WHAT A WAY TO GO by Malcolm with Jeff Bloch Forbes


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Ever wondered how Warren G. Harding died? Pontius Pilate, Tycho Brahe, Sid Vicious? The chairman of Forbes magazine has, and in this slipshod offering shovels up the deathbed dirt on 175 of the famous. Not that this is a book about death; at least, so goes Forbes' disclaimer in a brief foreword: ""I think rather it's about satisfying an oft-expressed curiosity on the part of Us, the Living."" Even so, few will hunger for the sketchy facts that Forbes (Around the World on Hot Air and Two Wheels, 1985; The Further Sayings of Chairman Malcolm, 1986; etc.) tosses in about the lives of his subjects in his lightly ironic capsule biographies. It's the manner of dying that lures here, from jazz great Charlie Parker's death at age 38 of a heart attack, cirrhosis of the liver, and pneumonia (""The doctor estimated the condition of his body as that of a 53-year-old man""), to natural foods expert J.J. Rodale keeling over of a heart attack during a taping of the Dick Cavett show, to aerialist Paul Wallenda's fatal tumble while tightwalking a cable ten stories above San Juan. Most of the discussed deaths are well known, but Forbes does lay one rumor to rest: Catherine the Great, he writes, ""did not die in flagrante delicto with a horse."" Unfortunately, he also skips over some rumors likely grounded in fact. He reports, for instance, that Nelson Rockefeller was alone with Megan Marshack when he died of a heart attack, but fails to mention that the millionaire probably died during intercourse; he utters no word of the possible Mafia role in Grace Kelly's death; and he glosses over the Kennedy connection to Marilyn Monroe's death. Nor does he choose among the possible causes of Bruce Lee's demise--bad diet? poison? cerebral edema?--or give his own opinion on whether Jim Morrison still lives. The morbidly curious may find some satisfaction here, despite the gaps, but as gossip this book is about as lively as its subjects.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster