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This time it's personal: Charlie Sheen should take a few pages from The Chris Farley Show -- before it's too late

Charlie Sheen's Twitter pic and Chris Farley near the end.

The hookers and the trashed hotel rooms. The booze and the drug binges. All those lapses and relapses.

Yeah, Chris Farley really knew how to get wasted. He died a week before Christmas 1997, at age 33. The last person to see him alive was the last woman he had paid to keep him company. The parallels to what's going on with Charlie Sheen aren't exact. But they certainly are sobering. Or at least they should be.

Why bring up Farley now? Well, I was in Big Lots the other day, and noticed hardback copies of The Chris Farley Show on sale for $5 each. It's the 2008 book co-authored by his oldest brother, Tom Farley, Jr., and Tanner Colby. Picking it up, I found I couldn't put it down.

The book is no sob story. It celebrates Farley's talent, of course. He was an immense force on Saturday Night Live, literally and figuratively, from 1990 to 1995. And he has one feature film, Tommy Boy, that still resonates with several generations.

So the show biz anecdotes are a considerable part of this book. But they aren't the meat of it. Farley's willful self-destruction, in the face of both enablers and those who tried to stop him, is the core reason behind The Chris Farley Show. And the authors have assembled it in first-person narrative form after interviewing more than 100 of his friends and colleagues. The result is an "easy read" on the face of it, with a lot of painful truths piling up as the pages turn.

It's pretty personal, too. The Farley family, four boys and a girl, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. The Bark family, four boys and a girl, grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, located along Lake Michigan about 100 miles southeast of Madison.

Lots of drinking went on in the Farley family, with the late Tom Farley Sr. the pacesetter. Mom was the quieter rock. Lots of drinking went on in the Bark family, with the late Edward Sr. the pacesetter. Mom was the quieter rock.

Chris would have been only a first- or second--grader by the time I got to Madison in late 1970. I lived there for nine years, graduating from the University of Wisconsin, working for The Capital Times newspaper and imbibing enough stuff to perhaps even keep up with Chris Farley on some nights.

I'm not sure if I ever met him while covering television for The Dallas Morning News during his years on SNL. But some colleagues at the newspaper will remember all too well my regular invocations of motivational speaker Matt Foley's "van down by the river" tagline. That was Farley's go-to character, and he played it until nearly the very end.

Farley's final public display of Matt Foley came on the night of Oct. 25, 1997, just seven weeks before his death. He had returned to guest-host SNL. And as the book recounts, Farley was drinking and using heavily during the entire week of rehearsals.

I was in the SNL studio audience that night. And the Farley sketch I remember wasn't his last incarnation of Matt Foley. Instead he had me laughing throughout the entire "Giant Baby" sketch, in which Farley crawled around a mock Sally Jessy Raphael set and basically tore it apart while also playfully tearing an arm off a guest. He always excelled at bargain basement physical humor, and I've invariably been a sucker for it. Too much Three Stooges as a kid, maybe.

The Chris Farley Show is a sharply candid unmasking of a generous-to-a-fault man-child who often remarked that "fatty fall down" is basically what his audience expected of him. And so he mostly rolled that way while at the same time striving to both break this mold and conquer his many addictions.

But did he try hard enough? Probably not. Farley had three years of sobriety amid all the self-destruction and denial. And then it all came crashing down, with his reported last words, "Don't leave me," spoken to a female "escort" after he had collapsed on the floor of his Chicago apartment. The official cause of his death: opiate and cocaine intoxication. The coroner's report ruled it an accident.

Charlie Sheen won't have time to read this book. He's too busy being a "warlock" and readying his "Torpedo of Truth" touring stage show, which includes an April 27th stop in Dallas. Unless he's very lucky, though, he'll someday be hit by a warhead of his own making.

Chris Farley is buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Madison. And now that I know his full story, it's a spot I need to visit on my next trip back to the city.