“I hope he is not going to die at my hotel!”
This story could very well start with the famous tourism slogan "See Naples and Die". Enrico Caruso, star-tenor of the past century, took this catch phrase to heart and died at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio in Naples on 2 August 1921. He died of an abscess that brought on peritonitis. Until today, the management is happy about the kindness of the super star, as thousands of visitors are lured to the hotel in memorial of their great singing idol.
On 11. February 2012, Whitney Houston, one of America's most successful singers, has died aged 48 in a suite on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles where she was a guest. She was pronounced dead at 3.55pm local time.
John Belushi was just 33-years-old when he died from a drug overdose at the Chateau Marmont hotel off the Sunset Strip in L.A. Actors Robert De Niro and Robin Williams apparently had gone to see him in Bungalow 3 just before he passed away.
Janis Joplin also died in a Los Angeles hotel. She died from an overdose in 1970 at the Landmark Hotel – which is now the Highland Gardens Hotel. Anna Nicole Smith was found unresponsive in room 607 of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Miami in 2007. She was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead an hour after the 911 call had been placed.
The Ritz in Paris had reason to turn away luminaries from the stage and screen, especially after the famous silent-screen actress Olive Thomas reputably died in one of its rooms in 1920. For many years, the cause remained cloaked in secrecy. A more recent version of the mini-scandal claims that an apparently drunk and distressed Olive Thomas accidentally ingested a large dose of mercury bichloride that had been prescribed for her playboy husband Jack Pickford’s chronic syphilis. She actually died several days later at the American hospital and not in the Ritz itself.
Some other famous people have spent their last hours at the Ritz in less than ideal circumstances. Pamela Churchill Harriman’s early years were pretty wild: as a teenager, she was personally introduced to Hitler. She married Randolph Churchill before turning twenty. She had several other marriages and affairs, all to men of prominence, including the son of Aga Khan III, and the son of Baron Robert Phillippe de Rothschild. In 1971 she married one of her previous lovers, American millionaire Averill Harriman. A successful fundraiser for the Democratic Party, Pamela Harriman was appointed Ambassador to France in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Aged 77, she died after having a heart attack while taking her customary morning swim in the Ritz’s pool. President Chirac was at the Elysée Palace nearby when he heard the news, and rushed over. As always, the Ritz handled the death with tact and discretion.
Fashion legend Coco Chanel died at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1971 at the age of 87. The esteemed fashion designer had lived at the hotel for three decades.
In 1923, the manageress of The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok had serious worries about writer Somerset Maugham, who had conducted malaria. "I hope he is not going to die at my hotel!" she remarked to the doctor, right outside of the room of the patient. Maugham recovered soon and spent so much time at the hotel, that The Oriental has enough reason to name one of her best suites after him. Reconvalescent he spent more weeks at the hotel and left us a cute short story, certainly written at The Oriental.
In 1898 the Empress Elizabeth, of Austria was a guest at the Beau Rivage in Geneva, Switzerland. As she was leaving to board the boat which was to take her to Territet, and while she was crossing the hotel grounds to the landing-place, she was stabbed by an Italian anarchist. Carried tenderly back to the hotel she soon breathed her last.
One guest of no fame but with enough money turned to the Mena House in front of the Great Pyramid in Cairo for eternal peace. He rented a room with view upon the pyramid. While spending most of his time on his terrace, looking at the final resting places of various Pharaohs, most notable Ramses, the rumours leaked that he has come to the hotel to wait until he dies. The tactful management approached the guest to investigate if he would not prefer to leave and find his peace – please! – somewhere else. After knocking on the door, nobody opened. With the usual "Housekeeping, sorrrrryyy!" a small delegation entered the room. They found their guest laying in bed, his arms peaceful crossed, eyes shut. He had followed the great Pharaoes to their final destination.
At L'HÔTEL in Paris, where Oscar Wilde lay in his death throes, which ended on November 30, 1900, his bill remains unpaid until today. One of his last quips, "I am dying beyond my means," referred not to the hotel's elegance, but to his own total insolvency. But Wilde's last days in room 16 are shrouded in mystery. Did he die of syphilis, or cerebral meningitis resulting from an ear infection? Did he willingly join the Catholic faith, or was he dragooned into accepting last rites by pushy priests? One thing is clear: The hotel's decor was not up to the aesthete's standards. His last words are reputed to be, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go." His bill of 26,000 francs is still outstanding.
