Did Keith Moon and Mama Cass really die in the same apartment?
Bizarrely, yes; it was a flat in London’s Mayfair district owned by their mutual friend, singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. Since Nilsson was only in London half the year, he would loan it to pals while he was out of town. “It was just a typical London flat,” Nilsson said, “but it was in a great neighborhood. It was across from the Playboy Club, diagonally. From one balcony you could read the time from Big Ben, and from the other balcony you could watch the Bunnies go up and down.”
“Mama” Cass Elliott, best-known as one of the Mamas and the Papas, was in town for a live performance when she died on July 29, 1974. Although it was widely reported that she had choked on a ham sandwich, the autopsy revealed that she actually died of a heart attack. Her cardiac condition may have been exacerbated by an extreme yo-yo diet, where she would alternate week-long fasts with massive weight gain.
Four years later, Keith Moon, the Who drummer legendary for his excess, was borrowing the apartment from Nilsson. On September 6, 1978, he attended a screening of the movie The Buddy Holly Story hosted by Paul McCartney. At 4:30 am, he came home and swallowed a handful of Heminevrin sleeping pills while watching the Vincent Price horror movie The Abominable Dr. Phibes. A few hours later, he woke up, cooked himself a steak, and swallowed it down, along with some champagne and more pills. He then passed out again, dying sometime that day of an accidental overdose. The autopsy revealed he had taken fully 32 Heminevrin pills. Understandably spooked, Nilsson never returned to his apartment; Pete Townshend, who had been renting it for him on Moon’s behalf, bought it from him so he wouldn’t have to ever see it again. In 2002, when Townshend was asked what he would say to Keith Moon in the afterlife, his joking answer was “You owe me five thousand pounds back rent.”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)