List of Entertainers Who Died During A Performance - 20th Century

20th Century

  • 1911: Felix Mottl, an Austrian conductor, died while conducting Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 haemorrhage 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, witnesses said he thought the pistol was unloaded and pulled the trigger as a joke.
  • 1958:
    • Actor Tyrone Power suffered a heart attack while filming a fencing scene in a film entitled Solomon and Sheba. He died soon after being loaded into the ambulance.
    • Gareth Jones was portraying a character who died of a heart attack in a live science fiction play Underground in the UK's Armchair Theatre (30 November) when he died of a real heart attack between his scenes. The actors and director improvised to account for his absence.
    • Comedian Harry Parke, father of Albert Brooks, died while performing as "Parkyakarkus", a pun on "park your carcass", at the Friar's Club roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. When he died, he collapsed onto Milton Berle.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in to 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 1975: Predrag Jovičić, vocalist of the Yugoslav rock band San, died from an electric shock during a concert in Čair Hall.
  • 1976: Sid James died after collapsing on stage at the Sunderland Empire performance of the Mating Game.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 1987:
    • 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.
  • 1990: Amateur magician Joseph W. Burrus died when, in his act, he was put in a plastic coffin which was then buried underground, beneath seven tons of soil and concrete. The level of the soil suddenly dropped, and by the time rescuers reached Burrus, he had been crushed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • French Quebec actor Michel Noël 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: 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.
  • 1996: 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."
  • 1998:
    • Brazilian politician Antario Teodoro Filho was assassinated during a radio show by two men who burst into the studio with revolvers.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.

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