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: An 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 20 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 previously.
  • 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:
  • 1912: Theodore Ronald Brailey, Roger Marie Bricoux, John Frederick Preston Clarke, Wallace Hartley, John Law Hume, Georges Alexandre Krins, Percy Cornelius Taylor, and John Wesley Woodward, the eight onboard musicians hired to entertain on the RMS Titanic. The band continued playing music until the sinking ship's last moments in an effort to calm the passengers.
  • 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:
    • Bert Williams, one of the preeminent comedians of his era, collapsed during a February 25 performance of Under the Bamboo Tree in Chicago, and died a week later. Williams had been suffering from pneumonia but did not want to take time to recuperate because the play would have closed without him.
    • 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.

1966: Vaudeville doubletalk comedian Al Kelly died immediately following his performance at the Friars Club roast of Joe E. Lewis, after returning to his seat on the dais and during the applause.

  • 1967:
    • Actor and singer Nelson Eddy died of a stroke while performing in Miami.[15]
    • Comedian and singer Jodie "Butterbeans" Edwards, the surviving member of the long-running vaudeville duo Butterbeans and Susie, died on October 28 as he walked onstage at the Dorchester Inn, outside Chicago.
  • 1968: Joseph Keilberth, conductor, died 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, 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:
  • 1977: Actor Zero Mostel collapsed and died from an aortic aneurysm during the first preview performance of The Merchant, a Broadway-bound adaptation of The Merchant of Venice.
  • 1978: Karl Wallenda died when he lost his balance and fell to his death while tightwalking on a wire that was suspended 123 feet (37.5 m) in the air between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[22]
  • 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.[23]
    • Actor and comedian Joe E. Ross suffered a heart attack and died while performing on stage on the evening of August 13. His wife reportedly collected just half of Ross' fee because he had failed to do a full show.[24]
    • Actor and comedian Marty Feldman suffered a heart attack and died during the filming of Yellowbeard.
  • 1983:
    • Musician Reebop Kwaku Baah died of a cerebral haemorrhage while performing in Sweden.
  • 1984:
    • Actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself with a blank pistol. On October 12, 1984, the cast and crew of the TV series Cover Up were filming the seventh episode of the series, "Golden Opportunity", on Stage 17 of the 20th Century Fox lot. One of the scenes filmed that day called for Hexum's character to load blanks into a .44 Magnum handgun. When the scene did not play as the director wanted, there was a delay in filming. Hexum became restless during the delay and began playing around to lighten the mood. He had apparently unloaded all but one blank round when, at 5:15 p.m., he spun the cylinder and, as if playing Russian roulette, put the revolver to his right temple and pulled the trigger.
    • 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]
  • 1985:
    • Butoh dancer Yoshiyuki 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.
  • 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.[27]
  • 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. His death had gone unnoticed initially after it was thought he was acting in the guise as Fred Sanford of Sanford and Son, known for comedically faking heart attacks.
  • 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.[28]
    • 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.
  • 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:
    • Actor Ken Steadman was killed in a dune buggy accident while filming in Victorville, California for the television show Sliders.
    • 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:
    • Dutchman 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:
    • 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.[29]
  • 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 Hart 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 Hart 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.[30]
    • 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.[31]
  • 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.[32]

21st century[edit]

  • 2001:
  • 2003:
  • 2004: 8 December 2004: Ex-guitarist of the groove metal band Pantera, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, was murdered on stage by a gunman while performing with his new band Damageplan at the Al Rosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio.[36]
  • 2005: 3 October 2005: Franco Scoglio, Italian football manager and sport TV commenter, died of a heart attack while on the air during a program on the Genoan private TV station Primocanale, after a heated discussion over the phone with Genoa chairman Enrico Preziosi. He passed out in his seat while Preziosi continued with his call.
  • 2006:
  • 2007: 3 October 2007: M.N. Vijayan, an Indian writer, orator and academic, died of cardiac arrest during a televised interview.
  • 2008: 9 November 2008: Miriam Makeba suffered a heart attack shortly after singing her hit song "Pata Pata" in a concert held in Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy.
  • 2009:
    • 13 April 2009: Philadelphia Phillies lead announcer and NFL Films narrator Harry Kalas collapsed of a heart attack in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park while preparing for an afternoon game. He later died at George Washington University Hospital at 1:20 PM.
    • 13 June 2009: Japanese wrestler Mitsuhara Misawa suffered a cervical spine injury while taking a suplex move during a match, causing cardiac arrest.
    • 20 November 2009: Russian radio host and actor Roman Trakhtenberg had a heart attack during his live radio broadcast and died on the same day.
  • 2011: 3 March 2011: Swedish comedian Lasse Eriksson died during the final number of his show Fyra lyckliga män 2 (Four happy men 2) at Reginateatern in Uppsala, Sweden. He was one of Sweden's first stand-up comedians.
  • 2012: 6 April 2012, Brazilian actor Tiago Klimeck "accidentally" hanged himself while playing Judas in an Easter Passion play; he officially died two weeks later after spending time in a medically induced coma.[38]
  • 2013:
    • 23 February 2013: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra principal oboist William Bennett suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while performing the oboe concerto by Richard Strauss. He collapsed on stage while playing, and never regained consciousness. He died on 28 February 2013.[39]
    • 7 July 2013: Funk ostentação singer and rapper MC Daleste was fatally shot in the abdomen during a free performance in Campinas, São Paulo before a crowd of four thousand people.
  • 2014: 7 December 2014: Italian singer Mango suffered a heart attack on stage while performing the song "Oro" and died shortly after.[40]
  • 2015: 29 January 2015: conductor Israel Yinon collapsed and died during a concert in Lucerne, Switzerland in the middle of conducting Strauss' Alpine Symphony.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Urban Legends Reference Pages: Died Onstage
  2. ^ "Moliere,: The Imaginary Invalid", NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, 23 October 2003
  3. ^ Leeds Mercury, 21 June 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. ^ : Johnny Ace : Biography
  10. ^, 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. ^ Biography for Harry Parke at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ Biography for Leonard Warren at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Biography for Nelson Eddy at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ David Burns - Moviefone
  17. ^ Jerome Irving Rodale at Find a Grave
  18. ^ "Christine Chubbuck : 29" (PDF). 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. ^ Vic Morrow
  24. ^ The Comedians, Nesteroff, Kliph, Grove Press, 2015, pgs. 314-315
  25. ^ "Menu2". 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  26. ^ Stunt goes totally bad[dead link]
  27. ^ "Dick Shawn". Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  28. ^ Overachievement-BEYOND KA-KUI's ACCIDENT
  29. ^ "Judge Dread dies on stage". 15 March 1998. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  30. ^ Owen Hart Biography -
  31. ^ Mark Sandman
  32. ^ WCBS
  33. ^ "Pablo Lizaso murió en pleno ensayo - 27.06.2001 -". 2001-06-27. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  34. ^ Jeffries, David. "Great White Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  35. ^ " - Actor John Ritter dead at 54 - Sep. 12, 2003". [dead link]
  36. ^ Metal world mourns death of 'Dimebag' Darrell - ROCK MUSIC -
  37. ^ "Anthony Berger". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  38. ^ "Brazilian actor dies after accidental hanging in 'The Passion of the Christ' play". CNN. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-11. 
  39. ^ Joshua Kosman (2013-02-28). "William Bennett, S.F. Symphony oboist, dies at 56". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-01-12. 
  40. ^ "Infarto sul palco durante il concerto Morto il cantante Mango". Retrieved 2014-12-08. 
  41. ^ "Conductor Dies After Collapsing on Stage". New York Times. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.