‘I’m a huge fan of ‘dark tourism’ sights and, having visited the city a number of times, I decided to check out celebrity death sites and graves in Paris. Because obviously…
My big sister wanted to visit Paris (for the 13th time) to celebrate her birthday. I figured it would only be fair to share my passion for all things dark and depressing with my siblings. That’s just the kind of sister I am.
Once I started researching, I realised that Paris has witnessed the demise of many a famous name. Therefore, I felt that, in their honour, we should do some ‘splorin’ of celebrity death sites and graves in Paris. It’s not as horrific as it sounds. Honestly…
When I mentioned Robert Palmer to my sister before we left for Paris, she didn’t even know the ‘Addicted to Love’ singer had died, never mind in her favourite city. I seem to vaguely recall being shocked when his death was reported because it was so unexpected and he was a relatively young man.
Palmer was staying at the Warwick Hotel on 5, Rue de Berri, just off the Champs Elysees when he died of a sudden heart attack on Sept 26th, 2003. After spotting the hotel fees, I wondered whether this might have been the catalyst, but we’ll probably never know.
The singer and actress was German-born and moved to the US, becoming a citizen in 1939. Dietrich became one of the highest paid movie stars of her time and enjoyed massive success.
She enjoyed a long and varied career until falling off a stage in September 1975 and this pretty much ended her career. She did go on to sing the title track in the movie ‘Just a Gigolo’, in 1979. However, by then she was addicted to painkillers and alcohol, which she had become dependent on during a bout of cervical cancer in 1965.
Dietrich spent the final decade of her life at her apartment in Paris at 12 Avenue Montaigne, which is located in the 8th arrondissement, just off the Champs Elysees. She rarely admitted anyone to visit her and was largely bedridden during this time. She eventually passed away on 6th May 1992.
Diana, Princess of Wales
I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t already know that Diana was tragically killed in a high-speed car chase in central Paris in August 1997. I recall it very clearly and remember waking up the morning it was reported and realising that no radio or TV was being broadcast across the majority of the UK as a tribute. It was a very strange day.
On the evening of 31st August 2007, Diana and Dodi left the Ritz Hotel in Paris and were driven by a drunken Henri Paul, towards the Pont D’Alma Tunnel, which runs beneath The Seine.
It was initially reported that they were being chased by photographers and this is the explanation for the speed their car was travelling when it slammed into the underground passage beneath the road. Afterwards, it was confirmed that there was, in fact, no paparazzi in pursuit of the car.
Diana was transferred to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead. At the Pont de L’alma Bridge, there is a life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty flame. On this memorial, there’s a photo of Diana and people often leave flowers there on her birthday or the anniversary of her death.
Pont de L’alma Bridge is across the street from Alma Marceau metro station and is located in the 8th arrondissement.
If you’re in a very dark mood, you can also check out the Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital, 47-83 Boulevard L’Hopital in the 13th arrondissement. This is where the Princess of Wales was declared dead.
Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, moved to Paris to be with his long-term partner, Pamela Courson in March 1971. Morrison was as much famed for his leather trousers and singing as for his obvious substance abuse addiction. I remember him fondly for his voice. And also for the fact that he adorned the walls of my bedroom for years.
The couple rented an apartment in the Le Marais district of the 4th arrondissement at 17-19 Rue Beautreillis. It is here, in the bath, that Morrison died of an accidental heroin overdose on 3rd July 1971. Or did he…?
Morrison’s body is buried in the famous Pere La Chaise Cemetery, alongside Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. It’s a fairly small, innocuous grave, but can be easily spotted by the flowers, joints, and armed guards that often surround it.
The legendary Irish poet and author, like Morrison, spends his days resting in Pere La Chaise. His tomb, however, is pretty fabulous and is adorned with different coloured lipstick kisses on a massive angel type structure. It’s quite the sight.
