Sharon Tate. Heath Ledger. The 27 Club. Hollywood history is full of stars who were taken from us far too soon. Whether they left this Earth after tumultuous battles with addiction or if foul play is suspected, one thing is certain: Tinsel Town would be a brighter place if these lost souls had been able to find their way back home.
Stars Gone Too Soon Facts
1. Lover of Life, Singer of Songs
Known for his flamboyant persona and stage presence, the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, maintained that he wanted to keep making music as long as possible–even after he learned some tragic news. The singer was diagnosed with AIDS. After telling the band, he refused to discuss it again, and only confirmed rumors of his illness one single day before his death.
2. Founder of the Fab Four
From helping to found the Beatles to his anti-war songs like “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine”, John Lennon was a complete legend. Sadly, all the fame in the world couldn’t protect him from a heartbreaking end. In 1980, a deranged fan named Mark David Chapman fatally shot Lennon outside his apartment building in New York City.
Mere moments after, Chapman startled passersby with an eerie gesture. He calmly sat down and started reading The Catcher in the Rye. Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, has been close to getting parole a number of times since Lennon’s death. Lennon’s partner Yoko Ono has fought the man’s parole on nine occasions for fear for her own life.
3. The Latina Madonna
At age 15, Selena won the Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year, which led to a deal with a major record label. Her music was able to cross cultural boundaries, and she was sometimes hailed as the “Latina Madonna.” But on March 31, 1995, everything came crashing down. At just 23-years-old, Selena was fatally shot in the back by her friend, and president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar.
4. Behind the Lights
Saldivar had been managing boutiques opened by Selena, and had been accused of embezzling from both the stores and the fan club. The two met to discuss the financial situation, and that’s when Saldivar shot Selena. According to doctors, if the bullet had hit just a millimetre to the side, Selena would’ve survived. A few weeks later, then Texas Governor George W. Bush declared April 16 Selena Day in her honor in the state.
5. Brittany Murphy, America’s Sweetheart
Whether you knew her by her wide-eyed, pretty face or her distinctive voice, Brittany Murphy had a thriving career on both big and small screens during the 1990s and 2000s. Not only that, but Murphy was also musically inclined, pursuing her passion for music with an equal determination to her acting career. While she passed away tragically in 2009, her accomplishments ensure that her legacy cannot be ignored or forgotten.
6. The Beginning of the End
In the early 2000s, dark rumors began to swirl about Brittany Murphy. Many noticed that she had lost a lot of weight, and gossip spread that she had an eating disorder—but it got worse.Some tabloids speculated that Murphy had a substance abuse problem, and that it was the reason for her appearance. For her part, Murphy shot back, saying that she didn’t have an eating disorder, and that she hadn’t touched an illegal substance in her life, saying that her only vice was “a glass of champagne now and then.”
7. Thick as Thieves
After her parents’ divorce, Brittany Murphy lived primarily with her mother Sharon. With her mom’s encouragement, she began her stage career when the pair lived in New Jersey. Murphy always said that her mother was her greatest champion, and the two remained close for the rest of Murphy’s life—Sharon was even living with Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack at the time of Murphy’s death.
8. In the Flower of Her Youth
On December 20, 2009, a wave of heartbreaking and shocking news rippled throughout Hollywood. Brittany Murphy had passed away at the tragically young age of 32. While the cause was originally listed as natural causes, a subsequent report blamed her death on “a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs.”
9. Strange Bedfellows
Among the more bizarre claims that emerged after the passing of Brittany Murphy? There were reports that Murphy’s mother Sharon and her widower Simon Monjack shared a bed after Murphy’s death. All we’ve got to say is: yikes.
10. Till Death Do Us Part
After such a terrible tragedy, it was hard to believe that it was followed up with news that made the heartbreak of the loss even more horrible. Five months after Murphy’s death, her husband, Simon Monjack, passed in the same bedroom that Murphy had died in. In a disturbing coincidence, the cause of his passing was also listed as pneumonia and anemia.
11. What’s to Blame?
After the loss of both Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack, Murphy’s mother Sharon was determined to get to the bottom of the real causes of their death. Sharon Murphy has said that her daughter and son-in-law died due to a presence of toxic mold in their house—but the story doesn’t end there.
12. Who’s to Blame?
By contrast, Murphy’s father, Angelo Bertolotti, had toxicology tests done on Murphy’s hair and the results convinced him that she and her husband were poisoned. Bertolotti has yet to make an accusation on who that poisoner might have been, and it’s worth pointing out that Murphy’s mother, Sharon, and Bertolotti hotly dispute each other’s claims.
13. It Gets Weirder
After the passing of Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack, both of Murphy’s parents made disturbing claims about the potential causes of death, but few know about Murphy and Monjack’s bizarre alleged connection to a government whistleblower.
