Last July, at a Planet Hollywood opening in Indianapolis, Chris Farley, sweating profusely, grossly overweight, and acting completely out of it, was hamming it up for the crowd by dousing himself with a bottle of milk like an Indy 500 race winner on a calcium bender. At least one friend of Farley's saw nothing amusing about the sloppy spectacle. He pulled the actor aside and said, ''Hey, you gotta take it easy.'' Farley flashed one of his trademark naughty-boy grins and then uttered the ultimate Hollywood cliché, ''I want to live fast and die young.''
On Dec. 18, Chris Farley got his wish.
Found dead in his Chicago apartment after a four-day drinking and drug binge, Farley never seemed able to pin down whether his fans were laughing with him or at him. For most comics, just getting the laugh is enough. But even as the comedian's innocently devilish, over-the-top physical high jinks elevated his asking price to $6 million per picture, Farley would self-deprecatingly shrug that his appeal was strictly limited to ''Fat Guy Falls Down'' shtick. As one longtime friend said after returning from Farley's funeral in his hometown of Madison, Wis., anxiety and self-loathing were his ''death sentence.'' That, of course, and his mammoth appetite for food, booze, and drugs.
Even stranger, Farley seemed equally addicted to trying to clean up his life. In the past two years, he was in and out of rehab at least 17 times. Fat farms, cold-turkey booze-kicking regimens, drug purgesFarley tried it all, but no 12-step cure took hold for very long. Just a week before his death, Farley made another pit stop at Hazelden. He was such a familiar face at the celebrity-friendly Minneapolis detox center, a friend laments, ''they should've named a wing after him.''
Arriving home in Chicago on Dec. 11 after only one night at Hazelden, a terribly out-of-shape Farley (pushing 300 pounds) surprised and worried friends with his speedy return. Yet the comedian's mood seemed as jolly as the season. According to Jillian Seely, 30, a close friend of Farley's for more than three years, Chris spent the next few days going to mass at St. Michael's Catholic church, which he often did, and baking holiday cookies. He splurged on an overpriced, decked-out Christmas tree from a ritzy Windy City florist, chatted enthusiastically with Seely about his next movie, the Lewis and Clark spoof Almost Heroes, costarring Matthew Perry, and made himself promises about what his life would be like in 1998. Farley even attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, albeit anxiously.
Sadly, Farley's good spirits were merely the calm before the storm. According to Seely and other acquaintances who saw Farley during his final days, the actor began a downward spiral on Dec. 14. He maniacally hopscotched through Chicago bars, consuming large quantities of drugs and alcohol and fraternizing with a series of party girls.
Farley's self-destructive bacchanal began at the downtown Chicago club Karma, where he raged until about 2 a.m. Afterward, the party moved to Farley's apartment. On Monday evening, Dec. 15, he dropped by the 38th-anniversary party for Second City (the Chicago Improv company that had given him his start), where by all accounts Farley was his usual lively selfdrinking, yes, but not drunk. He was later spotted on a pub crawl. On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Farley blew off plans to get a haircut from Seely, who works as a stylist at a top Chicago salon. Instead, a $300-per-hour call girl named Autumn alleges she spent that afternoon with Farley, who had called from his home around 8:30 a.m. She says the comedian, who was smoking pot and drinking screwdrivers, seemed more interested in her scoring cocaine than her services. ''I don't think he knew what he wanted,'' she says. ''You could just tell he was on a rampage.... He just kept bouncing from room to room.''