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Deaths of Famous People

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.

Eddie Van Halen and Mouth Cancer

Eddie Van Halen is considered to be one of the most accomplished guitarists of all time, and he led his hard rock band to international fame. He also developed new techniques and changes in his guitar that many other guitarists have copied, such as finger tapping with both hands on the guitar neck.

John Wayne’s Cancers: Smoking or Radiation?

John Wayne was one of the best-paid actors in Hollywood for more than 40 years, appeared in more than 170 films and starred in 142 films, mostly westerns. His size (6'4" and 225 pounds) and pugnacious behavior helped him to be cast a cowboy, lawman, soldier and athlete, but for most of his life he had a cancer-promoting lifestyle.

Olivia Newton-John and Breast Cancer

Olivia Newton-John was a British-Australian singer, actress, and activist, most famous for starring with John Travolta in the 1978 musical film Grease, whose soundtrack is still today one of the world's best-selling albums. Her recordings have sold more than 100 million records, and she won four Grammy Awards. In 1992, at age 44, she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.

Jim Bouton and Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy

Jim Bouton was not good enough to play on his high school baseball team but ended up as a professional All-Star baseball pitcher with the New York Yankees who won both of his starts in the 1964 World Series.  He was also a best-selling author, movie actor, and sportscaster and one of the creators...

Ancel Keys and John Yudkin Were Both Right about Meat and Sugar

Ancel Keys was a prolific American scientist who is best known for his early work on heart attack risk factors in the 1950s. His theory was that dietary saturated fats and cholesterol raise blood cholesterol and blood pressure to increase risk for heart attacks.. Also in the 1950s, John Yudkin was the leading spokesman for the theory that sugar and other refined carbohydrates were the main culprits. Yudkin and Keys argued continuously, in journals and at medical meetings, about whether sugar or saturated fats were the prime cause of heart attacks.

Kelly Catlin: Concussion, Depression and Suicide

Kelly Catlin was a world-class bicycle racer who won a silver medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics and gold medals in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. At the same time, she was a concert-quality classical violinist and an artist, was graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, spoke fluent Chinese, and was in the exclusive graduate school in mathematics at Stanford University when she committed suicide at age 23, on March 7, 2019

Waylon Jennings’ Years of Pain

Twenty years ago this week we lost Waylon Jennings, one of the all-time great voices of country music.  Jennings was a 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 many of the most popular artists of his time including Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson and Mel Tillis.

Roger Bannister, First Sub-4-Minute Miler

Roger Bannister was the first human to run a mile in less than four minutes, even though his training was totally inadequate for world-class competition because he was a full time medical student who trained on a single 30-minute workout per day, compared to today's runners who train twice a day for as much as three hours.

Julian Schwinger and Pancreatic Cancer

Julian Seymour Schwinger (February 12, 1918 – July 16, 1994) was one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century. He shared a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics with another genius, Richard Feynman, for his re-normalization theory of quantum electrodynamics. Today, he is far less famous than Feynman, even though he had...

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 . . .

Dick Buerkle and Multiple Systems Atrophy

Dick Buerkle ran 3:54.93 to break the world record in the men's indoor mile in 1978, and earned places on the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams. From age 12 onward, he had suffered considerable taunting from his classmates because he lost all the hair on his head.

Micheline Ostermeyer, Olympian and Concert Pianist

It takes so much work and time to train to become outstanding at any endeavor that there are very few people who have risen to the top of the world stage in more than one field. One of the most impressive people who ever lived was Micheline Ostermeyer of France. She was born in 1922 and died at age 78 in 2001, and was a concert pianist who won three Olympic medals in the 1948 Olympics.

Cass Elliot: A Tragically Young Death from Morbid Obesity

Cass Elliot was “Mama Cass”, the close-to-300 pound contralto lead singer of The Mamas and Papas, a dominant folk rock vocal group in the late 1960s. They sold more than 40 million records, with six of their albums making it to the Billboard top ten.

Tom Magliozzi, Host of “Car Talk”

Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 on November 3, 2014 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. This horrible dementia prevents you from remembering almost anything. For 35 years he was the star of the nationally-syndicated radio show "Car Talk" with his brother Ray, hosting calls from would-be mechanics, puzzled car owners and entertained...

