Convergence at the End

On October 8, 2014 · 2 Comments

A weird pattern emerged as I researched an article a couple of months ago and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Was it a geo-oddity or simply an oddity? Would it fit within the subject matter of 12MC? Would some readers find it too bizarre? Ultimately I decided I could focus on a tenuous geographic connection and shoehorn the topic into a suitable article.

Consider the following list of people and determine their commonality: Richard Nixon, Malcolm X, Andy Warhol, Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and Joey Ramone. Think about it for a moment if you’d like or continue reading and let the answer reveal itself. Being a native New Yorker might be helpful.

The answer wasn’t a list of attendees from the world’s strangest cocktail party. It was something more permanent. Would it help if I mentioned that I was working on Presidential Death Locations when I encountered the list?

They all died at the same hospital.


NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital


Joey Ramone, Godfather of Punk Rock
Joey Ramone, Godfather of Punk Rock by Tony Fischer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The topic was morbid enough that I considered saving it for Halloween. However I tried something like that last year and apparently I enjoyed the resulting article a lot more than the Twelve Mile Circle audience. It didn’t receive much attention and it fell pretty flat, just another example demonstrating my inability to predict audience reactions.

Indeed, a big list of famous people all died at the same hospital in New York City (map). I found that fascinating. Maybe some of you did too, maybe the rest of you did not.

I discovered two more salient points as I continued with my research. First, Wikipedia produced some rather remarkable lists when I searched it for "notable hospital deaths." Admittedly, I stole liberally from Wikipedia because nobody had yet created a definitive collection of celebrity deaths sorted by hospital (and here I though everything was available on the Intertubes). Second, very few hospitals had a meaningful collection of notable deaths. Clusters were confined to places where famous people of various stripes congregated during their lifetimes, limited primarily to New York City and the greater Los Angeles area. That made sense.


Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, New York


Wendell Wilkie campaigns in Mass.
Wendell Wilkie campaigns in Mass. by Boston Public Library, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lenox Hill Hospital (map), a teaching hospital for various universities and also in Manhattan, began in the 19th Century as the German Dispensary. The name changed to Lenox Hill during the First World War when it was fashionable to whitewash every possible remote connection to Germany. Lenox Hill didn’t have quite the eclectic pedigree of notable deaths as displayed by NewYork–Presbyterian although it still had a pretty impressive spread including Wendell Willkie, Ed Sullivan, Alvin Ailey, Alger Hiss and Nipsey Russell (politician, showman, dancer, spy and comedian).


Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, California


Walt Disney Statue
Walt Disney statue at Disney World. My own photo.

Quite predictably, celebrity deaths at hospitals in the Los Angeles metropolitan area tended to skew towards show business personalities. That still provided a wide spectrum. Case in point, if one were to consider a fictional dinner party in the afterlife, imagine a guest list including Walt Disney, Corey Haim, John Ritter, and Ronnie James Dio. They all passed away at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank (map). The location was particularly convenient for Walt Disney as he sought treatment for lung cancer. The hospital was directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios.

John Ritter had the added distinction of being born at the hospital and passing away at the same place 54 years later. I imagined the list of celebrities who arrived into this world and departed for the great beyond at the same location must have been rather short. That’s your 12MC trivia for the day.


Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California


003la
003la by Mike Atherton, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Oddly enough, Twelve Mile Circle featured Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (map) in a previous article, Comedy Duos, that focused on the intersection of two streets, Burns and Allen. As I noted at the time, "The intersection’s full name was N George Burns Road and Gracie Allen Drive. Burns and Allen were major benefactors of the hospital."

Cedars-Sinai was dubbed "Hollywood’s Glamour Hospital" by the Hollywood Reporter. Its list of celebrity patients stretched for pages and naturally some of them never recovered. Groucho Marx, Andy Kaufman, Eazy-E, Frank Sinatra, and Ernest Borgnine all spent their final moments there.

On October 8, 2014 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Convergence at the End”

  1. Peter says:

    Parkland Hospital in Dallas saw the deaths of JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.

  2. Peter says:

    Richard Nixon’s death at New York Hospital in 1994 had a strange similarity to Wendell Willkie’s death at Lenox Hill Hospital a half-century earlier. As I had noted in a comment to a different thread some time back, after suffering a stroke in his New Jersey residence Nixon asked to be taken to New York Hospital instead of a closer local one because his longtime physician practiced there. Willkie had suffered a heart attack onboard a westbound train near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. He refused to seek medical help in Pittsburgh and insisted on continuing the trip to New York, as his physician practiced at Lenox Hill. He died a couple days after arriving.

    Nixon’s decision to bypass a local hospital probably didn’t make much of a difference, especially as he was in his 80’s. Willkie, in contrast, was young and in otherwise good health, and in refusing to go to a Pittsburgh hospital he might have sealed his fate.

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