In the age of social media we’ve learned more than ever that celebrities are just like the rest of us, because of course they are. They’re people. Some are good, some are bad. Some are smart, some are maybe not so smart. But that’s to be expected. And just like the rest of us, celebrities have their own brushes with mortality that can occasionally be quite dramatic.
10. Thomas Edison Was Nearly Killed by a Flying Badger
Thomas Edison will forever be known as a prolific inventor and kind of a villain from history. He has been accused of some pretty egregious behavior in regards to his infamous feud with Nikola Tesla, not the least of which included electrocuting an elephant. But you can’t argue that he wasn’t an important figure in history, and his legacy is well secured. And to think, none of it would have happened if a badger had been a few inches closer to him when it exploded.
Back in the day, before he was known as a major inventor, Edison was a train guy. He really liked the train. So much so that he not only befriended train engineers, he got them to agree to what may be the stupidest thing you’ll hear all day. They let him ride on the cowcatcher.
If you’re not familiar with all locomotives, a cowcatcher was kind of like a metal broom, shaped a bit like an arrowhead, attached to the front of the train. As the name implies, it was ostensibly used to push cows off the tracks. In general, however, it was used to deflect any potential obstacle, thus preventing or at least minimizing damage. It was not a seat.
According to Edison, this was a fine way to travel but for one particular journey. Once, the cowcatcher did its job and hit what he thought was a badger. The result was that the badger was launched toward the locomotive and hit below the headline, adjacent to Edison’s head, with “great violence.” Edison said he was sitting to one side, so no harm was done. No doubt if it had hit Edison’s head, the violence would have been much worse.
9. Adam Devine Was Nearly Killed by a Cement Truck
Adam Devine has carved a name for himself in comedy thanks to his hilarious work on Workaholics, not to mention the Pitch Perfect films and The Righteous Gemstones. As funny as Devine is today, his own brush with death was no joke.
Some people say they have near death experiences and mean they were almost hit by a car. Devine was not almost hit by a car. He was hit by a cement truck.
Devine was just 11-years-old and had gone to a store with friends. After waiting for some trucks to pass on the road, he thought the way was clear. But another truck came barreling down the road and hit Devine and his bicycle. He was run under the front wheels and went skidding 500 feet down the street. He says they told him he only lived because his bike took the brunt of the hit.
He broke nearly every bone below his waist and lost much of his skin. They nearly amputated both of his legs, in fact. After being in a medically induced coma for two weeks and undergoing 26 different surgeries over the next few years while he learned to walk again, he was thankfully able to not only recover, but discover his knack for comedy as a way of dealing with his situation.
8. Johnny Cash Was Nearly Gutted By an Ostrich
Johnny Cash was a man with a reputation. They called him the Man in Black, and he sang the Folsom Prison Blues. He was tough and gritty and a real man’s man. He also nearly got taken out by a flightless bird.
In 1981, Cash was at “The House of Cash,” his own version of Graceland or the Neverland Ranch. There was a recording studio, a museum, and so on. A big celebration of all things Johnny Cash. And, as celebrities are wont to do, he had an exotic animal farm. That included ostriches.
According to Cash, a bad winter had killed several ostriches. When the hen died, her mate became very angry. Cash was just walking the grounds when the ostrich appeared and confronted him aggressively. Nothing came of that and Cash left. But, according to him, the bird was plotting. On his return walk, the bird attacked.
If you’ve ever seen an ostrich attack, you may not think it’s as funny as this sounds at first. It certainly wasn’t funny for Cash. Ostriches are basically modern day velociraptors. Their claws are four inches long. Their kick can disembowel a human and people have needed medical attention for the birds cutting right through to their intestines.
Cash got lucky. The bird’s kick broke his lower ribs, and the claw sliced him from his chest down to his belt. He actually attributes the belt with saving his life and preventing the claw from digging deeper and lower.
7. Black Sabbath Nearly Pranked Their Drummer Bill Ward to Death
There are actually several stories in Hollywood history of the dangers of body paint. The Tin Man’s makeup in Wizard of Oz nearly killed Buddy Ebsen, and it made Wicked Witch Margaret Hamilton ill as well. There was also a popular rumor that gold painted Bond girl Shirley Eaton died, which is an urban legend. If you want a real story of gold paint going bad, you need to look at Black Sabbath.
Tony Iommi related the story of the band renting a house in California, and their drummer Bill Ward coming home drunk one night. As a prank, Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne painted him gold while he was passed out. They thought it was funny until Ward started throwing up and having convulsions.
Paramedics had to give Ward adrenaline, and they had to clean him with paint stripper while the band was chided for being idiots.
