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August 4, 2012 6:47 AM   Subscribe

When the works of David Simon were translated to television, the job of portraying 15-year-old DeAndre McCullough from "The Corner" was given to Sean Nelson. DeAndre himself, then 23, appeared on screen in a cameo as an officer and in a non-fiction discussion at the end of the miniseries. Later, in the world of "The Wire," DeAndre returned as the bodyguard of Brother Mouzone.

David Simon: "He enjoyed acting, and showed some poise, but the jobs that offered the chance at a real career — the behind-the-camera production work, the path to union wages and benefits — those couldn’t hold him."

DeAndre McCullough was found dead on Wednesday in Baltimore. He was 35.
posted by rewil (38 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
posted by peppermind at 6:58 AM on August 4, 2012

Addiction is a powerful, horrible monster. In honor of DeAndre, today I will remember my good fortune to have never been in its grasp.

posted by Frayed Knot at 7:08 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by codacorolla at 7:25 AM on August 4, 2012

Just finished watching the Corner two days ago and was wondering where all the people portrayed were now, in particular DeAndre who seemed most caught up in the cycle. Sad to hear this news.
posted by cloeburner at 7:31 AM on August 4, 2012

Also, David Simon is a mensch, the world needs so many more people like him who understand the true dynamics of the street and exhibit pure empathy for people caught up in it. It's the only way things will ever change.
posted by cloeburner at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2012 [15 favorites]

posted by Renoroc at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2012

posted by rtha at 7:35 AM on August 4, 2012


I was always bothered by how the interviewer in The Corner cut DeAndre off when DeAndre was talking about his father, just when it seemed like he was opening up. DeAndre sounded like he really needed someone to talk to, but I guess the interviewer was impatient with him, thought he was not taking responsibility for his life or something. DeAndre seemed so lonely in that moment.

And the interviewer cut him off talking about not having his father around to go to Fran, "What do you want from DeAndre?". Instead of What do you want for DeAndre, Fran. After everything you and his father have put him through. (Not that I have any blame for Fran at all, just, DeAndre was made to grow up with it.)

I was always hoping things would work out for him. I'm so sorry.

posted by catchingsignals at 7:38 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:24 AM on August 4, 2012

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 AM on August 4, 2012

One of the best things about the Wire is that they had people who weren't professional actors who made the series more perfect than it might have otherwise been. The downside of that is the crushing feeling of loss when someone portraying a character, someone you've never met passes away. It's so, so much more frequent than a beloved character actor or some such, but it hurts still.

A goddamn shame.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:31 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Mister Bijou at 9:14 AM on August 4, 2012

America's gotta legalize (or at least decriminalize) drugs. It's the only way.

Oh, except for that one little thing: that a lot of folks at the top want to keep young black men either dying or in jail.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:19 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:25 AM on August 4, 2012

Beautiful writing there by Simon.
posted by saul wright at 9:39 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

God. There's a section in the book where Simon describes what it's like for DeAndre to try to work at a job cooking crabs, despite having a shellfish allergy. One of the more difficult-to-read passages in a book that's full of them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:20 AM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Beautiful obituary. Glad DeAndre had some victories including the two years of working with kids at Manor Care.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:52 AM on August 4, 2012

The Corner is one of the best pieces of investigative journalism I've ever read. A number of incidents from the book made it into The Wire, as a matter of fact. It should be required reading for every American. This is a truly sad result. Here's to a more sane drug policy in the United States. RIP DeAndre.

posted by IvoShandor at 11:41 AM on August 4, 2012

posted by dhammond at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2012

posted by nuala at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by runincircles at 12:50 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by Cash4Lead at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2012


That's heartbreaking. When I heard he was helping with The Wire, I was hoping things would work out for him.
posted by drezdn at 2:09 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by Token Meme at 3:05 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by brevator at 3:18 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by epj at 3:31 PM on August 4, 2012

Poor Fran.

posted by Beardman at 3:55 PM on August 4, 2012

posted by arcticseal at 4:16 PM on August 4, 2012

America's gotta legalize (or at least decriminalize) drugs. It's the only way.

I don't disagree, but it's not clear that that would necessarily have saved him. Lots of people have lives similarly destroyed by addictions to legal substances. Legalizing drugs would certainly have made his life and the life of his community less awful--but not necessarily have made the decisive difference.
posted by yoink at 4:24 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by King Bee at 4:45 PM on August 4, 2012

Addiction is a powerful, horrible monster.

Does this type of hyperbole really help?
posted by telstar at 5:08 PM on August 4, 2012

Addiction is a powerful, horrible monster.

