The life of Philadelphia-born DJ AM, one of the first DJs to make big bucks and become a celebrity in his own right, gets the documentary treatment in As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM, premiering 9 p.m. tonight on Showtime.
Born Adam Goldstein, DJ AM’s life was tragic and short. He died of a drug overdose at the age of 36. The documentary often lets AM narrate his own story, beginning in Center City (a “dirty ass grimy city,” as Goldstein refers to his hometown) before his mother moved him to Los Angeles where he started to DJ.
What’s really striking about the documentary is how sad AM’s life was. His mother told her husband that Goldstein was not his son, but did not tell Goldstein until he was a teenager during his first stint in rehab as the man he thought was his father was dying of AIDS. The rehab program, Straight Inc., was notoriously abusive toward its patients, and only fueled Goldstein’s drug use further. “As far as addiction, he was completely not special. Just a garden variety f—— drug addict like the rest of us,” a friend says. When Goldstein got sober, he dedicated his life to helping other addicts until he himself relapsed. In 2008, he and Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker survived a plane crash that would ultimately leave AM with wounds inside and out.
It’s a solid documentary but shies away from the more tabloid-ready aspects of his life. His engagement to Nicole Richie is a footnote in favor of AM’s struggle with drugs and larger role in DJ culture. But the best part of doc, as in any profiles of passionate people, are not about the trappings of his life — money, fame, DJing for Madonna and Tom Cruise, rubbing elbows with the hottest celebs of the mid-aughts — but seeing glimpses of the the kid who is just so excited to be spinning records.
Check out the Fix Your Face mix tape with Travis Barker and DJ AM.