List of entertainers who died during a performance

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Below is a list of notable entertainers who died during a performance, live or while filming.[1] This list excludes deaths involving stunt persons as they are listed separately.

17th century[edit]

  • 1673: Molière, the French actor and playwright, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit while playing the title role in his play Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac).[2]

19th century[edit]

  • 1817: Actor known as Mr. Cummins, died on stage, while playing the part of Dumont, in the tragedy Jane Shore by Nicholas Rowe, at the Leeds Theatre in Hunslet. He died of ‘ossification of the heart’ on the 20th of June having uttered his final words from the play “May such befall me at my latest hour . . ”.[3]
  • 1829: Sam Patch, an American daredevil, died in Rochester, New York, during a jump into the High Falls of the Genesee River. He had successfully leapt into High Falls one week prior.
  • 1888: Frederick Federici had a heart attack as he descended through a trap door just after singing his last note as Mephistopheles in Gounod's opera Faust at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne.

20th century[edit]

  • 1911: Felix Mottl, an Austrian conductor, died while conducting Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.[4]
  • 1918: William Elsworth Robinson, an American magician who performed as 'Chung Ling Soo', was shot through the chest while performing the bullet catch trick, and died the following day.[5]
  • 1922: Eugenie Blair died backstage after performing in the play Anna Christie at the Vanderbilt Theatre on Broadway.[6]
  • 1927: John "Chuck" O'Connor, performer in Vaudeville and father of actor Donald O'Connor, died of a heart attack while dancing onstage in their family act.
  • 1937: Louis Vierne, a French organist and composer, died while performing his 1750th organ recital on June 2, 1937, at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.[7]
  • 1943:
    • Alexander Woollcott suffered a heart attack during a radio show in which he and four other individuals were having a discussion about Hitler. Listeners were oblivious to the fact that anything was out of the ordinary. Several of them reported that Woolcott, known for being strongly opinionated, was unusually quiet.[8]
    • Albert Stoessel was conducting an orchestra for the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1943.
  • 1951: Concert pianist Simon Barere died of a cerebral hemorrhage at Carnegie Hall while playing Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor.
  • 1954: Blues star Johnny Ace became inebriated and shot himself in the head during a break in his performance. While it has been widely reported that he was playing a game of Russian roulette,[9] witnesses said he thought the pistol was unloaded and pulled the trigger as a joke.[10]
  • 1955: Actor Isabel Bonner suffered a heart attack while on stage at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, during a performance of The Shrike.[11]
  • 1958:
  • 1960:
    • Actor Louis Jean Heydt died of a heart attack upon conclusion of the first act of the Boston production of "There was a little Girl," also featuring Jane Fonda.
    • Singer Leonard Warren expired after performing his aria in the second act of the opera La forza del destino at the New York Metropolitan Opera. He was then to perform Don Carlo's act III aria, which begins Morir, tremenda cosa ("to die, a momentous thing"), when he started coughing and gasping. He fell face first to the ground, and it was revealed he had died of a massive heart attack.[14]
  • 1961: Actor Alan Marshal died on stage while appearing with Mae West in her play Sextette in Chicago.
  • 1967: Actor and singer Nelson Eddy died of a stroke while performing in Miami.[15]
  • 1968: Joseph Keilberth, conductor, in Munich after collapsing while conducting Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in exactly the same place as Felix Mottl had done in 1911
  • 1969: Comedian Kenneth Horne, star of the successful radio show Round the Horne, died of a heart attack while hosting the annual Guild of Television Producers' and Directors' Awards at the Dorchester Hotel in London, moments after the show scriptwriters had received an award and Horne had urged the audience to tune into its next series which had been due to commence shortly.
  • 1971:
    • Lil Hardin Armstrong, jazz pianist and former wife-collaborator of Louis Armstrong, collapsed at the piano during a concert in memory of Louis and died an hour later.
    • P C Sorcar, an Indian magician. He died during a performance at Hokkaidō, Japan. He was 58.
    • David Burns died while performing in 70, Girls, 70 in Philadelphia.[16]
    • Longevity expert Jerome Rodale had been quoted as saying, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run over by a sugar-crazed taxi driver." Soon after, he was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. After his interview was done, Pete Hamill was being interviewed by Cavett when Rodale slumped. Hamill, noticing something was wrong, said in a low voice to Cavett, "This looks bad." Rodale had died of a heart attack at age 72. The episode was never aired.[17]
  • 1972:
    • Les Harvey, lead guitarist of the Glasgow rock band Stone the Crows, died after being electrocuted by his microphone while performing at Swansea's Top Rank Ballroom.[1]
    • Lee Morgan was murdered while performing at Slug's Saloon in New York.
  • 1974: During her morning magazine program, Christine Chubbuck, a 29-year-old presenter, announced "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, we bring you another first - an attempted suicide." She then shot herself in the head with a revolver on live television.[18]
  • 1975: Predrag Jovičić, vocalist of the Yugoslav rock band San, died from an electric shock during a concert in Čair Hall.[19]
  • 1976:
  • 1978: Karl Wallenda died when he lost his balance and fell to his death while walking on a wire that was suspended 123 feet (37.5 m) in the air between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[22]
  • 1979: ABC television journalist Bill Stewart was in Nicaragua, filming about the war destruction, when he and his interpreter Juan Espinosa were executed by a National Guard soldier. Stewart's crew managed to film the incident, and it was aired on international news stations repeatedly in the following days.[23]
  • 1982:
    • Vic Morrow and two children, My-Ca Dinh Le (age 7), and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6), died in an accident while filming on location for the Twilight Zone: The Movie in Ventura County, California. Morrow, Le, and Chen were filming a scene for the Vietnam sequence in which their characters attempt to escape from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter out of a deserted Vietnamese village. The helicopter was hovering at about 25 feet above them when pyrotechnic explosions damaged it and caused it to crash on top of them, killing all three instantly.[24]
