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Jeremy Piven and the toxic sushi

December 18, 2008 |  6:13 pm

Jeremy PivenYesterday, Culture Monster alerted you to reports that "Entourage"-turned-Broadway star Jeremy Piven had pulled out of David Mamet's Hollywood play "Speed-the-Plow." The reason? "A high mercury count."

What? Never heard of that?

Apparently neither had playwright David Mamet, who was quoted in Variety as saying, "I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury. So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."


Word of Piven's abrupt departure quickly spread, along with reports of alleged hard-partying ways. Doubters figured there was something fishy about this story.

And by mid-afternoon, it was confirmed: Yup -- Piven had eaten too much sushi or possibly ingested excessive amounts of Chinese herbs. 

Piven's doctor, Dr. Carlon Colker, told Variety that skeptics were being unfair and unkind. Colker should know: He's an attending physician at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and chief executive and medical director of Peak Wellness.

“Jeremy has been a trouper and did everything he could to fight extreme fatigue, among other things, since the condition was diagnosed,” Colker told Variety. “It was not his decision to step away from this play, it was mine. I think it was in the best interests of his health to do that.”

Indeed, mercury toxicity is a real condition. Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Culture Monster: "True mercury toxicity is very rare.... However, mercury toxicity is a real condition with real symptoms that include headache, nausea and systemic pain.

"While we encourage people to eat fish, everyone needs need to watch the mercury content in fish and be careful about which fish they eat."

Well, we'll leave you with that advice, then -- before we are forced to start eating our words.

-- Lisa Fung

Photo: Jeremy Piven. Credit: Brian McDermott / AP