Cass Elliot (Mama Cass of The Mamas & Papas) and Keith Moon of The Who died in the apartment of the same singer/songwriter: Harry Nilsson.
Harry Nilsson, a popular singer and composer in the 1960’s and 1970’s who won two Grammy awards for his literate, almost intimate songs, died at his home in Agoura Hills, Calif in 1994. Nillson had many hits in the 70’s and was a deal pal of Ringo & John. They were party-mates .
In 1974, Cass was in London where she was performing at the London Palladium to sold-out crowds. On the evening of July 29, 1974, after giving a spectacular performance, Cass tragically was the victim of a heart attack at singer Harry Nilsson’s, which ended her life at the young age of 32. Many rumors circulated regarding her untimely death. These included a drug overdose, an FBI assassination plot, that she was pregnant with John Lennon’s child, and suicide. The most popular and resilient of these rumors was that she had choked to death while eating a ham sandwich.
The ham sandwich myth was fueled by the report of Dr. Anthony Greenburgh, the physician who first examined Cass after her death. Greenburgh reportedly told the Daily Express that “she appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinking Coca-Cola while lying down—a very dangerous thing to do,” and continued, “she seemed to have choked on a ham sandwich.” He came to these conclusions from his first impression upon entering the scene, and he believed she died of asphyxia. Dr. Greenburgh completely overlooked the fact that the ham sandwich sitting on the table had not been touched.
The facts about Cass Elliot’s death were documented shortly after she died by Keith Simpson, one of Great Britain’s leading forensic pathologists at that time. The forensic autopsy showed there was “a heart problem leading to heart failure; there was no sandwich or any other item lodged in her throat or trachea; and she had had very little to eat the day before she died.” A routine drug screening showed no drugs were in her system. The cause of death was “heart failure due to fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity.” That conclusion was controversial and disputed by American pathologists at that time. The theory exists that Cass had a cardiac conduction deficit. She frequently suffered fainting episodes that went unexplained.
Keith Moon’s short, sweet life came to and end after a night of partying — and to be fair, a lifetime of testing his own limits. Ironically, his death was caused from an overdose of pills that were intended to combat his alcoholism. The medication was primarily a sedative, only a handful of which would have caused death. Police reports indicate that he took nearly a third of his 100-pill prescription. “It was a silly mistake,” said Pete Townshend in the 2007 documentary Amazing Journey. “He just always took pills in handfuls, it was just a habit that he had.” Heminevrin, the prescribed drug in question, disabled his esophagus, which prevented him from vomiting, thus suffocating him. He was passed out and, like Cass, died in Harry Nillson’s flat. While Moon was no stranger to chemical intake, he never hit on hard drugs, prefering alcohol and pills to be his demon.