Wilde spent his last years in Paris after being released from a UK jail where he served a sentence for gross indecency. This stemmed from his homosexuality and the inability of the government and people to have any kind of understanding of his sexual preference. He never returned to Britain or Ireland after prison and who can blame him?
Wilde spent time in Northern France before relocating. He ended up at the less than salubrious Hotel D’Alsace at 13 Rue Des Beaux Arts in Paris. It was here that he passed away from cerebral meningitis on November 30th of 1900.
Is probably isn’t much of a surprise to find the famous haute couture designer on this list, what with her being French and all. She was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in Samhaur in France. She later became the Queen of Parisian fashion for decades, founding the brand which still bears her name.
Chanel lived in The Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome in the 1st arrondissement for almost 30 years. To be honest, this seems like a pretty good place to spend your time. Just think of all those dishes she never had to do.
At 87, after taking a drive, Chanel retired to her room and quietly passed away on January 10th 1971. The Ritz was also where Diana departed from on the night of her death, so it’s clearly the place to be. Or not.
Yves Saint Lauren
As with Chanel, the knowledge that YSL passed away in Paris is hardly likely to come as any great shock to anyone. Born in Algeria in 1936, YSL headed off to the French capital at the tender age of 17 and enrolled himself in fashion school.
He won first prize in a competition aimed at attracting young, up and coming designers, which gained him recognition. By the time he was 21, he was head designer at Dior. This is a rather an incredible achievement for someone of any age, never mind someone who’s barely in their twenties.
Saint Laurent went on to achieve global recognition before eventually retiring in 2002. Just a few days after he and his partner were joined in a civil union, YSL died of brain cancer at his apartment at 55 Rue De Babylone,
Rue De Babylone is located in the 7th arrondissement, just a short walk from Sevres Metro station.
Jean Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir
I’ve heard of Satre, but know the grand total of not very much about him. Turns out, he’s a French playwright, novelist and philosopher. His partner, Simone de Beauvoir, was a French writer and prominent feminist. Talk about power couples, huh?
For all their astute questioning of society’s perceptions, they had a thing for young girls. Satre and de Beauvoir were known to campaign for the abolishment of the age of consent in France and de Beauviour was stripped of her teaching licence for having relationships with underage students, which she would then pass over to Satre. I’m all for sharing, but there’s a limit.
It’s mainly for this, and various other personal undertakings, that I question their internment to Montparnasse Cemetery in the city.
As much as I recognise their talent, I was entirely uncomfortable paying them a visit. But, that’s maybe just me. Jim Morrison was hardly a saint, but I had no problems at all popping over to say hello to him.
If you want to visit the dynamic duo, you can do so in the south of the city. The graveyards can be accessed from Boulevard Edgar Quinet or Rue Emile Richard within the Montparnasse region. JPS was laid to rest in 1980, with SdB following him in 1986.
Rin Tin Tin
Paris is the location of the oldest pet cemeteries on earth. ON EARTH, people! These are clearly folks who love their pets and that makes them a mighty fine bunch.
The Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals, or Le Cimetiere des Chines et Autres Animaux Domestiques, is located on the outskirts of the city at 4 Pont de Clichy. ‘The Pet Cemetery’ is way quicker to say, though…
The graveyard was founded by a change in the law to combat the rather horrendous tradition of dumping dead animals in the Seine. I’m not even kidding. I would like to retract the earlier statement I made about the French being a mighty fine bunch. What kind of nutter puts their dead dog in the nearest body of water? Poor Rex.
Anyway, the point of this wasn’t to berate the French for their dead animal disposing techniques. The point was to tell you that there’s a rather famous doggo in the rather famous cemetery.
Rin Tin Tin was a French pooch, adopted by an American soldier during World War 1. When the soldier found fame as an actor, the dog was taken back to the US. Rin (I’m assuming that was his first name) died in 1932 and was repatriated to Paris to be buried. He was clearly a very, very good boy.
Have you visited any celebrity death sites and graves in Paris?