More Celebrities Who Died in the Middle of a Performance
Celebrity deaths are always hard on fans, but few are more traumatizing than those that happen during a performance. This could include anything from a stuntman failing to land to a singer collapsing of heart failure in the middle of their song. This eerie phenomenon is surprisingly common, almost as if it's the price to pay for fame. A single video can't contain all of the times it's happened or who it's happened to. Like and subscribe for more of the most shocking events to ever happen to famous names.
Watch our video to learn about more celebrities who died in the middle of a performance. Godfrey Cambridge Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge was born in New York City on February 26, 1933, to British Guiana immigrants Alexander and Sarah Cambridge. Godfrey dropped out of college after three years to pursue his true passion for acting.
He supported himself with odd jobs such as a cab driver, bead sorter, ambulance driver, judo instructor, and clerk until his break finally came. His first role was a bartender in the off-Broadway play Take a Giant Step, and his Broadway debut was the 1957 production of Nature's Way. He earned a Tony nomination for the play Purlie Victorious in 1962. His other notable stage performances include The Last Angry Man in 1959, The President's Analyst in 1967, and Watermelon Man in 1970.
His film appearances include The Busy Body in 1967, The Biggest Bundle of Them All, The Biscuit Eater and Beware! The Blood in 1972, and Whiff and Friday Foster in 1975. Godfrey also made his mark on the standup circuit, earning as much as $4,000 per week. In 1965, Time Magazine listed him and Bill Cosby, Dick Gregory, and Nipsey Russel as the country’s foremost celebrated Negro comedians. The funnyman was also an activist. He organized a benefit for Martin Luther King Jr. with Maya Angelou and Hugh Hurd that raised $9,000 for the civil rights movement.
He also hosted and produced the drug-awareness film Dead is Dead in 1970. Godfrey was married twice, first to Barbara Ann Teer who he wed in 1962, and divorced in 1965. He later married Audriono Meyers in 1972 while in semi-retirement. Godfrey Cambridge died on November 29, 1976, of a heart attack at the age of 43 while on the set of the ABC made-for-TV movie Victor at Entebbe.
He’s buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Zero Mostel Samuel Joel “Zero” Mostel was born in Brooklyn on February 28, 1915. He was the 7th child of Jewish parents Israel Mostel and Cina “Celia” Druchs. His brother Bill says his mother came up with his nickname because he would amount to a zero if he didn’t improve his grades. Zero’s father said he had the makings of a rabbi, but he preferred to paint and draw.
He improved in school, receiving training as a painter at The Educational Alliance. His high school yearbook noted he could be a future Rembrandt or perhaps a comedian. The second title proved to be the one that stuck. He graduated with a master's degree from New York University in 1935, then left to find work and began earning a stipend to teach art from the Public Works of Art Project.
Zero‘s lectures as an art teacher were comedic, and he was invited to show off his comedy chops at parties. This led to labor union social clubs where he performed routines laced with social commentary. The Cafe Society gave him a regular spot as their resident comedian in 1941 when he was 27, and he adopted Zero as a stage name while working there. His professional career rose rapidly, with his salary rising from $40 a week to $450 in only one year. Before he knew it, he was starring in Broadway shows like Keep Them Laughing and Top-Notchers, playing at the Paramount Theater and earning $4,000 a week at La Martinique. He even had his own show called Off the Record on WABD with partner Joey Faye and a live show on WPIX called Channel Zero.
He was blacklisted during the 1950s and gave a well-publicized testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee. They took issue with the political comments in his comedy routines and put him under investigation for Communist party affiliation. He lost his MGM contract, and his role in Du Barry Was a Lady. The blacklist hurt his career, but a role in the 1957 play Ulysses in Nightown helped revive it. That role led to many of his most recognizable, including Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the 1967 film version of The Producer Zero earned several awards and nominations throughout his long career.
They included a British Academy Film Award nomination for Best Supporting actor for the 1976 film The Front, an Obie Award, and 3 Tonys. Zero also found true love with Kathyrn Cecilia Harkin, who he married on July 2, 1944. Their relationship was occasionally strained and caused fights with his parents, but they had two children, Josh and Tobias, and stayed together until his death.