14. The Whistleblower
The tale is strange and complicated, so buckle in. In 2004, Former Department of Homeland Security officer Julia Davis reported an influx of people with “suspicious” backgrounds entering the US on July 4th to her superiors. Upon finding that most of them were on leave for the holiday, she escalated her report to the FBI.
It was then that Julia Davis alleged that DHS retaliated—and where Brittany Murphy comes in.
15. Watch Out
Davis claims that she was close friends with Murphy, and that Murphy even testified on her behalf during her litigation against the government. She says that, as a result, Murphy and Monjack were put on a DHS watch list and that Monjack, who was British, was targeted for deportation.
16. Suspicious Minds
Davis produced a documentary about her experiences titled Top Priority: The Terror Within in 2012. In it, it’s claimed that Simon Monjack suspected that he and his wife were under surveillance and had had their phones bugged by the government, and that a few days after Monjack made his suspicions public, Murphy died.
17. East Coast Savior
Christopher Wallace, AKA the Notorious B.I.G., is credited with leading East Coast rap in the early ’90s. He helped by Sean Combs’ label become the biggest hip-hop imprint in America, and paved the way for future stars like Jay-Z. The shooting death of the Notorious B.I.G. took place just six short months after the shooting of his rival Tupac. Biggie was just 24 years old when he died, and his death made him a symbol of the senseless violence that was plaguing the world of rap at the time.
18. This is a Case for the FBI
After the murders of Tupac and Biggie, dark theories flew around about who was involved. Then the FBI made a startling discovery: Certain individuals were present at the deaths of both rappers. Not only that, Biggie was shot with a rare gun, a Gecko 9mm, that is only made in Europe and sold in only a few stores in California and New Jersey.
19. The Mystery Endures
The heavily redacted papers released by the FBI reveal that the bureau suspected the worst possible option: corrupt LAPD officers may have been involved in the deaths, and an extensive cover-up. The FBI found that some LAPD officers on duty at the party that Biggie left just before his murder were also, against LAPD policy, employed by the rival Death Row record label. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t make those hunches stick, and the mystery still lives on.
20. The Quixotic Rebel
Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious was a punk icon, and was viewed by some as a crude, foul-mouthed hoodlum with a corrupting influence. In 1978, he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, but four months later, he was dead at 21 of a heroin overdose. His will contained a chilling request: Vicious wanted his ashes to be spread at the grave of the woman he had just killed.
21. Love Is a Losing Game
British singer Amy Winehouse was known for her deep vocals and her eclectic mix of jazz, soul, pop and R&B. She had a reputation as an unstable party girl, and her top 10 single “Rehab” discussed her refusal to receive treatment for substance abuse. On July 23, 2011, she became a member of the 27 Club with her death from accidental alcohol poisoning. Sadly, Winehouse’s life was full of tragedy long before that point.
22. Back to Black
Winehouse’s biographer Chloe Govan made headlines when her book alleged that Winehouse tried to kill herself when she was just ten years old. According to an old friend, Winehouse was so emotionally devastated by her parent’s divorce that she overdosed on pills. The friend says she found Winehouse clutching her stomach, with her mouth foaming.
23. Rumor Has It
After Winehouse passed away, her ex made a startling claim: He revealed that she cut herself severely just eight weeks before her death. According to Fielder-Civil, Winehouse called him on their wedding anniversary, but his new wife was in labor so he quickly hung up. When Fielder-Civil called back the next day, Winehouse allegedly said that she had cut herself badly. Flickr
24. Heath Ledger, The Tragic Thespian
From his start in classic teen movies like A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You to his critically lauded dramatic roles in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight Rises, Heath Ledger should have had a long and healthy career ahead of him. But in a tragic twist, the talented actor passed away when he was just 28 years old.
25. Matilda, I Am Your Father
Over the course of his life, Ledger was romantically linked to a bevy of beautiful actresses, including Naomi Watts, Heather Graham, and even his 10 Things I Hate About You co-star Julia Stiles. But it was with another co-star, Michelle Williams, that he had one of his most important relationships. They met on the set of Brokeback Mountain, and lived together until 2007. In 2005, they also had a child together, Matilda Rose Ledger. Ledger would pay her a heartbreaking tribute in his most famous film, The Dark Knight Rises.
26. Love Hurts
By 2007, however, Williams and Ledger had ended their relationship. At the time, the media reported that Williams had asked Ledger to leave their New York City apartment because of his drug use. Whether this is true or not, it does fit into the dark pattern that would emerge.
27. Winging It
During the filming of The Dark Knight, where Ledger played the iconic Joker, the actor would go off-script if he thought it was something The Joker would really do. This led to some of the film’s most iconic moments, including when The Joker slowly claps with a menacing smile, but few people know that Ledger’s dedication sent him into some dark places. In order to get a sense of what it’s like to be insane like The Joker, Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for weeks on end.
