A number of celebrities have met their maker whilst treading the boards or doing the thing they loved best and had made them famous. In the UK, comedian Tommy Cooper was famous for collapsing and dying from a heart attack on live television. In the US, and around the World a large number of well known faces and performers have reached the end of their lives in similar fashion.
One of the least famous entrants into the list of celebrities who died doing their jobs is Frank Hayes, who is largely remembered in horse racing circles for the manner of his death. Hayes had worked as a stable hand for many years leading up to his death and was anxious to prove he had what it takes to be a professional jockey. A ride came available on the horse Sweet Kiss, who had consistently lost races and Frank begged the owner and trainer for the ride. In what would prove his most famous race, Frank led Sweet Kiss to a large victory, unfortunately he suffered a heart attack yards from the finish line and become the first rider to win a professional horse race deceased.
Famous faces from the TV world have also suffered a similar fate to that of Hayes and Tommy Cooper, with many suffering severe medical problems whilst on stage and staff and audience members believing it to be part of the act. One of the most famous examples of this is the case of Redd Foxx. The sitcom star was performing in the sitcom The Royal Family when he suffered a heart attack, clutching his chest and collapsing to the floor of the TV studio he went unattended for a short time as everybody present believed it to be part of his act. A similar fate befell comedian Dick Shawn, famous for his role in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Shawn was performing his live comedy act, which included a large amount of improvised word play, suddenly clutching his chest the audience failed to realize he was suffering a heart attack on stage.
Although not as famous as many others on the list, Tiny Tim was a singing ukulele player who made his name on a series of 1970s variety shows in the US. Reports state Tim was playing his most famous song, Tiptoe Through The Tulips when he dropped his ukulele and died from a heart attack whilst playing a charity fundraiser.
A long list of performers have suffered medical conditions on stage and died, perhaps the most famous of which being the death of Irene Ryan, who was made famous by a series of movie roles and played the iconic Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies. Ryan was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, but defied the odds to keep on working and performing int her 70s. Ryan took a role in a Broadway production of Pippin at the age of 72 knowing her brain tumor problems were growing worse, eventually the accomplished stage actress died on stage during what would prove to be her final performance.