Zero Mostel died on September 8, 1977, from an aortic aneurysm. He collapsed on stage during a preview performance of The Merchant, a Broadway adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. His family respected his request and gave no funeral or memorial service, and the location of his ashes is unknown. He was later inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1979. Karl Wallenda Karl Wallenda was born in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 21, 1905.
He began performing with his family at the age of 6. He was a famous high wire artist who founded the circus act The Flying Wallendas. They were well-known in Europe and moved to the United States in 1928 as freelancers. They became famous for their 7-tier pyramid act developed in 1947.
He was also known for several other daredevil stunts, such as walking over the Tallulah Gorge at the age of 65 in 1970 and breaking the skywalk distance record of 1,800 feet in 1974 at the age of 69. He starred in a 1978 made-for-TV movie called The Great Wallendas. It showed off their stunts after the tragic loss of a family member during a performance. 38 days later, Karl Wallenda died at the age of 73 on March 22, 1978, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
High winds and inappropriately secured wires caused him to fall from a tightrope suspended 123 feet in the air between 2 towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel. He made sure his legacy would remain by establishing the Wallenda Dynasty with his daughters Jenny and Carly. His other children and grandchildren formed their own troupes, and many of his great-grandchildren also still perform. Vic Morrow Vic Morrow was born in New York City on February 14, 1929, to Harry and Jean Morozoff. He dropped out of school at the age of 17 to enlist in the Navy.
His acting career began with a role in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and made his film debut in Blackboard Jungle in 1955. His first leading film role was in Portrait of a Mobster in 1961, and he starred in the TV show Combat! He appeared in other films such as Men of War and Hell's Five Hours but was primarily a TV actor in shows such as Death Valley Days and Alcoa Premiere. Vic also worked behind the scenes. He directed a film with Leonard Nimoy in 1965. He set up his own company Carleigh in 1969 to produce films like the 1970s A Man Called Sledge. He continued to earn roles until his final days.
His last performances included guest-starring in Charlie's Angels, Mangum, P.I., and spots in the films 1990: The Bronx Warrior and Blenko Green Berets. Vic Morrow and two child actors My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen all died on July 23, 1982, in an accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
The helicopter they were riding in was 25 feet above the ground when it was damaged by pyrotechnic explosions and crashed, killing them all instantly. Joe E. Ross Joseph Rozzawikz was born in New York City on March 15, 1914, to Jewish immigrant parents.
He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to become a singing waiter at the Van Cortland Inn. He was promoted to announcer and became a comedian after throwing a handful of jokes into his daily routine. His first contract was with the Queen’s Terrace in New York. It lasted for 16 weeks, and he later became a burlesque comic on the Shuster circuit in Chicago. He enlisted in the army during WWII but was discharged when the war ended. That was when he became an announcer-comic again at the Band Box in Hollywood.
One of his first film roles was in the 1955 film Teaserama, a recreation of a burlesque show. He later performed at Ciro's in Miami Beach and was spotted by the creators of You'll Never Get Rich, who hired him to play Rupert Ritzik on the spot. This was the show where his frustration with remembering lines led to his famous catchphrase "Oooh! Ooh!" He also starred in several TV sitcoms, including The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You? He also did plenty of voice work for animated shows such as Hong Kong Phooey and Help...It's
the Hair Bear Bunch! Joe E. Ross died on August 13, 1982, after suffering a heart attack while performing on stage at The Oakwood Apartments in Los Angeles. He’s buried in the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery, and he got one last laugh in by having “this man had a ball” inscribed on his tombstone. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more on famous faces whose lights were snuffed out too soon. Keep watching to learn about other celebrities who died doing what they loved, including influential musicians, famous stuntmen, and more. Tuts Washington Isidore “Tuts” Washington was born in New Orleans on January 24, 1907.
He taught himself how to play the piano at the age of 10 and was later mentored by professionals such as Joseph Louise “Red” Cayou. He was the leading player for dance and Dixieland bands in New Orleans throughout the 1920s and 30s, and his style blended several genres. After WWII ended, Tuts joined Smiley Lewis and Herman Seals to form a trio. They released hits such as Tee-Nan-Nah, The Bells are Ringing, and Dirty People. He later moved to St. Louis to play with Tab Smith.
