Haunting Last Words Of Celebrities
By Steven John/Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 1:40 pm EDT
Not all celebrities exit the stage for the last time with parting lines worthy of their memorable careers. Witness the last known words of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, who said, "I won't" in response to his fiancee Ginger Alden telling him not to fall asleep in the bathroom (via the Express). On the other hand, you have (literally) famous last words entirely befitting the life and career of those who utter them, like the last words of Albert Einstein, who said, according to History Info, "I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." (In fact he muttered a few more words as he passed away, but they were whispered in his native tongue of German, a language his nurse did not speak.)
And then on the other hand, there are celebrities whose last words are downright haunting. Perhaps there is something those close to death come to see or learn that those of us with both feet still in the living world miss. In some cases the haunting words spoken by moribund celebrities were calls for help from those hoping to stick around. In other cases, they are pure mystery that will remain unclear. In all cases, they are pretty unsettling, these famous celebrity last words.
"I'm losing it" - Frank Sinatra
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Old Blue Eyes, Francis Albert Sinatra, had a truly stunning career both in the scope of his achievements and the length of his time in the limelight. He began performing music as a teenager and by his mid 20s was starting to attract attention from far and wide, becoming a sensation during the war years in the 1940s and launching a career trajectory that, with minor slumps aside, would not truly settle until his health began to fail him in the 1990s, according to Sinatra.com.
At the very end of his long and storied life, however, Sinatra's last words were few and were spoken only to his grief-stricken wife Barbara, according to Celeb Answers. Lying weak and ailing in a Los Angeles hospital bed, his body failing after a heart attack — one of several the 82 year old had suffered by the date of his death, May 14, 1998 — Sinatra said, "I'm losing it."
And soon enough, so he did. Sinatra lost consciousness and died shortly after speaking these words, showing a prescience about his impending death that is entirely haunting when viewed through one lens, but may actually be seen as comforting by others. At least Sinatra seems to have known his part was played to the end and done.
"Oh wow" - Steve Jobs
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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was not a celebrity in the traditional sense — at least not at the start of his career. Before the 2000s, Jobs was better defined as a tech entrepreneur and businessman, and of course he remained those things to the end of his life — a life cut short in October 2011 by a virulent form of pancreatic cancer, according to The New York Times. But in the last decade or so of his life, as Jobs presided over Apple's rolling out of products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and ever-improved versions of the beloved Macintosh computers, he crossed the line from techie business guy to a celebrity with an almost cult-like following.
Clad in a simple black turtle neck shirt, Jobs could command the attention of hundreds or even thousands of spectators gathered in auditoriums and many more watching remotely from afar as he touted this or that latest piece of hardware and explained the implications it had for the world beyond.
When death came for Jobs, it seems rather as though he were looking into a world beyond, as well. According to USA Today, Jobs' last words, as heard by relatives, were, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow ..."
And contrary to a rumor that went around the web a few years after Jobs died, his last words were decidedly not a diatribe against wealth and materialism. That was pure online apocrypha.
"I'm going away tonight" - James Brown
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Much like Frank Sinatra, who seemed to have known the end was upon him, so too did James Brown, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And the last words of Brown were unsettling and similar to those of Sinatra, in fact. On the morning of December 25, 2006 (yes, Christmas morning), Brown suffered congestive heart failure and, according to TV Guide, managed to gasp the words, "I'm going away tonight," to his longtime friend and manager, Charles Bobbit. Bobbit initially didn't believe Brown was in any real danger but quickly realized the severity of the situation when Brown slipped into unconsciousness, took a few more breaths, and then died.
Brown was 73 when he died, which, while hardly young, is a good decade less of life than many men can expect in modern America. However most men don't spend decades of their lives pouring every ounce of energy (and sweat) they have into music performed live before countless fans, and don't spend many long years abusing many different drugs, either. In the end, Brown's heart had simply been put through too much to keep on beating along. For a frame of reference, despite being weak, confused, and near death in the final days of 2006, Brown was scheduled to play a New Year's Eve show a few days later., reports The Guardian.
