Tracking Down the Place Where We Lost John Hughes
One of the most unusual elements of last week's reporting on John Hughes's passing in New York was its total lack of specificity. Hughes, 59, suffered a heart attack on "a Manhattan street," his representatives disclosed; aside from a few (inaccurate) Web rumors placing him in Central Park, nothing else was known or even sought by news outlets that memorialized him for days afterward. Even for someone as private as Hughes was after leaving Hollywood, that ambiguity seemed odd, maybe even inappropriate. Respects should be paid; a shrine was in order. So I went on a little search, finally arriving at the location above. For better or worse, I found history.
On the morning of Aug. 6, John Hughes was walking alone on West 55th Street in Manhattan when he was stricken with chest pains. Witnesses at the scene told Movieline he crossed south, stumbled to the water valves jutting from the wall at 60 West 55th Street, sat there and attempted to catch his breath. At 8:55, 9-1-1 operators received a call from one of the witnesses, who summoned medics to the building. Hughes was unconscious when they arrived 15 minutes later. Hughes was raced to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
A witness who asked not to be identified said he was shocked to open the next day's paper and recognize the man he'd attempted to assist as John Hughes, of whose films he considered himself a fan. He was even more surprised, considering the outpouring of fan interest after Hughes's death, that the location of the incident hadn't been revealed in the press.
Indeed, a representative for Hughes yesterday declined to provide me any details beyond those already reported, and my own initial inquiries to the NYPD and FDNY turned up little to no evidence that the cops or medics had been called at all. "I've got to tell you," one FDNY source said Wednesday. "I'm a fan. I looked it up myself. But there was nothing."
In any event, a search of the 9-1-1 record finally yielded the location in question -- a grim sliver of New York real estate, but one where today, with 16 candles in the late-summer drizzle, I said goodbye. More mourners may or may not follow, but at least now they have the choice.