In the 1960s, he performed in restaurants on the French Quarter and had a regular engagement at the Pontchartrain Hotel. Tuts wasn’t one to record many albums, but he did have a few. They included the solo album New Orleans Piano Professor in 1983 and a live album called Live at Tipitina’s 78 released in 1998. Tuts Washington died of a heart attack on August 5, 1984, while performing at the World’s Fair in New Orleans. Jon-Erik Hexum Jon-Erik Hexum was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on November 5, 1957.
He went to college at Michigan State University for biomedical engineering but fell in love with acting after earning minor stage roles there. He moved to New York in 1980 and met John Travolta’s manager Bob LeMond while working as an apartment cleaner. He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and auditioned for the film Summer Lovers. He lost the part to Peter Gallagher but was later cast as Phineas Bogg, the lead in the NBC show Voyager! It aired from 1982-1983 and earned him $10,00 a week.
In 1984, he guest-starred on the ABC series Hotel and earned his only film role as Pat Trammell in The Bear. Jon-Erik played a cop operating undercover as a male model in Cover UP starting in 1984. He was also a successful model in his own right and appeared in the made-for-TV movie Making of a Male Model. Jon-Erik Hexum died at the age of 26 on October 12, 1984.
He accidentally shot himself with a blank pistol while shooting the 7th episode of the series Cover Up. What started as a game to stave off his boredom while waiting for filming to resume after a break turned into a deadly game when fragments of his skull broke off and turned into projectiles. He spent 5 hours in surgery at the Beverly Hills Medical Center but was declared brain-dead on October 18. His organs were donated and he was cremated at Grandview Crematory in Glendale, California. Adolph Caesar Adolph Caesar was born in Harlem, New York City on December 5, 1933. He was the youngest of 3 sons of his Dominican mother.
After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War and served as a hospital corpsman for 5 years. Adolph later became an accomplished actor. He earned an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for the 1984 film A Soldier’s Story. His other notable performances include The Color Purple and Fist of Fear, Touch of Death.
He also did voiceover work for commercials and theatrical previews. His last film was Club Paradise. Adolph Caesar died on March 6, 1986, of a heart attack on the set of the film Tough Guys. He’s buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Dar Robinson Dar Allen Robinson was born on March 26, 1947. He made the cover of Life Magazine at an early age for his knack for the trampoline One of his first stunts was a 100-foot jump for the movie Papillon in 1937.
He was also a stuntman for the film Magnum Force. Throughout his career, Dar broke 19 world records and set 21 world’s firsts. He also invented a decelerator that allowed cameramen to get a top-down view of the action. It was used in the movie Stick and is on display in Moab, Utah.
Dar Robinson died on November 21, 1986, on the set of Million Dollar Mystery. A motorcycle stunt went wrong and left him careening off a cliff. His final three films, Cyclone, Leath Weapon, and Million Dollar Mystery, are dedicated to his memory. He's survived by his wife Linda and their sons Landon and Troy.
Warne Marsh Wayne Marsh was born on October 26, 1927. He was born into a relatively famous family that included his cinematographer father, violinist mother, and actress aunts. He learned to play the saxophone from Lennie Tristano. He rose to fame after joining a jazz ensemble known as Supersax. This was also when he recorded his most famous album, All Music.
Wayne Marsh died on December 18, 1987, after collapsing while performing Out of Nowhere at a Los Angeles jazz club. He’s survived by his wife Geraldyne Marsh and their sons, K.C. and Jason. Dick Shawn Richard Schulefand was born in Buffalo, New York on December 1, 1923. He got his start as a stand-up comedian for over 35 years and had an award-winning one-man show called The Second Greatest Entertainer in the Whole Wide World. He was known for his supporting roles and character acting skills. He played counter-culture caricatures in films like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Producers and even provided the voice of Snow Miser in The Year Without a Santa Claus.
Throughout his career, he appeared in over 30 films, 7 Broadway productions, and several TV shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Three's Company, and St. Elsewhere. Dick Shawn died of a heart attack at the age of 63 on April 17, 1987, while on stage at the University of California, San Diego. The audience thought it was part of his act, but the stage manager came out and soon realized that it was not.
He was taken to and pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital. He's survived by his wife Rita Bachner, their children Amy, Wendy, Adam, and Jennifer, and his granddaughter Rachel. George O’Hanlon George Samuel O’Hanlon was born on November 23, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York.
