Remembering When Helen Hunt Threw Herself Out A Two-Story Window On Angel Dust

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Remembering When Helen Hunt Threw Herself Out A Two-Story Window On Angel Dust

It’s unfortunate for unintentional comedy fans that the anti-drug P.S.A. has fallen so far out of fashion – deadly serious commercials showing talking dogs, teens melting into couches, and Pee Wee Herman teaching kids about crack used to provide endless entertainment to twenty-something TV watchers while they smoked pot and ate Doritos.

Even more extinct are anti-drug made-for-TV movies such as Desperate Lives, a 1982 romp about teenagers taking hard drugs which featured future Oscar winner Helen Hunt as the tragic Sandy Cameron, a highschooler who succumbs to peer pressure and snorts her way into a PCP-induced psychosis that drives her to smash head first out of a second-story window, plummet 20 feet, and then slit her wrists with the broken glass.

It’s like if a bunch of ‘80s guidance counselors tried to write an episode of Euphoria.

Somehow, Desperate Lives was the second anti-PCP made-for-TV movie that featured Hunt during her early career – in 1981, the lauded actress best known for her dazzling performances in films like Cast Away and As Good As It Gets appeared in the heavy-handedly named Angel Dusted as the younger sister of a PCP-using teen whose wacky hijinks were a headache for his whole family. 

Hunt’s performance in Desperate Lives was slightly more noteworthy – the window-smashing sequence became an iconic moment in the War on Drugs for best exemplifying the inefficacy of over-the-top anti-drug campaigns which emphasized hysteria over education. Following her brief stint in the anti-drug entertainment business, Hunt would move on to more meaningful projects, and she eventually landed the leading role in the critically acclaimed sitcom in Mad About You in 1992, one decade after the tragic drug trip which left poor Sandy Cameron paralyzed.

Mad About You made Hunt a household name and netted her four Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes, but she never forgot her roots – when Hunt hosted Saturday Night Live in 1994, she ran through a brief retrospective of her early roles, capping off the montage with the notorious clip from Desperate Lives. Hunt joked, “I could never really tell if that movie was pro-angel dust, or anti-angel dust.”

The minds behind Desperate Lives might as well have just told kids to read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – the result would have been exactly the same.

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