Does this type of hyperbole really help?

Hyperbole? No, love. Truth. Hard, bitter, ugly truth.

Poor DeAndre. I'm so sorry things went this way for him.

posted by MissySedai at 5:26 PM on August 4, 2012

I recently lost someone to drug addiction, and I'm willing to say that shit ain't hyperbole.
posted by brundlefly at 7:09 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by ignignokt at 9:09 PM on August 4, 2012

Stunning exchange with one of the "cops" Simon met 25 years ago. Astonishing.
This post and reply is the perfect example of compassion versus callous, even malicious, indifference.

The cop, TIM says:
August 5, 2012 at 4:08 am
Dave, another dead junkie, nothing more nothing less. I walked you through those very streets some 25 years ago, before the book, before your stint in homicide & before the TV shows. Fayette & Mount has not change a bit. The violence brought upon the community by all the “Dre’s” of the city is unforgivable. To make him out as something special is incredibly short sighted. Your compassion is, in my experience, misguided. You’ve chosen to fall in love with your subject matter & have overlooked the carnage he brought upon his own neighborhood. Where, I’m left to wonder, is the compassion for those that “Dre” left in his wake.


August 5, 2012 at 11:56 am
I remember you well, Tim. You were a fine police officer, thoroughly professional in your duties. I remember how precise your casework was, and how committed you were to addressing the drug trade along the lower end of the Western District. I admired you and your craft in every possible sense.

But here, your lack of basic empathy, if not a certain fundamental humanity, is startling.

DeAndre hurt no one more than himself. He was not notably violent and his crimes, until the very end, were about self-destruction. And indeed, if you consider the robberies of those pharmacies to be ruthless you are mistaken. He couldn’t bring himself to even brandish the gun, and in some cases it is entirely unclear that even had a weapon or a loaded weapon. He couldn’t even announce the robbery, merely handing a note and running away with the prescription drugs.

That you can ignore the totality of this tragedy — willfully avoiding all possible context for how children find themselves growing up in places like Fayette Street, and giving yourself a dose of smug, self-satisfaction by simply labeling other human beings as “junkies” — this is a problem of a stunted, malformed human condition. And I am not referring to the others you are so quick to categorize and condemn. I say this harshly because, frankly, you must know that you are not merely conducting an academic or intellectual exercise when you write in this way about this particular young man at this particular moment.

I have never actually sent anyone participating here to any sort of kill file. I’m quite content with fundamental disagreements on content. But in your case, I have to consider what you intended to accomplish with your post. Even if you believe every word you wrote, and even — if only for the sake of argument, we pretend that every word you wrote was intellectually justified — are you not aware that you are writing in a forum in which other human beings are genuinely grieving for someone they have lost? That for myself — and for many others who knew DeAndre in ways that you can’t — this is staggering and heartbreaking? In that precise context, what kind of person writes as you did in this forum? And to what honorable purpose?

With all due respect to the good that you tried to do on Fayette Street in your days there, I have to ask you to reflect on your own cruelty, your indifference to others and their pain, and ultimately, on your lack of manners. Seriously. When you go to the funerals of people you knew, do you sign the visitor book with an accounting of the flaws and failings of the deceased, and do you do so as a means of making you feel superior in your own skin? Because, Tim, that is exactly what you just did on this website.

DeAndre struggled with great demons. As did many people lost on Fayette Street. The sad outcome doesn’t make their humanity or struggle any less real. Nor does it answer the greater question of why the Fayette Streets exist, and why we allow certain children in one of the most monied and propertied societies to learn their earliest lessons of life in such places.

If you’re going to write again, think a little harder. Feel a little more deeply. Or understand what has happened — and happened for the first and only time — when the next comment is your last in this forum.

Respectfully, and with fond memories of you in other contexts,


posted by mer2113 at 2:55 PM on August 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


For anyone interested in some sociological insight into these cycles of addiction and poverty and the struggles of young black men to find a job, check out the work of Sudhir Venkatesh. Off the Books is good, fairly academic. Gang Leader for a Day you can find in most bookstores. The cultural American bootstrap idea that guys like DeAndre should just be able to get it together damaging on top of the crap they have to deal with. That he had to struggle with such shame for tripping on that stair just chaps my ass.
posted by bilabial at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2012

My kingdom for an edit button.

I meant to link to this particular comment in that previous thread about tripping on stairs.
posted by bilabial at 3:03 PM on August 5, 2012

What a crazy, sad story. The article doesn't mention McCullough's child, though Simon's obit does. I hope his son is out there somewhere doing ok.
posted by bluefly at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2012

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