Mother Theresa & The Lost Boy

Sometimes the bond between a mother and daughter is so spiritually connected and strong that even a little obsession with a dead actor can bring them together.

Spirits whom I idolize seem gravitate towards my mother. Especially, much to her sadness yet still hopefulness, spirits who died tragically.  And young.

In sixth grade I became obsessed with Larry Clarks film, “Bully”. I read the book by Jim Schutze and studied the case very closely, watching anything and everything that was related to it. Though I don’t believe the movie (and book) are a real and fact based portrayal of the actual crime, I still admired the way Mr. Clark filmed the movie and I became an instant fan of his with viewing only one of his films. I loved the movie that much. It was also the first time I had seen a film with the late Brad Renfro whom I now adore and actually keep James Franco’s “Brad Tribute” mirror on my nightstand. Franco’s handwritten “Brad Forever” stained across the reflection in pink lipstick with a tiny, beautiful photo of Brad glued underneath.

This was my first taste of modern obsession with tragic actors who died young. I gravitate towards them as if they were my babies and I’m their savior. Everyday I try to protect them and their images. The unknown who “ordinary” people don’t recognize their names.

Larry Clark threw me into a new world. A different kind of filmmaking that both intrigued me and made me sick. I felt nauseous at the end of the film. I didn’t sleep for days after. Still, I spent the whole Summer after sixth grade watching that movie. Every. Single. Night.

Travel forward in time about 3 years when I was a freshman in High School. Well past my Bully phase and even forgetting that I had once loved that film. Late night insomnia made me skip through our tv guide looking for something to watch when I stumbled upon Bully. I clicked it on and it started all over again.

But I wasn’t going to let it stop there. I was fully prepared to seek out and watch all of Larry Clarks films and gaze upon his photography portfolio. Logging into my online account for the local library I searched Larry’s name and, with no surprise, only a few options came up. Bully and a film called Kids.

I clicked on Kids and hit the “request” button to have it brought to the library having no clue what the film was even about. All I knew was that Kids was Larry’s first film.

After I picked up Kids from the library, I locked myself in my room and played the film.

The first shot absolutely repulsed and confused me. I continued watching, hoping that my opinion would change.

It didn’t.

After the final scene of the film I shut it off hoping that the images I just saw would erase itself out of my memory. But days after viewing it I had to turn it back on and watch it again. And again. And again.

I was trapped in a world where I didn’t belong.

Mainly, I was captivated by the character Casper played by Justin Pierce. Casper, the loud mouthed skater who is best friends with Telly, the lead character, whose mission is to sleep with as many virgin girls as possible, unknowingly giving and spreading AIDS to each girl as he goes. Immediately, the viewer loves Casper. Next to his friend, who continually talks about hunting down new girls, the viewer, obviously, is automatically drawn to Casper. But with Casper I could sense a very troubled soul. You can see it in his face–in his eyes. His acting blew me away but I could feel that there was something more there. Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to do a quick Google search of his name.

Sadly what I found was that he had been dead for more than ten years. The cause of death:

Suicide by Hanging. Age 25

What I found slightly more disturbing is that he had killed himself at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, a place that I have driven/walked by countless times in my life. To think that I was so close to a sort of twisted crime scene of an actor who I was only then beginning to appreciate saddened me but didn’t fail to spark a fuel inside to discover more about Justin.

Who was Justin?

A boy who was randomly picked up from the streets to be in a movie.

A boy who won outstanding performance awards for his portrayal as Casper in Kids.

The unknown boy who hardly had any photos on the internet when I had first discovered him.

The lost boy who had written two suicide notes before tying a noose around his neck in the late night life of Vegas.

The world around him was alive, well, and happy. Only he wasn’t.

So what is it about Justin Pierce?

Though I’ve grown to love and admire the film Kids, there are essentially no redeeming characters. Throughout the film you root for Justin’s character. He gives a little girl who is alone outside a peach, digs through his pockets to find any money he has to give to a homeless man who has no legs on a New York subway train, and told off a friend who stole money from his mother.

Justin’s character gives the viewer hope that in every bunch of troubled kids, there can be one good one. One that can truly make it. He gives out redeeming qualities only to destroy it by attacking an innocent black man and leaving him for dead and raping a drugged up girl at a party.

Why do people, including myself, love this character so much? Why is he the hero of the story?

