Ever since Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "the Big Bopper" Richardson died in close succession in 1959, there's been talk of the death rule of threes anytime a celebrity passes. But is it real? We dug up these instances that seem to corroborate the morose urban legend.
What a start to 2016. On Sunday, family of legendary rockstar David Bowie announced that he had lost an 18-month battle with cancer. Bowie's passing was a huge shock to fans; Ziggy Stardust had stayed out of the limelight in recent years, and kept his cancer battle a secret. Not even a week later, Harry Potter fans were devastated to learn that Alan Rickman, famous for his role as Professor Severus Snape, had passed away, also from cancer. Later the same day, reps for singer Céline Dion announced that her husband, René Angélil, had passed from his own battle with cancer.
On June 11, 2015, Ruby Dee — beloved actress, writer and civil rights activist — passed away at her home in New York from natural causes. The legend, whose credits include A Raisin in the Sun and American Gangster, was 91. On June 15, radio icon Casey Kasem passed away in a Washington state hospital at the age of 82 from complications from Lewy body dementia. The inimitable host of the American Top 40 Countdown had been the center of a heated medical tug-of-war between his wife, Jean Kasem, and his children for several months preceding his death. The third celebrity death in less than a week, "Mr. Padre" Tony Gwynn passed away unexpectedly when his heart stopped. The beloved baseball star was only 54 years old.
Although she enjoyed many roles in her lengthy career, Ann B. Davis was best known for her role as the unflappable maid, Alice, on The Brady Bunch. Her death, which happened on June 1, came after the otherwise healthy 88-year-old fell in her bathroom and sustained a subdural hematoma. A few days later on June 4, the world lost another baseball legend when Don Zimmer died at the age of 83 from heart and kidney problems. Just a week after Davis' death, news broke that comedian, writer and actor Rik Mayall had died suddenly at the age of 56. According to his wife, the Drop Dead Fred star suffered a heart attack after coming back from a run.
A stand-up comedian and actor widely known for his role in the Seinfeld series finale, John Pinette passed away on April 5. Pinette's personal doctor signed off on the 50-year-old's cause of death as pulmonary embolism. The following day, legend of the silver screen (and notorious ladies' man) Mickey Rooney died in his sleep from natural causes at the age of 93. On April 7, news of 25-year-old English journalist and television personality Peaches Geldof dismayed family, friends and fans who found the death sudden and inexplicable. Sadly, a subsequent inquest into her death revealed that heroin likely played a large part in her passing.
Lisa Robin Kelly, best known for her role as Laurie on That '70s Show, died in her sleep at the age of 43 while in a rehabilitation facility on Aug. 14, 2013. A coroner later ruled that her death was a drug overdose. A few days later, on Aug. 19, 29-year-old actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his Los Angeles, California, apartment after failing to show up for work on the Rizzoli & Isles set. The former star of Disney's The Famous Jett Jackson had committed suicide. On Aug. 20, Elmore Leonard — the great American novelist and screenwriter whom we have to thank for classics like Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma and even the current FX series Justified — died in his Detroit, Michigan, home at age 87 from stroke complications.
Lilly Pulitzer, the eponymous fashion designer whose plucky Palm Beach-esque prints and bright colors perked up many a woman's life, passed away on April 7, 2013, at the age of 81. The following day, the world mourned the loss of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Nicknamed the Iron Lady, Thatcher remains an inspiration for political legacy. Later the same day, Annette Funicello passed away at a California hospital from complications due to multiple sclerosis. The 70-year-old was best known as one of the child stars on the original Mickey Mouse Club.
Morbidly dubbed the "Summer of Death," the summer of 2009 saw the passing of many notable figures in American pop culture. The Rule of Threes certainly seemed to be at play in June of that year when game show host and announcer Ed McMahon died peacefully on June 23 at the age of 86. Two days later, Charlie's Angel stunner Farrah Fawcett succumbed to her battle with anal cancer at the age of 62. As the world still reeled from her death, news broke that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had died unexpectedly at the age of 50 years old. His doctor was later implicated in contributing to Jackson's death.
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