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A Surprisingly Long List of People Who've Attempted Suicide

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I was surprised and saddened last week to read of the reported suicide attempt by actor Owen Wilson. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are staff favorites here, and we're definitely hoping and wishing for Wilson's full recovery. But as I started thinking about the comedy star, and mulling over the constant stress of his profession, it made me realize just how pervasive attempted suicide is among high-profile people. Here are some selected 20th century celebs who attempted suicide, but managed to turn their lives around:

Halle Berry - admitted to Parade magazine that, distraught over her failed marriage to baseball star David Justice, she tried to end her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Greg Louganis - depressed, abused and confused, Greg attempted suicide three times (including once by an aspirin-and-Ex Lax combo) after a knee injury at age 12 ruined his dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. Luckily, he recovered, and made it to the Games as a diver.

James Stockdale - H. Ross Perot's former running mate attempted suicide while a POW at Hoa Lo Prison in Vietnam in 1969 to avoid torture.

Donna Summer - tried to leap from an 11-story window at a New York hotel at the peak of her career in 1976, but was discovered by a housekeeper.

Drew Carey - after a rough childhood that included sexual molestation by an unknown party and his father's death, the lovable Price is Right host attempted suicide twice in his teen years.

wallace.jpgMike Wallace - in a 2006 retrospective honoring his retirement as a 60 Minutes correspondent, Wallace revealed a suicide attempt twenty years prior.

Paul Robeson - the "Ol' Man River" vocalist tried to off himself by slashing his wrists in a Moscow hotel room in 1961, although his son (Paul Jr.) claims the event was caused by a CIA/FBI conspiracy that drugged him with LSD.

Elizabeth Taylor - hoped to end her life in February 1962 with an overdose of Seconal, although she said she did so only because she "needed to get away."

Fred "Rerun" Berry - the What's Happening!! star said he tried to kill himself three times prior to finding religion in 1984.

Robert Young - yes, even the Father Knows Best father fell victim to depression later in life, culminating in a 1991 attempt on his own life.

And an alphabetical list of some others:

adamant.jpgMaxene Andrews - survived after attempting suicide via a pill overdose in 1954, distraught over the breakup of the vocal group she'd formed with her siblings, The Andrews Sisters.

Adam Ant - tried to OD on pills in his early 20s after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Mary Astor - alcoholism led to a reported suicide attempt in 1951 with sleeping pills; she maintained it was an accident.

Tai Babilonia - attempted suicide after she became addicted to alcohol and amphetamines following her Olympic skating disappointment in 1980.

Drew Barrymore - after leaving drug rehab in 1989 at the age of 14, she tried to kill herself, but received treatment and successfully kicked the habit.

Brigitte Bardot - attempted suicide several times, first as a teenager. At 26, she downed a bottle of sleeping pills and slit her wrists, but recovered. "I took pills because I didn't want to throw myself off my balcony and know people would photograph me lying dead below."

Danny Bonaduce - made headlines by attempting suicide in 2005 during the filming of the reality show Breaking Bonaduce after his wife asked him for a divorce. Neither the attempt (nor the subsequent hospitalization) was shown on-screen.

Maria Callas - frustrated with her efforts to lure Aristotle Onassis away from then-wife Jackie Kennedy, she reportedly tried to OD on barbiturates in May 1970 (but later denied the attempt).

Martine Carol - thought that a triple-whammy of alcohol, drugs, and drowning would end her life when this French actress threw herself into the Seine at the age of 26. The cab driver who drove her there ended up saving her life.

Nell Carter - became addicted to cocaine and attempted suicide during the run of her hit TV show Gimme a Break.

cash.jpgJohnny Cash - in 1967, the "man in black" withdrew to a cave just north of Chattanooga, Tennessee, hoping to lose his way (and his life). He found his way out.

Gary Coleman - announced in 1993 that he had tried to commit suicide twice by taking sleeping pills.

Nadia Comaneci - while she denied it for years, the gymnastics legend was so stressed out (due to several factors, including her parents' divorce) that she tried to end her life by drinking bleach just two years after her 1976 Olympics success.

sammy.jpgSammy Davis, Jr. - the biography Me and My Shadow reveals that a distraught Davis, fed up with cracks about his race, religion, and height, tried to kill himself on his wedding night by driving off a cliff.

Diana, Princess of Wales - told an interviewer that she threw herself down some stairs while pregnant with William, hoping to put an end to her unhappiness.

Walt Disney - the Leonard Mosley biography Disney's World reveals a rumored suicide attempt.

Micky Dolenz - performed a suicide scene in The Monkees' 1968 film Head, then tried it for real a few years later after the band had broken up by walking into traffic and sitting down in the roadway.

Patty Duke - bipolar disorder resulted in several attempted suicides during her life.

eminem&kim.jpgEminem - tried to overdose on Tylenol in 1996 after wife Kim Mathers dumped him. She attempted suicide four years later by slitting her wrists.

Marianne Faithfull - attempted suicide in Australia 1969, after which she broke up with boyfriend Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.

Peter Fonda - in 1950, a few months after his mother committed suicide, the 10-year-old shot himself in the stomach. Claims it was "stupid and accidental," but some believe it was the youngster's attempt at taking his own life.

Clark Gable - hoped to die during a high-speed motorbike rampage shortly after wife Carol Lombard was killed. He then joined the Army and flew missions over Germany during World War II.

