Four months ago, the Boston Phoenix published an exclusive story about Charlestown native Johnny Hickey, and his metamorphosis from Oxycontin bandit, to undercover anti-drug agent, to aspiring filmmaker. In the time since, his feature-length hometown tragedy, Oxy Morons, had a successful two-month test screening at Showcase Cinemas in Revere, where it placed second in the theater's box-office sales in its first week of showing.
Now begins the national leg of Hickey's mission to preach Oxy prevention. On Monday, June 20, at 9 pm (EST), the Current TV documentary series Vanguard premieres "Gateway to Heroin," for which Hickey served as a guide through the Bay State's prescription-pill addiction. The hour-long feature is a follow-up to Vanguard's Peabody Award–winning 2009 episode, "The Oxycontin Express," and will air immediately after the debut of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current.
" 'The Oxycontin Express' was about Florida — where the drugs are coming from," says Hickey. "This one is about Massachusetts — one of the places where heroin and Oxy are primarily being used, and where they're destroying whole communities. I brought [Vanguard] to meet everyone, from dealers who carry guns, to authorities, to methadone addicts who line up to get their pills at six in the morning like it's Soylent Green."
Vanguard correspondent Mariana Van Zeller reached out to Hickey last December, after reading about his writing and directing the autobiographic Oxy Morons. The Current team had already started to investigate opiate subculture around Greater Boston, but hit a wall in accessing the underworld where pills are sold and trafficked. Hickey agreed to assist. In the least, he could help sound alarms about the epidemic that's poisoned countless people in his universe.
Hickey still maintains contact with sketchy characters from his days as a user turned informant — that's vividly illustrated in the Vanguard documentary. But the latest leg of his journey should be sunnier than his criminal past. In July, Oxy Morons will receive a Golden Ace Award at the 2011 Las Vegas Film Festival. In September, the movie will premiere at AMC theaters in 20 major US markets.
"When I brought the Current people on both sides of the fence," says Hickey, "it kind of blew their minds that I had street and fed connections, and a movie at the same time. Now, to be honest, it's all kind of blowing my mind, too."
: This Just In
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