Michael E. DeBakey, Father of Modern Heart Surgery

“He was probably the greatest surgeon who ever lived” (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2005). Michael DeBakey personally performed more than 60,000 surgical procedures. He developed the surgical procedures to bypass blocked arteries in the neck, legs and heart. These surgeries have been performed on millions of patients. He developed artificial pumps for...

John Nash: A Beautiful Mind Dies

On May 23, 2015, John Nash and his wife were killed while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike. The driver hit a guardrail and another car, and the Nashes, who were not wearing seatbelts, were thrown from the taxi. John Nash was 86 and Alicia Nash was 83. Nash...

Blaze Starr’s Flaming Couch

On June 15, 2015, 83-year-old Blaze Starr, probably the most famous burlesque stripper in North America, died of heart failure. She was famous because she: • had a 38DD bra size, a 24 inch waist and flaming red hair • was the prime tourist attraction of "The Block" in Baltimore in the 1950's, 60's and 70's •...

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.

Franz Schubert, Syphilis and Mercury Poisoning

Two centuries ago, Franz Schubert composed music that today is among the most frequently performed music by classical orchestras, piano soloists, singers and choruses. Although he died before his 32nd birthday, he wrote more than a thousand original compositions including 600 choral works.

Bobby Farrell of Boney M

Today my favorite song is “The Rivers Of Babylon”, the second highest-selling single of all time in the UK. I heard the song for the first time a few weeks ago on YouTube. It was recorded in 1978 by “Boney M,” whose original members were with the band from 1976 until 1986. They all came from the Caribbean: Bobby Farrell came from Aruba, Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett were from Jamaica and Maizie Williams was from Montserrat, an island in the Lesser Antilles.

Eartha Kitt: Colon Cancer Even with Low Risk

When Eartha Kitt died at age 81 of colon cancer, her daughter said that, "she ate huge amounts of vegetables and their house in Beverly Hills had a huge vegetable garden as well as an aviary with chickens and roosters.

Antonio Vivaldi’s Asthma

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice on March 4th, 1678. He became a famous opera and classical music composer because he had asthma. He was known as the “Red Priest” because of his red hair that he inherited from his father. His father was a barber and a professional violinist who taught Antonio to play...

Charlie Daniels and Hemorrhagic Strokes

We have lost another country music legend -- Charlie Daniels died on July 6, 2020, at age 83.  He was a singer, songwriter and fiddler who was most famous for writing and performing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He was elected to the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Joey Feek, the Love Story of 2016

Joey Martin Feek was born on September 7, 1975 in the small town of Alexandria, Indiana. In 1998 at age 23, she moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career and in 2000 she signed with Sony Records, but her records did not sell. In 2002, she met her future husband, guitarist Rory Feek who was 10 years older. After four months of a platonic relationship, they married and she gave wedding rings to both of his daughters, Hopie and Hedi Feek, as well as to him.

Houston McTear, a Natural Runner

One of the greatest natural track athletes of all time died from lung cancer at age 58. He went from extreme poverty to athletic riches and back to extreme poverty, never having won an Olympic medal. He was unknown to most people but is a legend to all true fans of track and field.

Robin Williams and Lewy Body Dementia

We lost one of the greatest comics and actors of our time when Robin Williams took his own life at his home in California on August 11, 2014. When his brain was examined, he was found to have suffered from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which has no known cause and no effective treatment.

Johnny Cash, the Man in Black

Johnny Cash wrote more than 1500 country songs and became America's most famous country singer. His fans included every president in his lifetime from Richard Nixon on, and almost everyone recognizes his voice.

Stephen Hawking, Genius with ALS

One of the world's greatest theoretical physicists died on March 13, 2018 at age 76. In spite of suffering from ALS which left him able to move only a few muscles in the side of his face, he opened new ground on how we view the origin and possible end of the universe. He defined "black holes" as we know them today.

Zsa Zsa Gabor Dies at 99

This is the story of a beautiful woman who married eight times mostly to older men for fortune and favors, plus a ninth husband who was 27 years younger and gained fame and fortune by marrying her. She wrote several autobiographies, including the 1970 book, How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man.