"Just don't leave me alone" - John Belushi
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Looking back on the life and death of John Belushi, the latter of which occurred on March 5, 1982, according to Rolling Stone, it's hard to believe the actor and comedian was just 33 years old when he died. That's true partly because of how much Belushi accomplished in such a short life, from never-to-be-forgotten roles in movies like "The Blues Brothers" and "Animal House" to his many classic roles on "Saturday Night Live," on which he was one of the original seven cast members (via NBC). It's also true because, candidly, by the time of his death, Belushi looked much older than his 33 years.
More than a decade of hard drug use and a generally unhealthy lifestyle had wreaked havoc on the actor's body, and he looked to be a good decade older than he actually was by the last days of his life. His actual death came as a result of a drug overdose after he was injected with a so-called "speedball," a mixture of heroin and cocaine. His friend and drug dealer, Catherine Smith, is the one who injected the narcotics into Belushi, and, according to Phrases, it was she who heard his last words: "Just don't leave me alone."
Smith did leave him alone, though, and would later serve time for manslaughter for the actor's death.
"My god, what happened?" - Princess Diana
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Despite becoming a real life princess, the life story of Diana, princess of Wales, was anything but a happily ever after tale. Instead, it was a life that commenced with an unhappy childhood in a broken home when she was just 7 years old, and one in which she was rejected by much of her new family after marriage (that's the British Royal Family, to be clear). It was a life in which a husband's affair led to a painfully public divorce, and a life cut short by tragedy.
And unbeknownst to many, Diana did not die immediately following the tragic car crash caused by and then quickly documented by paparazzi who were tailing her car. In the immediate aftermath of the car crash, Diana reportedly had time to look about and, in confusion, say, "My god, what happened?" as she saw the lifeless bodies of two other passengers in the vehicle, according to Oprah Daily. She then lost consciousness and quickly succumbed to death.
The specific cause of Princess Diana's death was a tear to a vein in the lungs caused by the trauma of the crash, doctors later found. It was a rare injury and, only adding to the tragedy, one that could have been avoided had Diana worn a seatbelt.
"I'll be fine" - Heath Ledger
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When actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January 2008, he was at a point in which his career should have blasted off into the stratosphere. Instead it was cut short at age 28, reports Rolling Stone. His final words show that the actor had no intention of dying, but he was indeed in some deep state of denial. According to To Save a Life, the Australian actor's last words heard by anyone else were, "Katie, I'll be fine" (Katie being his sister).
Ledger, who had earlier said he just needed to get some sleep, confided to his sister that he had taken several different prescription medications and said his fateful and far-from-accurate last words in response to her warning him against mixing so many different drugs. The toxicology report run on the late Ledger found the drugs oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine in his system at the time of his death.
When he died, Ledger was father to a toddler, he had an Academy Award-winning role as The Joker in the feature film "The Dark Knight" in the can, and every indication he believed he would indeed be fine and live on, instead of dying in much the same way as Elvis Presley — alone and filled with a veritable cocktail of drugs.
"Don't leave me" - Chris Farley
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The similarities between the lives and deaths of John Belushi and Chris Farley are so striking as to be unsettling; it's almost as if these two men's lives followed the same script, merely with a few ad libbed moments and a 15-year separation between them. Like Belushi, Farley cut his teeth in comedy at the famed Second City Theater in Chicago (via The Second City) and then went on to national and even international fame thanks to his years as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1990s. Like Belushi, Farley had starring roles in several films that are unlikely to ever be forgotten, such as the successful comedy "Tommy Boy."
And like Belushi, Farley was just 33 when he died in despair and alone following a major drug overdose. His last known words are almost a word-for-word re-hashing of Belushi's, too. According to Silver Lining Recovery, Farley's last words spoken to another person were, "Don't leave me." Tragically, these words were spoken to a reported sex worker who, before she did indeed leave him to die alone in his Chicago apartment, stole his watch and took pictures of the actor and comedian as he lay on the floor, near to death.
Farley was found to have alcohol, cocaine, morphine, and marijuana in his system when he died. Compounding the sorrow is the fact that, just a few months before his death, Farley had been in a rehab program.
"I'll be back in five minutes, alright?" - Paul Walker
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Paul Walker died as he lived, at least in as much as he lived through his character Brian O'Conner in the "Fast and Furious" movie franchise. And that's to say that he died in a crash resulting from the loss of control of a car going way too fast. Walker was not alone when his 2005 Porsche Carrera GT crashed into a lamppost and several trees, so there's a better than average chance his final words were spoken to his driver and fellow crash victim, Roger Rodas, according to CNN. But the actor's last known words are haunting for their simplicity and for how inaccurate they proved to be.
