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Dunes East Hampton founder Joe McKinsey recalls his path to sobriety

Joe McKinsey, founder of The Dunes, an upscale

Joe McKinsey, founder of The Dunes, an upscale drug rehabilitation center in East Hampton, at the facility on June 18, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Joe McKinsey, founder of The Dunes East Hampton addiction treatment center, recalls Jan. 4, 1984, as his sobriety date.

On New Year's weekend 1984, McKinsey, a salesman who had veered from retail to real estate, went with his wife to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

The weekend was free because they accompanied an entertainment executive who was a big player. "He had a yacht, he had a Rolls, he had a mansion."

As they were gambling, the executive made a staggering proposal: "I like the way you move . . . I'd like you to run my record company."

McKinsey was bowled over and snapped up the $250,000-a-year offer.

Before they left Las Vegas, the executive had one final suggestion: Call room service for a complimentary bottle of Champagne. McKinsey ordered a bottle of Champagne . . . and scotch, vodka, red wine and white wine.

Once home in Los Angeles, he broke open the liquor and bought an 8-ball, an eighth of an ounce of cocaine, from his dealer.

By Jan. 3, McKinsey had been up for a day and a half on a cocaine high. He tilted the bottles in search of a "corner" to fill his glass.

"I lean over my mirrored table and see my face and I say, 'Oh, my God. You're not going to be able to keep this job. You're a drunk and a drug addict and you're going to lose this job like you've lost every other job,' " he recalled. He started to cry.

McKinsey never got the job. But the next day, he entered a rehab program in Santa Monica, California.

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