The Macabre Interest in Celebrities, Death and Hotels…


Celebrity culture has thrived since the second half of the 20th century and its growth continues in a manner that seems endless.

It’s not that it didn’t exist before this time, but the rapid development of consumer culture in the post WW2 years and the constant technological improvements made the rapid distribution of images and information through radio, print, cinema and television much easier. With the dawn of the internet and social media, the onslaught of celebrity ‘everything’ has continued and frankly, has been exhausting!

These celebrities share glimpses of their life, from bread-making in lockdown to appearances on red carpet events whose only purpose seems to be to perpetuate the celebrity image or brand, or to flog some new cream or clothing label…

The death of a celebrity is just a macabre extension of this celebrity obsession and when this occurs at a hotel, well, it is all the more fascinating. There are now plaques, guidebooks and tours to publicise the precise and sometimes sordid details of the celeb’s death and the hotel in which it occurred. Some disciples of these celebrities do everything to walk in their footsteps, visiting the room, bar, pool, restaurant or other location before their perhaps untimely death.

Here are a few famous, noteworthy celebrity deaths and the hotels where they met their end…

Whitney Houston – The Beverley Hilton, Los Angeles

Singer Whitney Houston was found dead aged 48 in the bath of suite 434 at the Beverley Hilton.  The official cause of death was thought to be accidental drowning with cocaine and atherosclerotic heart disease as contributing factors.

John Belushi – Chateau Marmont Hotel, Hollywood

Actor and comedian John Belushi was found dead aged just 33 in Bungalow 3 of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in LA. Both Robin Williams and Robert de Niro were said to have visited him earlier in the evening at separate times but left before he died. He was found by his personal trainer around noon and apparently died from a drug overdose. This famous hotel on Sunset Boulevard has been home to many celebrities over the years and is still attracting them today.

Martin Luther King – Lorraine Motel, Memphis

On April 4 1968, civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King was gunned down on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tennessee, aged 39. James Earl Ray was caught several months later and convicted of his murder. The motel site now houses the National Civil Rights Museum 

Oscar Wilde – Hôtel d’Alsace, Paris

On 30th November 1900, Irish author, poet & playwright Oscar Wilde died in room 16 of the Hôtel d’Alsace in Paris aged 46. Although a famous celebrity of his time, he was almost penniless at the time of his death and was reputed to have left a large unpaid hotel bill. The property is now known as L’hotel  –

Sid Vicious – Hotel Chelsea, New York

Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie) was bass guitarist for the punk rock band ‘The Sex Pistols’. He died on the 2nd February 1979 at the Chelsea Hotel in New York from a drug overdose – a later note found by his mother led to speculation as to whether his death was suicide or misadventure. The hotel is currently closed for renovations and plans to reopen in 2021 –

Michael Hutchence – Ritz Carlton Double Bay, Sydney

Musician & lead singer of rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence was found dead in room 524 of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Double Bay, Sydney on 22nd November 1997 aged 37. He was found completely nude and hanging from a leather belt with drugs and alcohol bottles strewn around the room. His death was officially ruled a suicide, but many people believe the death was accidental whilst participating in autoerotic asphyxiation.  The hotel was sold to the Stamford group who operated the property for several years, then tried to have it demolished to make way for apartments. This plan failed and the property was sold to the Royal Group and it reopened late 2014 as the Intercontinental Double Bay following a multi-million dollar renovation. It was sold again in 2021 amid more rumours of its demolition or conversion to apartments –

Anna Nicole Smith – Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Miami

Anna Nicole –Smith was a former playboy playmate who became more famous as a result of her marriage to oil tycoon J Howard Marshall who was 89 at the time. He died 13 months later resulting in a lengthy legal battle over a share of his estate. Smith was found dead on 8th February 2007 in room 607 of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Miami, aged 39. The cause of death was as a result of an overdose of prescription drugs – nine different kinds of pharmaceutical drugs were found in her blood.

Coco Chanel – Ritz Hotel Paris

Fashion designer Coco Chanel was 87 when she died on 10th January 1971 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris – a hotel where she had lived for more than 30 years. This is the same hotel that Princess Diana left shortly before her tragic death in a car accident in 1997. The hotel closed for a period for a major facelift and reopened in 2016 –

Robert F Kennedy – The Ambassador Hotel Los Angeles

Presidential candidate Senator Robert F Kennedy was shot as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles on the 5th June 1968, and died 26 hours later in hospital. He was at the hotel to address his supporters following the 1968 presidential primary elections. He was cutting through the kitchen on his was to another gathering of supporters when he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant. The hotel was closed to guests in 1989 but remained open for filming and private events – scenes from Pretty Woman, Forrest Gump, LA Story and Apollo 13 were all filmed here. The hotel was demolished in 2005 and is now the site of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex –

Cory Monteith – Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, Vancouver

Actor Cory Monteith – most famous for the hit TV series Glee, was found dead on July 13, 2013 in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, Vancouver aged 31. His death appeared to be accidental as a result of mixed drug toxicity from a combination of heroin and alcohol. He was discovered around noon by hotel staff.

James Gandolfini – Boscolo Exedra Hotel, Rome

On 19th June 2013, actor James Gandolfini was in Rome staying at Boscolo Exedra Hotel. He was on vacation and was to receive an award at the Taormina Film Festival a few days later. He was found in the bathroom of his hotel room by his 13 year old son Michael, having had a heart attack – staff called an ambulance but he never regained consciousness.

Anthony Bourdain – Le Chambard Hotel, Kaysersberg, France

On 8th June 2018, in one of the more recent shocking celebrity deaths, chef, author and travel host Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room at Le Chambard Hotel in Kayserberg, France whilst filming an episode for his TV show, Parts Unknown. Bourdain was a larger than life figure, a gifted chef and storyteller who used his books and TV shows to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition. His death was determined a suicide and an ‘impulsive act’ with no other signs of premeditation.    

For more information on these and other celebrity hotel deaths go to:-


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