Nine Notable People Who Died at 34

Dana Plato

I turned 35 today. In honor of the event, I was going to write a list of filmmakers whom I have outlived. But it seems as though I've picked the right vocation, if longevity is my goal - most movie directors live to a ripe old age, and I only found two (very obscure) ones who were dead before 35. So I had to find a new topic. Rather than just cite nine famous people who died young (a huge pool to draw from), I focused on the ones whom I can only now say I've officially outlived: those that left this earth while they were a mere thirty-four years of age.

  1. Elliott Smith, 1969-2004. Singer-songwriter, nominated for an Oscar for his ballad "Miss Misery". Suicide.
  2. Charlie Parker, 1920-1955. aka "Bird". Jazz saxophonist. Cause of death undeclared, but probably heroin overdose.
  3. Dana Plato, 1964-1999. Diff'rent Strokes actress turned tragic mess. Suicide.
  4. Jesse James, 1847-1882. Legendary Wild West outlaw. Murdered by colleague.
  5. Layne Staley, 1967-2002. Singer for grunge band Alice in Chains. Overdose.
  6. Joe Orton, 1933-1967. British playwright, subject of biopic Prick Up Your Ears. Murdered by boyfriend.
  7. Jayne Mansfield, 1933-1967. Blonde bombshell actress. Automobile accident. (Note: Mansfield was not beheaded, despite urban legend.)
  8. Jeffrey Dahmer, 1960-1994. Serial killer/cannibal. Murdered by inmate in prison.
  9. Simone Weil, 1909-1943. French philosopher/activist. One of the several more obscure figures to die at 34. Others include Lorraine Hansberry (African-American playwright, wrote A Raisin in the Sun), Marco Pantani (Italian cyclist, Tour de France winner), Eva Hesse (German-born minimalist sculptor), Jonathan Melvion (Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist), and Katherine Mansfield (New Zealand-born writer).