“You knock.”
“No, you knock.”
“No, you.”
So I did. And then we were greeted by the Universal Soldier himself. Except he was so short and graying that I wondered if I’d accidentally walked in on a claims adjuster from Hoboken. He was also wearing reading glasses. “I’m near sighted,” he explained after introducing himself. “My friends should be here any minute.” With that he disappeared into the bedroom of his suite, leaving Lauren and me alone in the living room. Soon there was a knock at the door. It was Svetlana. Minutes later, another knock. It was the drugs, delivered by a dude named Corso. Right on cue, Jean-Claude reemerged from his hovel, like a ground hog, hoarded the goods and vanished back into his shadowy burrow. The four of us sat there staring at each other for about 15 minutes. “So what do you do,” Corso asked, finally breaking the silence. “I’m in PR,” Lauren answered. DEFCON. A drug dealer, a major action star. A kilo of cocaine. A girl with a direct line to Page 6 who was too stupid to lie about it.
"You know what,” a clearly alarmed Corso began, “Maybe you should leave. We’ll meet you at the party.”
Awkward silence.
“Fine,” Lauren finally huffed. “Let’s go, Beth.”
But Beth (that’s my alias for the purpose of this story—for obvious reasons) didn’t want to go. Beth wanted to party with JCVD. The story was just too good, and I couldn’t abort now. “Ummmmmmm,” I started as delicately as possible. “I think I’m gonna stay.”
That’s how committed I was to partying with Time Cop. I let them kick my best friend out all alone into the New York night. I stayed behind like a total dick. And I’m not sorry.
So now it’s just Svetlana, Corso the courier, and me. Corso decided to check on the ground hog. I mean coke hog. When he came back out he looked at me and said “Jean-Claude wants to see you in his room.”
“Me?” I asked so as not to make an unnecessary trip.
“Yes. You.”
I erupted off the couch, but then, upon seeing Svetlana and Corso’s disgust, tried to repackage my over eagerness as a leg cramp. “Ahem. Charlie horse. Bye.” I had been chosen. I did my best to stroll casually across the room, ignoring my heart’s plea to hasten toward my first brush with fame. I opened the door to find what can only be described as a pornographic crucifix. Jean-Claude was spread eagle, buck naked, and furiously jerking his flaccid coke dick. Next to him sat a mogul of blow, and a bottle of Lubriderm.
“Hi. Let’s do a line.” His voice was speedy, paranoid. “Okay,” I obliged, helping myself to a hearty rail.
“Will you help me with this,” he asked, gesturing to his deflated phallus.
“Uh..Want me to see if I can find you a shoe horn?”
“No, Just stroke it.”
“Really. I’d love to. But I just..I can’t."
A debate ensued and finally me and JC reached a compromise. I would be on lotion duty. When he began to chafe, I would dispense the appropriate amount of lube into his hand. Sadly this arrangement only provided so much entertainment. He needed to up the ante….But how? Phone sex! So he dialed soon to be ex- wife and put her on speaker. He kicked off with some of the classics. “What are you wearing?” “What do you want me to do to you?” “What’s the fastest land animal?” But then our maverick director veered off the script and started to improv. “I’m imagining I have a young red head, maybe about 21, 22. She’s snorting a lot of coke. I hold her down and you take all her clothes off.” They were having phone sex with me without my consent! Isn’t that illegal? I didn’t care. I had unlimited access to Colombia’s finest and a great story for my friends back in Des Moines. But outside the bedroom, Corso was ruminating over my connection to someone who had a connection to Page 6, and within seconds, well before JCVD’s climax, I too would be evicted. “Beth,” he interrupted the bacchanalian blizzard. “Maybe you should leave as well.” Ah shit....

"I was a maniac," Van Damme says. "I was doing 10 grams a day."

It is an improbable sight, the indestructible star of Timecop, Universal Soldier and Hard Target, an actor once well on his way to becoming one of the world's most bankable action heroes, telling war stories from the drug front. For three years, Van Damme snorted, picking up the pace after the birth of his third child, Nicholas, in 1995. "I did it out of lust," he says. "For sexual reasons. To go further and further." Later, as these things go, Van Damme used alone, every day, and wrote -- scripts, poetry, remembrances of his insecure childhood in Belgium. He failed to train. He lost weight. The famous Van Damme arms began to melt. "I did so much damage to myself, the body I created," he says. Rumors about him slithered around Hollywood. Was J.C. in a hotel room somewhere, tapping another gram onto a galss-topped desk? Was he spending all his cash on blow? Was Van Damme dead? 

"Mentally, in the morning -- not the first day, the second, third day -- you become stupid, paranoid," Van Damme says. "You have everything to lose. You lose your friend, your wife, your family, your business. You will lose that wonderful you who can be wonderful to others. And fuck that, man! Fuck the coke!"

In the early 1990's, the success of Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), and Timecop, which grossed $150 million worldwide in 1995, had granted Van Damme admittance to the exclusive club that includes Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Seagal. This was a startling achievement for a man who'd arrived in Los Angeles from Belgium just a few years earlier with some karate and kick-boxing laurels, $3,000 in cash and shards of English. For five years, Van Damme delivered pizza, cleaned carpets, drove limos, held velvet ropes, dropped off glossies and hoped in vain. For a while he slept in a rented car, showering at a gym. Once a week he called his parents, discouraged. "I'm gonna make it," he reported. "I"m gonna have an appointment soon."

Then came the moment Hollywood biographies are made of: Van Damme button-holed the producer Menahem Golan one night in 1986 outside a restaurant in Beverly Hills. Leaving the ground, Van Damme spun 360 degrees, and in a balletic micro-second, sent a kick inches above the film executive's head. Impressed, Golan cast Van Damme in the martial arts cult classic Bloodsport in 1988, a $1.5 million movie that earned $35 million at the box office.

A true action star, one who can consistently draw teenage boys and young women, and do so internationally, comes around only once or twice a decade. Van Damme embodied a new, sensitive archetype. He took torrents of punches and seemed more vulnerable than Arnold, more cultured than Sly, more approachable than Steven. The Muscles From Brussels, as Van Damme became known, commanded up to $6 million a picture. Hints of impending difficulty, the first legal seedlings, began to surface: a lawsuit against Van Damme for seriously injuring the eye of another actor in 1988 during a Cyborg fight scene; a 1993 suit by a woman who charged that Van Damme forced her to perform the "full Monica" on him in a hotel room in New Orleans. Both suits were fairly typical of movie-star litigation and perhaps representative of an action star's sense of entitlement. A court awarded the injured man $487,000. The other matter, Van Damme settled out of court. 

Jean-Claude Van Damme remembers the day he almost died. It came just over a year ago while Van Damme was out of his mind on cocaine, pacing back and forth in a Hong Kong hotel suite like a caged animal. ``I was in the room, I wrote on the back of a script my problems, my complexes, my fears. I wrote with that coke, like, 80 pages,'' Van Damme says in the Sept. 4 Entertainment Weekly. ``I wrote and I wrote, and I almost passed out. Then I was in the corner of the room. I was dying. I saw my body on the floor. I felt cold, I felt hot, I felt scared. I didn't feel like a man or a woman. And then I just came back into that envelope, that body, with that soul, and I said, `I'm not ready. I know what's death after life.''' Van Damme says he started doing cocaine in 1993 while making ``Sudden Death.'' He entered a drug rehabilitation center in 1996 but dropped out of the monthlong program after a week. After the Hong Kong hotel incident, the Belgian star quit cocaine...