American playwright Arthur Miller died at his home of heart failure on February 10, 2005. He was 89 years old. Ironically, his most famous play, Death of a Salesman, had premiered at the Morosco Theatre in New York on the exact same date (February 10) in 1949 -- exactly 56 years earlier. Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for Death of a Salesman, which dealt with the failures of a traveling salesman. His other plays include The Crucible, All My Sons, and A View from the Bridge.
Although former Beatles guitarist George Harrison was stabbed multiple times by a deranged fan in 1999, he did not meet the same fate as bandmate John Lennon. Harrison, who fought off the attacker with his wife, survived the attack. He could not, however, survive his fight with a different kind of attacker -- cancer. After years of smoking, Harrison discovered that he had throat cancer in 1998 and underwent radiation therapy. Then, early in 2001, he checked into the Mayo Clinic to have surgery on a cancerous lung, and only a few months later was treated in a Swiss clinic for a brain tumor. This last bout with cancer, which had metastasized to the brain from his lung, proved to be his undoing, and the beloved Beatle finally passed away at a friend's house on November 29, 2001. He was 58 years old. Harrison's credits with The Beatles include the songs "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "Something," the last of which was once described by Frank Sinatra as the greatest love song of all time.
On July 2, 1961, distraught over finances, the loss of several friends, and the feared loss of his home in Cuba, American author Ernest Hemingway took his own life with a shotgun blast to the head. He was buried in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho. Several years later, in 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would also take her life. She is buried in the same cemetery. Hemingway is best known for his novels The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), and The Old Man and the Sea (1953) which won him the Nobel Prize.
Sonny Bono died on January 5, 1998 of massive head injuries suffered when he hit a tree while skiing at the Heavenly Ski Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California. Best known as half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher, Bono produced several successful records with hits such as "I Got You, Babe" and "The Beat Goes On." The couple also starred in their own comedy/variety show ("The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Sonny and Cher Show") during the 1970's, which featured songs from their albums. However, Bono had devoted himself to a budding political career in the years leading up to his death. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994 and was, perhaps, best known in Washington for introducing the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.
Janis Joplin was staying in Room 105 of the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles on October 4, 1970, when she died from a heroine overdose. She was only 27 years old. One of the most influential rock singers of all time, Joplin was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. Her final album, Pearl, was released six weeks after her death and produced her only number 1 hit, "Me and Bobby McGee." Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Elvis Presley died at his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee on August 16, 1977. He was discovered unconscious in the bathroom by his then-girlfriend Ginger Alden. Although he was quickly transported to Baptist Memorial Hospital, doctors pronounced Elvis dead shortly after his arrival. He was only 42 years old. The Shelby County Medical Examiner listed the cause of death as "cardiac arrhythmia" or "severely irregular heartbeat." Basically, he died of a heart attack. Although the medical examiner reported that there were no signs of drug abuse at the time of his death, it is a well known fact that Elvis had been battling an addiction to prescription drugs for several years, and this may have contributed to his condition. He was originally buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis in a plot next to his mother, but after an overzealous fan attempted to dig up his remains, both bodies were moved to Graceland. Known as The King of Rock and Roll, or simply The King, Elvis sold more than 500 million records during his career and made 33 films. He recorded 104 singles that hit the Top 40 of the Billboard pop chart, and 18 of those singles hit number 1. Although he died in 1977, there are to this day Elvis "sightings" by fans who refuse to believe that The King has passed on.
On June 5, 2004, former U.S. President (1981-89) Ronald Reagan died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93-years-old and had previously survived an assassination attempt (1981) as well as colon cancer (1985) and prostate & skin cancer (1987). At the time of his death, Reagan had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for 10 years and, sadly, it is said that he did not even remember being President.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer on September 3, 1970. During his career as head coach, he compiled an amazing 105-35-6 record (including postseason) and never had a losing season. He led the Green Bay Packers to 5 NFL titles, including victories in the first two Super Bowls (1967-68). Shortly after his death, Lombardi was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, and the Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor.
On April 26, 1989, one week after undergoing open heart surgery, Lucille Ball died of a ruptured aorta. She was 77 years old. One of the most popular stars in American TV history, Lucy was cremated, and her ashes were originally stored at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. In 2002, however, her children, Lucie and Desi Jr., decided to relocate Lucy's ashes to her hometown of Jamestown, New York, where they were interred at Lake View Cemetery, in the Hunt-Ball family plot. Today, I Love Lucy is syndicated in more than 80 countries and remains one of the most beloved TV shows of all time.
On May 14, 1998, Frank Sinatra died of a heart attack in the emergency room of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. He was 82 years old. His funeral was held at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Palm Springs, and he was buried next to his parents in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City. A musical legend and American icon, Sinatra had an amazing career with over 1,800 musical recordings, 60 film credits, 9 Grammys, and an Academy Award. He recorded more Top 40 albums than any other artist (51), and appeared in many blockbuster films including From Here to Eternity (1953), Guys and Dolls (1955), and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Although his funeral was a private one, Ol' Blue Eyes is rumored to have been buried with a flask of Jack Daniel's, a roll of dimes, a lighter, and a pack of Camel cigarettes.