Monday, June 8, 2015

Death by Dope

Celebs who OD’ed…
by Robert A. Waters

After learning that Victoria Seigel, the daughter of jet-setters David and Jackie Seigel, died of a suspected drug overdose, I decided to check out other celebrities whose lives were cut short by dope.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, so I listed a few that interested me.

Len Bias had fame and fortune in his headlights.  The 22-year-old University of Maryland star forward had just been selected as the second pick in the 1986 National Basketball Association draft.  Two days later, he met with the Boston Celtics and later discussed a 1.6 million dollar deal with Reebok.  But after partying all night with friends, Bias suddenly had a seizure and collapsed.  He died before EMTs could get him to the hospital.  The medical examiner reported that his death was due to heart arrhythmia caused by cocaine use.  It was reported that this may have been the first time Bias used cocaine.

At the age of 33, John Belushi overdosed on a “speedball,” (a mixture of cocaine and heroin).  Belushi is best-known for his skits on Saturday Night Live and as one of the Blues Brothers.  In fact, SNL terminated him several times because of his constant drug use.  On March 5, 1982, Catherine Evelyn Smith gave him the shot that ended his life.  She was convicted of manslaughter and served fifteen months in prison.  Although his remains have since been moved to an anonymous grave, a stone at the site of his first burial reads: “I may be gone but Rock and Roll lives on.”  Listen to the Blues Brothers version of the iconic song, “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Ken Caminiti also OD’ed on a speedball.  A third baseman, Caminiti had his most productive years with the San Diego Padres, winning the 1996 Most Valuable Player Award.  He later admitted that he took steroids during his best years.  Throughout his life, Caminiti struggled with substance abuse.  On October 10, 2004, he collapsed and died in a friend’s New York apartment.  The cause of death was listed as “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates.”  Contributing factors were coronary artery disease and hypertrophy, an enlarged heart.  At age 41, Caminiti was dead, his body worn out by constant drug use.

Whitney Houston sold nearly 200 million records in her lifetime.  She also starred in several successful films and became one of the wealthiest women on the planet.  But on February 11, 2012, at age 48, Houston was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.  By that time, her life had spiraled out of control.  With husband Bobby Brown, who allegedly abused her, domestic bliss was not to be had.  By 2012, drug abuse had tarnished Houston’s public image, causing many no-shows and sub-par performances.  After her death, the medical examiner pronounced that Houston had died of drowning brought about by the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.”  In addition to cocaine, many other drugs were found in her system.  The last song Houston sang in public was, “Jesus Loves Me.”

Janis Joplin.  So, where do you start with Joplin?  We know where it ended—in a Los Angeles hotel room when, after shooting up with heroin, she puked her guts out and then keeled over dead.  Turns out her dealer had mixed the dope wrong, making it too strong.  Joplin and several of his other lesser-known customers died that night.  But that can happen when you turn to dope.  Pearl, as she was sometimes called, epitomized the hippie culture of rebellion, which usually meant drug use.  On October 4, 1970, at the Landmark Hotel, Joplin died as she lived—hard and loose and fast—becoming a death-long member of the infamous 27 Club.

After his death from “acute multiple drug intoxication,” the medical examiner reported that actor River Phoenix, 23, had cocaine, morphine, and several other drugs in his system.  He rarely used illegal drugs, his family said, and released the following statement: “His friends, co-workers and the rest of our family know that River was not a regular drug user.  He lived at home in Florida with us and was almost never a part of the ‘club scene’ in Los Angeles.  He had just arrived in L.A. from the pristine beauty and quietness of Utah where he was filming for six weeks.  We feel that the excitement and energy of the Halloween nightclub and party scene were way beyond his usual experience and control.  How many other beautiful young souls, who remain anonymous to us, have died by using drugs recreationally? [My italics.]  It is my prayer that River’s leaving in this way will focus the attention of the world on how painfully the spirits of his generation are being worn down.”  His ashes were scattered near his home in Micanopy, Florida.

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