The film parallels his own life. Out of the cast of Kids Justin was the one people knew would turn into a major star. The troubled boy making it big in Hollywood. Showing us that even, in his own words, a “bastard son” can achieve greatness. He gave many powerful drama filled, along with comedic, performances only to take it all back from us by killing himself in a Vegas suite.

I began (in much obsessiveness and oddness) a search to find out more about Justin. What is it that makes his fans, and there are a lot of us, love him?

During the span of my research I learned my parents were planning a trip to Las Vegas to visit relatives. I asked my mother, who is a psychic/medium, if she could stop at the Bellagio to see if she could feel and/or sense Justin. My mother had no clue who Justin was. All she knew was that he was an actor and had died in a Bellagio suite.

Upon their arrival, my mom snapped a quick picture of the Bellagio as they drove by and sent it to me while I was anxiously waiting in school.

The next few days she kept Justin on her mind, hoping to receive any bit of information that she could give to me. As they walked around the famous streets, my mom stopped behind the rest of the crowd she was with and felt a quick rush of intense sadness and pain which was accompanied by a soft brush against her cheek as if someone was trying to comfort her.

She later told me that she had felt a quick calm sensation and a moment peace. The peace of a worried, manic mind. And the peace of that everything is okay now.

Once knocked back into reality she realized she was standing at the entrance of the Bellagio hotel.

Quickly, she hurried back to catch up with the rest and texted me what had happened.

“He was in a lot of pain. Physically and emotionally. Broken bones? Lots of broken or sprained bones.”

My mother, not knowing Justin was a professional skate boarder, picked up he hurt all over. Bodily and mentally.

“He was in a lot of emotional pain. Intense inner torment. But he’s alright now. He’s happy now.” She assured me. “Don’t be sad for him. He doesn’t care anymore. He’s okay.”

A few days after, relieved me texted my mom:

“French teacher gone, no test today. Jesus Christ, yes.”

As my mom read this text, she overheard a woman near her say,

“Jesus Christ, what happened?”

She laughed to herself and texted back asking,

“What’s with all the Jesus Christ’s today?”

“Justin!!!” I replied.

Kids ended with Justin waking up on a couch after raping a girl uttering the famous last lines of the film before cutting to black,

“Jesus Christ, what happened?”

Small little messages kept happening even after my mother arrived back home. We’ll text each other words or symbols we get from spirit asking if it has any meaning to us. One day as I was listening to the Kids soundtrack in my room my mom asked what “butterscotch” meant to me.

I immediately laughed and said,

“Yep, that’s Justin.”

Ever get movie quotes stuck in your head? I always get “butterscotch” stuck in my head. I confirmed to her that it was in fact Justin but didn’t have the heart, nor did I want to explain to her, that he was using the word butterscotch to describe a ladies private part.

We’ve had countless experiences with Justin, so many that you may think we’re simply “faking” it. But we whole heartedly believe in it and that’s all that matters.

As a former child actress who died at the age of 14 (in my previous life) I have such sympathy and love for fellow stars who had followed the same path that I, unfortunately, started. I’m drawn to these types of people because I know how it feels. And I also know how it feels to be forgotten. To be lost in the shadows and to become a victim of Hollywood.

Some of the stars I love seem to go to my mother as well. Those who have had broken homes and bad childhoods. They find a safe haven and comfort in my mom. The mother figure they didn’t seem to have while living on earth.

I’m their fan and support while my mother is their unconditional love and comfort.

My mother has a strong connection to Justin and holds a warm kind of love for him. Though, she refuses to watch Kids. She holds Justin to such a high standard that she doesn’t want to see him doing anything that will may make her want to change her opinion about him. She feels as though it would be a “mother” intruding on a sons personal business.

Justin was a living icon of New York and the prototype of what could happen to a troubled soul in films. To the pure ones.

I think us fans are in love with the could have been. Not what should have been, what could  have been. Souls as old and rare as his are not meant to be in this world for very long. As sad as that is, it’s the truth.

I certainly would have loved to have seen him in more films but he did all he could and we should be thankful for that. He chose to die, not that I agree with his decision, we should not be mad at him for that. For whatever reasons he had behind it, we cannot be mad. It was his life and he chose the path he had. We’ve done a great job at keeping his spirit alive and we should thank him for the wonderful performances he left us. In all of his pain and suffering, he held it together long enough to share his talents with the world. And that is what he was meant to do.

July 10th will mark the 15th anniversary of Justin’s death and he’s still alive and well in all of our hearts. He still has pictures with friends being posted online, t-shirts with his face on it selling, movies being watched, and new fans mourning his passing.

