This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

The Philip Seymour Hoffman I 'Knew'

Stocks in this article: FB

Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout to expand on the author's unique experience with PSH.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It was the best of times -- and damn, it was the very best of times.

It's the tale of two Philip Seymour Hoffmans -- one was my college classmate who was a brilliant actor and a sharp critic and the other allegedly died a shameful death, with a needle in his arm. I knew Phil about a well as you'd know any colleague whose work you critiqued several days a week for a few years. I never knew of his drug life back then.

Hoffman and I were actors in an elite program. Only one in every 2,000 applicants were chosen to train at the Circle in the Square program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. We both graduated with Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1989. (I later received a Masters in Publishing from our alma mater.)

Hoffman and I studied under Alan Langdon and Jacqueline Brookes among other legends. After every performance, the class would critique "the work." Phil, I and few others were quite vocal when actors were "playing a part" rather than living it. We suffered no fakers. Either you would bring your raw emotions and stinky parts, with all the fibers of your being -- or go home in tears.

The point of this article is, I heard Phil's laugh. Not in a movie, in class. I remember his hand gestures when he was pissed off. I remember how he would shake his head left to right with disbelief or confusion after a scene.

I remember how, when I once got the instructions for a scene in Langdon's class so wrong, Phil looked at me, raised both hands as if to say, what the hell was that? I do not remember his words, because that was 28 years ago. But I remember how it made me feel. It confirmed that I had to be more focused and more dedicated, or choose another career.

The point of this article is not to give a eulogy -- that's a right I believe should be reserved for his loved ones. The point is, I and very few others in the world actually trained with Hoffman. Hoffman and I worked on developing our craft together. It was an amazing experience. 

My Personal Memoir 

What follows is a memoir of my time as a starlet at NYU.

Kristen Johnston (former actress in 3rd Rock from the Sun) also attended Tisch School for the Arts with us. We were not classmates (though she had classes with Phil), but she knew of my work and I knew of hers. One day in the hallway she said: Hey, Cherella. I heard about your masturbation scene. For the record, it was a wardrobe malfunction during a monologue on a squeaky bed.

Johnston too later had struggles with drugs and gives a raw account of her personal wars in her book Guts.

As a starlet, my life consisted of training with Hoffman and others by day, and partying with celebrities by night.

Chris Rock once called me obnoxious, at Nells nightclub, because I said his mentor, Eddie Murphy, was not a "real actor." After studying with Hoffman by day, I knew the difference and I had become arrogant.

I lived in the Brittany a couple of floors down from Adam Sandler. Sandler was friends with the late Ennis Cosby. I crashed a couple of his dorm-room parties. Can't say "I know" Sandler, though.

The pressures of stardom, as well as leading into dangerous territories like drugs, often shuts out old acquaintances. Hoffman and I could tear each other's work apart in school but he would have the last laugh, rising to stardom and forgetting some of his old colleagues.

Unlike Hoffman, I left acting after landing some wee acting parts, notably in Spike Lee films. Now I am the chief editor of contributors at TheStreet. They let me shoot videos here, too, which keeps my acting whistle wet.

I respected Hoffman as an actor -- one with natural talent and abandon. I "knew" him when you could get up close and personal. I was a starlet, but he became the star. Now Hoffman's flame has been extinguished, at 46, apparently by his own hands.

It can be sad how life turns, turns, turns.

-- Written by Cherella Cox in New York

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

Jim Cramer's protégé, David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Dividend Stock Advisor

Jim Cramer's protégé, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!

Markets

DOW 17,164.95 -251.90 -1.45%
S&P 500 1,994.99 -26.26 -1.30%
NASDAQ 4,635.24 -48.1670 -1.03%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs