To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: To lose one rock star may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
So it was for American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson who in the 1970s owned flat twelve at 9 Curzon Place.
First, it was Ellen Naomi Cohen better known as Mama Cass Elliot front person of the Mamas and Papas.
She was big in every sense, her ex-group had enjoyed worldwide hits and although only 5ft 5in tall, she weighed about 15 stone. Now a solo singer she was in London in the summer of 1974 to star at the London Palladium.
Number 9 Curzon Place (now 1 Curzon Square) had been gutted just after the Second World War, and a lift shaft brutally thrust up the central stairwell and a dozen apartments created. It was into this lift that Mamma Cass ascended up the four floors to Flat Twelve. It was to be her final ascent, she was found dead in the bedroom.
Rumours flew that she had choked to death on a ham sandwich (no mention was made whether it was pepperoni or salami), but pathologist Professor Keith Simpson found no traces of food blocking her trachea and concluded she was the victim of a heart attack and the prolonged effects of obesity. She was aged 32.
Four years later the wild man of rock, again at the age of 32 and in the same flat, died in a rather incongruous fashion.
Keith Moon, the legendary drummer for The Who, was one of the most flamboyant characters in rock. Described by his biographer, Tony Fletcher, Moon:
threw his head into the cavernous jaws of certain disaster time and again, tempting fate with an almost unparalleled intake of alcohol and drugs, and emerged on every occasion just about whole
He famously drove his lilac Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool, in fact, his own garden pond, Moon the Loon was an exploding time bomb.
On 6th September 1978 Moon was staying with his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax at Harry Nilsson’s flat and contrary to his hell-raiser lifestyle was taking Heminevrin, a medication for countering the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
After attending a film launch party he went back to flat twelve, had a nightcap and fell into a deep sleep.
Awaking the next morning he demanded Annette make him breakfast. Complaining at having to get up to make breakfast Moon snapped: “If you don’t like it, you can f**k off!” – at least he was true to form for his last reported words.
After eating a steak washed down with yet more Heminevrin tablets, Moon and his girlfriend went back to sleep. Annette tried to wake him later in the day, but Moon lay lifeless in the bed. She tried to revive him and called a doctor, but Moon was dead on arrival at the hospital.
Once again, it was Prof Simpson who performed the post mortem. He found 32 Heminevrin tablets in Moon’s stomach, reporting: “The quantity was enormous, and constituted a vast overdose.” The coroner recorded an open verdict.
The Wild Man of Rock had died to try to give up booze, just two weeks after turning thirty-two.