Death of WeHo’s Dirk Shafer is Attributed to Meth and Cocaine

Dirk Shafer
Dirk Shafer

Dirk Shafer, a well-known figure in West Hollywood’s gay community who got national attention for being named Playgirl’s “Man of the Year” in 1992, had significant levels of methamphetamine and cocaine in his system when he died last month.

The L.A. County Coroner’s office today said Shafer’s death was an accident caused by “methamphetamine and cocaine toxicity,” and it noted that he suffered from hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Shafer was found dead in his car at 1350 Laurel Ave. between Fountain and Sunset on March 5. He was 52.

After being named Playgirl’s “Man of the Year” Shafer directed and starred in a 1995 film called “Man of the Year” in which he gave a fictionalized account of his life as a gay man under pressure to deny his homosexuality.

Shafer made another film, “Circuit,” a look at the gay circuit party world, that won best film at the 2001 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In recent years he had worked as a fitness trainer.

Shafer was buried earlier his month at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in a private ceremony attended by his family from Oklahoma.


18 Comments
  1. Listen I am a recovering Alcoholic I have 17+ years. We do not know if Dirk an addiction to meth or cocaine. We can only guess. This is still a very painful loss to me. He was my hero and will always be that to me. Please do not attack this man. He is not here to defend himself. .

  2. Dave, I have zero doubt that your black and white, scientist-like thinking serves you brilliantly in the life and death scenario of the E.R. Unfortunately, when you attempt to apply it here you come across as dispassionate and judgmental. As a psychotherapist who specializes in dual diagnosis, I have NEVER seen a client who has developed an issue with ANY drug who isn’t attempting to manage overwhelming feelings due to an underlying mental health issue (e.g. depression, trauma, anxiety). The evidence is clear that experimenting with crystal meth is playing with fire and no one will argue that it is foolish at best, but leave it to us “artists” to explore their need to dissociate and escape from reality so you “scientists” don’t have to encounter them in the E.R. Again, shaming is toxic and does nothing to encourage people to get help – especially when it’s coming from a medical professional.

  3. Dave, I’m wishing that your name meant that you were from Maryland, rather than holding a medical degree.

    Since there is no indication that you were Mr. Shafer’s physician, nor that you knew him personally, I assume that you haven’t the slightest idea whether or not he was “in pain,” addicted, or suffering from other mental or physical ailments that contributed to his fatal use of drugs. Yes, we all know that many people at least begin to use drugs as the result of making a poor choice. Yet we rarely know enough to understand what motivates those choices. And, yes, of course, many times there is no underlying justification and drug use simply represents a human being making a dumb decision. From your tone, I assume you are one of those rare men who has lived a life without any errors. Congratulations.

    I think most of us know these things without having a self-righteous, emotionally un-supportive and judgmental doctor tell us about them. I’m sorry to hear that you are actually practicing in a part of the medical field where you deal with people – -you might be better in something behind the scenes like radiology. It must be terrible to be treated by a doctor like you.

  4. What is truly sad here is that people keep making excuses for drug use. Who said he was in any kind of pain? THIS WAS NOT SELF-MEDICATION. 85% of all people, not just gay, use meth for reasons other than to reduce pain such as enhance sexual experience. So to assume he was in pain and he was self-medicating by using meth is nuts. The other 15% are in pain because of the drug withdrawal. It’s a cycle that is started by making that choice the first time meth is used. There are many other drugs he could have chosen through a prescription or on the streets which would not have killed him if he was in pain. And this idea that we should feel even more sorry for him because he is good looking is even more nuts. If you want to see good looking people who have overdosed on drugs, there are plenty who come to the ER but when they are dead they all look alike. The fact is he made choices in life in a community which makes excuses for him and he paid the price. He rolled the dice. Since he chose a combination of drugs and gambled with a lethal dose suggests this was not his first rodeo. As a Medical Doctor, the first thing I practice is compassion. But as a Medical Doctor I am also a scientist who knows that if you touch a fallen electrical wire on the street you will die. And if you use meth you will die. It’s a silly little thing called factual cause and effect. Then there is the issue no one likes to talk about. What about all the people around him who were affected by his drug use? Having dealt with families who have had drug overdoses in the family I can tell you in most cases the OD Pt. was not an angel no matter how good he looked or what kind of façade he put up. West Hollywood needs to get their heads out of the ground and start addressing the drug issue. I am not in a rage about this. I just don’t appreciate people being so naïve about issues that affect our community.

