Todd "Z-Man" Zalkins Was There For the Last Drug-Addled Days of Sublime

Rickett & Sones
It wasn't until his heart started skipping beats and he could barely breathe that Todd Zalkins finally crawled into a drug-treatment facility in Laguna Beach. That was in February 2007, and Zalkins had been addicted to Oxycontin and other painkillers for 17 years. He knew that if the pills didn't clear out of his system, he was a dead man. "I didn't sleep for 44 days," Zalkins recalls. "The doctor said it was the worst case of addiction he'd ever seen."

What nearly killed Zalkins provided the basis for his self-published, 2010 autobiography, Dying for Triplicate, an almost-over-the-top tome that Zalkins says has already sold more than 50,000 copies. His descent into life-threatening addiction also fuels what has now become a full-time career: speaking to teenagers about the dangers of prescription-drug abuse and helping families bring their loved ones into treatment through his website,

You might recognize Zalkins as the star of Sublime's 1995 music video for their first hit song, "Date Rape," the uptempo ska-punk ditty about an unrepentant rapist who meets with jailhouse justice, which became the most requested song in KROQ history. He remembers getting the call from the band when they were staying somewhere in Texas during their breakout cross-country tour that year.

"Z-man, can you be in the video with Ron Jeremy?" they wanted to know. Zalkins readily agreed, knowing full well the assignment involved portraying not only one of the world's most despicable breed of criminals, but also the anal-rape victim of one of the porn industry's most notably rotund actors.

Zalkins didn't necessarily land the gig because of his acting skills. He grew up in Long Beach's Belmont Shore neighborhood and was childhood friends with Sublime members Eric Wilson, Bud Gaugh and Bradley Nowell. "I lived just about five houses away from Eric as a young boy and was one of the first people Bud met at Rogers Middle School," Zalkins says. "We all grew up together."

Growing up in Long Beach in the 1980s put him and his friends in the middle of an epic punk-rock scene. "All of our friends surfed together and played in bands together," he says. "It was a melting pot of extremely talented musicians playing backyard parties and punk-rock shows. When Sublime started playing collectively in their late teens, they had a really organic following of backyard parties and things getting burned down."

Zalkins remained close with Sublime as the band's success grew. "There were a lot of hangers-on but only a few people in the inner circle," he says, "and I was privileged to be in that."

Along with the music, of course, came booze and drugs. "All my high school years were centered on surfing and keg parties," he continues. "Some people died along the way from overdoses. We ran hard. We went deep and hard; we pushed limits and never intended to harm or bum anyone out, but that was generally the result--mayhem."

By the mid-1990s, Nowell had become hopelessly addicted to heroin. The band became notorious for unreliability, occasional moments of brilliance marred by no-shows and often disastrous performances. Zalkins recalls breaking up a fight between Nowell and Gaugh, who had recently left drug-rehabilitation therapy and was furious with his friend for failing to show up for a $10,000 gig in San Francisco. "I got some 911 calls from Eric where I had to break up a massive brawl," Zalkins says. "Bud was beating him to a pulp. I took a few shots from Bud trying to break that up."

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