    • Actor and comedian Joe E. Ross suffered a heart attack and died while performing on stage on the evening of August 13.
    • Actor and comedian Marty Feldman suffered a heart attack and died during the filming of Yellowbeard.
  • 1984:
    • Magician and comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack during a performance on the TV variety show Live From Her Majesty's. Cooper was famous for getting his illusions deliberately and comically wrong, and for some minutes the audience assumed that his sudden collapse was just part of the act. Efforts to revive him backstage failed, and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
    • Singer Onie Wheeler died of a massive heart attack while performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.[25]
    • Jon-Erik Hexum during a break filming an episode of the TV show "Cover Up," shot himself in the head with a .44 magnum handgun loaded with a blank round. His death was ruled accidental, as his motive likely owed to a thoughtless stunt.
  • 1985:
    • Yoshiuki Takada was performing The Dance of Birth and Death with a Tokyo artistic troupe, on the side of Seattle's Mutual Life building. His rope broke, and he fell six stories to his death.[26]
    • Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli died on the set of Sergio Martino's Vendetta dal futuro. His helicopter crashed against a bridge, allegedly due to an error of the pilot, while filming an action scene.
  • 1986:
    • Radio traffic reporter Jane Dornacker's helicopter plunged into the Hudson River while she was giving a live, on-air report. The pilot survived, but Dornacker died on the way to the hospital.[27]
  • 1987:
    • Andrei Mironov, a Russian actor, collapsed on stage while performing the lead role in The Marriage of Figaro. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead due to a ruptured cerebral aneurysm two days later.
    • Saxophonist Warne Marsh collapsed at a Los Angeles jazz club while soloing on the song "Out Of Nowhere."
    • Comedian Dick Shawn fell down during his act and accidentally struck his head on the stage. He lay on stage for five minutes until the audience realized that it was not part of his act. He died later in hospital, of a heart attack.[28]
  • 1991:
    • Comic Redd Foxx, best known for his role in Sanford and Son, suffered a fatal heart attack while on the set of his upcoming sitcom The Royal Family.
  • 1992:
    • Jazz/cabaret singer Sylvia Syms died of a heart attack during a set at New York City's Algonquin Hotel.
    • February 22, Tadeusz Łomnicki, renowned Polish actor, died of a heart attack during one of the last dress rehearsals of Shakespeare's King Lear, in which he was playing the lead role, much awaited by public and critics. The piece was due to be premiered a week later.
  • 1993:
    • Brandon Lee, son of martial artist Bruce Lee, died while filming the movie The Crow. A prop gun had been squib loaded, causing the blank cartridge to propel the bullet into Lee and kill him. Contrary to urban legend, the footage of his death was not kept in the movie. Instead, they re-shot the scene using a different actor, whose death in the film was by a throwing knife.
    • During filming of Fuji Television's game show Ucchan-nanchan no yarunara yaraneba (ウッチャンナンチャンのやるならやらねば!), Wong Ka Kui, a member of Hong Kong-based band Beyond, and Teruyoshi Uchimura, one of the show's hosts, had to walk across a wet and slippery platform. The pair slipped and fell 2.7m to the ground during a game with Ka Kui hitting the ground head first and falling into a coma immediately. He died a week later.[29]
    • French Canadian actor Michel Noël of Quebec died of a heart attack on 22 June 1993 while giving a performance at Mont-Saint-Hilaire. The crowd initially thought it was part of the show and it took about 15 seconds before someone from the first row took a good look and asked if there was a doctor in the audience.
  • 1994: Canadian actor John Candy died of a heart attack on 4 March 1994, while filming the movie Wagons East! in Durango, Mexico
  • 1995: Beat Farmers singer/drummer/guitarist Country Dick Montana suffered a massive heart attack and died, three songs into the band's set at the Long Horn in Whistler, BC, Canada.
  • 1996:
    • Singer Tiny Tim suffered a fatal heart attack while turning to leave the stage during a benefit concert in Minneapolis.
    • Turkish singer Zeki Müren died of a heart attack during a live performance on stage.
    • Opera singer Richard Versalle died on stage at the Metropolitan Opera during the company's première performance of The Makropulos Case when he suffered a heart attack while standing on a sliding ladder attached to a file cabinet. He was stricken after singing the line, "Too bad you can live only so long."
    • Guitarist/singer Johnny "Guitar" Watson collapsed and died onstage during a performance in Yokohoma, Japan. The cause of death was a myocardial infarction.
  • 1997:
    • Dutch Coen van Vrijberghe de Coningh died from cardiac arrest during a performance of the television series Flodder. He and another actor drove in a Chevrolet. While jumping on the hood, he fell and died. The audience thought it was part of the show, but the actors knew what had happened.
  • 1998:
    • Brazilian politician Antario Teodoro Filho was assassinated during a radio show by two men who burst into the studio with revolvers.[1]
    • Paolo "Feiez" Panigada, member of the Italian band Elio e le Storie Tese, died of a brain haemorrhage while performing onstage in December of the same year.
    • English reggae performer Judge Dread died from a heart attack as he walked off stage after performing at The Penny Theatre in Canterbury.[30]
  • 1999:
    • Owen Hart, a Canadian-born professional wrestler for WWF, died during Over the Edge 1999, a pay-per-view event, when performing a stunt. It was planned to have Owen come down from the rafters of the Kemper Arena on a safety harness tied to a rope to make his ring entrance. The safety latch was released and Owen dropped 78 feet (24 m), bouncing chest-first off the top rope resulting in a severed aorta, which caused his lungs to fill with blood.[31]
    • Mark Sandman, bassist and lead vocalist for the band Morphine, collapsed on stage at the Giardini del Principe in Palestrina, Latium, Italy (near Rome) while performing with Morphine. He was pronounced dead of a heart attack.[32]
  • 2000: Actor Renato Di Paolo was portraying Judas in a play outside of Rome on the day before Easter. During the hanging scene he accidentally hanged himself.[33]

