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Home Deaths of Famous People

Deaths of Famous People

Franz Kafka and Tuberculosis

Franz Kafka was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, even though little of his work was published before his death at the young age of 40. He had tuberculosis in his esophagus, which prevented food from reaching his stomach, so he starved to death. He finished none of his...

Phyllis McGuire, Last of the McGuire Sisters

Phyllis McGuire, lead singer of the “McGuire Sisters” who were famous in the 1950s and 1960s, died on December 29, 2020 at age 89 in Las Vegas. In 1968, she left her singing career for a multi-year affair with equally famous Sam Giancana, who a notorious gangster and leader of the Chicago mob.

Gene Wilder: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Alzheimer’s

Gene Wilder was a beloved American stage, screen and TV actor who made people laugh just by being himself. He was also a successful screenwriter, film director and author. He is best remembered for the movies where he appeared to be naive and childlike: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Young Frankenstein . . .

What Killed Mario Lanza at Age 38?

On October 7, 1959, singer Mario Lanza died suddenly at age 38 of a heart attack just as he was getting ready to check out of a medical clinic in Rome. He didn't mean to kill himself, but his entire adult life was full of behaviors and actions that are known to cause heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and premature death.

The On-and-Off Partnership of Tammy Wynette and George Jones

George Jones and Tammy Wynette, perhaps the most popular married country-singing couple of all time, told us a lot about their marriage and divorce. They were married for only seven years, but they wrote and sang together while they were married and for twenty years after they were divorced.

Oliver Sacks and Melanoma of the Eye

Oliver Sacks died this week at age 82 of a melanoma in his eye that was diagnosed 11 years ago and recently had spread to his liver. He was a neurologist who wrote more than a dozen popular books that sold millions of copies, making him probably the most-read physician-author in the world. His...

Larry Flynt, Free Speech Advocate

Larry Flynt was a publisher, businessman and promoter who was one of the most notorious producers of pornography, rising to fame and great wealth from his raunchy Hustler magazine. He built a $100 million business empire based on magazines, private clubs, casinos, sex-toy stores, videos, and three pornographic television channels.

Emile Zola and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Emile Zola was a famous French writer of the late 19th century and perhaps one of the most honorable and courageous men of all time. He repeatedly risked his life to defend Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent man who was falsely accused by corrupt French military and government officials of spying for...

Mary Tyler Moore and Type I Diabetes

Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most famous female television stars in North America, first as a wife and mother on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966) and then as a single working woman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977) where she became a role model admired by women all over the world.

Merle Haggard: Be Good to Your Lungs

Merle Haggard was a legendary country music singer and guitar player with 38 songs that reached number one on the country charts, and 71 in the top ten. We have lost another great musical talent to the ravages of lung cancer and pneumonia, brought on by this generation's horrible treatment of their lungs.

Mel Tillis, Stuttering Country Singer

In spite of stuttering from age three onward, Mel Tillis became a world-famous singer and songwriter, movie actor and television host. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Regis Philbin’s Lifestyle Changes

Regis Philbin held the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most time spent in front of a television camera -- tallied at 16,343 hours when he retired at age 80 in 2011. He hosted "Live! with Kathie Lee" (which later became "Live! with Regis and Kelly"), "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "Million Dollar Password," the first season of "America's Got Talent, and many others.

Alan Thicke and Aortic Dissection

On Dec. 13, 2016, at age 69, Alan Thicke collapsed while playing ice hockey with his 19-year-old son and died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm after first being diagnosed as having had a heart attack at a Burbank CA hospital.

J. Michael Lane: Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Last as Long as Smallpox?

J. Michael Lane was an epidemiologist who spent most of his life as probably the major player in helping to eradicate the smallpox virus. He traveled to Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and other countries to combat outbreaks and create vaccination programs.

Famous Stents: Bill Clinton and George Bush

Bill Clinton: In 2004, former President Clinton had a quadruple bypass operation that did not require stents and did not increase risk for clotting. In February, 2010, he had chest pain and tests showed that his heart muscle was not getting the blood it needed, so doctors opened up the arteries leading to...

Florence Nightingale and Bipolar Disorder

Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing, reformed the British public health system, improved military medicine and dedicated her life to caring for the sick. She earned her reputation by caring for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War. In 1854, she arrived in Turkey with a group of 38 volunteer nurses that she had trained.