While stepping out of a charity event to take his sports car for a quick spin, Walker called out, "Hey, I'll be back in five minutes, alright?" according to India Today. Instead, within mere minutes, Walker would be dead and with a body so badly damaged and burned by the crash that it could not be positively identified until medical experts could check dental records.
Walker left behind a teenaged daughter and a legacy of films that were all about daredevil feats of speed in cars.
"You see, this is how you die!" - Coco Chanel
Everything about legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel was larger than life, right down to her last words. At least, everything about Chanel was larger than life once she came into her own in the early decades of the 20th century. At birth, she was named Gabrielle Chanel, and she was born to parents living in near abject poverty. Chanel pulled herself up by her bootstraps, using her wit, charm, and her undeniable ability as a designer and businesswoman to launch an empire that would include clothes, accessories, perfumes, and more, according to The Guardian.
By the time of her death in 1971, the 87-year-old Chanel was a household name — in fact, she was more a brand than an individual by then, her legacy entirely secure. Chanel clearly knew when the end was imminent, although according to The New York Times, she did not seem to be in ill health despite her very advanced age. True to her character, her final words were a flourish that topped off an amazing — if controversial — life. On January 10, 1971, Chanel reportedly said to her maid Celine, "You see, this is how you die." And shortly thereafter she did just that, her bed becoming a deathbed.
"This is no way to live!" - Groucho Marx
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The last words spoken by legendary actor and comedian Groucho Marx would be haunting and tragic and whatnot if spoken by most people lying on their deathbeds, but when Marx said, "This is no way to live," shortly before dying, he was making one last quip for the ages. So in this case, his last words are actually pretty hilarious, and it's okay to laugh — he was in on the joke.
Born Julius Henry Marx in the year 1890, Marx was an advanced 86 years old when death came for him in 1977, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He had been in poor health for two months, suffering from respiratory ailments that worsened into the pneumonia that would eventually kill him. Marx seems to have been well aware he was near the end, and his last words were a solid quip, almost as good as a line also attributed as Marx's final words: "Die, my dear? Why that's the last thing I'll do!" (via University of Houston)
His dying words were in keeping with Marx Brothers' tradition. According to Mental Floss, when his brother Leonard "Chico" Marx had died a decade and a half before, in 1961, his last words, spoken to his wife, were apparently, "Remember, Honey, don't forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde."
"Money can't buy life" - Bob Marley
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Legendary singer Bob Marley was only 36 years old when he died in 1981, a fact that is hard to believe when one considers the outsized impact the man had on music and on culture at large. What's less surprising is that his last known words, spoken to his son Ziggy, were sage and sorrowful, uttered shortly before succumbing to complications of a malignant form of melanoma that, over the course of half a decade, spread from one of his toes throughout his entire body. The cancer that killed Marley may well have been treated had he allowed the amputation of his toe, but in keeping with his Rastafarian faith, he forbid such an operation, according to Smooth Radio.
And also in keeping with the type of messaging he had espoused his whole life, Marley's last words to Ziggy were, "Money can't buy life." One can speculate that he meant money cannot buy the treatment needed to sustain life, but more likely Marley meant money cannot bring happiness and fulfillment in life, only a life well lived can do that.
"Yeah" - John Lennon
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Say what you will about John Lennon and Yoko Ono's relationship breaking up The Beatles or about Lennon's notorious arrogance and eccentricities, he was an excellent musician. And he was a human being who deserved to live a lot longer than he did. But due to the actions of mentally unstable Mark Chapman, who was determined to kill a famous person and who resented Lennon's comments about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus (via Celeb Answers), his life was cut short.
Chapman shot Lennon in the back multiple times at close range on December 8, 1980. Lennon was 40 years old. His last words were long thought to be the gut wrenching "I'm shot! I'm shot!" but later it came out that his last spoken word could also have been a soft "yes" whispered in response to being asked if he were John Lennon.
Perhaps more sadly still is the fact that, just prior to the shooting, Lennon and his wife had discussed going out to eat before going home but instead chose to go home immediately to see their son Sean before he went to sleep (via the Express).