Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: "Mama" Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas choked to death on a ham sandwich.
Origins: Although many rumors swirled in the wake of the sudden death of 33-year-old "Mama" Cass Eliot on
According to the biography Dream a Little Dream of Me, it was
Greenburgh immediately offered a straightforward explanation for Cass's death. His first impression, he told the press, was that it appeared to have been a simple case of asphyxia. "From what I saw when I got to the flat," he told the Daily Express, "she appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinkingThe official findings of the coroner's inquest were that Cass Eliot died from "fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity" (i.e., a heart attack brought about by fatty degeneration of the heart muscle fiber), and nothing was found to have been blocking her mouth or throat. Cass Elliot had long been overweight and more than once undertook crash diets to lose a large amount of weight in a relatively short period of time; the prolonged, combined effects of obesity and severe dieting had weakened her heart to the point of failure.
What Greenburgh had presumably overlooked is the small but pertinent fact that the sandwich by Cass's bed had not in fact been touched (as recorded by Inspector Kenneth Humm once the police were called).
Sightings: Look for a mention of this legend in the 1997 film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and in the 1996 film Beautiful Thing.
Last updated: 19 January 2007
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.