High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell
High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell is a 1995 American documentary film directed by Richard Farrell, Maryann DeLeo and Jon Alpert. It was a co-production of HBO and DCTV, produced by Farrell, DeLeo, and Alpert. It aired on HBO as part of its series America Undercover. The documentary takes place about 30 miles northwest of Boston in the economically depressed former mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts.
|High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell|
|Directed by||Jon Alpert|
|Produced by||HBO, DCTV|
|Written by||Jon Alpert|
Gary (Boo-Boo) Giuffrida
|Edited by||Jon Alpert|
|8 August 1995|
While Lowell is generally known for its central role in the Industrial Revolution as the first planned textile town in the United States (aside from Slatersville, RI, the first planned mill village in the country during said Industrial Revolution), the city had fallen on hard times since the mills left the city in the early 1920s. Wang Laboratories, a major employer in Lowell in the more prosperous 1980s, declared bankruptcy and virtually went out of business in the early 1990s. The Lowell of 1993 had a large percentage of the population unemployed or underemployed, in poverty, and unaffected by positive things in the city like the Lowell National Historical Park and The Lowell Folk Festival (established in 1990). Much of the film takes place in a lower-class section of the city's (Lower) Highlands neighborhood, documenting a period of nearly 18 months, with 1993 being the primary focus.
The documentary frames the lives of three addicts against this background, while exploring them as human beings. The film reveals the lives behind addiction: their aspirations, why they do drugs and why they don't quit, etc. Interviews with their families, friends, and members of the community include discussions about how drugs have destroyed the lives of the addicts. Richard Farrell, one of the directors, writers, and producers, a native of Lowell and a former addict, allows the crew deep access to the city's drug scene.
The filmmakers follow around three people: Boo Boo, Brenda, and former professional boxer Dicky Eklund in their daily exploits to get high.
Throughout the course of the documentary, Brenda, a prostitute, becomes pregnant and contemplates an abortion but has to "hook" to pay for the abortion. Whenever she earns enough money she blows it on drugs instead of getting the $395 abortion. The father could be her on-again off-again boyfriend Mike, or Boo Boo, whom she says has been pimping her out. Brenda also attempts detox rehab for the baby, but after talking to her parents decides to abort, then do detox, then to go back home. Scenes detailing Brenda's ambivalence about aborting the baby leads to her sharing that her parents forced her to have an abortion at age 15 and it had been a "nightmare" for her, and she felt like she'd "murdered" her baby. At one point she does go into detox, but she loses the will to complete the program and walks out, as she had 6 times before.
Brenda ultimately goes missing which launches Boo Boo into a panic as he looks for her all over Lowell, including filing a missing person's report with the police. The police eventually do locate her, but are unable to tell Boo Boo her location, per her wishes, only telling him she is alive and well and "she's had the child and straightened her life out, but does not want to reveal her present location."
Dicky is a boxer who had at one time had a promising career as a boxer and had fought Sugar Ray Leonard, losing by decision after 10 rounds, and had attempted to make a comeback. For the sake of his young son, he tries to prevent his habit – and the crimes he commits to feed it – from destroying his life, but is unable to stay clean for long and ends up arrested on multiple felony charges. While awaiting trial, his mother attempts to raise bail money with a benefit at the local VFW. During the event a fight breaks out between spectators; the $5,000 bail is not raised.
After Brenda leaves the area, Boo Boo's drug habit gets worse and he begins shooting cocaine intravenously. He then gets tested for HIV and finds out he's positive. This appears to act as a catalyst to turn his life around. He stops using for several months, joins an HIV support group and gets a job working as a delivery man at a local area donut shop, Eat-A-Donut, where he's well liked and regarded as dependable. He starts to re-open contact with his family. However, it all falls apart again as he loses the job when he's stopped by the police for a minor traffic violation and it's revealed he was driving with no license. He spends the next day getting high with Dicky, as it is Dicky's last day out before going to jail, ultimately being sentenced for 10 to 15 years.
The documentary ends with Boo Boo discussing how he is the only member of the three left. Dicky is in jail and Brenda is gone. Boo Boo hopes she's doing well with her new life with her baby as he puffs on his crack pipe.
In the closing credits, it is revealed that 6 months after filming, Boo Boo is still in Lowell with a $200 a day crack habit, Dicky won't be eligible for parole for at least 4 more years (in 1999), and Brenda died from a drug overdose before the film's release.
In popular cultureEdit
A fictionalized version of the documentary is featured in the 2010 feature film The Fighter, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. In the film, the documentary is titled Crack In America. Eklund, portrayed by Christian Bale, is shown smoking crack and being high throughout, telling his family that the HBO camera crew are filming him making a boxing comeback. Bale won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Eklund.
- Brenda delivered her baby and was noted in the film credit updates, to have overdosed on October 25, 1995. At the IFFBoston 2016 screening, Richard Farrell and Maryann DeLeo revealed that Brenda's father, a state police officer, and her brother had isolated her in a padded bedroom at their house where she was kept drug free until the healthy baby boy was born.
- Gary "Boo Boo" Giuffrida continued to have trouble with the law. In 2012, he was placed under arrest for receiving stolen property and using a stolen credit card. In 2013, while in New Hampshire, he was involved in scuffling and spitting on a police officer, which resulted in charges alleging attempted transmission of HIV. He received a suspended sentence that forbade him from ever returning to the state of New Hampshire. Boo Boo's employer in the documentary, 'Eat A Donut' in Lowell, MA, was closed by the department of health in 2007 when they encountered hypodermic needles, cocaine and a nude woman, among other offenses, on the premises. Boo Boo died in Lowell on December 25, 2016 after a brief battle with cancer.
- Dicky Eklund has struggled continually since the documentary's release, noting he has been arrested over 66 times, including for domestic violence, drug crimes and even attempted murder in 2006, in which charges were dropped and his nephew served 11 months in a self-defense fight. His most recent charges are from 2015. He allegedly assaulted his girlfriend of 14 years and during his wait for the trial, he was picked up for driving under the influence. Much like his previous repeated arrests for domestic violence, the charges were dropped as his long-time girlfriend again refused to testify. His DUI charges are currently pending.
- Janice Ellis (aka Janet From Another Planet) was murdered in the early hours of May 8, 2006 by Frank Eberhart. She allegedly attempted to sell him "fake crack" and drew a knife on him, though Eberhart was uninjured. Her body lay in Eberhart's apartment for four days until her murderer attempted to dispose of her body by wrapping it with a carpet and leaving it in an alley. An appeals court upheld his life sentence in 2010.
- The actor who played Boo Boo in The Fighter, Paul Campbell, childhood friend and bit part actor for three of Mark Wahlberg's films, was killed by police after fatally stabbing his mother on the steps of their home.
- Co-director Richard Farrell struggled with his newfound fame with this documentary of his hometown. Farrell turned inward and started writing of his own personal struggles in Lowell as an addict in the 1980s. Farrell used inspiration to write a book titled What's Left of Us. There were discussions of development for a film with Berkeley Square Films announcing production starring Channing Tatum in 2010, but it appears talks for the screenplay have stalled. He currently writes for Huffington Post relating recent news stories through the eyes of a reformed heroin addict.
- The owner of Eat-A-Donut, Sotiros "Duke" Schrow, who gave Boo Boo a chance at a job and being clean before discovering Boo Boo did not possess a valid driver's license, died in an automobile crash in 2001. Eat-A-Donut was subsequently sold by his widow, then shut down for various health violations such as dirty syringes and human fluids throughout.
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