At the Viennese Hotel Bristol (Austria) it all ended there for one unfortunate lady: the newspaper Kronen-Zeitung reported that Julie Earl from England was robbed and murdered at the Bristol Hotel on 23 May 1918. Miss Earl had been the companion of Baroness Vivante de Villabella from Trieste. The Baroness, her husband and the unfortunate victim had resided at the Bristol for the past three and a half years. 180 Crowns in cash and jewellery worth one million Crowns were stolen. However, the perpetrators didn’t get very far. They were arrested the very same day. (from our book HOTEL BRISTOL VIENNA).
Silent-film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's 1921 Labor Day bash in room 1220 of the Westin St. Francis provided newspapers with the scandal of the decade, complete with illicit booze, groupies, and the death of a young actress. The actual events are clouded in San Francisco fog: At some point in the proceedings, Virgina Rappe, a 30-year-old starlet with a few screen credits, went off to the bedroom by herself, quite drunk. Four days later she was dead, and Arbuckle was tried for first-degree murder, with the San Francisco D.A. claiming the star had raped Rappe and fatally injured her with his excessive body weight. There were three trials and finally, a verdict of not guilty. Arbuckle was banned from several studios and went bankrupt; one little trip to the bedroom made him, in his own words, "the guy everyone loves to hate."
Operation Tiderace was the codename of the British plan to retake Singapore in 1945. Japan's defeat in World War II caught the Japanese Command in Singapore by surprise. Many were unwilling to surrender and had vowed to fight to the death. There was even a secret plan to massacre all Allied PoWs on the island. But on August 20, the Japanese commander Itagaki told his men that they would have to surrender. That night, one officer committed suicide at Raffles Hotel.
In 2009 Kung Fu movie star David Carradine was found dead in his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand. Apparently he was found hung in the closet. The rest is unknown.
The Astoria in St. Petersburg has its famous case, too: Aleksandr Vertinsky a famous Russian actor, singer and songwriter who had become a cult figure among Russian émigrés. He died of a heart attack on 21 May 21 1957, at the Astoria Hotel in Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
Music photographer Jim Marshall, who spent more than a half-century capturing rock-and-roll legends including the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin at work and in repose, has died alone in his New York hotel room.
The two-story 1950s cast-concrete former Landmark Motor Hotel was the perfect stage for a celebrity's last act. And on October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin provided just that, dying of an alcohol-and-heroin overdose in the wee hours of the morning. Joplin obtained some startlingly strong heroin, injected herself, went to the lobby to buy cigarettes, returned to her room, and keeled over from her bed into an end table. She was found the next day, dressed in a blouse and panties, by her road manager. Joplin was thus a founding member of the "27 club," the dubiously honorable circle of musicians who expired at that tender age, along with Brian Jones, who died the previous year, and Jimi Hendrix, who preceded her by a mere two weeks. The Landmark Motor Hotel has been renamed the Highland Gardens Hotel.
New York’s Chelsea Hotel has its fair share in this story’s subject: poet Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning at St. Vincent’s Hospital after being at the Chelsea in 1953. Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, was found stabbed to death on October 12, 1978. Lost Weekend author Charles R. Jackson committed suicide at the Chelsea in 1968. On the other hand, Painter Alphaeus Cole died there at the record-setting age of 115. Close to death had been several survivors of the Titanic, who actually stayed for some time at the Chelsea after being rescued, as it is a short distance from Pier 54 where the Titanic was supposed to dock. Vienna's Hotel Imperial added a case to the list. The former minister of foreign affairs from Jordan, Said Saad Bashir Kheir, died there in his bed on 9 December 2009.
And one more throwback in time: In April 1913 - John Pierpont MORGAN died at the Grand Hotel in Rome, decades later, in 1941, the exiled Spanish King Alfonso XIII, breathed his last at the same legendary Roman hotel. Grand to stay, grand to die at.
In Austria, a former hunting lodge has its own way of handling such cases of an unexpected end of a journey. The Jagdhotel Kühtai, run by Christian Stolberg, a descendant of the last Austrian emperor, has its very own cemetery. It is adjacent to the house chapel just above the hotel. It is the highest cemetery of the county of Tyrol, situated on a scenic mountain plateau. One guest already checked into this final resting place, lending the term long-term-stay a new meaning.