28. Not Making Too Much of It
In an interview just a couple of months before his death, Ledger told journalist Sarah Lyall that his roles in I’m Not There and The Dark Knight were wearing on him and giving him insomnia. As he said, “Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. … I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”
The interview includes a chillingly prophetic passage. Ledger admitted to recently taking two Ambien pills because just one wouldn’t let him sleep.
29. Sudden Death
At 3:00 in the afternoon January 22, 2008, Heath Ledger’s body was found by his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, and his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, inside his Manhattan apartment. He was lying unresponsive in his bed, and the attempts Wolozin made to perform CPR on the actor proved unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead on the scene at 3:36 pm.
30. Troubled Souls
Surprisingly, Lindsay Lohan and Heath Ledger allegedly had a close bond. The details are blurry, but her diary reveals she was in love with Ledger around the time of his tragic death. She goes on to explain that he’s all she’s ever wanted and that she wants to hear him laugh and for him hold her. Lohan’s mother, Dina Lohan, claims they had been seeing each other around this time. And when Lohan’s infamous document of intimate partners was leaked in 2014, Heath Ledger was on the list.
31. Family First
It’s clear that Ledger never thought he would die at only 28 years old. He never wrote his daughter, Matilda, into his last will and testament. Instead, it was written before she was born. However, Ledger’s family made sure Matilda knew that her father loved her. They gave Matilda his $16.3 million fortune anyway, saying, “There is no claim. Our family has gifted everything to Matilda.”
32. The Diary
One of the ways Ledger got into character was by putting together a scrapbook filled with inspiration for The Joker, which he made in part during his time isolated in the hotel room. The contents of this journal have been much discussed in the media—but they truly are disturbing. In its pages, Ledger wrote from the perspective of The Joker, who finds humor in geniuses who become mentally handicapped, among other horrific things.
The journal also contained stills from Stanley Kubrick’s eerie thriller A Clockwork Orange, photos of clown makeup, and pictures of hyenas. On the last page of the chilling “Joker diary,” he scrawled the words “BYE BYE.”
33. It’s All for You
If you go back and watch The Dark Knight carefully, you can actually see a heartbreaking tribute Ledger left for his daughter. When The Joker is disguised as a nurse in the hospital, look at his name tag closely: it says “Matilda,” his daughter’s name.
34. The Day the Music Died
On February 3, 1959, three musicians boarded a flight that was headed to their next tour stop. Unfortunately, one of the greatest tragedies in musical history struck. The musicians, the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens, along with their pilot, perished when the plane crashed. The 1971 hit “American Pie” by Don McLean memorializes the crash as “the day the music died,” and the tragedy marked the end of the careers of three young, remarkable talents.
35. The Day the Country Music Died
While “the day the music died” happened in 1959, an incident that has occasionally been referred to as “the day the country music died” happened a few years later in 1963. On this day, a plane carrying Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas crashed in Camden, Tennessee. The three musicians and the pilot all died in the crash. Patsy Cline had just performed to a standing room only crowd.
36. Losing Control
Ian Curtis was best known as the vocalist and lyricist for the band Joy Division. In 1979, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and was made to take regular medication to treat it, which may have been the cause of his intense depression. His experiences also led him to write the song “She’s Lost Control.” In the early hours of the morning on May 18, 1980, he hanged himself with a rope from the clothesline.
His wife had a heartbreaking inscription etched into his tombstone. It read “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the name of one of Joy Division’s most popular songs.
37. Fly Away, Freebird
Another horrific plane crash that forever changed rock music involved the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band was on a chartered plane that crashed in 1977, taking the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with several members of their entourage. The plane had run out of fuel and attempted an emergency landing. But that’s not even the eeriest part.
38. An Ominous Twist
In a dark twist, the album that was planned to come out three days after the crash was named Street Survivors and the cover photo featured the band engulfed in flames. Out of respect for the families of the deceased, the photo was changed on subsequent pressings of the record.
39. Prince of Soul
Marvin Gaye was known as the Prince of Soul, and he had a phenomenal range spanning three vocal styles. He was easily one of the most successful Motown artists. In 1984, he reached a brutal end. Gaye was shot and killed by his own father Marvin Gay Sr. after he broke up a fight between his parents. Three years after his death, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
40. Kurt Cobain, The Reluctant Star
Within the slew of alternative bands that formed in the 80s and burst onto the scene in the early 90s, there was something special about Nirvana—and in particular, there was something special about the bands’ frontman, Kurt Cobain. With a gravelly voice, blue eyes peeking out from curtains of blond hair, and an expression that would vacillate between a mischievous smile and a stony gaze that belied a sense of true pain, he was a magnetic figure that drew flocks of fans to the band. Cobain’s tragic death at the age of 27 broke the hearts of fans worldwide, but his influence and memory endure.
