I'm pretty sure I spoke with Cory Monteith only once.
It was at a Fox press party on the West Coast in January of 2010, when "Glee" was still a phenomenon and Monteith, who I would remember afterward as polite in that Canadian manner and kind of sweetly earnest, was patiently fielding questions from a small group of reporters about everything from his dancing ("I have to try really, really hard to be as good as Finn," he told me, referring to his "Glee" character, who also struggled with the moves) to the magazine-style boilerplate questions about the last movie he'd seen and some must-have piece of technology.
Only now, listening to a recording I made that night, do I cringe when someone asks the then 27-year-old actor to name "one thing you want to do before you die."
Monteith, who was found dead Sunday in a Vancouver hotel room at the age of 31, only a few months after undergoing rehab for drug problems that he'd reportedly struggled with since his early teens, seems never to have been the kind of public train wreck that's made other young performers with drug problems the focus of a perverse form of entertainment.
Monteith's problems might have been exacerbated by fame -- or not -- but they started years before he became a performer, much less a well known one.
Yet he's dead just the same, and most likely of a disease that's every bit as cruel as cancer, but 100 percent preventable. What it's not, we should be realizing by now, after reading so many, many of these stories, is even close to 100 percent curable. Rehab simply doesn't work for everyone, and while that's not a reason anyone should stop trying, it's an even better reason for not starting.
Because as tired as I am of watching young, prominent people die, I am sadder for all their lesser known counterparts, the kids in small towns and big cities who don't wake up after a party or drive their cars into a tree or commit suicide by cop.
No one romanticizes their addictions and only their families and friends feel the loss. But the waste is just as great, and the absence just as heartbreaking.
Monteith, by the way, told that reporter that what he wanted to do before he died was to go to Japan. "It sounds fun," said the 6-foot-3 actor, joking that he wanted to "revel at how big I am compared to everyone there who's small."