What is the definition of a tragic love story? Does one spouse have to die, or get into a terrible accident for the story to qualify? What if the affair or marriage deeply affected or ruined the lives of the two people involved? What if two people get together, who should not be together, because the whole concept is just messed up? Tragedy has a different definition for many, which is good because it can generate a lively debate. That is why a couple of weeks ago we wrote an article on Tragic Love Stories and received a plethora of comments, each one with its own definition of what tragedy should be. So in the name of democracy and fairness, this article includes every tragic love story that readers suggested from my last article. We rounded out the top 15 with three tragic stories of our own choosing.
Hopefully we can bring joy and tears again in an attempt to find new people whose lives mimic our own in even the smallest way. There is always a bit of sadness with a relationship gone wrong that ends due to the unexpected. Many of us have been there ourselves, which is why we like to read about tragedy and how people just overcame it and moved on. Unfortunately some people just do not move on and the tragedy begins and ends.
15. Elvis Presley And Priscilla Ann Wagner
Can there be any marriage more famous than this one in the 20th century? The couple met in Germany circa 1959. He was stationed there while serving in the armed forces. Priscilla‘s mother Ann, remarried a man named Paul Beaulieu, an air force officer in 1948. Her family was stationed in Germany at the time as well. Elvis, at the age of 24, was a Superstar by then. Priscilla was a mere teenager at 14. They began a romance, with Priscilla eventually following him to the USA a couple of years later. They lived together as a couple for six years prior to getting married. In a Barbara Walters interview a few decades ago, Priscilla insisted that he refused to have s*x with her until they wed because “somewhere, he, along in his past, said that he wanted a virgin.” They did however, sleep in the same bed for six years where she aroused him with some playful games that according to her, were never perverted.
They eventually got married in 1967. Exactly nine months later, Lisa Marie was born. One can imagine, when they do the math, that their wedding night was as traditional as they get. While they were married, Elvis would take pills to fall asleep, as he had a fear of insomnia. This would lead to many troubling evenings for the couple. The man also had an aggressive temper, once throwing a chair at his wife when she was unimpressed with one of his songs. He was a dominating force, dictating his wife’s every move down to the matching color of their hair. Priscilla was young and looked up to him as a father figure, thus accepting all of his rules. She also had to endure endless lonely nights having written the following in her diary: “I embarrassed myself last night. I wore a black negligee, laid as close to Elvis as I could while he read. I kissed his hand, then each finger, then his neck, and face, But I waited too long. His sleeping pills had taken effect. Another lonely night.” Eventually the loneliness, infidelity and anger, were too much and Priscilla divorced the star in 1973. Four years later after having amassed 18 number one hits, Elvis died of a heart attack at 42. Doctors attributed his death to his prescription drug use.
14. Jim Morrison And Pamela Courson
Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, and Elvis Presley, had many things in common. They were both musicians and cultural icons that loved women. The similarities end there. Whereas one had a more traditional relationship that most today would deem creepy (and the law would deem illegal), the other had a relationship that is definitely more common in modern times. Ex-Doors member Ray Manzarek, once stated that Pamela was ”Jim’s other half, those two were the perfect match, I’d never met anyone who complimented his eccentricity so well”.
Pamela paid her way through life as a party girl, a perfect match for her lover’s penchant for danger and recklessness. Friends felt that she was the strong one, burning through his money with ease, full well knowing that he’d do anything for her and not blink an eye. Theirs was not a relationship of fidelity as both cheated at will. They moved to Paris in 1971, prompting the world to mourn in two ways. First off, fans had to endure all of the published poetry he wrote to his girlfriend, but most important of all, Jim was found dead in his bathtub at the age of 27.
Pamela was so distraught, that she would openly state how she could not remember what happened when Jim died, refusing to even acknowledge the whereabouts of his body. She spiraled out of control after his death, often talking to friends in the plural, using the word ‘us’ as if Jim were still alive. Eventually her fantasy world ended in 1974, when at the age of 27, she died in her Hollywood apartment from a heroin overdose. Her lover’s death is the stuff of legend and mystery. A couple of key eyewitnesses claimed that they saw him die in a Paris nightclub from an overdose, while others claim that he’s still alive.
