11 Very, Very, Very Tragic Stories About Young Celebs Who Died In The '90s

    Chris Farley was just 33 years old when he died on Dec. 18, 1997 from a lethal combination of cocaine and morphine.

    1. John Candy, 43 — died on March 4, 1994 as the result of a heart attack in his sleep.

    Candy in a cowboy outfit sitting on a horse

    What happened:

    The New York Times reported, "Mr. Candy died in his sleep at his residence near Durango, Mexico, during the filming of Wagons East, a Western comedy in which he was starring with Richard Lewis. Production was suspended and it was unclear whether the film could be completed."

    Wagon's East would go on to be released on Aug. 26, 1994. Although it was the last movie he made, the film Canadian Bacon would become Candy's last film released in 1995, which had been shot in 1993.

    2. Selena Quintanilla Pérez, 23 — died on March 31, 1995 after being shot by the former president of her fan club.

    Selena performing in concert

    What happened:

    The New York Times reported, "Shortly after 9:30 p.m., a 32-year-old woman identified by the young singer's father as the former president of her fan club abruptly surrendered after keeping the police at bay for nearly 10 hours as she sat in a red pickup truck in the motel parking lot with a  gun pointed at her temple. Hundreds of people who had congregated in the cold drizzle watched as she was rushed off in a police car, surrounded by officers."

    Selena's funeral was held on April 2, 1995, and according to the New York Times, a crowd of 3,000 people attended the event at the Bayfront Plaza Convention Center, which was "billed as a silent prayer service in memory of the singer."

    Yolanda Saldivar, the former president of Selena's fan club and her killer, is currently serving her life sentence at Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. She is eligible for parole on March 30, 2025.

    3. Chris Farley, 33 — died on Dec. 18, 1997 from an overdose combination of cocaine and morphine.

    Chris Farley in Tommy Boy sitting at a desk holding a brochure about brake pads

    What happened:

    According to the New York Times, "The police said Mr. Farley's brother John called 911 after discovering Mr. Farley's body in the front room of the apartment, on the 60th floor of the 100-story John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago."

    A private funeral for Farley was held on Dec. 23, 1997, in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Hundreds of people attended including many comedians and longtime friends like Dan Akroyd, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Lorne Michaels. 

    People, however, were surprised to see that Farley's best friend David Spade did not attend the funeral. Years later, Spade explained in an interview that the reason he didn't attend the funeral was because he "would have found it too emotionally difficult."

    4. Michelle Thomas, 30 — died on Dec. 23, 1998 from a rare form of cancer.

    Micheele with Jaleel White as Steve Urkel

    What happened:

    According to People, Thomas died "in a private room at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. At her side were childhood friends and family members, including her father, musician Dennis 'D.T.' Thomas, a founding member of the long-running R&B group Kool & the Gang, and her mother, actress Phynjuar Thomas." Also there was her friend and former boyfriend, actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

    Phynjuar went on to say, “Michelle was sitting up laughing and talking. She was walking around the ward. She was planning on being home for Christmas morning. The next day it was all downhill. She went incredibly fast.”

    5. River Phoenix, 23 — died on October 31, 1993 from "acute multiple drug intoxication" including lethal levels of cocaine and morphine.

    Outdoor headshot portrait of River

    What happened:

    According to Variety, "Sheriff’s Deputy Diane Hecht said Phoenix was leaving the Viper Room in West Hollywood at about 1 a.m. when he fell to the ground. Friends reported that Phoenix was 'acting strange.' Paramedics rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:51 a.m."

    In an interview with the Guardian, Phoenix's girlfriend at the time, actor Samantha Mathis recounted, "I knew he (Phoenix) was high that night, but the heroin that killed him didn’t happen until he was in the Viper Room. I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn’t see anything."

    The same article continued, "When Mathis came out of the bathroom, she saw what she thought was Phoenix in a scuffle with another man, and the two of them being pushed out of the club’s side door by a bouncer. When she went out on to the street after them, she saw Phoenix drop to the ground and go into convulsions on the pavement."

    "Mathis desperately tried to get back into the club to get help, but the side door was firmly shut. So she ran around to the main door, searched through the club for Phoenix’s siblings, and they all dashed outside. Joaquin (River's brother) called 911 for help in a phone call that would almost immediately be leaked to news stations."

