The Taste of Mortality: Eating-related deaths over the centuries
In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
, the eponymous hero (played by Mike Myers, who also wrote the script) makes a list of dead musical icons. “Jimi Hendrix . . . deceased . . . drugs,” he mutters in a goofy British accent, crossing off the name. “Janis Joplin . . . deceased . . . alcohol. Mama Cass . . . deceased . . . ham . . . sandwich.”
The joke is both funny and cruel. It works because Cass Elliott, the late and much-lamented skylark of the Mamas & the Papas, lives on in the collective memory both as a great singer and a fat person who, as anyone will tell you, died choking on that infamous sandwich in 1974. The fact that this is an urban legend — she actually died in her sleep of heart failure, with no evidence of choking — lessens its pop-cultural impact not at all.
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