Our minds are compelled to keep him alive. Him dying young gave us the ability to use our imaginations to carry on his legacy.

 Because Legends Never Die.

Rest in Paradise Justin

Justin - Funeral

The Life & Death of Justin Pierce.

Most known for his controversial role in Larry Clark’s 1995 film, “Kids” and skate punk attitude. In 2000, Justin shocked the world, along with his friends, when he committed suicide in a  Las Vegas suite.

Justin Pierce
Justin Pierce

He was born Justin Charles Pierce in London on March 21, 1975 but was raised in Manhatten, New York.

He attended P.S. 7 in the Bronx for Elementary School and J.H.S. 141 in the Riverdale section of the Bronx for Junior High School.

When he was 15 years old, his parents separated. After the separation he lived with his mom in Northeastern Pa. and went to High School for a few years at Delaware Valley H.S. in Milford Pa. At some point, Justin returned back to New York.

 He began acting out. dropped out of school and moved out, often staying with fellow skaters. He was later arrested for the possession of marijuana and heroin substances. which were found under his pants in a police road search. The results in the court hearing were found inconclusive. Justin went back to live with his parents at the age of 19.

While skateboarding in Washington Square Park in New York, Justin was discovered by controversial photographer Larry Clark. Larry was working on his future directing debut about a look into the lives of New York street kids. The screenplay was written by 18 year old Harmony Korine in 1993, based/inspired off of skateboarder Quim Cardona, who was supposed to play Telly (which went to Leo Fitzpatrick) in the film.

Justin was cast as Casper–the loud mouthed friend of Telly.

Justin on the set of Kids
Justin on the set of Kids
Justin and Leo Fitzpatrick
Justin and Leo Fitzpatrick

Justin - 9

While filming, Justin got in a fight with a club bouncer and broke his wrist. Since his character in the film does not have injuries, they had to wait until filming was over to get him a cast. In the pool scene, you see Justin holding his wrist above his head — he did this to help decrease the pain in his wrist.

Justin - 21

“Kids” was released in 1995 and went on to achieve big time success. Justin won an Independent Spirit Award for best breakthrough performance for his portrayal of Casper.

In 1997 he soon moved from New York to Los Angeles and worked on his acting career.

He appeared in 1997’s, “A Brothers Kiss” as a young Lex.

Justin Pierce - 1
I’m becoming more and more bored in La La Land every day. People in L.A. don’t seem real to me. All they care about is fucking movie stars.“- Justin on LA

Also in 1997, he appeared in “First Time Felon” as Eddie.

Justin in
Justin in “First Time Felon”

Justin continued getting film roles in some independent films, including a small role in “Malcolm in the Middle”.

In 1999, Justin married stylist Gina Rizzo in Las Vegas.

It was first stated a year after they married that they had a daughter together. If there is any truth to this, I’m not sure. They lived in Los Angeles together with their two dogs.

justin - 1

In 2000,  Justin appeared with Ice Cube in “Next Friday”. They traveled to Las Vegas for promotion of the film. Justin stayed in a Poshe suite at the Bellagio Hotel. On July 10, Justin failed to show up to a local mall to sign autographs. He was found hanging that day in his hotel room by hotel security. He was 25 years old.

He left two suicide notes which have not been released to the public.

A Catholic service was held for Justin the following day at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan’s Little Italy.

Larry Clark said that his wake was the worst day of his life.  Also saying, “It was a full-on Catholic wake with the open casket and all these skateboarders in their father’s suits.”

 Justin - Funeral

Actress Marianne Hagan, who worked with Justin in the film “Pigeon Holed”, said, “He was 21 going on 80, he had this expressive face that you don’t have if you’ve had a happy-go-lucky life, and he wore it like a badge of honor.”

Seth Rossenfield said, “Michael Rapaport said I had to meet this great actor. And then I started to hear all these things about what trouble Justin was. But I met him and he told me he wasn’t like that at all. He was always prepared and a natural actor. Justin hadn’t had the easiest life. He had a lot of wisdom for such a young age. He had an old soul, but underneath his tough street exterior was a really sweet kid.”

David Perez, “You could sense that [Pierce] wasn’t happy.”

Justin - 19

Maybe we’ll never know the exact reasons why Justin Pierce took his own life at the young age of 25, but one thing is certain: He will live on in the amazing film work he left behind.