Born: June 23, 1927
Died: September 23, 1987
On September 23, the chain-smoking Tony and Oscar-winning dance legend, working on a revival of his 1969 hit musical Sweet Charity, was walking back to his Washington, D.C. hotel room. With him was former wife and original Charity star Gwen Verdon (they separated in the ’70s, but remained married); at about 7 p.m. when they reached the corner of 13thand Pennsylvania Avenue, Fosse fell to the ground, the victim of a massive heart attack.
Gwen cradled his head in his arms and tried to shoo away the crowds that had gathered. A doctor worked his way through, loosened Fosse’s shirt and began pounding his heart. It obviously hurt and Fosse, his eyes now half shut and his complexion green, said so. His last words? “Please stop. You’re hurting me. I’m alright. Don’t worry about me.”
Fosse was rushed to the hospital, but nothing could save him.
He died, at 60, as opening night audience members at the Kennedy Center were enjoying the intermission of Sweet Charity. Verdon later told the press Fosse suffered the fatal heart attack and died in his room at the Willard, wanting to preserve his dignity. Papers fell for it, even The New York Times.
Fosse’s ashes were scattered at sea . . . and all that jazz.
Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli