5 Personal Details Revealed Through Famous People’s Autopsies
We all know the basic reason behind autopsies. It’s to determine the cause of death. Specifically, it’s to determine if someone died from natural causes or through foul play. More specifically, it’s to find out whether authorities are going to pin the death on you.
In examining the body so closely, however, the pathologist uncovers all kinds of revelatory details. Even if you already knew just fine how someone died, these details might totally change how you think of the departed.
Michael Jackson Tattooed His Lips Pink and His Scalp Black
For the last couple decades of his life, people speculated that Michael Jackson was doing something artificial to his skin, which explained why he looked so strange. They said he had to be getting plastic surgery — and they were right; he got a bunch of different surgeries, more than he first admitted. He was bleaching his skin, people guessed, and while he may have had vitiligo, the bleaching still came after that.
It turned out he was also doing some stuff to his face that no one guessed. See how red his lips were at the end of his life?
That wasn’t makeup, and it wasn’t plastic surgery. The autopsy revealed that Jackson had tattooed his lips pink. He’d also tattooed his scalp. He wore a wig at the end of his life, and the tattooed scalp made this less noticeable.
He’d even tattooed in his eyebrows. That’s one more part of the face that traditional cosmetics normally handle just fine, but considering how much time some people put into maintaining their brows, a tattoo might well be the more efficient choice.
Whitney Houston Wore Dentures
The news following the autopsy of Whitney Houston mostly talked about all the cocaine in her system. It also talked about the Xanax in her system, the Flexeril in her system and the 10 other medications in her system, prescribed by five different doctors. Beyond that, though, the autopsy covered a whole lot of other aspects of her that were in play even before the day she died.
Houston wore a wig at the end of her life, the autopsy revealed. People were not hugely surprised by this. She also had breast implants, and this too did not come across as the craziest thing. Then the autopsy revealed that she’d worn dentures, and this surprised people a bit more. Plenty of celebrities have dental veneers, and dental implants are also an option, but we rarely associate dentures with someone who’s still in her 40s. Dentures are, however, comparatively common with certain drug users.
The denture revelation actually made a fair number of people happy, as it shows that no one need feel inadequate if their natural teeth don’t look like this:
MLK Had the Heart of a 60-Year-Old Man
Martin Luther King’s autopsy was controversial. When the medical examiner (one Dr. Jerry Francisco) concluded that a single bullet went through MLK’s neck and killed him, people questioned whether this autopsy had really unearthed the truth. A congressional committee then put together a panel of pathologists to review the autopsy, and this panel discovered that, wow, Francisco hadn’t traced the path the bullet took. He’d avoided delving too deeply with his scalpel out of reverence for the dead.
By this point, it was too late to trace that path through MLK’s body, and anyway, no one could perfectly determine where King had stood when he died, to further figure out bullet trajectories. Thanks to these lingering questions, conspiracy theorists continued to wonder if someone else really assassinated the man. Those theorists included King’s own family, who went to court, arguing that a man besides James Earl Ray had killed King, and this other assassin was backed by government agencies. A jury ruled in the family’s favor, unanimously.
Before you get too excited, let’s remind you that juries in lawsuits don’t always get it right, and a revived investigation following the ruling concluded Ray did it, just like you already thought. So, you can safely buy the autopsy’s various other findings without instantly dismissing them as the claims of someone in league with the FBI. For example: Francisco observed that MLK’s heart looked like it belonged to a 60-year-old, though MLK was only 39. That shows just how much stress King had lived under. Or, if you’re one of those conspiracy theorists, it shows he’d secretly received an organ transplant from Gary Cooper.
Robin Williams’ Depression Was a Matter of Brain Structure
Robin Williams’ autopsy confirmed he’d hanged himself, but none of us expected it to answer why he’d done that. If he’d been depressed for a year (or more) before he died, like his family said, no substances he’d just imbibed or details of internal organ damage were going to shed any light on the cause. His depression was a matter of psychology, not physiology.
Or so you’d think. Then the autopsy revealed something surprising. Williams suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD), a brain disease. Like many forms of dementia, you can only diagnose LBD by really peering close at the brain after death. The disease deposits proteins in the brain, messing with brain function, and the disease is fairly common — more than a million Americans have it. It varies widely in severity, however. Williams’ version, several pathologists told his widow, was the worst case they had ever observed.
Those deposits of invasive proteins had hit just about every neuron he had. They especially damaged his dopamine neurons. You probably know dopamine as the chemical that makes you happy, and LBD rendered 40 percent of Williams’ dopamine neurons nonfunctional. With that kind of roadblock, we don’t think even Patch Adams could spark any healing laughter.
“Here’s what you do: Get a hit from your dopamine neurons. They’ll cheer you up!”
“But doctor. I *am* my dopamine neurons.”
Bob Crane Did Not Have a Penile Implant
Bob Crane starred in the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. His death is one of the craziest in the history of Hollywood, which is saying something. He was bludgeoned to death in his apartment, possibly with the tripod he used to film sexcapades. The police never found who did it. A friend of his went on trial almost a decade later, but he was acquitted.
If you’re interested in the murder, the autopsy (which was initially performed in the bedroom itself) offered all kinds of open-ended clues. There were the dried blood patches, other body fluids that might have proven someone else’s presence and neck marks that may mean he was strangled after he died. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in the man’s personal life while alive, you’d want to take a look at his penis.
An urban legend said that Crane had a penile implant. This rumor persisted after he died and a film about him portrayed him as having one. The autopsy revealed that he’d had nothing of the kind. And so, the man’s son went on to launch a website that included the autopsy report and featured uncensored photos of his dad’s penis. Sure, the man might have been murdered while still in his 40s, but his penis would not be impugned.
His penis, unadorned and proud, would live on, in our minds and our hearts.