There’s been a lot of talk this week about Kanye West and his claims that he’s $53 million in debt. Most people are trying to figure out how that could happen to someone with that kind of money. Unfortunately, David Milch, who created Deadwood, Luck, and co-created NYPD Blue, actually is $17 million in debt after gambling away his entire fortune, estimated to be something close to $100 million. The Hollywood Reporter has the full story of how this could happen, and the damage done to his family’s life due to his gambling problem. It’s a long read, but if you’ve ever wondered about how serious gambling addiction can get, it’s a good one.
Despite the gambling problem, the piece is very complimentary towards Milch as a writer and producer. There’s a quote from HBO CEO Richard Plepler that reads “It is obvious to everyone that he is a preternatural talent. What might be less obvious, because he doesn’t ever talk about it, is how much time and energy he spends mentoring young writers. I think it speaks volumes about him and reflects his decency and generosity, which is one of the reasons all of us at HBO love him.” There are also tidbits like “His writing style consists of dictating his throughs, sometimes while lying prone on the ground, often surrounded by other writers.” But while he was a brilliant and unconventional writer, he was also a talented handicapper, which informed some of his work on Luck. They also mention other big name Hollywood gamblers like Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire to show how behavior like this wouldn’t necessarily raise red flags the way overuse of drugs or alcohol might.
What the article touches on, beyond the actual gambling addiction, is the effects suffered by Milch’s family. They’ve sold one of their homes and the other is on the market. His wife didn’t find out that all their money was gone until it was literally all gone. She’s now suing their financial managers for failing to disclose the information to her earlier. Milch himself is on an allowance that allows him only $40 cash a week. It’s a sad story, but important to read for anyone who struggles with seeing gambling addiction as a “real” addiction.