He was best known for playing the lead in Warner Bros’ Joe McDoakes shorts from 1942-1956 and for voicing George Jetson in Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon series The Jetsons. George was also a writer. He created the screenplays and storyboards for almost every Joe McDoakes short. He also wrote episodes for other series such as Petticoat Junction, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Flintstones. George O’Hanlon died on February 11, 1989, after suffering a stroke while recording lines for Jetsons: The Movie.
The film was dedicated to him, and he was replaced by Jeff Bergman who also filled in for Mel Blanc by voicing Cosmo Spacely. Redd Foxx John Elroy Sanford was born on December 9, 1922. He was a stand-up comedian and actor who became popular for his raunchy nightclub act during the era of the civil rights movement. He earned the nickname King of the Party Records by performing on over 50 records throughout his career.
He starred in TV shows such as Sanford and Son, The Redd Foxx Show, and The Royal Family. His film work includes All the Fine Young Cannibals, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Harlem Nights, and Noman...Is That You? He even ranked 24th in Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. Redd Foxx died on October 11, 1991, of a heart attack on the set of The Royal Family. His castmates thought he was faking it at first just like his character on Sanford and Son was known to do. He was given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1992.
Brandon Lee Brandon Lee was born on February 1, 1965. He seemed destined for greatness as the son of martial arts superstar Brandon Lee. He had a few small roles throughout his career but, like his father, never lived to see his greatest success. He died on March 31, 1993, on the set of The Crow, the film that would have been his breakout role. A prop gun was accidentally loaded with a real bullet that fired towards him.
Alternate theories abound about what happened, including a rumored Lee family curse. Larry Cameron Lary Cameron played high school and college football and was drafted into the NFL playing for the Denver Broncos in 1973. He later played for the BC Lions and Ottowa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League. He was an all-star there in 1975 and 1976 and won the Grey Cup with Ottawa. After his football career ended, he became Mr. Minnesota and won the Northern States Bodybuilding championship.
Ed Sharkey discovered him and convinced him to wrestle in a Promotion AWA. He trained alongside other stars and made his wrestling debut with Stampede Wrestling in 1985. He won his first championship against Ricky Rice in September of 1987. He also wrestled for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. He moved to the WWF or World Wrestling Federation after the AWA shut down. He began touring with the Catch Wrestling Association in 1991 and won the CWA Tag Team Championship with Mad Bull Buster in 1992 Larry died of a heart attack at the age of 41 on December 13, 1993, during his match with Tony St. Clair in Bremen, Germany.
Tiny Tim Tiny Tim was born Herbert Buckingham Khaury on April 12, 1932. was a unique singer known for unique, upbeat songs that showed off his high falsetto such as Tiptoe Through the Tulips and Living in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight. His health began to fail in his later years. He collapsed during a benefit concert in Minneapolis and had to be taken off the stage. He was declared dead on November 30, 1996. Butch Laswell Sherman Dwayne “Butch” Laswell was born on October 12, 1958.
He admired Evel Knievel from a young age and began building ramps and jumping his bicycle at the age of 12. He bought his first motorcycle at 15 and became one of the top desert bike riders in Nevada by the age of 17. His stunt work appeared in commercials for the US Coast Guard, and the TV shows such as That's Incredible! He also performed in the Globe of Death Circus. In 1981, he broke the World's Long Distance Jump Record of 176 feet. In 1992, he set the record for highest motorcycle ramp-to-ramp aerial jump at 41 feet.
Butch Laswell died on March 10, 1996, in Mesquite, Nevada, while attempting to set a world record by jumping a 38-foot pedestrian bridge. Crosswinds pushed him towards the left of the landing ramp, and he crashed. A camera crew filmed the entire event. Johnny “Guitar” Watson John Watson Jr. was born in Houston, Texas
on February 3, 1935. His father taught him the piano at a young age, but he preferred the sound of the electric guitar. His grandfather promised to buy him one if he promised not to play the devil’s music. He won several Los Angeles talent shows that got him a spot in bands such as Mellotones and Amos Milburn when he was only a teenager.