Stan Getz - the celebrated saxophonist became addicted to heroin and tried to kill himself with a drug overdose in 1954 when police confronted him over an ill-fated attempt to rob a Seattle pharmacy. He spent three days in a coma.

Dwight "Doc" Gooden - in 1994, the troubled former Cy Young Award winner held a 9mm pistol to his head before his wife took it from him.

griffeyjr.jpgKen Griffey, Jr. - in 1988, just months after signing a lucrative pro baseball contract, the 18-year-old ingested over 200 aspirin to escape insults from fans and arguments with his father. He recovered after time in intensive care.

Mariette Hartley - attempted suicide (as did her mother) after her father died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1962. Now an advocate for suicide prevention.

Susan Hayward - the breakup of marriage to Jess Barker, and the related custody battle for her sons, led to a 1966 suicide attempt.

Houston - the R&B singer was stopped after he tried to throw himself out of a hotel window in 2005, and then gouged out his own eye. Reports vary as to the reason behind this behavior.

Betty Hutton - her father killed himself after leaving her mother. In 1970, Betty tried to take her own life when her singing voice faltered.

Michael Jackson - in June 2005, a bogus, trojan-laced email reporting on a suicide attempt by the "king of pop" (just before he was found not guilty) infected computers worldwide. While that report was false, some sources claim Jackson did try to off himself that December.

Billy Joel - after the failure of his band Attila, attempted suicide in late 1970 by drinking furniture polish. "It looked tastier than bleach," he later revealed.

Elton John - tried to kill himself by sticking his head in a gas stove, but writing partner Bernie Taupin found him "lying on a pillow, and he'd opened all the windows." The two collaborated on the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" to tell the story.

Sally Kirkland - the actress spent her 20s mired in drugs until a suicide attempt literally scared her straight.

shelley.jpgShelley Long - despite tabloid reports that her 2004 overdose on painkillers was a suicide attempt, the Cheers star claims she simply overmedicated herself in order to cope with the breakup of her marriage to Bruce Tyson.

Ginger Lynn - at the age of 12, the future porn star ingested a cocktail of medications to escape from her mother's constant abuse.

Jeanette MacDonald - tried to overdose on pills after learning of Nelson Eddy's marriage in 1939; was saved by W.S. Van Dyke (who later killed himself).

Mindy McCready - the country singer announced in 2005 that she had twice attempted suicide due to problems with boyfriend William McKnight, who had once nearly choked her to death.

Robert McFarlane - the National Security Advisor tried to end his life in 1987 over his involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal. He took an estimated 30 tablets of Valium.

Sinéad O'Connor - claims to have been haunted by thoughts of suicide her whole life. Reportedly attempted it in 1993, and then swallowed 20 Valium tablets in a failed 1999 suicide attempt.

Jennifer O'Neill - first attempted suicide at the age of 14, and then "accidentally" shot herself in the stomach in 1983, but recovered.

ozzy.jpgOzzy Osbourne - not only did he supposedly inspire self-slaughter with the song "Suicide Solution," but Ozzy admits to having attempted to off himself several times during his life, even as a teenager.

Marie Osmond - The National Enquirer reported that the singer's hospitalization in the summer of 2006 was due to an attempted suicide, but she and her publicists wrote it off to a reaction to medication.

Terrell Owens - the volatile NFL star denied a September 2006 report that he'd tried to kill himself by overdosing on prescription painkillers he had been taking for a broken finger.

bird.jpgCharlie Parker - the jazz legend known as "The Bird" wanted to end his life in 1954, but failed in two attempts. He was then admitted to the Bellevue clinic, where he received much-needed therapy.

Barbara Payton - in a love triangle with Franchot Tone and Tom Neal, she ingested several sleeping pills in an attempt on her own life, but was discovered by Tone. (See Jean Wallace entry below.)

Dennis Price - consumed by alcohol, the tall British actor left the gas on in his oven at his London apartment in 1954. A servant found him and summoned help.

Richard Pryor - later admitted that the fire that injured him while free-basing cocaine in June 1980 was really a suicide attempt.

raye.jpgMartha Raye - after breaking up with husband David Rose, she went into a depression and took an overdose of sleeping pills in 1956, but recovered.

Nina Simone - the singer attempted suicide due to depression and a sense of helplessness after being attacked in London during the mid-1970s.

Britney Spears - earlier this year, tabloid headlines claimed that the pop diva had experienced a breakdown and tried to kill herself twice, first by walking into traffic, then by ODing on Xanax.

Tina Turner - in her biography I, Tina, she revealed a failed suicide attempt in 1968.

Mike Tyson - in September 1988, the then-undisputed heavyweight champion crashed his car into a tree in what the New York Daily News described as a suicide attempt.

vanilla.jpgVanilla Ice - in 1994, less than five years from the peak of his success, the depressed rapper twice tried to kill himself.

Jean Wallace - the actress hoped to end her life with sleeping pills in 1946 while married to Franchot Tone, then by stabbing herself in 1949 after their divorce.

Tuesday Weld - began drinking at a young age and attempted suicide at the tender age of 12 by ingesting aspirin, sleeping pills, and a bottle of gin. "I had fallen in love with a homosexual and, when it didn't work out, I felt hurt."

Hank Williams, Jr. - the combination of drugs and alcohol abuse led to a suicide attempt in early 1974.

Brian Wilson - some sources claim the Beach Boys genius tried to kill himself in the mid-1980s, a low point from which he has since rebounded.

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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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