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Cass Elliot and the myth of the fatal ham sandwich


eight bits

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"Mama" Cass Elliot was best known as a member of the 1960's American singing group, the Mamas and the Papas. She then went on to enjoy a successful solo career. She died suddenly in London in late July, 1974, age 32. The cause of her death is to this day widely misremembered as choking on a ham sandwich.

She was a large woman (sometimes 100 kilos on 165 cm frame/ 220 lbs on 5' 5"), and that contributed to her death of a heart attack. But the ham sandwich found at the death scene was uneaten, and yet it became what was remembered as the instrument of Cass's death even though the autopsy results were released within 10 days after she died.

The case is timely because of the upcoming publication of her daughter Owen's book, My Mama, Cass. Owen was only seven when her mother died, and you know how kids can be. Only as an adult did she learn the source of the sandwich story - a conspiracy, if you want to be that way, between her mother's manager and a journalist. Their concern was to forestall rumors that Cass had died of drug abuse (not rare among the musicians of the time). They got more than they bargained for.

More at The Uncertaintist, https://wp.me/p1zXpX-u8

Edited by eight bits
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  • The title was changed to Cass Elliot and the myth of the fatal ham sandwich
 

After the Mackenzie Phillips interview I could never listen to her band again. 😬

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1 hour ago, Piney said:

After the Mackenzie Phillips interview I could never listen to her band again. 😬

Her father John was apparently a demanding individual - whether he was as warped as Mackenzie alleges ... obviously, I don't know. Her stepmother (Michelle) is the last person standing from the band, and she says no. But then there's a proverb about who is always the last one to know ...

All in all, Cass seems to have been the most nearly normal person among the four.

 

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Also, both Cass & Moon were age 32 when they died. :blink:

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5 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Her father John was apparently a demanding individual - whether he was as warped as Mackenzie alleges ... obviously, I don't know. Her stepmother (Michelle) is the last person standing from the band, and she says no. But then there's a proverb about who is always the last one to know ...

All in all, Cass seems to have been the most nearly normal person among the four.

 

I remember the first time I heard the ham sandwich story. I was watching Scooby-Doo with Cass as a guest and my mother told me in one of her pill fueled tirades. 

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7 hours ago, Piney said:

I remember the first time I heard the ham sandwich story. I was watching Scooby-Doo with Cass as a guest and my mother told me in one of her pill fueled tirades. 

So, that's not really true?  She didn't choke on a ham sammy?  Now I have to rethink everything.

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20 hours ago, Piney said:

I remember the first time I heard the ham sandwich story. I was watching Scooby-Doo with Cass as a guest and my mother told me in one of her pill fueled tirades. 

I first heard it referenced in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. 

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13 hours ago, joc said:

So, that's not really true?  She didn't choke on a ham sammy?  Now I have to rethink everything.

Like the fact you've been avoiding ham sandwiches since you cut your first record?

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From some reading it looks like she was going through issues of depression as well at the time. 

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22 minutes ago, Piney said:

Like the fact you've been avoiding ham sandwiches since you cut your first record?

Definitely!  I even took a course on chewing lessons, how many times to chew and how a big a piece not to try to chew!

I don't know about Mama Cass but if it were me...tell everyone I OD'd, then everyone can say, Whoa...didn't even know he did drugs.  (I don't)

But don't under any circumstances tell them I died because I was wolfing a pepperoni pizza (with jalapeno peppers, sausage, mushrooms, and black olives) How embarrassing is that?  Tell  them I beat myself to death with a hammer, but don't tell them I choked on a bowl of shredded wheat!  Actually, tell them I was playing my guitar during a thunderstorm and the house got struck and I fried in mid A minor chord!  Then people can say, Dude, that was soooo stupid...doesn't everybody know you don't do that?

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23 hours ago, joc said:

Definitely!  I even took a course on chewing lessons, how many times to chew and how a big a piece not to try to chew!

I don't know about Mama Cass but if it were me...tell everyone I OD'd, then everyone can say, Whoa...didn't even know he did drugs.  (I don't)

But don't under any circumstances tell them I died because I was wolfing a pepperoni pizza (with jalapeno peppers, sausage, mushrooms, and black olives) How embarrassing is that?  Tell  them I beat myself to death with a hammer, but don't tell them I choked on a bowl of shredded wheat!  Actually, tell them I was playing my guitar during a thunderstorm and the house got struck and I fried in mid A minor chord!  Then people can say, Dude, that was soooo stupid...doesn't everybody know you don't do that?

Well if nothing else came from it, at least it served as a cautionary tale to younger generations to always properly chew ones food...

Tell little Billy to properly chew his vegetables or he'll wind up like Mama Cass..."who" he'll ask... "Exactly" you'll answer.

 

True story,my Aunt hit me with the sammich story when I was around 8 or 9...but my name's not Billy 😆

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I can remember hearing that story from back in the day.  The rumor must have been established immediately after her death.  Sad and rude, when you think of it.  Oh well, RIP anyway!

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She had become quite the celebrity before her untimely death and her oratory was as evocative as her singing voice.

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