1. Carrie Fisher. John Belushi set up and accompanied Carrie and Dan Aykroyd on a blind date, but passed out sometime during the evening. Carrie was apparently incredibly stoned, so stoned that Aykroyd forced her to eat, hoping it would help her come down a bit. Instead of Doritos, though, Carrie ate Brussels sprouts. And choked on one. Aykroyd gave her the Heimlich and then promptly proposed marriage.
2. If a choking incident could possibly be sexy, this was probably it (although I doubt it was): it involved a near-nude Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan. When they were filming a sex scene in Die Another Day, Pierce made Halle laugh and she started choking on some fruit (a fig, according to IMDB). Pierce has said that he was thinking about giving her the Heimlich, but was a little concerned about wrapping his arms around her while they were both practically naked. Luckily, he didn’t have to make up his mind about the appropriateness of the situation – she coughed up the fig and they went on filming.
3. Who hasn’t tried to swallow a pill dry (or even just not swallowed it right) and gotten that big lump stick in your throat? Cher is proof that mundane things like that happen to celebrities, too. She was backstage at the rehearsal of a Broadway play when she starting choking on a vitamin. She apparently tried to dislodge it with some bread, but when that didn’t work, Robert Altman gave her the Heimlich.
4. Elizabeth Taylor. When Liz was married to Senator John W. Warner, the two of them were campaigning in Virginia when she got a chicken bone stuck in her throat. She was rushed to the Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Va., where it was safely removed. She later donated part of her pay as a guest star on General Hospital to the real hospital that she credited with saving her life.
5. Tom Brokaw, to the rescue! When news anchor John Chancellor sent a chunk of Gouda down the wrong pipe in 1979, it was lucky that Tom was there. The Heimlich Manuever was only a few years old at the time, and the new technique had recently been demoed on his show. “[Chancellor] turned very red and then very gray,” Brokaw said. So he performed the Heimlich and popped out the cheese, and Chancellor went on the air a few hours later as planned.
6. Ed Koch, the former mayor of NYC, was eating at a restaurant in Chinatown in 1981 when he choked on… something. “I choked on what we said was watercress,” he said six years after the incident. “There was a debate as to whether it was watercress or spare ribs. A vote was taken and the vote was watercress.” Apparently, his staff was concerned that spare ribs would be offensive to some of his constituents.
7. Could famous coach and broadcaster Dick Vitale have been felled by a mere piece of unmasticated melon? Yup, he could have, if off-duty fireman John King hadn’t been there. He was at Tropicana Field before a Devil Rays game in 2002, having dinner at their restaurant. “I was choking and turning colors,” Dickie V. said, when King came over “and gave me a bear hug. Beautiful guy, too.”
8. He’s not the only sports broadcaster to be threatened by food that took a wrong turn. In the 90s, former USC QB Pat Haden was on broadcasting duty at a Rams/Falcons game when he was viciously attacked by some broccoli. His new on-air partner, Verne Lundquist, performed the Heimlich on him. It didn’t look like anyone else was going to: “I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t known anybody in the restaurant. Nobody was running to help.” Maybe the other restaurant patrons were UCLA fans.
9. In 2006, Page Six reported that Ellen Barkin was eating dinner at the Sunset Tower Hotel’s Tower Bar when she jumped up and screamed, “I’m going to die!” CAA agent Kevin Huvane gave her the Heimlich (what did people do before the Heimlich was invented?!) and popped out a piece of shrimp. Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone just watched from a couple of tables away. Guess he only does the action-hero thing if he’s getting paid to do it, huh?
10. Long before John Hinckley, Jr., tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan, a peanut tried to do him in. He was on an airplane headed around the campaign trail and casually tossed a peanut and caught it in his mouth – unfortunately, just as the plane was taking off. The force of the takeoff pushed his head against the seat and I guess lodged the peanut in a bad spot. Aide Mike Deaver rushed to help the future President, performed the Heimlich Maneuver that Reagan had taught him, and “the wayward nut popped quietly off the bulkhead.” In typical Reagan fashion, he had a quip at the ready: “I’m sure glad I taught you that darn thing.”
Obviously, I’ve left off President Bush choking and passing out because of a pretzel, but I think we all know about that one.