13. Michael Hutchence And Paula Yates
A tragic love story is not always about true love ending in death. This one is about a young child being left without her parents as both of them died within a few years of each other. The way that the lead singer of INXS met his wife was the stuff of legends. Paula became famous for her show The Big Breakfast, where she interviewed people on their bed in somewhat provocative ways. The show was produced by her husband, Bob Geldof. When she interviewed Michael Hutchence, everyone could tell that she immediately fell for him; when on live TV she crossed legs with the star and asked him: ”What are you a big s*x symbol or something?” Bob was no more after that.
In November 1997, tragedy struck the family when the singer hung himself in a Sydney Hotel Room. Originally thought to be a personal s*x act gone wrong, investigators later revealed that it was a suicide, possibly due to a cocaine withdrawal. Coroners found that Hutchence’s fingers were dark with nicotine stains and he had an old cigarette burn so deep that it exposed the bone. At the time he was involved in a bitter custody battle with Bob Geldof over Paula’s children. Michael had told his friends that he planned to divorce Paula but he just wanted to make sure that their 16 month old daughter never ended up in Bob’s hands. He hated the man that much. A couple of years later, Paula died. Michael did not get his wish as custody of his daughter went to Bob Geldof anyways.
12. Robin Williams And Susan Schneider
What goes on in a man’s mind that makes him want to end it all? As tragic as the comedian’s suicide was in 2014, it is equally as tragic, if not more so, for those he left behind. After his death, his wife spent all the time in the world trying to piece every clue she could possibly find in order to understand what was going through her husband’s head. In the end she made her peace with what happened.
In November 2015, a little over a year after Robin ended it all, Susan gave her first interview on Good Morning America. In retrospect she believed that the actor knew what he was going to do on that fateful day; ”It was the perfect day. We just did what we love to do together,” said Schneider. ”And I know now that he gave me that perfect day. That he gave us that perfect day.” She then added; ”He knew what he was doing.”
After his death, further investigations showed that Robin suffered from Lewy body dementia. A month before his death Susan recalled one day when Robin was in the shower ”And something didn’t seem right. And I opened up the door and there was blood. This towel was so soaked with blood and he was just dabbing his head”, said Schneider. ”And I just screamed, ‘Robin, what happened? What did you do?’ And he pointed to the door and I said, ‘Did you hit your head?’ And he nodded.”
A year later his wife realized that vision and the inability to detect objects is affected by this disease. ”And so now, over a year later I totally get it,” said Susan. ”I get it, honey. I totally get it. I don’t think he was trying to hit his head on the door. I know that’s right. And I know he was angry with himself and he was fed up with this and he was expressing anger.” In the end it was probably this frustration that ended his life.
11. John Lennon And Yoko Ono
One might say that the beginning of this relationship was just as sad for fans as John Lennon‘s death was for Yoko Ono. Until Courtney Love came along, Yoko was the most vilified woman on the planet for her role in breaking up The Beatles. Now that Courtney has taken over the role of the most vilified, we can focus on the trauma that Yoko felt when the love of her life got shot at such a young age. The 7th of November, 1966, was an important date for Beatles fans and it had nothing to do with music. John Lennon met Yoko Ono at an exhibition of Unfinished Paintings at the Indica Gallery. The gallery was ironically funded partially by Paul McCartney, his bandmate, at one point. As John later put it: ”That old gang of mine. That’s all over. When I met Yoko is when you meet your first woman and you leave the guys at the bar and you don’t go play football anymore and you don’t go play snooker and billiards.” No matter what one may feel about what happened to the band, at least publicly, no one could find a celebrity couple that were more perfect for each other. That is why when Mark David Chapman shot the legend outside of his New York City apartment on December 8, 1980, Yoko Ono lost the love of her life. Her family disowned her, her daughter was taken from her and the world hated her more when her husband died, but Yoko survived because in her mind, ”At Least I Had That, One Guy Understood Me”.