According to one of Kurt Cobain’s ex-girlfriends, Cobain didn’t wear his famous layers of clothing for no reason. When Cobain was in high school, bullies would make fun of him for being so small. He started wearing multiple layers of clothing to hide his frame. As he got older, the sensitive Cobain continued to wear layers of clothing, even in warm weather.
42. The Show Went On
Cobain struggled with illicit substances for many tumultuous years, but few people realize the extent of his suffering. Mere hours before he was due to perform on Saturday Night Live, Cobain actually overdosed. In July 1993, he overdosed again, but still managed to participate in a full day of press interviews and do a live show.
When he was a teenager, Cobain’s mother granted his father full custody of Kurt, but he didn’t last long at his father’s. Instead, Cobain spent time living at the homes of friends and family. During his second year of high school, he went back to his mother’s, but years later, when it became clear that he was short of credits to graduate, she told him to get a job or leave the house. He chose to leave. During this time, he stayed with friends and claimed to have occasionally been homeless.
44. The Truth Hurts
Cobain did not have a happy childhood. As a tyke, he scrawled tormented words about his unhappy home on his bedroom walls and once wrote in a letter to his father, “I’ve never taken sides with you or my mother because while I was growing up, I had equal contempt for you both”.
45. Kurt & Courtney
Kurt Cobain met Courtney Love in 1990, and the pair developed crushes on each other, with Love pursuing Cobain, who had hoped to stay single for a few months but admitted that he liked her a lot. On February 24, 1992, the pair were married in Honolulu, Hawaii, and later, in August of that year, they welcomed their daughter Frances Bean Cobain. They were incredibly happy, but their joy would not last.
46. Running Into Trouble
In 1992, Vanity Fair ran a profile of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love by author Lynn Hirschberg. In the article, Hirschberg allegedly misquoted Love on the subject of her heroin use before her pregnancy, and as a result, the couple were targeted by vicious tabloids, but also by the Los Angeles Department of Children’s Services, who took the Cobains to court. The investigation was eventually dismissed, but not without taking a huge psychological toll on Cobain and Love.
47. Famous Last Words
In his suicide note, addressed to his fans, Cobain reference one of Neil Young’s lyrics, writing: “Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters of concern over the past years. I don’t have the passion anymore and so remember, it’s better to burn out than fade away.” The phrase “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” comes from the Young song “My My, Hey Hey.”
48. The Physical Toll
Cobain suffered from chronic pain due to a stomach condition which went undiagnosed for most of his life. As with many who suffer from chronic pain, it dramatically affected and deeply traumatized Cobain. He claimed that his heroin use was a direct result of it, saying that after he used, it would be one of the only times he didn’t suffer.
After an intervention organized by Love in late March 1995, Cobain entered a detox program on March 30, 1994. The next day, he hopped the fence and left, and flew from Los Angeles back to Seattle. Coincidentally, he ended up next to Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses on the plane, who later revealed that he felt like something was off with the Nirvana frontman.
50. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Cobain was seen in multiple locations around Seattle through April 2 and 3, and on April 3, Love hired a private investigator to track Cobain down. Cobain’s body was found in the greenhouse of his home by an electrician who came to install a security system on April 8, 1994. It was later determined that he’d died on April 5, 1994.
51. Traffic Tragedy
Aside from giving birth to Law and Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield was an actress known as “the working man’s Marilyn Monroe.” However, in 1967, Mansfield was being driven with her children and her lover when the car crashed into the rear of a tractor. As though that weren’t enough, dark rumors claimed that the crash was even grislier than anyone could imagine. Some people whispered that Mansfield was decapitated since her wig flew into the windshield upon impact. Miraculously, all the children survived with barely a scratch on them.
52. That’s A Misfire
In 1993, actor Brandon Lee was filming his character’s death scene for The Crow, the film that would have made him a star. But then, a tragic on-set accident ended his short life in one heartbreaking instant. A prop gun was going to be used to shoot blanks at Lee, but it hadn’t properly been checked after the last time it’d been used, and the tip of a dummy bullet was lodged in the barrel. It struck Lee, leaving a silver dollar-sized wound in his abdomen. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late.
53. Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
At age 15, Aaliyah’s debut album sold over a million copies and catapulted the singer onto the R&B charts. Her life was cut short in 2001, when the small Cessna passenger plane carrying her and her video crew crashed and burst into flames. The star was only 22 years old at the time of her death, and a series of white doves were released at her funeral to celebrate each year of her life.
