Being large, talented and beloved, it seems, may only make you stand out in the crowd when the grim reaper makes his rounds. We’ve compiled a short list of popular plump entertainers who died young.
A certain sense of déja vu hovered over the tragic 1997 death of former Saturday Night Live star CHRIS FARLEY. At 33, the comedian followed the path forged by his SNL predecessor, John Belushi: make a big splash in comedy, then drive the bus of manic excess right over the cliff. On the night he died, Farley hired a prostitute, then overdid it with crack cocaine and heroin. He collapsed sometime after 3:00 a.m., and his 300-pound frame was found about ten feet from his apartment door.
JOHN CANDY. The oversized funnyman died in 1994 of a heart attack on location for his last movie, Wagons East, in Durango, Mexico. Like the much younger Chris Farley, Candy was a product of the famous Second City comedy troupe. He became a movie star in the 1980s, specializing as The Big Lovable Guy and appearing in hits such as Stripes (1981), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Uncle Buck (1989). As his roles got bigger, he got bigger. John Candy had a fatal heart attack in his sleep on 4 March 1994, when he was 43 years old.
JOHN BELUSHI. Another Second City and Saturday Night Live veteran, Belushi died in a Beverly Hills hotel at age 33. Belushi overdosed on a “speedball” injection of cocaine and heroin. Later SNL star Chris Farley grew up idolizing Belushi, adding irony to Farley’s death from cocaine and morphine at the same age. (Belushi’s death also lands him in our loop Autopsy By Noguchi.)
ELVIS PRESLEY. Elvis was found slumped on his bathroom floor in the summer of 1977, the victim of drug dependency, obesity, and a weak heart. The once-slim rocker had become famously chubby in his last years, and a crash diet may have contributed to his death. Like Candy, Elvis was 42.
CASS ELLIOT. “Mama Cass” Elliot, lead singer of the group The Mamas and the Papas, weighed over 230 pounds when she died in 1972. Despite persistent rumors that she choked to death on a ham sandwich, Elliot actually died of an obesity-induced heart attack. She was only 32 years old.
The girth of Grammy-nominated rapper BIG PUNISHER (birth name: Christopher Rios) was legendary in hip-hop circles. His weight seemed to grow with his fame, and by early 2000 he reportedly weighed 700 pounds. On February 7 of that year he collapsed in his room at a Crowne Plaza hotel in White Plains, New York, and was pronounced DOA at White Plains Hospital. An autopsy determined he died of failure of a greatly enlarged heart caused by his extreme weight.
ISRAEL KAMAKAWIWO’OLE. The Hawaiian music legend was Big Punisher’s match in both success and circumference. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that the 6-foot-2 musician had weighed as much as 757 pounds, and noted that “At one point during his career, he required a forklift to get on stage.” That didn’t stop the ukelele-strumming Kamakawiwo’ole from becoming Hawaii’s most popular solo act during the 1990s. He entered Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in 1997 for treatment of multiple weight-related ailments, and his death there was attributed to respiratory failure.
The original tubby film comedian, FATTY ARBUCKLE weighed over 300 pounds at the peak of his fame. Arbuckle’s career was ruined in 1921, however, thanks to a scandal over the death of actress Virginia Rappe after a wild party in his hotel room. Arbuckle died twelve years later of a heart attack while trying to make a comeback. He was 46.