5 Times A Fan Saved A Celebrity's Life
It shouldn’t be mathematically surprising, but it can still be shocking when a prominent celebrity has a brush with death, or reveals a life-threatening illness. Those sorts of things are for us down here in the mines, not our sunglassed deities! Sometimes, it results in tragedy, heartfelt tributes and medium-ghoulish journalism. Other times, though, they manage to squeak by, through the grace of god, money, and occasionally, the same fans who don’t want to see them go.
On that last point, here are five celebrities who were saved by a fan…
Donating an organ — the ultimate GoFundMe ask. If you find yourself in need of an important part of your insides, it can be notoriously difficult to find one, given that other people need them, too. No one’s got an extra liver tucked away for a rainy day. Even for the rich and famous, that search can prove tougher than expected. You’d think if you can get your hands on a Birkin bag, you could also get a kidney no problem, but alas, it’s among the few lines they find themselves unable to cut.
This was the problem that singer Natalie Cole found herself facing when she needed a new kidney after hers failed. She was put on dialysis and forced to wait and hope that things would work out one way before they worked out the other. She opened up about her search on Larry King Live, and it turned out to be the luckiest interview of her life. When a fan died, their family directed that they be tested for compatibility with Cole, and after a successful match, the kidney was transplanted successfully into the singer.
Sometimes, fans can help cure a disease the celebrity themselves might not be aware of yet. Given their public exposure from every angle, even the unpleasant ones, their quirks are on display to the entire world. Not just run-of-the-mill fans, but ones with medical knowledge who might be able to identify when a bit of unusual behavior could be something more.
Billy Connolly had no reason to believe he was facing down a devastating diagnosis when walking through a hotel lobby in Los Angeles. It was the walk itself that caught a medically trained fan’s eye, and led him to cross the lobby to deliver a much more serious request than a photo: that the actor be tested for Parkinson’s. He’d noticed Connolly affecting a strange stride that he recognized as an early symptom of the devastating disease, and his hunch, unfortunately, proved correct.
The Flip or Flop Guy
Connolly isn’t the only celeb to be diagnosed accidentally during a bit of stargazing. The host of nine-season HGTV hit Flip or Flop, Tarek El Moussa, was going about his business when he received the most important bit of fan mail to ever hit his inbox. The email in question, from a registered nurse who watched the show, didn’t waste much time getting to the point. It simply read: “This is not a joke. I am a registered nurse. I’ve been watching Flip or Flop. I noticed that Tarek, the host, has a large nodule on his thyroid and he needs to have it checked out.”
Moussa took the email to heart, and then to his doctor, who discovered that Moussa had stage-three thyroid cancer. Given the importance of early detection when it comes to cancer diagnosis, he should be very happy he’s part of how that nurse spent her off hours.
It’s repeatedly made all too clear, unfortunately, that mental health problems are just as capable of snuffing out a celebrity’s candle early as physical problems. Probably not made any easier by, you know, constant global judgment and observation. Awareness of mental health has bounded into the spotlight in recent years, when in the past it might have been written off, like in the case of Britney Spears.
After a publicized breakdown, something that really can’t be criticized too heavily when you’re one of the most famous people in the world, Spears was quietly placed into a conservatorship. It was only years later that fans realized how extensively she’d been legally disenfranchised from her own life, and launched an awareness campaign that managed to end the conservatorship and, in her words, save her life.
How’s she doing now? Well, dancing with knives is generally not the safest option, but she looks happy doing it!
All of Them, Because They’re Rich
These are all specific, feel-good tales of human connection and concern, but there’s another way fans save celebrities’ lives, constantly: by subsidizing their absolutely bananas, Smaug-adjacent bank statements. Unlike a big part of the country that’s woefully under-insured and will be left in financial shambles even if they’re medically cured, you can bet any celebrity with the most barely unusual moles is getting it immediately checked out in detail by the best doctors money can buy.
After all, every human life is important, but the ones working on Venom 3 are just a little MORE important than yours!
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.