leave when you're done.
SHEEN: That's an old Cary Grant quote. I borrowed it.
PLAYBOY: But you believed it.
SHEEN: To a degree, but also it was about avoiding all that hassle I would encounter going out, hanging out, picking up, taking home, transporting, blah blah blah. All the lies, the deceit. Promising to call and not calling. That's old behavior.
PLAYBOY: What's the new behavior?
SHEEN: Believe it or not, I've always been pretty old-fashioned. I'm kind of a missionary guy, from way back. I don't need a leather diaper collection and a lot of fantasies to get sexual. I think the more props you need, the less you've got going on with your own sexuality.
PLAYBOY: What changed your attitude?
SHEEN: In sobriety they teach you to think the drink through. Don't just think about having the drink and how good it's going to feel. Think through to the next morning, how it's going to influence you, the shame, how it's going to trigger the domino effect. If I do that I end up with, OK, I'm not going to drink. It's the same thing with one-night stands. I appreciate my time in the mornings so much that I'd rather go to bed at night alone than deal with waking up, creeping around the bedroom, being quiet, worrying. Also, I'd like to be with somebody I care about. Something moderately substantial.
PLAYBOY: Can you care about somebody?
SHEEN: Absolutely. Now that I've finally gotten to know myself a little bit, I know who I'm bringing to the relationship. Until now I've never had the tools to apply in a meaningful relationship. But I'm not looking for it. Right now I'm kind of in love with my job. [Pauses] I just don't want to live like I used to. And at some point, probably after this interview, I'm going to put a gag order on myself in terms of talking about the past. Seriously. I've got to slam the door and deal with the present and the future.
PLAYBOY: As long as you do it after this interview.
SHEEN: I get it. If I were assigned to somebody who had been through what I've been through and it was my job to deliver a story, I'd probably want to know the interesting shit and not just how the read-through was on Spin City. But that said, I'm talking about it now because I think I have a duty as a recovering guy to help, to make my knowledge of what I went through accessible.
PLAYBOY: Great. This isn't the first time that you've said you're recovered. Why should we believe you now, and why did you slip up before?
SHEEN: If I wanted to party now, I'd probably have to do it in the Himalayas, or on Mir. Can you imagine me going down to the corner bar and saying, "Hey, give me a shot of vodka. Put it in a coffee cup." First of all, I don't want to party now, and that's the difference. But if I said, all right, I'm going to do it, where would I go? Publicly talking about this stuff eliminates a lot of options. This is the only disease that wants to keep you looking good while you're killing yourself. All I can do today is lead by example and remember that I'm powerless over how people perceive me.
Back in those days, I hadn't gone far enough into it. I hadn't gotten on the pipe, shot dope, had legal hassles. I was still, in my mind, above the law, a functional, socially acceptable maniac. I've always needed lots of proof, and after the past few years I'm convinced of the insanity of my disease and of the insanity of second-guessing myself as an addict.
PLAYBOY: You didn't believe you were an addict?
SHEEN: I just didn't believe I was like everybody else. I thought I was unique. I didn't wake up in my neighbor's bed. I never crashed my car into some innocent person. I never fired my gun into a crowded shopping mall. I didn't get pulled over on the fucking highway with a gun and heroin. I didn't kick a cop and hop a fence. I didn't fucking take a gun on an airplane. I didn't kill anybody. I didn't molest any children. Heidi didn't send little boys to my ranch. Sure, I did a lot of things in excess. But if you look at the core, the foundation of what I pursued, who the fuck wouldn't? What red-blooded young American male in my position wouldn't? All the guys who criticize it would have done the same thing but probably would have died because they don't have the constitution I was cursed with. The most damage I did was to myself and to the people who got caught in the maelstrom. The worst thing that happened was the overdose. But, then, I didn't go in with three other dudes who overdosed with me. No, you overdose alone.
PLAYBOY: What about the gun incident in which your then girlfriend, Kelly Preston, got shot?
SHEEN: That was a complete accident. I wasn't even in the room. She picked up a pair of my pants, to get them off the bathroom scale so she could weigh herself one morning. A little revolver fell out of my back pocket, hit the bathroom floor and went off. It shot a hole through the toilet and she got hit in the leg with shrapnel. I was downstairs, making coffee and she came to the top of the stairs, blood all over her, telling me to call 911. But she was fine. She got two stitches and I had to get a new toilet.
But let me get back to why things are different for me this time. There was just so much more despair and hopelessness for me at the end than there had been the other times I supposedly got clean and came out in public saying, "I'm fine," but wasn't. This last go-around was overwhelming.
PLAYBOY: Because of your near-death experience?
SHEEN: That, and just feeling my spirit dying.
PLAYBOY: On the ER table?
SHEEN: No, just day to day, not really wanting to be an active member of the human race.
PLAYBOY: Were you suicidal?
SHEEN: No. But when friends asked me what was going on, I'd use a line from Star Wars. They'd ask, "Can we help?" and I'd say, "Not unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest or teleport me off this rock."
I remember thinking and feeling and believing that I was not able to stop, that I genuinely was incapable of putting an end to this. It wasn't even that I didn't know what to do with myself if I could stop. I didn't take the thought that far. It was, "My God, I can't stop. Now what?" Not, "OK, if I stop—" That was a terribly sad reality.
PLAYBOY: So what did you do?
SHEEN: I thought, All right, if I can't stop, I'm going to take this thing as far as I can. I wasn't going to dabble and mope about. Let's get on a horse and drive this fucking circus completely out of town.
SHEEN: I decided to turn up the volume. Let's stop sleeping, let's stop eating and just fucking party. I was smoking about a pound and a half of cocaine a month toward the end. That's a lot. It was hard-core—cleaner than crack because you cook it yourself—but so what?