The Embarrassing Final Moments Of 10 Historical Figures

Published May 23, 2016
Updated July 18, 2018

Sometimes we expect celebrity deaths and those of prominent figures to be as glorified as the people themselves. But the painfully embarrassing moments that marked the end for these 10 public faces prove otherwise.

Significant public figures can seem so mighty to us at times, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t live on forever.

When forced to cope with celebrity deaths, and the fact that they are indeed mere mortals like everyone else, we tend to visualize that their final moments will be as consequential as the entirety of their existence. But, as evident by the final moments of the people on this list, celebrity deaths and the deaths of other prominent people in history aren’t necessarily as glamorous or noble as the lives they led.

Embarrassing Celebrity Deaths: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley's Death

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

Of all the people and celebrity deaths that make up this list, Elvis Presley is the most bonafide in regards to the classic “superstar” definition.

And when it comes to celebrity deaths, the King of Rock and Roll’s death has become a pop culture conspiracy in and of itself. Many people don’t believe Elvis Presley died at all — and “sightings” are frequently reported.

In truth, the actual matter of Presley’s death is sadder than it is strange.

On August 16, 1977, a dispatcher received a 911 call stating that someone at Elvis Presley Boulevard was having difficulty breathing. As the ambulance arrived at the mansion, the EMTs knew, as anyone else in Memphis did, that it was the home of Elvis Presley they were careening toward.

One of the Presley bodyguards met them at the gate, apparently telling them: “He’s upstairs and I think it’s an OD.”

When recounting Presley’s death, it’s often been stated that he died sitting on the toilet — which is arguably one of the more embarrassing ways to die. Furthermore, when it was later discovered that he had suffered a massive heart attack at just 42, many postulated it came as a result of constipation.

The legend is partially true. He had been in the bathroom when the paramedics arrived, and was passed out on the floor with his pajama bottoms below his knees. And constipation may well have been one of just many health ailments that plagued Presley in his midlife.


Wikimedia CommonsElvis Presley in 1970, seven years before his death.

The paramedics hefted him onto a stretcher, but didn’t hold out much hope that he would be revived. Again, someone in the room mentioned that he had likely overdosed, but no one offered up any medications or drugs.

During later investigations of Presley’s death, it was discovered that his personal doctor had prescribed him an array of painkillers and sedatives such as cocaine hydrochloride, Demerol, Quaalude, and Dilaudid. Still, his autopsy showed no signs of Dilaudid in his body.

Elvis performs his last televised song.

What his autopsy did uncover was that his colon was extremely large and distended — signs of chronic constipation.

Just in case that wasn’t all bad enough, when his body was wheeled into the morgue, the attendant discovered a reporter with a camera hiding under a sheet on another table. Pretending to be a corpse himself, the reporter had been waiting to try to snap a photo of Presley’s dead body.

As far as celebrity deaths go, it wasn’t a very rock and roll way for one of the biggest names in music history to go.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City.
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