ON PROMINENT display in Rodney King's suburban Rialto home is a framed photograph -- a reminder of his role in one of the most incendiary chapters in Los Angeles history.
The close-up of a bulky, nervous King was taken during a 1992 press conference days after rage and violence swept across the city following the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers who were charged with violating King's civil rights. The picture was snapped just as he made his memorable plea for calm amid rioting that ultimately led to 54 deaths, more than 2,300 injuries and 12,000 arrests: “People, I just want to say — Can we all get along? Can we get along?”
In the more than 16 years since, King continues to ask himself that very same, very simple and profound question. His own path since becoming an unwitting symbol of police brutality to some and a habitual petty criminal to others has been filled with tumult.
Now, although he had tried to maintain a low profile, King is again willingly putting himself -- and his demons -- front and center in VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew," which launches its second season Oct. 23. The series is billed as television's first examination of the rehabilitation process and features Drew Pinsky, the low-key celebrity physician who is well known for his nationally syndicated radio call-in show, "Loveline." Pinsky is head of the Department of Chemical Dependency Services at Pasadena's Las Encinas Hospital.
King said he appeared on the show to demonstrate that he has reformed and that he is not the cowering victim in the grainy videotape. Most of all, he did it to reclaim his name. "Over the years, a lot of rappers -- Lil’ Wayne, Ice Cube -- have used my name in their songs," said the 43-year-old King, who had his first drink when he was 8. "I'm a real touchstone of history.
"But they don't know me as a person. I understand the hurt, and now I'm seeking help for myself. Putting myself out there is a good way for me to overcome the addiction. I want my kids to understand me, and it was easier to show them by being on TV."
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