Some people seem like they can save just about anyone but themselves.
Tanya Vece should know, she was the beneficiary of one such stormy, world-weary soul.
Layne Staley was best known as the singer for Seattle rockers Alice In Chains, a gifted, magnetic presence who openly struggled with the addictions that eventually would seal his fate.
But before he lost his life in April 2002, he helped rescue Vece’s.
Vece, a Vegas native, was 18, living in Seattle nine years ago, struggling with a drug habit of her own when a chance encounter with Staley would change everything for her.
"I had tried to kill myself, I took a bunch of pills, it made me delirious, and I had woken up in a room. I was like, ‘Where the hell am I?’ " Vece recalls from in front of the Payard Patiserie at Caesars Palace on a Tuesday afternoon. "Layne Staley was standing there in front of me, and I’m like, ‘Am I hallucinating?’ There were other people in the room, and he was like, ‘You’re too young, do you even know where you’re at?’
"I’m like, ‘No,’ " she continues. "He said, ‘OK, I’m gonna get you home, I have your ID and your keys. Why are you doing this?’ And I said, ‘I’m just at a point where I feel like I don’t want to live anymore.’ And he said, ‘Well, let’s talk about this.’ "
From there a friendship was born. Vece kept a running journal of her encounters with Staley, which she later decided to turn into a book. "Itch, Love Stories About Heroin," due out next April, not only recounts Vece’s time with Staley and how he helped her get clean, but also includes testimonials from fans across the country about what the singer meant to them.
Of course, not all the responses have been warm ones.
"Some of the stuff is really mean and hateful, ‘You don’t have a right to publish this, we don’t want to hear about his drug addiction,’ " says Vece, who’s worked locally as a publicist and event planner. "But the book is not solely about Layne’s drug addiction, and I’m not going, ‘Here’s how much heroin he did.’ It’s completely not like that."
Vece’s not profiting from the book — proceeds are going to a fund established in Staley’s name and to the L.A. Free Clinic. Vece’s not doing this to make money she says, but to clear up misconceptions about Staley at the end of his life, where he was rumored to be a recluse with various physical ailments.
She wants to paint a portrait of the man using more than just the blacks and grays of depression and addiction.
"I’ll read on the Internet that he just sat in his condo all day, and that is not what happened," Vece says. "Somebody wrote on a blog that he had AIDS — that’s not the case. The perception that he was just this junkie who got caught up in the music business, that’s not it at all. I want people to know Layne for who he really was."
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.