Waylon Jennings’ Years of Pain

Waylon Jennings was a country singer and songwriter who rose from poverty to great wealth and fame, with 54 albums and 96 singles listed among the top sellers between 1966 and 2002. He gave concerts and recorded with most of the popular artists of his time including Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bobby...

Adolph Hitler: A War On Drugs

Hitler was addicted to cocaine, took 28 different drugs for intestinal gas, had severe lack of libido, and was given drugs that contained strychnine, a poison that most likely caused his constant pain. Hitler was not alone in his drug addiction. Dependence on amphetamines the way of life for the entire German army, athletes, factory workers, housewives and students.

Gustav Born: Innovations after Hiroshima

Gustav Born was a physician and pharmacologist who taught the world about blood clotting. In 1945, he was posted as a British army doctor in Hiroshima, and noticed that most of the survivors of the atomic bomb suffered from chronic bleeding. He demonstrated that exposure to radiation destroys the body's platelets to cause the bleeding and laid the basics for treatment of bleeding and clotting disorders, some of which are still used today.

Ted Corbitt, the Father of Long Distance Running

Ted Corbitt ran more miles in training, often up to 200 miles a week, than any runner I ever heard of, yet his fastest time in a marathon was a mediocre 2 hours 26 minutes 44 seconds, almost 24 minutes slower than the present world record for that distance. Corbitt competed in 199 marathons and ultra-marathons and made the 1952 United States Olympic marathon team.

Mozart and Sore Throats

In 1791, arguably the world’s most gifted composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, died at the very young age of 35. Today, no serious researchers believe that Mozart was poisoned because his medical history and his symptoms match those of a classic disease that can now be cured.

My Favorite Poet, Edgar Allan Poe

Halloween is a good time to think about ghosts and spooky deaths. I think that the greatest poem for Halloween is The Raven, written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1845. It’s my favorite poem. Every sentence is a metaphor to teach us about philosophy, sadness, death, fatalism and life. Every word has a musical tone.

The Heat Stroke Death of Korey Stringer

Twenty years ago, Korey Stringer died of heat stroke at age 27. He was 6' 4" tall, weighed 335 pounds and was an All American tackle at Ohio State University. He became an All Pro lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in 1995.

Desmond Tutu Dies at 90 of Prostate Cancer

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu came from a very poor black family in South African during apartheid’s darkest hours to become Archbishop of Cape Town in 1985 at age 54. He led the movement to rid South Africa of its system of racial segregation and white minority rule. In that capacity, he had to fight incredible abuse.

W. Barry Wood, Scholar-Athlete

Barry Wood won 10 varsity letters from 1929 to 1931 as one of Harvard’s greatest athletes ever, and was the last Harvard player to be named All-American in football at the time when Harvard football teams played the University of Texas, University of Michigan and some of the other best teams in the country.

Stella Walsh, Olympic Female Sprint Champion

Stella Walasiewicz, later known as Stella Walsh, won the women’s 100-meter dash at the 1932 Olympics for Poland. Four years later, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics she took silver, beaten by the American, Helen Stephens. Stephens also set new world records for the 200m and the standing broad jump, and won the shot put. Stella...

Stephen Furst, Flounder, Diabetic at 17

Stephen Furst performed in, directed and produced many movies and television shows, but he is best remembered for his first movie role in 1978 as the loveable, insecure and massively obese "Flounder" in the 1978 hit movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

From 1934 to 1977, Al Capp wrote the most-read comic strip in North America, Li'l Abner, about hillbillies in the fictional town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. It had 60 million daily readers in more than 1000 newspapers in 28 countries. Li'l Abner Yokum, a stupid but good-natured hayseed, was the son of...

Andre the Giant and Acromegaly

Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler who at 7' 4" and 520 pounds, won the World Wrestling Federation individual championship and World Tag Team Championship. He was also an actor in several Hollywood films. His huge size was caused by a pituitary gland brain tumor that produced huge amounts of human growth hormone.

John von Neumann, Father of the Computer Revolution

John von Neumann was one of the most versatile and brilliant mathematicians of all time. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1955 and died a year later after it spread quickly to his bones and brain. He had helped to develop both atomic and hydrogen bombs and was exposed to radioactivity while observing A-bomb tests in the Pacific and while working on nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, New Mexico.