Louis Gossett details career marred by racism and drugs

Mon Jul 5, 2010 2:17pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He was not born on the fourth of July, but Louis Gossett, Jr. celebrates it like his birthday, nonetheless.

Not because July 4 is America's Independence Day. Rather, because it marks the Oscar-winning actor's own independence from years of living in a haze of freebase cocaine, alcohol and a toxic mold that invaded his house and his body.

Gossett, 74, has detailed his rebirth, which began with a trip to rehab in 2004, as well as details of his remarkable life in a new memoir, "An Actor and a Gentleman," which hit bookstores in May.

Six years after his own independence day, Gossett, an African American, has regained his health and dedicated his life to erasing racism, which caused anger and resentment in his career and fueled a need to escape through drug use.

"Once you put it through a blender, we are one people. We are all equal, and we need one another to survive and save this planet," he told Reuters.

But before Gossett could work on what he calls "eracism," the winner of the best supporting actor Oscar for playing a tough-as-nails drill sergeant in 1982's "An Officer and a Gentleman" had to go through hell.

His life didn't start out that way.

In fact, Gossett describes what he considers a charmed life growing up in Brooklyn, New York. While he was raised by working parents in a community rife with gangs, he did not want for much and escaped a lot of violence because, Gossett said, his friends and family members looked out for him.   Continued...

<p>Actor Louis Gossett Jr. talks during the Hollywood Christmas Parade in Los Angeles November 29, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>