A distraught Alexa Ray Joel, the 23 year old daughter of Billy “The Piano Man” Joel, succumbed to depression and swallowed 8 naturopathic pills containing St. John’s Wort and other benign herbs, then, thinking she was dying, freaked out and called 911. “EMS workers received a message from the 911 dispatcher saying: ‘Female caller. Took eight pills. Wants to die. Now feels funny. Wants to live,’ sources said.” Paramedics rushed to Alexa’s West Village apartment and whisked her off to St. Vincent’s Hospital a few blocks away.
One source categorized the episode as “a cry for help.”She was released a few hours later and her publicist released a statement saying, “She is stable,” soon after she was brought to the hospital. Her mother, former supermodel Christie Brinkely, took her daughter to an undisclosed location.
Friends and family say Alexa was upset over her breakup with on-again, off-again boyfriend and musical director, Jimmy Riot. “I respect the family’s right to privacy. Other than that, I have no comment,” said Riot, looking red-eyed and disheveled at the door of his Brooklyn apartment.
An aspiring artist, Alexa has been working diligently on her singing/song writing career, even dropping out of NYU to give it her complete focus.
To be sure, she has more in common with her songwriter father than just his love of music. At 21 her Dad (despondent over a break-up with a girlfriend and a failed musical recording) tried ending his own life by downing a bottle of furniture polish. Mr. Joel has since admitted to using drink and drugs as a way to escape, telling Katie Couric on NBC’s “Dateline”, “I can abuse alcohol. If the demons get me, I’ll go on a bender”, which, more times than not, ends up in a fender bender. In 2002, he crashed a Mercedes into an East Hampton pole, a year later he smashed another Mercedes into a tree in Sag Harbor, two years after that he drove but another Mercedes into a Bayville house.
One wonders if Billy was driven to the Betty Ford clinic for alcohol abuse in a Mercedes as well. In another eerie coincidence, in 1985, the year Alexa Ray was born, Joel wrote a song for the cause of teenage-suicide prevention called “You’re Only Human (Second Wind).” In the song’s video, a teen devastated after breaking up with his girlfriend prepares to jump off the 59th Street Bridge until Joel intervenes à la the angel in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Alexa’s inadvertent reach for St. John’s Wort as a means to ending her life is rife with irony. Science has known for years that when rats are exposed to large doses of St. John’s Wort then heaved into a barrel of water and left to die, (this particularly heinous lab rat study is known as “The Forced Swimming Test”), that those rats denied the St. John’s Wort gave up swimming much sooner than those given St. John’s Wort. In other words the St. John’s Wort supported their desire to live longer.
Our best wishes go out to Alexa. Taking pills and calling 911 is illustrative of a need for attention and indicates that she feels unable to meet her needs directly. She has a lot to live for. Hopefully she will find everything she needs to sustain a full emotional recovery through her family, friends, medication (St. John’s Wort?) and her art. In that light, she has just completed a single named “Invisible”, a song about disappointment over love but finding empowerment. May she find such empowerment in sharing her own brand of beautiful music with the world.