54. River Phoenix, The Actor We Lost Too Soon
Even after more than 20 years have passed since the moment, the tragedy of River Phoenix’s premature death threatens to eclipse whatever legacy he made for himself while he was alive. It’s hard to remember his impact if you’re not a movie buff, but Phoenix showed all the telltale signs of being a one of Hollywood’s biggest talents, even when he was a child.
55. Spare Some Change?
During his early childhood, Phoenix and his family lived in abject poverty. He and his sister would play music for money to supplement his family’s income. Luckily for Phoenix, those gigs were what changed his life forever, for better or worse. Iris Burton, a talent agent, noticed Phoenix and three of his siblings performing music in Los Angeles, and took all four of them onto her roster.
56. Double Standard?
Phoenix was dedicated to veganism, healthy living, and the environment, even buying miles of the Amazonian rain forest just so that no one could build on them or tear the trees dow. However, at the same time, he smoked cigarettes adn struggled with substance abuse. Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich once recalled a moment where Phoenix warned him about the dangers of eating meat while smoking a cigarette. To Phoenix’s credit, he was at least self-aware.
According to Bogdanovich, Phoenix noticed him looking at the cigarette and simply said, “I know, man, I know.”
57. I Didn’t Want to Succeed This Way
With Phoenix’s early death, three of his potential film roles went to Leonardo DiCaprio: The Basketball Diaries, Total Eclipse, and Titanic. What makes this especially bittersweet was that Phoenix was one of DiCaprio’s idols when he was starting out in Hollywood. Even sadder, he actually caught a glimpse of Phoenix on the day that he died.
DiCaprio later explained that he didn’t get the chance to speak to Phoenix before he left for the Viper Room, and it was one of his regrets in life to have never been able to properly meet his inspiration.
58. I Must Say
One story which emerged about Phoenix’s death was the allegation that his last words were a rebuke to a reporter who bore witness to Phoenix’s last minutes alive. Phoenix supposedly declared “No paparazzi, I want anonymity.” However, as poignant as it might to some people, this story has never been authenticated as true.
59. Seems Like a Friendly Place
In the early hours of October 31, 1993, Phoenix was in a Hollywood nightclub known as The Viper Room. Phoenix was in attendance with his sister Rain, his brother Joaquin, and his girlfriend Samantha Mathis. Performing onstage in the Viper Room were three of Phoenix’s friends; actor/musician Johnny Depp, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
60. Last Moments
The revelry in the Viper Room was interrupted by an altercation between Phoenix and another man. Soon after the fight was broken up, Phoenix stumbled outside the club and collapsed on the sidewalk. As his brother Joaquin called 9-1-1, his sister Rain tried to resuscitate him. Inside the club, Flea stopped playing with the band and hurried outside to try and help his friend.
Sadly, all of their efforts were in vain. Phoenix was 23 years old when he died. An autopsy later determined the cause of death to be “acute multiple drug intoxication,” which included the presence of cocaine and morphine.
61. No Respect
Due to the shocking nature of Phoenix’s death, coupled with his high celebrity status, the media of the time had a field day, much to the outrage of Phoenix’s grieving family. Joaquin Phoenix’s 9-1-1 call was broadcast on several television stations, but things got so much worse. When Phoenix’s body lay in its casket, someone broke into the funeral home and took a picture, which was then published in the National Enquirer.
62. Once is Too Much
In 1973, Phoenix’s family moved to Venezuela to join the Christian cult known as Children of God. As with many cults, emphasis was increasingly placed on sex by the cult’s leader, David Berg. Phoenix’s parents eventually saw the writing on the wall and abandoned the Children of God to return to the US. Sadly, before this happened, Phoenix was allegedly sexually assaulted when he was just four years old.
63. The Burden of Celebrity
Prior to his death, Phoenix had been without any personal scandals to his name. He was known chiefly as a young thespian, musician, and philanthropist. His struggles with drug addiction were’t known by anyone outside of his inner circle. Phoenix was said to resent his public image, and according to his then-girlfriend Samantha Mathis, he was talking about finishing his acting career with just one more film so that he would be able to put his sister through college.
64. Fast, Furious, and Gone Too Soon
Some things are too ironic to be tasteful: Paul Walker broke through in Hollywood by speeding his way through the Fast and Furious franchise, only to die in a car accident at the age of 40.
65. Belushi Bows Out
John Belushi left behind such a long and impressive filmography, it’s hard to remember that he died when he was only 33. The Animal House, SNL, and The Blues Brothers star headlined countless comedy classics, but he also struggled with addiction. On March 5, 1982, he was discovered in a Los Angeles hotel room, overdosed on cocaine and heroin. Over 20 years later, in 2004, Belushi was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—a posthumous award which just serves to remind us how early he left us.
