Cass Elliot’s Daughter Sets the Record Straight on Mother’s Death, Sandwich Myth

Cass Elliot was a legend in folk music, and her legacy still lingers to this day. She’s inspired the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and many more. Unfortunately, her legacy has also been stained by rumors surrounding her death. It’s been almost 50 years since Elliot passed away in her sleep at the age of 32. Unfortunately, the cruel rumor that Cass Elliot died choking on a ham sandwich still hangs around despite being repeatedly disproven. 

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Much of Elliot’s life and career had been burdened with body-shaming rhetoric and name-calling. She was famously known as Mama Cass, after all. It was a name that she hated because it was rooted in her weight. Despite sharing joy with the world through her incredible voice, it (unfortunately) makes sense why such an evil rumor would circulate for decades.

Now, Elliot’s daughter, Owen Elliot-Kugel, is telling the truth about the origin of the cruel rumor. In a new interview with the BBC, Elliot-Kugell set the record straight about the sandwich rumor that followed Cass Elliot for years beyond her tragic death. 

She described her mother’s last 36 hours as full of performances. She was riding the waves of her promising solo career in London at the time.

“By the time she got back to her flat, it was evening the following day,” Elliot-Kugell noted in the interview. “She was hungry, and her dancer made her a sandwich from the only thing that was in the flat [ham] and left it on her bedside table.”

Elliot never even took a bite of the sandwich before she passed away that night. 

Elliot-Kugell went on to describe a childhood filled with cruel comments from the parents of her playmates who would ask if her mother “really [died] choking on a ham sandwich?”

Putting The Rumor to Rest

The rumor bothered Elliot-Kugel, as it should, especially because it wasn’t remotely true. Later, she found out from Elliot’s friend that her manager Allan Carr had prompted the rumor.

“So many of her peers had passed away due to drug overdoses that Carr really wanted to protect her,” Elliot-Kugell said.” And there was a sandwich that was found there.”

It seems like a betrayal in retrospect, but Elliot-Kugell said that she understood why Carr did what he did.

“Allan Carr wanted to protect his client’s legacy, and in a weird way, it did,” Elliot-Kugell continued. “So now I understand, and it makes sense.”

Elliot-Kugell’s memoir about her mother, titled My Mama, Cass will be released tomorrow through Hachette Books.

Photo by Michael Ochs

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