He began recording for Federal Records in 1952 and was billed as Young John Watson until 1952. That was the year he saw the film Johnny Guitar and came up with his stage name. Johnny had a 40-year music career with songs in a variety of genres, including R&B, funk, and soul. His most popular song, A Real Mother for Ya, was released in 1977. His highest-ranking album was Bow Wow, released in 1994. He earned a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues foundation a year later for, as he would say it, nearly “inventing” rap music.
Johnny Watson suffered a heart attack and collapsed on stage on May 17, 1996, during a performance in Yokohama, Japan. Much of his material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal Fire. Owen Hart Owen James Hart was born in Canada on May 7, 1965, as a member of the Hart wrestling dynasty.
He began to follow in his family’s footsteps by joining the amateur division at school but soon moved on to bigger and better events. Owen wrestled with the NJPW and the WCW but achieved the most success with the WWF where he was a 4-time Tag Team Champion and the 1994 King of the Ring. He got along with his fellow wrestlers, and many considered him one of the company’s best in-ring performers. Owen Hart died on May 23, 1999, while wresting in a WWF pay-per-view event called Over the Edge. A stunt that was meant to have him gently come down from the rafters failed when the safety latch was released too early. He fell 78 feet and severed his aorta when he hit the top rope.
The special became controversial because it continued after his death, but it was later dedicated to his memory. His brother-in-law Jim Neidhart accepted his induction into the Legends Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame on his behalf. Mark Sandman Mark Sandman was born in Newton, Massachusetts on September 24, 1952. He was known for his deep voice and mysterious demeanor. His most famous performances were with bands such as Treat Her Right and Morphine.
Mark was a musical experimenter who enjoyed altering and creating his own instruments. He also created a customized recording studio for the band known as Hi-n-Dry. He wrote many of the band’s most popular songs, including Thursday, The Jury, and I Think She Likes Me.
Morphine released 5 albums and a B-sides compilation during their most active period. They also toured globally and were the 2nd act to ever be signed to Dreamworks Records. His influences included authors Jim Thompson, James Elroy, and Jack Kerouac. His musical style was also influenced by personal tragedy, including being stabbed and robbed in a cab and the death of his two brothers. These are some of the only details that anyone knows about his personal life because he always avoided questions from interviewers, especially if they asked about his age.
Mark also enjoyed experimenting with other artistic mediums. He created a strange comic known as The Twinemen about a band made up of anthropomorphic balls of twine. Mark Sandman died at the age of 46 of a heart attack on July 3, 1999. He collapsed while performing with the band at the Giardini del Principe in Palestrina, Latium, Italy. His death has been attributed to stress and high temperatures.
He’s survived by his girlfriend Sabine Hirechdakin, parents Robert and Giselle Sandman, and sister Martha Holmes. Morphine broke up after his death but briefly toured with other musicians in his honor as Orchestra Morphine and use his studio Hi-n-Dry to produce other Boston-area artists. Dimebag Darrel Abbott Darrel Abbot was born on August 20, 1966. He began playing guitar at the age of 12. Darrel was known for being part of metal bands Pantera and Damageplan, both of which he co-founded with his brother Vinnie Paul. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more of these shocking losses that will affect the world forever.
Celebrities are used to being watched at all times, but a few had their last moments made public. Several high-profile names died while they were in the middle of a performance. This type of death can come to any type of celebrity. This includes those working alongside dangerous animals such as Steve Irwin and Dawn Bracheu, stuntmen like Karl Wallenda and Dar Robinson, wrestlers like Owen Hart and Larry Cameron, and singers like Tiny Tim.
These sudden deaths can have a range of causes. One of the most common is heart problems; when they go undiagnosed, they can cause a celebrity to collapse in the middle of a performance. Stunts gone wrong lead to severe bodily damage. Outliers like murder occur as well. One of the most unsettling details about celebrities who die in the middle of a performance is that their last moments may appear to be part of their act. This was certainly the case for Redd Foxx who was known for playing a character who frequently faked heart attacks.
Another unsettling factor is that many of these deaths are witnessed by crowds of onlookers. Everyone watching the Dine with Shamu show saw Dawn dragged into the water by Tikilihum the killer whale, and a camera crew was there to film Dar driving his motorcycle off a cliff. The pay-per-view event where Owen died didn’t even stop after the tragedy occurred. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more overviews of the most shocking deaths in the worlds of film, TV, music, and more.
Watch our video to learn about more celebrities who died in the middle of a performance.