Many celebrities have died while traveling. This was dramatically brought home to us last year when Ruth & I were in Central California. We had left Paso Robles and were heading east on Highway 46 toward Fresno, CA. Near the town of Cholame we saw a sign that reminded us that actor James Dean, who was driving a sports car that he called the “Little Bastard”, crashed and died here after making only 3 successful movies–Giant, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. He was destined to become a major star and was already headed in that direction when he died. Until we saw this memorial, Ruth & I knew how and when he died but not where.
Another celebrity who died in a car crash was Grace Kelly. She had made only 12 films all of which had become classics when she married a Prince from Monaco and retired permanently from making movies. Three of the twelve —Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief–were directed by horror master Alfred Hitchcock. Traveling with her daughter Princess Stephanie, Grace Kelly missed a sharp turn and went off the road. The car dropped 120 feet before stopping. She had a hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. Ruth and I went to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, TN not too long ago and the fact that this famous blues singer died as the result of wounds she received in an car accident while she was on her way to a show in Memphis was never mentioned. She died in a Mississippi hospital. Her male companion lost control of the car and crashed.
We revisited the very unusual National Museum of Funeral History near Houston, TX and found a major tribute to actor Paul Walker, the star of the Fast & Furious films, who died in a fiery crash in Santa Clarita, CA. He was severely burned in and was traumatized by the accident so did not survive it. I did not know until recently that President Barak Obama’s father, who led a wild life, died in a car crash in Nairobi, Kenya. He ran over a tree stump and died instantly.
As many or more celebrities have died in plane accidents. Ruth and I have morbidly gone to Jean and Goodsprings, NV southwest of Las Vegas where the plane carrying classic actress Carole Lombard crashed on Potosi Mountain. She was 33-years-old and the love of successful actor Clark Gable’s life. He stayed in a hotel near the crash scene until all the details were known. Pilot error was the suspected cause of the crash that killed her and 21 other people. Kobe Bryant is probably the most recent big celebrity who died as the result of an aircraft accident. I did not know that James Horner, the music composer of more than 100 movie scores like Aliens and Titanic, died in an aircraft accident in 2015. A solo pilot, he went down in the Los Padres National Forest in California. Ruth & I were surprised by a tribute to John Denver in the Grammy Museum in LA a few years ago. Winner of 1 Emmy and nominated for 4 others, John Denver, who had 11 #1 hits in a long singing career, was flying an experimental plane when he crashed into Monterey Bay off the coast of California 22 years ago.
Several celebrities have died in boating mishaps including actress Natalie Wood, whose death is still considered suspicious, Glee Star Naya Rivera, and publisher Joseph Pulitzer are among them.