The untimely deaths of Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro, and the suicide attempt of Owen Wilson have brought to public attention how high the price of fame is.
Compared to the grotesque, disgusting and sometimes even creative celebrity deaths in yesterday’s world of entertainment, death by drug overdose in today’s show business world (real or accidental) seems an almost gentle way to check out. Not so for these ten:
Bob Crane – Death by Tire Iron
The popular star of “Hogan’s Heroes” met his maker in an Arizona motel. Someone bludgeoned the sleeping actor with a tire iron, smashing in his skull. The assailant then cut an electric cord from a motel lamp with a pocketknife and tied a tight knot around Crane’s neck. The suspect was acquitted due to lack of evidence and maintained his innocence for the rest of his life.
Lupe Velez – Death by Toilet
Beautiful, feisty Lupe Velez, star of nearly 50 movies from 1927 through 1944, former wife of Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller, and passionate lover of Gary Cooper, drowned in the toilet. Lupe, known by her fans as The Mexican Spitfire, decided to quit this life at the age of 36.
According to her suicide note, pregnant Lupe had taken a huge dose of Seconal when the father of her baby gave her the big kiss off. Unfortunately for Lupe, the pills only made her nauseous. As she made her way to the orchid-color bathroom, stomach churning, she staggered to the toilet where she slipped on the tile and plunged head first into the chartreuse-colored deluxe commode. The maid discovered her the next day, still in the same embarrassing position, dead from drowning.
Ramon Novarro – Death by Dildo
Film star Ramon Novarro, the original Ben Hur, choked on his own blood due to an Art Deco dildo being shoved down his throat. Two Chicago hustlers suffocated the star with a lead dildo, which had been given to him 45 years earlier by Rudolph Valentino. They did it for $5,000 they heard was hidden in his home.
Marie Provost – Death by Dachshund
Silent film star Marie Provost couldn’t make it in talkies due to her pronounced Bronx accent. In her despair, she had a drink-to-the-death contest with Greta Garbo’s lover, Jack Gilbert, another talkie casualty. He won, dying of booze in 1936, while Marie continued for another year. Her half-eaten corpse was discovered in her seedy apartment. The dachshund survived.
Peggy Entwistle – Death by Sign
Despondent aspiring actress Peggy Entwistle, who once appeared on stage opposite Humphrey Bogart, entered Hollywood mythology by hurling herself off the Hollywood sign in 1932. Her part in RKO’s “The 13 Women” ended up on the cutting room floor; some say she lept from the 13th letter of the sign, then called Hollywoodland and lit by electric bulbs. Actually, she climbed up 50 feet of an electrician’s ladder behind the H, losing one of her shoes in the process. When she reached the top, she jumped, plunging to her death. Her suicide note read: “I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”
Gwili Andre – Death by Newspapers
Blonde, blue-eyed Gwili Andre from Denmark, “the highest priced model in America,” was taken on as a “Garbo look-alike” by RKO Studio, earning $25,000 a year and dating Howard Hughes. To her dismay, she failed to become a movie star. In a bizarre suicide, she was found sprawled on the bedroom floor of her apartment, burned to a crisp in a funeral pyre she had made out of old publicity clippings.
Albert Dekker – Death by Underwear
Character actor Albert (Dr. Cyclops,The Wild Bunch ) Dekker, a fan of autoeroticism, was found hanging from a shower curtain rod wearing delicate ladies’ silk lingerie. He had dirty hypodermic needles stuck in each arm, a hangman’s noose around his neck, a scarf over his eyes, and a rubber-ball bit in his mouth, its metal chains tied firmly behind his head. The corpse was trussed in leather belts fastened around his body like a halter, the end of one clutched in his hand. Each wrist was handcuffed separately. Among other equally weird sentiments scrawled in flaming red lipstick all over his body was “make me suck.”
Vic Morrow – Death by Helicopter
While on location filming the Steven Spielberg-produced “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” Morrow was decapitated by the blades of a low-flying helicopter. Spielberg, pilot Dorsey Wingo, and director John Landis were ultimately acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and Morrow’s daughters, Carrie Morrow and Jennifer Jason Leigh, settled out of court.
Rebel Without a Cause, Entire Cast Dies Young
Sal Mineo – Knifed to death in the driveway behind his Los Angeles apartment.
James Dean – Auto crash, soon after receiving a speeding ticket
Nick Adams – Paraldehyde, used in hospitals and associated with alcohol withdrawal
Natalie Wood – Drowned. Known to be terrified of drowning. Ruled “accidental.”
George Sanders – Death by Boredom
Oscar-winning actor George (All About Eve) Sanders, onetime husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, offed himself by drugs and booze, not that unusual. What was unusual was his suicide note: Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool — good luck. Love, George”
Excluded from the list is the demise of 50’s blonde siren Jayne Mansfield. Rumors that she was decapitated in an auto accident have been proven untrue. The blonde “head” sighted by reporters turned out to be just her wig.
While we are sure that our opinion is 100% correct, we know that we might have missed others. If you care to suggest your own (not your death, but the death of a celeb), please do so below.