21st century[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Urban Legends Reference Pages: Died Onstage
  2. ^ "Moliere,: The Imaginary Invalid", NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, 23 October 2003
  3. ^ Leeds Mercury, Saturday, June 21st 1817.
  4. ^ Felix Mottl - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  5. ^ "Music Hall "Magician"'s Death". The Times. 25 March 1918. p. 10. 
  6. ^ "Eugenie Blair Dies While Playing Stage Role". New York Times. May 15, 1922. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Houlihan, Christopher (31 May 2012). "Famous Last Notes: The Epic Death of Louis Vierne". Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Woollcott Dies After Collapse," Wisconsin State Journal, January 24, 1943, p1
  9. ^ CMT.com : Johnny Ace : Biography
  10. ^ RealBluesMagazine.com, Obit of Curtis Tillmann, who witnessed the death
  11. ^ "Actress falls dead during stage play". Miami News. July 2, 1955. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Tyrone Power Bio - Tyrone Power Biography - Tyrone Power Stories
  13. ^ Harry Parke - Biography
  14. ^ Leonard Warren (I) - Biography
  15. ^ Nelson Eddy - Biography
  16. ^ David Burns - Moviefone
  17. ^ Jerome Irving Rodale (1898-1971) - Find A Grave Memorial
  18. ^ "Christine Chubbuck : 29". Darwen.us. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  19. ^ Janjatović, Petar (2007). EX YU ROCK enciklopedija 1960-2006. Belgrade: self-released. p. 195. 
  20. ^ Sid James
  21. ^ "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 1 Dec. 1976: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 28 July 2013.
  22. ^ Dead or Alive? - Karl Wallenda
  23. ^ [1][dead link]
  24. ^ Vic Morrow
  25. ^ "Menu2". Web.archive.org. 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  26. ^ Stunt goes totally bad[dead link]
  27. ^ "Sound file (MP3)". Ohms.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  28. ^ "Dick Shawn". Answers.com. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  29. ^ Overachievement-BEYOND KA-KUI's ACCIDENT
  30. ^ "Judge Dread dies on stage". www.bbc.co.uk. 15 March 1998. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  31. ^ Owen Hart Biography - Biography.com
  32. ^ Mark Sandman
  33. ^ WCBS
  34. ^ "Pablo Lizaso murió en pleno ensayo - 27.06.2001 - lanacion.com". Lanacion.com.ar. 2001-06-27. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  35. ^ Jeffries, David. "Great White Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  36. ^ "CNN.com - Actor John Ritter dead at 54 - Sep. 12, 2003". [dead link]
  37. ^ Metal world mourns death of 'Dimebag' Darrell - ROCK MUSIC - MSNBC.com
  38. ^ Anthony Burger
  39. ^ "Anthony Berger". Saltshaker.org. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  40. ^ "Brazilian actor dies after accidental hanging in 'The Passion of the Christ' play". CNN. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-11. 
  41. ^ "Slipped Disc | The inside track on classical music and related cultures". Artsjournal.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.