Morbid Thread: Celebrities who literally "just drop dead"

Most people die after a long illness (Paul Newman, Bernie Mac) or heavy drug use. Some commit suicide.

Some however just “drop dead” with no warning whatsoever. Recent examples include Tim Russert, Isaac Hayes and Rob Guest.

What others?

I believe you can add Bruno Kirby and JT Walsh to this list.

Dick Shawn literally dropped dead of a massive heart attack while on stage in 1987.

John Ritter’s death was unexpected.

Anna Nicole Smith was pretty unexpected, though her life was a trainwreck it seems that in retrospect we should have seen it coming. Ditto Elvis. If we’re not talking about murder, accident, and those brought on by drugs, who doesn’t remember how shocked we all were by Jim Henson’s death?

Richard Biggs, who played Dr. Franklin on Babylon 5, got up one morning and suddenly died, age 44.

Douglas Adams.

IIRC John Candy’s death was a surprise as to it’s timing, for all that he was manifestly living unhealthily.

And more infamously, who was that guest on one of the old late night TV shows who was saying he expected to live to be 100. Then appeared to fall into a nap - before the rest of the people on the stage realized he was dead?

Michael O’Donoghue, who had a history of migraines, had a sudden and horrible brain hemorrhage that killed him. His former editor, Doug Kenney, absent-mindedly wandered off a cliff.

Health guru James Rodale, who made a number of highly ironic pronouncements only minutes before dying of a heart attack. Here’s a column Cavett wrote about that event last year.

Hayes doesn’t quite belong in the ‘just dropped dead’ category, in my opinion. He had a stroke last year, it was just kept quiet by those goodhearted Scientology types. In that light it’s not surprising that he was killed by another stroke.

Hollywood film director Ted Demme (Blow and others) apparently did a line of coke and then played basketball, and keeled over dead shortly after leaving the court. He was in his late 30s.

Jim Fixx, author of The Joy of Running, dropped dead of a heart attack while out on a run.

Jim Henson. Forever.

Thanks for the details, and the link to the piece by Cavett. I knew the show never aired, and I’m just as glad of it.
wargamer, I don’t think Jim Fixx counts. Some of the reasons that he started running for his own health was that he had a terrible family history, was a two-pack a day smoker, and about 60 lbs overweight. It’s amusing and fun to claim that he died from jogging, but in reality it’s an unfair charge. I find it very reasonable to say that had he never started jogging he’d not have lived as long as he did.

ETA: Nor, as much as I agree that it is a tragedy to have lost him so young, do I think that Jim Henson counts. The man had pneumonia, and then declined treatment until it was an emergency. That’s not “just dropping dead” in my books. I grant that a lot of people used to modern medicine think of pneumonia as a minor, inconsequential condition, but it’s been a killer through most of human history.

Phil Hartman. Well, if we’re including murder into the mix.

I was pretty surprised about Chris Farley but I didn’t really follow SNL at the time. But a lot of my cohorts (I was in eighth grade when he died) were pretty upset about it, and didn’t seem to have seen it coming.

Was Kurt Cobain’s death also shocking?

Jean Harlow. Though there were signs she may have had health problems, she was fit enough to be filming a movie when she suddenly collapsed. She died about a week later of kidney failure. Thought that may have been building for some time, she seemed fine up until the collapse.

Laird Cregar. He weakened his system by going on a crash diet (with amphetamines. He underwent abdominal surgery, and died a few days later of a heart attack.

Johnny Guitar Watson, the *real *Gangster of Love, and bite me Steve Miller, dropped dead onstage in Japan.

I had thought that Bert Convy’s death was sudden and unexpected, but I see from here that the brain tumor that killed him was actually discovered over a year earlier.

OtakuLoki asked

The deaths of both Dick Shawn and Parkyakarkus (whom also fathered Albert Brooks & “Super Dave” Obsorne) are described in the link below. And what performer wouldn’t want to go out like they did?

Yeah, Hartman and Cobain’s deaths were shocking, but the OP was asking for celebs who dropped dead. I guess if you were shot, you would, in fact, drop dead, but I don’t think that’s what he means.

Country Dick Montana, of the Beat Farmers, died of a heart attack while performing on-stage. I don’t know for sure it was a “drop dead” moment, but I recall hearing it was.