66. Farwell, Farley
Chris Farley’s death is often compared to that of his SNL co-star, John Belushi. Like Belushi, Farley struggled with drug addiction. And also, just like Belushi, Farley died from heroin and cocaine overdose. At the time of his death in 1997, Farley was pegged to play leading role in Shrek and had even recorded some voice work. Posthumously, he was replaced by another SNL cast member, Mike Myers.
67. A Bombshell Blows Off Early
Before there was Marilyn Monroe, there was the original “Blonde Bombshell”—Jean Harlow. The 1930s film star made a huge name for herself as a sex symbol and co-starred in pictures with Clark Gable. In the middle of filming Saratoga at the time of her death, Harlow found herself unable to stand. She leaned on her friend Clark Gable, but it was already too late. Medical professionals confirmed that the young, beautiful girl was in the final stages of kidney failure. Within a week of arriving at the hospital, the Hollywood starlet was dead. Harlow was just 26 years old.
68. Wonder What Happened to Wood?
Natalie Wood was one of the most popular faces in Golden Age Hollywood, so it’s ironic that her death is surrounded with such mystery. In 1981, Wood was discovered drowned to death on a boating trip with her husband to Santa Catalina Island. With her body found less than a mile away from the shore and with mysterious injuries on her body, the medical examiner made a jaw-dropping decision. In 2012, he changed the cause of death from “accidental” to the ominous category of “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
69. Something Doesn’t Add Up
Seeing that she reportedly had a fight with her husband, Robert Wagner, on the evening of her death, this tale has been ripe for scandal and speculation ever since. The case was reopened in 2011, and Wagner has refused to speak to authorities—no wonder, considering that a lieutenant from the LA homicide squad has said his story “doesn’t add up.”
70. The Tragic Vixen
Sharon Tate was just 26 years old when she became a victim of the Manson family murders. But she was so much more than that. She was an actress, wife, soon-to-be mother, daughter, and friend. A natural beauty, she was kind and warm-hearted according to those who knew her well. Sadly, she was living her best life when it was abruptly cut short.
71. One More Time
Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski met when she appeared in one of his films. But their budding relationship, however, didn’t mean the notoriously prickly director went easy on the starlet. In fact, he was so dissatisfied with the way one particular scene was turning out that he went to chilling lengths for perfection. Polanski had Tate perform and re-do the dialogue and acting a whopping 70 times. Now that’s what I call dedication.
72. Valley of Doom
Sharon Tate’s work in Valley of the Dolls has since become a cult classic, but her time on set was an absolute nightmare. It was a disaster from the start, as Tate admitted to Polanski that she wasn’t a fan either of the original Valley of the Dolls book or the film script. But that was just the beginning of the troubles on set.
The director Mark Robson was highly critical of all his leading ladies, but he was particularly cruel to Tate. Duke later admitted that Robson, “continually treated [Tate] like an imbecile, which she definitely was not.”
73. Wedded Bliss
Although Tate hoped marrying Polanski would help settle them down as a couple, they hid some bedroom secrets: it was far from a faithful marriage. Polanski had an unapologetically wandering eye, and called Tate’s discomfort with his infidelity “Sharon’s big hang-up.” For her part, Tate was said to have confided in friends bitterly, “We have a good arrangement. Roman lies to me and I pretend to believe him.”
74. Losing Love
Whatever their issues, when Polanski heard about the death of his beloved wife, he was utterly inconsolable. He rushed home to mourn her, and soon gave away all his worldly possessions in the aftermath of the tragedy. He simply couldn’t bear to be reminded of Tate or her unjust fate, and he later called his marriage to the actress “the happiest I ever was in my life.”
75. Close Call
Few people know that Sharon Tate had a near-death experience while filming Don’t Make Waves. She was wearing a parachute during a stunt that saw her jump from a plane into a pool, but terrifyingly, the parachute deployed at the wrong time. She ended up in the pool trapped inside the ballooning parachute, but luckily got out before she drowned.
76. Love House
In 1969, Polanski and a very pregnant Tate moved into 10050 Cielo Drive. It was a mansion fit for Hollywood’s best and brightest: nestled deep in Benedict Canyon, the house used to belong to the couple’s friends Terry Melcher and actress Candice Bergen. Tate was reportedly over the moon about the move, and referred to the home as her “love house.”
Infamously, it was the house she would die in.
77. Five Lives, Cut Too Short
Tate’s life took a sad, cruel twist when the Manson Family burst into her home and killed her along with Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Steve Parent, and her dear friend Jay Sebring. The infamous crime took place on the night of August 9, 1969 in Tate’s Cielo Drive home while she was entertaining friends. It was a tragedy that shook the nation—not to mention Polanski, who was abroad at the time.
78. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Cruelly, Manson chose the Cielo Drive for an infuriating reason: he held a grudge against its previous tenant, Terry Melcher, not Sharon Tate. Manson had been trying to convince Melcher to give him a record deal, but Melcher refused. Though Manson was likely aware that Melcher no longer lived in the house, it still gave him an appropriate target.
Doris Day And Terry Melcher
79. The Manson Family Convictions
Charles Manson and his deranged followers within the Manson Family were charged and convicted of Tate’s murder, along with those of her guests that terrible night. At the time of the now infamous trial, the death penalty was still practiced in California. Accordingly, the judge sentenced all the criminals to death in 1971.
Just one year later, everything changed. The state abolished the death penalty, which meant the court commuted the death sentences to life in prison for the seven people convicted of the crimes. One of the seven died in prison in 2009, and Manson himself died in prison in November 2017. The rest remain in jail despite multiple attempts at parole requests.
80. A Father’s Heartbreak
During the parole hearings for the murderers, Tate’s father always campaigned against those convicted. Once he said of Manson: “that man should never, never, never be turned out into society.” He even made sure to write letters to the officials involved in the parole cases. In one letter, he revealed a heartbreaking detail of Tate’s death: he had to clean up his daughter’s crime scene himself.
81. Double Whammy
Before his untimely death in a car crash at the age of 24, James Dean starred in just three Hollywood movies. Nevertheless, he managed to set a heartbreaking record. The Academy nominated Dean for not one but two Oscars after his tragic death. To date, James Dean is the only actor to ever receive such an honor.
82. No Encore
Despite the glamor of Glee, one its stars, Corey Monteith, had quietly struggled for years with substance abuse. In 2013, Monteith was discovered dead in his Vancouver hotel room from mixing heroin and alcohol. Just months earlier, Monteith had entered rehab; Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy assured Monteith that he would still have a job on the show after completing the program.
83. Kiss Her Goodbye
Marilyn Monroe began 1962 by straightening out her life. The star had finally settled her rollercoaster relationship with the studios and was ready to keep filming her comedy Something’s Got to Give. However, on August 5, her housekeeper woke up with a “bad feeling.” We bet this feeling did not abate when she discovered Monroe had locked herself in her bedroom. Just a few hours lady, Monroe was found dead from an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 36.
84. Jimmy Meets an Infamous End
Jimi Hendrix joined the “Forever 27 Club” on September 19, 1970, when he was found unresponsive in his London apartment and pronounced dead at hospital. Many have their own elaborate theories that fit his wild life, but the coroner listed the official cause of death as the less-than-superstar “drowned in his own vomit.”
85. This Little Piggy Refused to Be Amputated
When Bob Marley died at the age of 36, a malignant type of melanoma was discovered under this toenail. This strange lesion encouraged a chilling urban legend that a football injury was the root of the iconic singer’s early demise. In actuality, it was an early sign of cancer; doctors had previously advised Marley to amputate the cancerous toe, but he considered the medical procedure as counter to his religious beliefs. Instead, Marley opted to remove the nail and nail bed. Unfortunately, it was not enough…although he was miraculously strong enough to schedule a 1980 world tour.
86. You Might Know Him from Such Films…
Fans of The Simpsons might know Phil Hartman as the voice of Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, and multiple other characters. Hartman also led a lucrative acting career, starring in SNL and many films. The Simpsons never addressed (in-show) why a recognizable voice just didn’t appear after 1998, but most people would never forget. In 1998, Phil Hartman was fatally shot to death in his sleep by his wife, Brynn. Brynn had struggled with addiction for a long time and was reportedly bitterly insecure about her husband’s success in the entertainment industry compared to her lack of it. By the time the police had arrived to their house and escorted their two children away, Brynn had shot herself to death too.
87. A Deadly Mix-Up?
Jim Morrison is one of the more famous members of the “Forever 27 Club,” having died at the age of 27 on July 3, 1971. The official report states the Doors singer died in a bathtub from drug overdose. Other takes are more chaotic, suggesting that he accidentally snorted his girlfriend’s heroin, mistaking it for cocaine.
88. A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss
Less than one month after being kicked out of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was drowned in his pool on July 3, 1969. Jones’s demise was officially declared a “death by misadventure.”
89. Janis Joplin: The Rock Goddess
Famous for her husky voice and electrifying stage presence, Janis Joplin managed to become an icon in her all-too brief life. For the little time she was here, Joplin forever changed the landscape of rock and roll in the 1960s. But her problems were deep and many, and they led to her absolutely heartbreaking end.
90. A Party for Every Problem
Joplin got into counterculture—and the illicit substances that went with it—hard and fast. By 1965, her health was rapidly deteriorating due to her drug use. She was so severely underweight and wasted, her friends even threw her a bus fare party so she could afford the trip back home to get clean and sort herself out.
