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Son of Actors Ireland and McCallum Found Dead

November 09, 1989|PENELOPE McMILLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jason David McCallum--the son of actor David McCallum and actress Jill Ireland--whose troubled life and battles against drugs and alcohol were a focus of Ireland's recently published book "Life Lines," was found dead in his Laurel Canyon home, police said Wednesday.

The body of the 27-year-old McCallum was found by his girlfriend, Tracy Medina, on the bathroom floor of his rented apartment early Tuesday evening, Los Angeles police spokeswoman Margie Reid said.

Cause of death was unknown, she said, adding that "there were no signs of foul play, no obvious signs of trauma to the body."

Reid would not comment on whether drugs were involved.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner said an autopsy would be performed today, but results of toxicological tests would not be known for a week to 10 days.

McCallum was adopted by David McCallum, star of the former TV series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," and Ireland in 1962, according to Ireland's book. After the couple divorced, Ireland married actor Charles Bronson.

Lori Jonas, spokeswoman for Ireland, said the actress was flying to Los Angeles on Wednesday from her Vermont home.

"She's making no comment until she knows the cause of death," Jonas said. "They don't know if this was a drug overdose or a medical problem."

Earlier, however, Ireland, released this statement:

"I hate drugs. Jason had shown signs of being on the road to recovery. The book meant a lot to Jason, and he hoped it would keep other young people from going through what he had gone through."

David McCallum could not be reached for comment.

A friend, who asked not to be identified, said the tall, dark-haired McCallum was a "shy, very withdrawn" young man who, except for occasional acting jobs playing bit parts, did not work.

He appeared to be supported financially by Ireland and Bronson, the friend added, though just two days ago McCallum told him: "I'm going to find a job next week."

"He wasn't unhappy. I would rule out his taking his own life," the friend said.

McCallum had moved into the apartment only about a week ago, the friend said, with his new girlfriend, Medina.

In "Life Lines," Ireland said McCallum had had troubles since his teens with cocaine, alcohol and heroin, and made numerous failed attempts at rehabilitation. His recurring addictions seemed to parallel Ireland's own recurring struggles with cancer, which she contracted five years ago. But she wrote that of the two battles, Jason's was more painful to her than her own.

"I suddenly knew what it meant when people wrote that someone's heart breaks," she wrote of the moment when she learned her son was a heroin addict. "I felt as if mine were shattered. It gave me more pain and fear than when I learned I had cancer. I could fight for my own life. But even with all the energy and force I could muster, I realized I would get nowhere in this battle unless Jason fought harder."

At a publication party for the book last April, however, McCallum told a reporter that he had spent a month in a recovery program and had been clean and sober for two months. According to others, however, McCallum did go back on drugs after that.

But in recent weeks, he had been under the care of a Los Angeles internist, Dr. Howard Mark. Mark said he treated McCallum for "poly drug abuse" with buprenorphine, a Federal Drug Administration-approved drug that he said recent studies have shown has promise for detoxification from opiate and cocaine addiction. McCallum had made remarkable progress within two weeks, Mark said.

"He was a very nice person, with a great sense of humor," the physician said Wednesday. "I said to myself, this guy has a chance. He's only 27. I don't know what happened."

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