10. Patrick Swayze And Lisa Niemi
How often does this happen? You meet each other at 15 years old and you stay together literally until death do you part. It was the early 70s when Niemi was practicing at the Houston Ballet Dance Company. The owner’s young son, Patrick Swayze, laid eyes on her and never looked back. In 1975 they got married and soon after the couple moved to New York City to pursue their dance careers.
Awareness for breast cancer is at an all time high, as it kills more women than anything else. However, pancreatic cancer is what kills most men and unfortunately it does not receive as much attention. In 2009 Patrick lost the battle to pancreatic cancer. Lisa had a hard time after his death. She remarried four years later, and fought with her late husband’s family over everything. Just a couple of months ago, holes were found in the everlasting love story when friends of the couple claimed that Lisa physically abused her husband right until his death. Other friends revealed that Patrick’s wife cheated on him several times. Can love be that blind for a man who had everything?
9. Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner
Tributes were flowing these past few weeks when Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83. At one point the world’s tears flowed for his third wife, Gilda Radner, who passed away from Ovarian Cancer in 1989, at the age of 42. The couple met on the set of 1982’s Hanky Panky. The comedians had the most appropriate of beginnings. Gene, dressed in a work tuxedo, met Gilda on the Hudson River right after filming ended for the day. It was the most romantic of settings until ”Gilda said that I rubbed my crotch against her knee when I asked her if I could bring her some tea or coffee. When she told me this story, I said, ‘You’re nuts!’ And she said, ‘No, they were your nuts’.” Either way the trick worked because Radner would later write in her book that “My heart fluttered — I was hooked. It felt like my life went from black and white to Technicolor.” Gilda was married at the time, but nevertheless two weeks later she made the first move when she threw him on his hotel room bed and, according to Wilder, said “I have a plan for fun.”
Gilda experienced a myriad of fertility problems and in 1986, she was suffering from other symptoms as well, which forced her to end her movie career. Doctors had no clue what was wrong with her until 1989, when she was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. By that point it was too late as she passed away a few months later. “The fact is, Gilda didn’t have to die,” Wilder said. “But I was ignorant. Gilda was ignorant. The doctor was ignorant.” Gene used his newfound knowledge to start Gilda’s Club, a non-profit organization that strove to ensure that no other woman would ever be misdiagnosed again.
8. Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Syme
Keanu is no stranger to tragedy, having been isolated from his divorced parents at a young age and seeing his close friend, River Phoenix die. The new millennium proved to be even worse for the actor. Reeves and his girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, buried their stillborn child of 8 months. The stress proved too much for the couple who split up soon after, but still remained friends. Apparently the death of the child hurt Jennifer even more. Just a few months after their child’s death, Keanu received a phone call from the coroner’s office. Jennifer died after having lost control of her Jeep Cherokee, sideswiping 3 parked cars before rolling over several times, throwing her from the car. She died instantly, as authorities found her body lying there in the most gruesome way. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and she was driving drunk. When combined with the tranquilizers that she took, was it any wonder what the end result was? Nevertheless, death is always tragic and victim blaming does nothing to alleviate the pain.
7. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson
It was 1994 when Liam Neeson married Natasha Richardson in Northern Ireland. Natasha gave her husband the perfect gift when she serenaded him with their wedding song, Van Morrison’s Crazy Love. “Behind my back Natasha had been taking singing lessons to sing it to me,” Liam stated in an interview. “After the ceremony we were all going out to start the night’s festivities and she grabbed the microphone and she sang me this. She had learned it and I was like, ‘Wow!'” They remained married until her death in 2009.
It took 5 years for Liam to open up about her death, caused by a skiing accident which resulted in a seemingly minor head injury. “I spoke to her and she said, ‘Oh darling. I’ve taken a tumble in the snow. That’s how she described it,” he told Anderson Cooper. After the accident she was flown from the ski resort to a Montreal hospital, some 60 miles south from where the accident took place. The doctor explained to Neeson, after showing him his wife’s x-rays, that she was brain dead, surviving only on life support. Neeson honored the “pact” the two had made, about what would happen if either of them were ever on life support.
6. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Does a tragic love story have to involve death? What about a couple that were seemingly inseparable, doing everything together until one day, poof, the magic disappeared and so did the marriage along with it. It was 1940; Lucille Ball was fast becoming Hollywood’s B Movie queen when she met Desi Arnaz, while filming Too Many Girls. The starlet was known for dating much older men, but here was this 23 year old Cuban, known for being a ladies man. It was love at first sight, and by the end of the year, the couple eloped and got married.
Lucille was depressed at how her career was coming along. She was not going to be the star that she always hoped to become. Desi encouraged her to try broadcasting, which she did for CBS on the radio comedy, My Favorite Husband. Executives at CBS loved it so much that they wanted to recreate the same magic on television. Ball demanded to co-star with her husband, but CBS balked. They both walked away and started their own Vaudeville show together. They succeeded admirably and CBS gave them the TV contract they wanted in the first place.
The power couple called the shots and when CBS refused to shoot on film, preferring instead to use the cheaper kine-scope, Lucy and Desi found the perfect opportunity to start their own business. They took a pay cut to cover the costs of using film in exchange for ownership rights, and Desilu productions was born. The show ran for six years until 1957, becoming the number one watched show for four of those years. The inseparable couple, who did everything together and supported each other every step of the way, tragically split up in 1960. They remained friends, but it just wasn’t the same for fans all around the world.
5. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood
Back to the tragedy of death. Natalie Wood was a Hollywood darling starring in Rebel Without a Cause, opposite James Dean, at the age of 16. A couple of years later she married Robert Wagner, a man eight years her senior. They did not remain married for long as Wood became famous for her off screen romances, competing head to head with Marilyn Monroe on that matter. In 1962 she had an affair with Warren Beatty, ending her five year marriage to Wagner. In 1966 Natalie Wood attempted suicide and took a break from movies until she fully recovered. In 1969 she married Richard Gregson, a writer and producer. She had one daughter with this man, Natasha. A few years later she fell in love with her first husband, Robert Wagner, and remarried him in 1972. This time the marriage was for real as it lasted until Wood’s death in 1981. It was that year that baby boomers everywhere mourned, as they lost the most important actress from their youth.
In November 1981, Wood took a trip with husband Robert Wagner to California’s Catalina Island on their boat, Splendour. There were two other passengers; Christopher Walken, who co-starred with Natalie in Brainstorm and the yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern. Reportedly, Wagner became jealous of Walken’s relationship with his wife and smashed a bottle of wine in anger. Later that evening, Robert was unable to find his wife.
Her body was found the next morning, floating in the water. The death was initially ruled an accidental drowning. No one believed it though; after all, Natalie was afraid of the water, so why would she be in a dinghy all by herself? In 2011 the case was reopened. In 2013, bruises on Wood’s body led coroners to change the cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” Soon after, the yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern, went to police claiming that Wagner was the murderer, passing a polygraph test in order to ensure the validity of his statement. The mystery lives on and one day we may actually know what happened.
4. Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen
Who says that romance has to be conventional? Sid Vicious was a member of the Sex Pistols, that punk rock band from the late 70s that took the music world by storm before they broke up in 1978. Sid joined the band in 1977, and from that moment on fame and heroin got the best of him. On October 12, 1978, his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found dead, at the age of 20 at New York’s Chelsea Hotel. The couple had been living there for over a month. On that day Sid called the front desk informing them that something happened to his girlfriend. And indeed something very serious did happen. She was dead from multiple stab wounds to the stomach. Vicious (who was born John Ritchie) was immediately arrested for her murder. The investigation was dropped however, when Sid Vicious was found dead 3 months later, by his mother no less, from a heroin addiction. Few fans believe Sid was the killer, after all Nancy was no angel herself having created quite a few nasty enemies at such a young age. Many believe Sid was passed out at the time and had no clue what had just happened. Either way it doesn’t seem like authorities are going to come up with a different theory any time soon.
