When Rodney King joined the DN Sexy Singles

Rodney King (right) snapped photos with fellow attendees, including Scott Cummings, at the 2009 Sexy Singles Party. Alyssa Cwanger / Staff Photographer
Rodney King (right) snapped photos with fellow attendees, including Scott Cummings, at the 2009 Sexy Singles Party. Alyssa Cwanger / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 19, 2012

We all have demons.

The difference between the late Rodney King's and most other people's is his were more obvious than most. I was reminded of them once at a Sexy Singles party at the Water Works Restaurant back in 2009. King was in Philadelphia to participate in a boxing match against a former Chester police officer. Earlier, I'd gotten a call asking whether he could attend the annual Daily News event.

I was, like, the Rodney King, wants to come and hang out with the Sexy Singles? How could I turn that down? He was the star attraction, signing autographs and posing for photos like a Hollywood A-Lister. He looked good. I almost forgot who he was and the rocky road that had led to his becoming an international symbol of institutional racism and police brutality. We were at a party. Liquor was flowing, so I offered him a drink. Whoever it was who was with him that night, yelled out, "Noooo!"

That snapped me back to reality of just who King was and what will now be part of his everlasting legacy. King, as you might recall, had been drinking on that fateful night back in 1991 when Los Angeles police pulled him over after a high-speed car chase and beat him, practically to death.

The ugly videotaped images of what happened and the eventual acquittal of three of the officers involved in the horrific beating sparked a race riot that left 53 people dead and more than 2,000 injured. King's storied attempt to calm the violent unrest became a catchphrase for the ages: "Can we all get along?"

The night I met him, he was fresh out of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." During his time on that show, Dr. Drew Pinsky had predicted that King would die unless he made some drastic changes.

If King ever really did, they didn't stick. He never was able to fully kick his drinking habit, and long after his videotaped beating, he continued to have run-ins with law enforcement.

In fact, TMZ reported that King's fiancée said King had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana in the hours preceding his death early Sunday. His body was found in the deep end of his pool in Rialto, Calif., about 5:25 a.m. Attempts to resuscitate him failed.

He apparently drowned in his own pool — a tortured end to a tortured life.

He was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. "I sometimes feel like I'm caught in a vise. Some people feel like I'm some kind of hero," King is quoted as having said. "Others hate me. They say I deserved it. Other people, I can hear them mocking me for when I called for an end to the destruction, like I'm a fool for believing in peace."

Here's hoping that, finally, King finds the peace he never had while living. n

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