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POP MUSIC

DJ AM's death caused by drug overdose, medical examiner says

Adam Goldstein died in Manhattan in August. He had survived a plane crash that killed two and injured Blink-82's Travis Barker.

September 30, 2009|Chris Lee

Celebrity disc jockey and Los Angeles club owner Adam Goldstein -- better known by his professional alias, DJ AM -- died of an overdose of cocaine and prescription drugs, the New York City medical examiner ruled Tuesday.

"The cause of death was accidental drug overdose due to the combined effects of cocaine, Vicodin, oxycodone, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax, Benadryl and levamisole," said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York medical examiner. Levamisole is a medication drug dealers cut cocaine with before selling it on the street.

Goldstein, 36, was arguably the most celebrated mash-up DJ to work the turntables this decade. An electrifying live performer, adroit remixer and fixture on the A-list party circuit, he was once engaged to reality TV star Nicole Richie and co-owned the Hollywood club LAX. Police discovered Goldstein barricaded inside the bedroom of his downtown Manhattan apartment on Aug. 28. He was face down on his bed; a crack pipe and prescription drugs were found near his body, law enforcement sources said.

The disc jockey's death occurred almost a year after a fiery Learjet crash on the runway of a South Carolina airport that left Goldstein covered with second- and third-degree burns and claimed the lives of two other passengers and two pilots. Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, the DJ's collaborator in the group TRV$DJAM, also survived the crash.

According to a number of people close to Goldstein -- a former drug addict with a decade of sobriety behind him at the time of the crash -- he was troubled by post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of survivor's guilt after the accident. They said Goldstein's conflicted emotional reaction to the tragedy might have compelled him to return to the addictive behavior that claimed his life.

"Without the plane crash, we'd still be enjoying his musical talents," Goldstein's lawyer William McNicholas told People magazine. "He lived with the trauma every day."

Hollywood-based glam rap star Mickey Avalon knew DJ AM for 15 years and recalled his perceptions of his friend after the plane crash. "[All] I know at that time is that it shook him up badly and it was hard for him to express what happened in his own words," Avalon said in an e-mail to The Times. "From experience, depression is one of the hardest things to avoid when dealing with a death of someone close to you or perhaps faced with your own mortality."

Avalon, whose sister and father died because of problems arising from their drug addictions, speculated about Goldstein's state of mind while relapsing: "The shame and guilt of picking up after 10 years of sobriety must have been unbearable."

At a news conference in July, the DJ spoke about "Gone Too Far," a reality series for MTV in which he helps the loved ones of addicts stage drug interventions to help them kick their habit. Goldstein candidly addressed his years of addiction, calling himself a "crackhead" and a "slobby drunk," and also related how in 1998 he attempted to kill himself; AM put a .22-caliber pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger but survived because the gun jammed.

Goldstein said that cocaine made him "incredibly paranoid" and that he made efforts to avoid people on the drug.

"I have an allergic reaction to drugs and alcohol," DJ AM said. "That's the way I look at it. . . . I end up doing dumb something. It hits me different."

An MTV spokesperson said "a decision has not been made yet" about whether to air "Gone Too Far."

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chris.lee@latimes.com

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