  5. The sad reality is that this story has been repeated so many times. A veil or health, fitness and beauty blurs the ugly truth of drug use. Its safe to say that our community is still gripped by a party drug epidemic yet no one wants to talk about it or admit there is a crisis among us. Its a shame LA is still trapped in the grip of meth with no end in sight….well said Dr. Robert

  6. He was a handsome white man with a beautiful body in a society that sees more value in goodlooking white people. I’m sure he had problems, as we all do, but there are many ways to deal with them that don’t involve drugs. He chose to use drugs to alleviate the pain, and he paid the ultimate price. What a waste, but my sympathies lie elsewhere.

  7. Robert, I understand your rage toward a life ultimately destroyed and wasted through drug use. But I’m surprised that an MD wouldn’t have more compassion about what might drive someone to self-medicate. We have no idea what was going on internally for Dirk or for anyone else who falls into drug abuse. You are 100% correct that it is a choice to try drugs and, yes, meth is notoriously addictive. But if an MD shames someone for a bad or desperate choice, then why on earth would they believe anyone else would help them? Gay men experience enough internalized shame growing up as it is – let’s not continue to educate this way. Nothing feels better than knowing someone is on your side, even when your “best” is less than what you and others are hoping for.

  8. The worst thing we can do is say things like “poor Dirk” he was in so much pain. What makes anyone think he CHOSE to use drugs because he was in pain? Why make excuses for his CHOICE to use drugs? It does a dis-service to the gay community to put the message out to young people that if you CHOSE to use drugs which will ruin your life and kill you, we will feel sorry for you and act as though you were a victim. There is enough information about meth that if someone CHOSES to use it for the first time they do so with the full understanding of what it will do to you. Just because he took his clothes off in a magazine does not make him any better than the thousands of others out there who CHOSE to use meth. He was nothing more than a drug addict who couldn’t care less how it affected him or anyone around him. Stop trying to sugar coat it. Working in a Hospital ER, I know what meth and other drugs do to people and most of them arrive DOA. They knew what would happen to them if they used drugs and they CHOSE to do it anyway. If Dirk was in any kind of pain there are many ways to deal with it rather than use meth. The message should not be that a great person has fallen victim to meth but rather “another one bites the dust” . No pun intended. If you use meth, you will die….It’s your CHOICE.

  9. Well said Steve. Our community does itself no favors shaming those who use meth rather than encouraging them to get help and being supportive. If we were more supportive and encouraging maybe he would not have died alone in his car high.

  10. Sad, Kind of strange that he would have both in his system usually you use one or the other. Cocaine has been proven to cause death in people with heart problems. Meth of course cannot be good either.

  11. I knew Dirk and we had friends in common in Oklahoma. While I live in Denver I wish someone could have been there for him as Dying alone in a car tweaked out seems lonely.

  12. Peace Dirk. The pain is all over. You are ok. You have made your transition to another plane. In some ways I envy you, You had success. and you won’t have to go though getting older. Living life today is hell. One can’t blame you for trying to reduce your suffering and pain. Had I known you better, I never would have judged, unlike most. I would have been there as a true friend to make your days better. No Anxiety. As well as other issues that people have problems with. Kindness. You will be remembered.

  13. An utter and absolute tragedy ! ! I fear for ANYONE who becomes addicted to meth, cocaine or any other lethal drug/s. RIP Dirk !!!

  14. I’m sad his last moments were alone and tweaking on meth. It just is a bad scene and I hope he didn’t suffer a lot.

  15. Devastating. We shame meth abusers in ways we don’t alcoholics and it does nothing to encourage them to seek the support they need. Recovery requires multiple modalities of concurrent treatment (recovery, medication, psychotherapy, etc.) and my heart goes out to anyone stuck in that terrible place. RIP, Dirk, you were a good man.

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