Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street (1999) is probably the best made heroin documentary in history. Filmed over a four year period and directed by Steven Okazaki, the 75 minute long film describes the lives of young heroin addicts living on the streets and in the slums of the impoverished Tenderloin District in San Francisco. If you have somehow stumbled across this article without having first watched the film then you can do so here.
Most people watching the film will be left wondering what happened to the primary five subjects and some of their assorted associates, either out of empathy of just morbid curiosity. In 2004 a short four minute update was filmed and included with the DVD release as an added extra, it gave a very limited insight into what happened to the subjects in the years which had followed.
It has taken a fair bit of digging but we are able to provide at least some further information on the fate of Tracey, Jake, Jessica, Alice, and Oreo in the intervening years. All information presented on this page is correct the best of our knowledge.
It is probably best to start off with the most positive of outcomes, right? According to the 2004 update Tracey was arrested soon after filming finished in 1997 for dealing heroin and was sent to jail for a second time. This time she got clean in prison, stayed clean, and then went on to find a job helping addicts and prostitutes. In her first spell in prison, as shown in the film, she had of course been released clean but stayed clean for just eight hours. With a bit of digging I was able to find out a lot more about Tracey.
Her full name is Tracey Helton Mitchell, she still lives in the San Francisco area and is married with three kids. She works as an addiction specialist and has written numerous essays and guest posts including one for CNN Health. Furthermore she has commented on several YouTube videos (unfortunately one since removed) with the username traceyh415. In the comments on her profile she confirmed that she went back to school and graduated high school with honors, completing four AP classes. You may remember that in the documentary she was at one point talking about whether or not she could go back and complete high school if she got clean.
Whilst Tracey got out alive, her boyfriend in the film was less lucky. In the period between the completion of filming and the first broadcast of the documentary he was arrested for burglary and sent to jail for a parole violation. Within one week of his release from prison, in 1999, he died from a heroin overdose. In the short 2004 update video Tracey said that Ben had phoned her around a month before he died to apologise for the way that he had treated her.
Interestingly, a blog post on the website brightfuture.com by an anonymous poster included the line:
“Tracey Helton Mitchell was one of the smartest kids in my middle school. But by the time she was in her early 20’s she was a heroin addict. I found out while flipping channels one sleepless night and stumbled upon the documentary Black Tar Heroin”.
Tracey is now very active online, with the aforementioned YouTube account, a twitter acccount (@traceyh415), a personal blog, and an active Reddit account from which she regularly contributes to the /r/opiates subreddit (saving lives by mailing out narcan and clean needles!). Much of the information that we can share about the other people below has been obtained from Tracey’s various comments on the internet.
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Tracey released a book on her life in 2016, she writes about her time living on the streets of Tenderloin, her recovery, the rebuilding of her life and relationship with her mother, and discusses what she believes is wrong about the rehab system in America. The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin by Tracey Helton Mitchell is available in kindle, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook formats.
Alice was the youngest of the five main subjects and appeared to be in an earlier stage of her addiction than the others during filming. In the 2004 update it was reported that she had been in a drug treatment programme in Portland, Oregan, and that she sounded positive about her chances. Another source had in fact reported to the producers that she had been clean for two years at that stage. It wasn’t until 2011 that somebody on the internet made the link in a YouTube comment between Alice and the star of another documentary about strip clubs – the dancer and model Malice McMunn.
Her real name is Alice McMunn, her stage name is Malice McMunn, and she is in fact now clean and living in Los Angeles. She confirmed on her twitter account in 2013 that she was indeed Alice from Black Tar Heroin and she later added herself as a credited cast member on the IMDB listing for the documentary. Interestingly a user on IMDB in a discussion about the documentary had this to say:
“Surprisingly enough, I was at the dog park today in Portland, Oregan, and noticed a familiar face. It was none other than Alice, the punk rock girl from the movie! I found it hard to believe that it was really her, so went up and talked to her and sure enough, it was! I guess she moved up her 6 years ago and has been clean ever since!”.
She can be found tweeting from @malice666mcmunn, and has a page at Model Mayhem. A google image search for ‘Malice McMunn’ will give you an understanding of how prolific her modelling career has been. She has been very creative with her age on her modelling profiles though, she claims to be 29 years old. That would have made her about 8 years old when the documentary was filmed. Her correct age is probably around 37.
Troubled rent boy Jake was probably the most screwed up in the film, especially after he discovered that he had HIV. Soon after his diagnosis his personality changed radically and he became aggressive and unpredictable. He still carried on working to fund his habit of course. After watching the documentary most viewers would perhaps have considered Jake to be the closest to death and the least likely to overcome his habit.
Surprisingly, according to the 2004 update, Jake actually put himself through rehab soon after filming and got himself clean and treated for HIV. Unfortunately in January 2002 he was found dead of an overdose after relapsing following a breakup with his first clean girlriend. Tracey Helton has stated that, despite working as a rentboy, Jake was in fact straight and liked girls sexually. RIP Jake.
Jessica was another who by the end of the documentary was in seriously deep, she was also a sex worker and had tested positive for HIV yet continued to work. She was in deep denial about her illness and expressed no remorse for continuiing to operate in the sex trade. According to the 2004 update she had last been seen in San Francisco’s Mission District living in a car and turning tricks, referred to at the time as ‘the final business address’ for San Fran prostitutes. Interestingly, somebody asked the question “What happened to Jessica black tar heroin” on answers.com and recieved the answer “she has died unfortunately”. Another poster, claiming to be her half sister, countered this in 2011 with:
“This is incorrect. She’s my half sister and she’s very much alive. She’s been in and out of jail.”
Tracey Helton has since stated that she had seen Jessica several times since finishing filming and that she looked well the last time she’d seen her in 2012.
In a highly convincing blog comment on an article similar to this one in 2012, on a website which no longer exists, a poster claims that they lived next door to Ben (Tracey’s ex-boyfriend) and that they also new Oreo. That commenter claimed that Oreo had died of a drug overdose not long afterwards. In the 2004 update it simply stated that Oreo had dissapeared soon after filming and that his whereabouts were unknown, which made this scenario feasible, but it was probably incorrect and the poster was likely confusing Oreo with one of the other people to get minor airtime in the film.
According to Tracey Helton (as of 2013) Oreo was clean and living a quiet life with a family, he had no desire to be in the public eye. But this information appears to have come from an internet post to Tracey from a relative of Oreo rather than any contact that she has had with him. But, a photo has appeared online appearing to show a much older and healthier Oreo in 2010. It certainly looks like him, so its fairly safe to assume that it is him? It was posted by an Arizona Drug Rehab Clinic website, with no explanation as to how the photo was obtained (photo shown to the right).
A further blog post comment by Tracey in 2014 claimed that all four of Tracey, Alice, Jessica, and Oreo are clean from drugs (Tracey gets everywhere on the internet, it is difficult to keep up, this was a late find).
Brief Summary 2017
- Tracey – Alive, doing well and busy saving lives.
- Alice – Alive, doing well and still beautiful.
- Jake – Dead by overdose. RIP.
- Jessica – Alive (as of 2014).
- Oreo – Alive (as of 2014).
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