    6. Brandon Lee, 28 — died on March 31, 1993 after being shot on the set of The Crow with a gun that was supposed to fire blanks.

    Brandon as the Crow, wearing leather with white makeup and long hair

    What happened:

    According to the New York Times, while filming a scene for The Crow, "The tip of a .44-caliber bullet had become lodged in the gun’s barrel in filming a close-up scene and dislodged when a blank cartridge was fired. The bullet pierced Mr. Lee’s abdomen, damaging several organs and lodging in his spine." 

    In October of 1993, Brandon's mother, Linda Lee Cadwell settled a negligence lawsuit against filmmakers of The Crow for an undisclosed sum.

    7. Robin Harris, 36 — died on March 18, 1990 from a heart attack in his sleep.

    Comedian Robin Harris performs in what would be his final performance at the New Regal Theater

    What happened:

    According to the Washington Post, the comedian "was found in his room in the Four Seasons Hotel by his mother, who accompanied him to Chicago, and was declared dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. [Earlier] Mr. Harris had given a comedy show Saturday night at the New Regal Theater on Chicago's South Side before a sold-out crowd of 2,400."

    In 2006, a documentary entitled We Don't Die, We Multiply: The Robin Harris Story was posthumously released featuring interviews with friends and contemporaries like Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, and Cedric the Entertainer and also included unseen clips of Harris's stand-up act.

    8. Kurt Cobain, 27 — died on April 5, 1994 (estimated) from a self-inflicted shotgun wound.

    Cobain performs with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged

    What happened:

    According to the New York Times, on April 8, 1994, "A note was found next to Mr. Cobain's body, which was discovered by an electrician who had gone to the house to do some work."

    Bandmate Krist Novoselic spoke to Spin magazine in 2015 and said that Cobain was “out of his mind on heroin" in the days leading up to his suicide. "He tried to kill himself in Rome, and he was really weird after that. Like, quiet and just kinda, he should’ve never done that, but he did it. You know, it’s just like, it’s terrible. People do it. I was heartbroken when it happened. It was terrible," explained Novoselic.

    Cobain's daughter with musician Courtney Love, Francis Bean Cobain, who is now 30, currently holds all the publicity rights to her father's name and image. 

    9. Dana Plato, 34 — died on May 8, 1999 from an overdose of prescription drugs.

    Dana Plato head shot from Diff'rent strokes

    What happened:

    According to The Associated Press, "The 34-year-old former star of the NBC sitcom Diff’rent Strokes died May 8 while visiting her fiance’s parents in Moore. Police initially said she died of an accidental overdose of a painkiller and Valium.

    But Dr. Larry E. Balding, deputy state medical examiner, said Friday that she had fatal concentrations of the muscle relaxant Soma and a generic form of the painkiller Lortab in her body. She also had the equivalent of seven tablets of the muscle relaxant in her stomach.

    Balding said the death was ruled a suicide because of the high level of drugs and her history of suicidal tendencies. She did not leave a suicide note."

    10. Tupac Shakur, 25 — died Sept. 13, 1996 after being shot four times by an unidentified assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

    Tupac Shakur poses for photos backstage after his performance at the Regal Theater

    What happened:

    According to the New York Times, "As [Shakur] was leaving the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight, a Cadillac pulled up alongside the BMW in which he was riding and he was shot four times." Shakur had been in the passenger seat with Death Row Records boss Suge Knight driving.

    Although suspects and accomplices have been named over the years (one of whom was murdered before being charged), the case remains unsolved.

    11. Finally, Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Latore Wallace), 24 — died March 9, 1997 after being shot by an unidentified assailant during a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.

    Rapper Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls, aka Chris Wallace rolls a cigar outside

    What happened:

    According to KTLA, "Wallace was leaving a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in the early hours of March 9, 1997, when a car pulled up alongside his and opened fire. The rapper, also known as Biggie Smalls, was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries."

    Because Wallace was murdered just six months after Tupac Shakur, many people had theorized that the two were connected — Wallace's murder being in retaliation for Shakur's. However, according to BuzzFeed News, "None of these claims were substantial, and the person who shot and killed Wallace is still not known."