3. Malcolm Jamal Warner And Michelle Thomas
In 1988, Malcolm Jamal Warner‘s character on The Cosby Show got a new girlfriend, played by Michelle Thomas. The on-screen romance became a real life romance as the two dated until 1994, long after The Cosby Show ended and during the time that Michelle Thomas portrayed Steve Urkel’s love interest on Family Matters. On December 23rd, 1998, Thomas died at the age of 30 from a rare form of cancer. The actress was a lifelong vegetarian who neither drank nor smoked, but in the end her healthy lifestyle didn’t matter. Even though they had broken up over four years earlier, it was Malcolm who was at her side during the final moments. His final words to her were ”Elephant Juice”; mouthing those words, explained Warner: “looks like you’re saying, ‘I love you.’ That was always our thing. When I saw her, I said, ‘Elephant juice.’ She smiled and said, ‘Elephant juice.'”
2. Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil
Yoko Ono was blamed for destroying the Beatles, Courtney Love for destroying and ultimately killing Kurt Cobain, and Blake Fielder-Civil is blamed for destroying and ultimately leading Amy Winehouse towards her death in 2011. In 2005 Amy met her future husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, a high school dropout and a drug addict. On that day, her look and her world changed forever. “I made the biggest mistake of my life by taking heroin in front of her,” Blake told News of the World in 2008. “I introduced her to heroin, crack cocaine, and self-harming. I feel more than guilty.” She was a marijuana smoker prior to 2005, but she graduated to rougher drugs having overdosed in 2007. Nevertheless their drug induced relationship did have one bonus, as it was her inspiration for many of the songs on her 2006 album Back To Black, which catapulted her into stardom.
In 2009 the couple got divorced on the grounds of her adultery. On July 23rd, 2011, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27. The initial cause of death was alcohol poisoning. It was later revealed that bulimia also played a large part. The whole world blamed Blake Fielder-Civil, but the man still suffered when she died. He was one month into a 27 month prison term when prison guards told him the news. “I couldn’t stop crying and then I had to go back in my cell,” he said. ”I just sat down and read the letters she’d wrote to me over and over.” According to Blake her last words to him were, “You’re never going to lose me.” Unfortunately she was wrong.
These days Blake is always in the media trying to deny that he was the reason she died, sometimes claiming that she had severe issues before they met and even claiming that she tried to commit suicide a couple of months before her death. “Since she has passed away nothing has really gone well. I almost feel like I’m being punished,” said Blake in 2015.
1. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
What is it about drugs that destroys lives and relationships? The solution seems so easy to most people; just stop doing it. It’s even obvious to most addicts, that their addictions are crippling and destructive. Problem is that it’s hard to stop, and when one can’t stop it leads to overwhelming frustration that few people understand. Only a minority of addicts can stop in an instant. For the majority it becomes a lifelong struggle and for many of those unlucky souls, it leads to an early death. Heath Ledger is one of those unlucky ones, as he died from cardiac arrest while filming his most iconic role that people will remember him for, forever. The heart failure was attributed to prescription drugs, but the man had other more severe addictions and was just asking for death to come.
A source close to Michelle Williams stated that “Heath’s drug use was something that affected them profoundly, Michelle didn’t want their daughter around that. She was very clear that Heath loved his daughter and was a good father.” But, “she couldn’t always rely on him.” All he had to do to regain his family was stop. Michelle did what she had to, and Heath, who in real life had more demons than the evil ”Joker” he portrayed on film, just couldn’t. It’s not a sign of weakness on his part, but a sign of the strength that addictions have over most of those afflicted. When the couple met on the Calgary set of Brokeback Mountain (2006), Ledger played a closeted gay cowboy and Williams played his suffering wife. Few would have predicted that the suffering would transfer into real life and that their relationship would end in such anguish.