By Jenny Bridle


A story in this week’s The Hollywood Reporter tells of the famed creator of NYPD Blue and Deadwood losing some $100m to a gambling addiction. What makes this sad and often poignant story so keen to horse racing players is that the centre of the story, David Milch, is also responsible for that “love letter to horse racing,” the TV show, Luck, which was cancelled after PETA drew public attention to the 3 horses that were injured during filming and had to be humanely euthanized.

According to this recent story, Milch has gambled all of his earnings from his television fame, and now owes the Internal Revenue Service $17m. He has been placed on a $40 per week allowance while his family attempts to sue their financial advisers for allowing the debt to grow to such astronomical proportions.


Interestingly, Milch has never hidden his addiction to gambling nor to anything else. In a 2005 interview with Marc Singer for The New Yorker, he remarked on his alcohol and drug addictions (heroin and vicodin) and how he had gone through much of his life stoned and/or inebriated, “impersonating a human being.”


For those of us who struggle to understand the inner workings/demons of such a creative genius and how he could come to the place where he is now, The New Yorker piece sheds further light. As Milch explains, “for a long time I felt that was actually the best I could ever hope for—to pretend to be a good person—because I was quite the opposite. I could see that there was a worth in the work. But, even in that work, what I felt was: I’m doing as well as I can, given the fact that fundamentally I’m no good. And that conviction of unworthiness was the deepest lesson I had been taught as a child, that I was the surrogate demon who was to act and sort of expurgate the demonic in my dad. That I was to be the bad egg. The consumption of the drug is the symptom of the disease. Then the symptom becomes autonomous. And the disease requires you to believe that you are beyond help and so it is your only friend. That predication is an exact recapitulation of the fundamental emotional malaise that you start out with. So as long as I was loaded, no matter how prolific or accomplished I was, I felt that it was an act of imposture.”


After he says this to Singer, Milch goes on to place a $2,500 each way bet at Santa Anita. Later, he watches the race and comes away a winner and Singer asks him about the feeling of winning.

“There’s no satisfaction,” he said. “Just a release of anxiety. There is no joy in the compulsive act. It’s a sterile recapitulation, a sterile release of tension.”

Milch’s is a cautionary tale for everyone involved in horse racing and in gambling generally, which can be addictive for some people. Read more at The Hollywood Reporter

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