91. Almost a Bride
Joplin got engaged once to a man she’d met in San Francisco, Peter de Blanc. Sadly, it was doomed to a heartbreaking end. He’d asked for her father’s permission to marry her, and Joplin and her mother had already started planning the wedding when de Blanc suddenly broke it off. Why? We don’t know, but given the next fact, maybe it’s for the best…
92. Who Do You Love?
Even though Joplin was heartbroken over losing de Blanc, she might very well have been better off without him. According to Peggy Caserta—a former girlfriend and best friend of Joplin—the legendary rocker was bisexual. It’s also hardly likely the creative, free-spirited Joplin would have settled down into the life of a housewife.
93. Cruel Pranks
During her time at the University of Texas, some mean spirited boys started a campaign—and succeeded—to get Joplin named “Ugliest Man on Campus.” Sadly, this wasn’t Joplin’s first exposure to cruelty. She was called a “freak” and a “pig” when she was growing up.
94. Lost Love Letter
One of Joplin’s ex-boyfriends once sent her a telegram that said, “Love you Mama, more than you know…” Sadly, it never reached her. She died before being able to read it. The sender was David Niehaus, who met Joplin on a trip to Brazil. At the time, he helped her get clean again, but she ended their relationship and started using once more. Then, she went back to San Francisco…and her tragic end.
95. Drinks Are on Pearl
On stage, the wild and free-spirited Janis Joplin seemed like a beacon of joy—but on she was tormented on the inside. A heartbreaking letter she wrote to her parents reveals just how dark her internal life was. Though her parents were loving and supportive, her substance abuse problems were always a barrier between them. Because of this, Joplin always felt like a disappointment.
In one of her letters, she wrote, “Weak as it is, I apologize for being just so plain bad in the family.”
96. Young and Tragic
Joplin is a member of the infamous “27 Club” a group of artists—mostly musicians—who have died tragically at 27. The club includes more recent members like Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain. For her part, sadly, Joplin died of a heroin overdose October 4th, 1970. Even eerier, Janis passed mere weeks after Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose—also at 27.
97. Still I Rise
Hip-Hop artist Tupac Shakur’s break came in 1991 as a member of the group Digital Underground, and his music was controversial for its mentions of cop-killing and sexual violence. In 1996, the 25-year-old was killed in a drive-by-shooting outside a Vegas hotel. His body was cremated, and members of his band claimed to have smoked some of his ashes in his honor.
98. No Snitching…Ever
According to Las Vegas police officer Chris Carroll, the first on the scene, Tupac’s last words were “f*** you,” after which he refused to speak to any other police officer. Later, in the hospital, investigators discovered that someone had called his record company and made death threats against him. The receptionist informed Las Vegas police, who declined to investigate, saying they were too understaffed to do anything.
99. Dial an Olsen
When police were investigating Heath Ledger’s untimely death, a strange name kept coming up in their case: Mary-Kate Olsen. They soon discovered that Mary-Kate had a close but almost off-the-radar friendship with Heath Ledger just before his death. In fact, she was the first person notified when his housekeeper found his body. Police brought her in for questioning, but Mary-Kate’s lawyer told them she would talk only if she was given immunity—so there are still some things we may never know about that fateful day.
100. …But With a Whimper
River Phoenix’s last film to be released before his death was the 1993 musical, The Thing Called Love. Sadly, it was neither a triumph nor a positive experience for Phoenix. He disrupted production due to erratic behavior which he claimed was due to the fact that he’d recently broken up with girlfriend Suzanne Solgot. He then began a new relationship with his co-star Samantha Mathis.
Mathis was with Phoenix the night he died, although she remained mum on the subject for nearly 25 years after his death. In 2018 she finally broke her silence, saying that “I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn’t understand. I didn’t see anyone doing drugs but he was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable[…]the heroin that killed him didn’t happen until he was in the Viper Room. I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn’t see anything.”
101. The Last Days
Due to the high-profile case and rampant conspiracy theories, Seattle Police decided to revisit Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 2014. They discovered an undeveloped roll of film with photographs of the scene. It had sat in an evidence locker for years. These photos provided a clear image of Cobain’s final moments on this earth, and sadly they confirmed that he did indeed take his own life.
At first, the police refused to release these new photos to the public, saying “What are people going to gain from seeing pictures of Kurt Cobain laying on the ground with his hair blown back, with blood coming out of his nose and trauma to his eyes from a penetrating shotgun wound. How’s that going to benefit anybody?”
But when they were eventually released, one photo revealed a heartbreaking detail about the singer’s final days. In the image, Cobain is still wearing the hospital bracelet from the detox program that he had escaped from just days before his death.
Sources Part I: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100,
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