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Thursday, September 6, 2007Success And Suicide
I was surprised and saddened last week to read of the reported suicide attempt by actor Owen Wilson. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are staff favorites here, and we’re definitely hoping and wishing for Wilson’s full recovery. But as I started thinking about the comedy star, and mulling over the constant stress of his profession, it made me realize just how pervasive suicide attempts are among high-profile people. Here are some selected 20th century celebs who attempted suicide, but managed to turn their lives around:
Halle Berry – admitted to Parade magazine that, distraught over her failed marriage to baseball star David Justice, she tried to end her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Greg Louganis – depressed, abused and confused, Greg attempted suicide three times (including once by an aspirin-and-Ex Lax combo) after a knee injury at age 12 ruined his dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. Luckily, he recovered, and made it to the Games as a diver.
James Stockdale – H. Ross Perot’s former running mate attempted suicide while a POW at Hoa Lo Prison in Vietnam in 1969 to avoid torture.
Donna Summer – tried to leap from an 11-story window at a New York hotel at the peak of her career in 1976, but was discovered by a housekeeper.
Drew Carey – after a rough childhood that included sexual molestation by an unknown party and his father’s death, the lovable Price is Right host attempted suicide twice in his teen years.
Mike Wallace – in a 2006 retrospective honoring his retirement as a 60 Minutes correspondent, Wallace revealed a suicide attempt twenty years prior.
Paul Robeson – the “Ol’ Man River” vocalist tried to off himself by slashing his wrists in a Moscow hotel room in 1961, although his son (Paul Jr.) claims the event was caused by a CIA/FBI conspiracy that drugged him with LSD.
Elizabeth Taylor – hoped to end her life in February 1962 with an overdose of Seconal, although she said she did so only because she “needed to get away.”
Fred “Rerun” Berry – the What’s Happening!! star said he tried to kill himself three times prior to finding religion in 1984.
Robert Young – yes, even the Father Knows Best father fell victim to depression later in life, culminating in a 1991 attempt on his own life.
And an alphabetical list of some others:
Maxene Andrews – survived after attempting suicide via a pill overdose in 1954, distraught over the breakup of the vocal group she’d formed with her siblings, The Andrews Sisters.
Adam Ant – tried to OD on pills in his early 20s after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Mary Astor – alcoholism led to a reported suicide attempt in 1951 with sleeping pills; she maintained it was an accident.
Tai Babilonia – attempted suicide after she became addicted to alcohol and amphetamines following her Olympic skating disappointment in 1980.
Drew Barrymore – after leaving drug rehab in 1989 at the age of 14, she tried to kill herself, but received treatment and successfully kicked the habit.
Brigitte Bardot – attempted suicide several times, first as a teenager. At 26, she downed a bottle of sleeping pills and slit her wrists, but recovered. “I took pills because I didn’t want to throw myself off my balcony and know people would photograph me lying dead below.”
Danny Bonaduce – made headlines by attempting suicide in 2005 during the filming of the reality show Breaking Bonaduce after his wife asked him for a divorce. Neither the attempt (nor the subsequent hospitalization) was shown on-screen.
Maria Callas – frustrated with her efforts to lure Aristotle Onassis away from then-wife Jackie Kennedy, she reportedly tried to OD on barbiturates in May 1970 (but later denied the attempt).
Martine Carol – thought that a triple-whammy of alcohol, drugs, and drowning would end her life when this French actress threw herself into the Seine at the age of 26. The cab driver who drove her there ended up saving her life.
Nell Carter – became addicted to cocaine and attempted suicide during the run of her hit TV show Gimme a Break.
Johnny Cash – in 1967, the “man in black” withdrew to a cave just north of Chattanooga, Tennessee, hoping to lose his way (and his life). He found his way out.
Gary Coleman – announced in 1993 that he had tried to commit suicide twice by taking sleeping pills.
Nadia Comaneci – while she denied it for years, the gymnastics legend was so stressed out (due to several factors, including her parents’ divorce) that she tried to end her life by drinking bleach just two years after her 1976 Olympics success.
Sammy Davis, Jr. – the biography Me and My Shadow reveals that a distraught Davis, fed up with cracks about his race, religion, and height, tried to kill himself on his wedding night by driving off a cliff.
Diana, Princess of Wales – told an interviewer that she threw herself down some stairs while pregnant with William, hoping to put an end to her unhappiness.
Walt Disney – the Leonard Mosley biography Disney’s World reveals a rumored suicide attempt.
Micky Dolenz – performed a suicide scene in The Monkees’ 1968 film Head, then tried it for real a few years later after the band had broken up by walking into traffic and sitting down in the roadway.
Patty Duke – bipolar disorder resulted in several attempted suicides during her life.
Eminem – tried to overdose on Tylenol in 1996 after wife Kim Mathers dumped him. She attempted suicide four years later by slitting her wrists.
Marianne Faithfull – attempted suicide in Australia 1969, after which she broke up with boyfriend Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.
Peter Fonda – in 1950, a few months after his mother committed suicide, the 10-year-old shot himself in the stomach. Claims it was “stupid and accidental,” but some believe it was the youngster’s attempt at taking his own life.
Clark Gable – hoped to die during a high-speed motorbike rampage shortly after wife Carol Lombard was killed. He then joined the Army and flew missions over Germany during World War II.
Stan Getz – the celebrated saxophonist became addicted to heroin and tried to kill himself with a drug overdose in 1954 when police confronted him over an ill-fated attempt to rob a Seattle pharmacy. He spent three days in a coma.