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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: ER to the Stars

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

(Photo: Eric Reed / Wikia.com)

Frank Sinatra died there. Kate Hudson was born there. Alex Trebek went there after his heart attack. And this week, Britney Spears was taken there after a mental meltdown.

“There” is Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles — the “ER to the Stars,” you might call it.

The Cedars-Sinai name has popped up for years in showbiz news reports; it seems as much an LA institution as the Hollywood sign or the Chateau Marmont hotel. We finally got around to digging up a few details on the place which has influenced the lives of so many famous people.

A quick bit of history: Cedars-Sinai is the modern merger of two older Jewish hospitals. The first, Kaspare Cohn Hospital, opened in 1902 and eventually became Cedars of Lebanon. The second began in 1918 as a hospice with a rather blunt name: Mount Sinai Home for the Incurables. It later became Mount Sinai Hospital and then moved onto prime real estate on Beverly Boulevard — hard by Beverly Hills — in 1955. The two hospitals merged in 1961 under the new name of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The hospital has been tangled up with Hollywood ever since. Partly it’s a matter of location: Cedars-Sinai is nestled between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, not far from Sunset Boulevard. But it’s also a matter of tradition, with Hollywood celebs being treated there and then in turn making Cedars-Sinai one of their favorite high-profile charities.

The current main building was begun with a $4,000,000 donation from the family of Max Factor, the makeup expert so famous he was mentioned in the tune Hooray for Hollywood. (“He’d make a monkey look good!”) Comedian George Burns was a generous donor, and streets running through the complex are now named for Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen. Mel Gibson donated $5 million of his Passion of the Christ profits to the hospital’s programs for children in 2004. And so on.

Even the center’s fabulous 71-foot mural on Jewish contributions to medicine includes Robin Williams as a psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting — or at least, a doctor who looks a lot like him.

2007 was a banner year for celebrity treatment, even by Cedars-Sinai standards. Nicole Kidman was taken there last January after a minor car accident on the set of Invasion. Robert Goulet died there in November, awaiting a lung transplant. Merv Griffin had cancer treatment in August. Zsa Zsa Gabor had a leg operation in September. (Her sister Eva died there in 1995.) Owen Wilson was shipped there after his reported suicide attempt. David Hasselhoff showed up for detox after his notorious I-can-has-cheezeburger video. Tori Spelling had a baby. Dennis Quaid‘s twins had a medical emergency. And in 2013, Claudia Sloan healed there after being hit by a drunk driver.

Going back in time, a combined search for “taken to cedars-sinai” and “star of” turns up names large and small: Brad Pitt (meningitis scare), Dick Van Patten (diabetic stroke), Martin Lawrence (running through traffic), Paul Stanley of KISS (heart palpitations), Liz Taylor (heart problems), Charlie Sheen (drug problems), and Charles Bronson (died of pneumonia).

Bronson wasn’t the only one with a one-way ticket to the ER to the Stars: Johnny Carson, River Phoenix, Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Andy Kaufman and the Notorious B.I.G. all were declared dead at Cedars-Sinai.

We began calling Cedars-Sinai “Sickbay to the Stars” way back in 1998 (for a report on Sinatra’s health, if we recall correctly), although as a nickname it was really only 80% satisfactory. (Sickbay is a wee bit too obscure.) But we liked the connection to Hollywood’s own coroner to the stars.

Alas, a new web search reveals that we didn’t even coin the term. The New York Daily News stole our thunder in a 1996 story on Madonna giving birth to her first child. (“It wasn’t clear why Madonna shunned the sick bay to the stars, Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills, in favor of the grungier Good Samaritan.”)

The good news is, that means we’re free to throw our support behind “ER to the Stars,” which is catchier and seems to be unclaimed.

Such are the perils of celebrity journalism.

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