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06 Nov 2013

To Hell and Back: The Story of Bob Forrest—Who Grew Up in Palm Springs—Is Horrifying yet Ultimately Uplifting

Written by 
Bob Forrest. Bob Forrest. Piper Ferguson

If you’re familiar with the Los Angeles music scene of the ‘80s, or you’ve ever watched an episode of Celebrity Rehab on VH1, you know who Bob Forrest is.

The Thelonious Monster frontman is the subject of Bob and the Monster, a documentary just released on home video which details Forrest’s years as a drug-user, his recovery, and his transition to becoming a drug counselor.

The documentary features interviews with an A-list of musicians including Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, and the members of Thelonious Monster, as well as a chat with Forrest’s Celebrity Rehab partner, Dr. Drew Pinsky. They all help tell the story of someone who has been to hell and back.

The documentary starts off by examining Forrest’s childhood in Palm Springs. He says he questioned why all of his sisters were much older than him, and why his parents were older than most; he eventually discovered a sad and shocking truth. After his father passed away, the family went from middle class to poverty, moving to a trailer park.

Forrest would go on to form Thelonious Monster, and become a creative genius compared to both John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Forrest quickly attracted attention from record companies and played some famous (and at times infamous) shows in Los Angeles with the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Jane’s Addiction and many other acts.

Of course, Forrest’s drug addiction is a major topic of the film. He talks about how Top Jimmy (James Paul Koncek) of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs took him on his first ride—via a shared needle. The tales of Forrest’s addiction are downright horrifying; so are the various bits of footage showing him arguing with band members over the years. The film shows how other members of the band also struggled with their own addictions, and the number of times Forrest went to rehab.

A moment that illustrates just how serious Forrest’s heroin addiction had become occurred at Pinkpop in 1993, when Forrest—clearly under the influence—gave an insane performance, climbing up scaffolding, rolling around on the stage, and talking madly in an after-show interview. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a story about how he shared a needle with a guy who told Forrest he was HIV-positive. Forrest shares the needle with him anyway, after boiling it in dish detergent.

When Forrest finally decided to get clean, he started volunteering for an organization that assisted musicians with addiction problems. He became dedicated to the cause of recovery, and eventually became the Chemical Dependency Program director at Las Encinitas Hospital. He later started the now-defunct Hollywood Recovery Services.

While he’s a believer in recovery programs, he’s frustrated with the profit-driven health-care system which treats addicts with yet more drugs, as well as the politics behind the health-care system related to the treatment of addiction.

While the topic of a musician’s addiction has become a clichéd documentary subject, Bob Forrest’s story is indeed quite remarkable. He has been able to turn a huge negative into a positive and is obviously knowledgeable on the subject of addiction. Forrest’s reputation of giving out his cell-phone number and being called at all hours by those in need shows just how devoted he is as a drug counselor.

Bob and the Monster is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as various online and on-demand sources.

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