6. Graham Norton was Mugged and Nearly Bled to Death
Back in 1989, Graham Norton was just a student in drama school when he was mugged at knifepoint. The muggers moved beyond threats and actually stabbed the future actor and talk show host in the chest. Although he survived the incident, Norton has also pointed out that it was incredibly serious. In his own words he lost “half” the blood in his body.
According to Norton it was an elderly couple that found him and called an ambulance. At the time, he hadn’t even realized he’d been stabbed thanks to fear and adrenaline clouding his senses. It was only when he looked down and saw how much blood he was losing that he realized something very bad was happening. Luckily, he was found in time.
5. Hunter S. Thompson Nearly Killed (But Then Also Saved) Bill Murray
Two actors are most often associated with Hunter S. Thompson: Johnny Depp and Bill Murray. Murray took a stab at portraying Thompson back in 1980 and, to prepare for the role, he got to know the real man. Now if you know anything about both Thompson and Murray, it’s that they’re unpredictable and a little offbeat. So the two of them together had to be a recipe for something, if not disastrous, then at least memorable.
Murray has said he was hanging out at a pool with Hunter in Aspen. Murray decided to try his hand at a Houdini escape so they tied him to a chair and threw him in the pool. Murray was unable to escape or stand up to breathe, as had been the plan. Luckily, Thompson realized at some point that Murray was not in a good way, so he also saved his life by pulling him out.
4. Dolph Lundgren Nearly Killed Sylvester Stallone on the Set of Rocky IV
One of the greatest cinematic matches in history is the bout between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is representing America and Dolph Lundgren’s Drago is a Soviet monster in peak condition. Unbeknownst to audiences, behind the scenes Lundgren was just as monstrous, though not intentionally.
While filming their legendary fight, Stallone was absorbing some real body blows, take after take. He said he felt a burning in his chest after three takes but tried to ignore it. However, later that day when he had trouble breathing he realized something was wrong.
Stallone was airlifted to a hospital and spent eight days in intensive care. As a result of Lundgren’s punches, his heart had been rattled around so badly in his chest it began to swell. Had he not sought medical attention the swelling would have increased until it stopped. And, if you’re interested, the actual punch that caused the damage made the final cut of the film. As Stallone said, “how could you take that out?
3. A Fan Nearly Killed Frank Zappa During a Concert
If you’re a Frank Zappa fan, you may have noticed that there’s a marked difference between his early recordings and his later ones. His voice changed, and it was a direct result of a surprise attack that occurred when Zappa was on stage in 1971.
A man named Trevor Charles Howell rushed the stage and pushed Zappa into the concrete orchestra pit. The fall was catastrophic and people actually thought Zappa had died. His crumpled body was bent at awkward angles, his neck broken. His arm was paralyzed, he was bleeding from multiple wounds and bones had broken. The reason? Howell’s girlfriend had a crush on Zappa.
Zappa ended up in a wheelchair for over a year. His larynx was also crushed in the fall, which resulted in a permanent lowering of the singer’s voice.
2. George Lucas Nearly Died in a Car Crash
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying George Lucas has been one of the most influential voices in pop culture. The man who made Star Wars has shaped the entertainment landscape in a profound way. And it almost never came to pass.
As a kid, Lucas wanted to race cars. He had a car he had souped up himself and was eager to be a part of that world. Maybe that’s what led him and his friends to making, shall we say… less than smart choices. One day while he was in high school, Lucas was racing when his buddy tried to pass him on the left, just as Lucas began to turn. Lucas’s car was broadsided and rolled several times as a result, only stopping when it bent around a tree. (Fans of George’s early work may recall a similar scene in his high school movie masterpiece, American Graffiti.)
Lucas broke bones, bruised his lungs and passed out. He spent a long time recovering and decided maybe race car driving was not for him, instead turning his attention to film.
1. Martin Lawrence Fell Into a Coma From Heat Stroke
There was a time when Martin Lawrence was one of the biggest names in comedy. He starred in a hit sitcom and headlined numerous films, including hits like Bad Boys and, of course, Big Momma’s House. But Martin has also been known for erratic behavior and questionable choices. One of those choices nearly killed him some years ago.
Stories about exactly what happened are conflicting. Some say Lawrence was running in the actual fat suit he wore in the movie Big Momma’s House. Others say he just had on numerous layers. Martin himself told Conan O’Brien that he was trying to lose weight and was wearing a plastic suit. The day was hot and, as a result, he actually passed out from heatstroke. But it was more than that.
As a result of his overexertion, Lawrence ended up in a coma for three days and nearly died. He had been jogging in 100 degrees Fahrenheit heat and as a result, his temperature in the hospital was a staggering 107 degrees.