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.

hughes_shrine_cu300.jpg

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.



Comments

  • You are the anti-Jeff Wells...and I mean that as a compliment.

  • Dave J. says:

    Hughes was unconscious when they arrived 15 minutes later.
    Woah, it took them 15 minutes to get there? In Manhattan? That's pretty shoddy.

  • don lewis says:

    Nice legwork, Stu.

  • Joshua Mooney says:

    Well done, Stu. This is exactly the info I've been looking for since Hughes was felled. Gawker didn't have the location, not did the NY Times or the Post or Daily News. Nice to see a Movieline scoop.

  • Danny Bloom says:

    Stu, nice gumshoe work. Nice gesture. Question for you. Why did no media outlets publish recent photos of Mr Hughes after his death, all AP and Reuters and NYTimes photos, even Gawker photos, are from 1984 when he was 35. Did he not age? Do we not all age? Here is a photo of the good Mr Hughes in 2001. No one will publish it. Will you? Take a look. He looks good! In photo he is 50 years old, with son he wrote screenplay for a movie.
    http:northwardho.blogspot.com

  • Danny Bloom says:

    Stu, they say he died from pokkuri, a Japanese word meaning to pop off suddenly in your sleep or from sudden heart attack. There is even a srhine devoted to pokkuri in Japan, near Nara, where people go to pray that they or their loved ones might die of pokkuri. Really. I think it would be nice to introduce this word to America now, too. It happens more than we think. Rest in peace, JH, and love this shrine, sir.
    BTW, Stu, has anyone yet uncovered just WHAT JH died from? Michael Wolff wrote a good piece the other day titled "Who Killed John Hughes?" and he wondered aloud if it was drugs, weight issues, smoking issues, Hollywood shunning him issues, what? Any ideas there? Something killed him. So far the media is mum. Why is that?

  • ben says:

    This is good.
    Next time I'm in New York I'll do likewise.
    Danke Schoen, Mr Hughes...

  • DEX says:

    I don't understand. Does going to the random spot of someone's death somehow make you feel closer to them? Do you derive some sense of completion picturing John Hughes stumbling, falling, waiting, dying? Does leaving something 'in honor' make you feel like you have now become part of John Hughes' life? How truly twisted. Pop in one of his movies instead – I'm pretty sure he'd prefer that. And then make an appointment with a psychiatrist.

  • Ben says:

    Too bad Benoit is a horrible, horrible place. Not worthy of John Hughes.

  • Jonathan says:

    Great reporting. Nicely done.

  • Lowbrow says:

    The way that a person grieves and/or finds closure after experiencing the immutable loss of something or someone held dear is unique to that individual. Who are you to judge that process solely based on the grounds of your own beliefs? To label someone else's tribute to the untimely death of a respected man as “truly twisted” is a clear indication of the integrity of your own moral fiber.
    I suppose you will dismiss this or critique it as harshly as you did to the main posting, but I felt your commentary was acutely unjust and inappropriate.

  • Ben says:

    I agree. It was mean spirited and unnecessary. I thought this was a really nice tribute.

  • Dee Johnson says:

    I'm in Texas, and I thank you for placing a memorial at the location for John.

  • Nancy says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely and appropriate tribute to a man that so many of us loved but didn't get the chance to thank. He is truly an icon to those of us - lost in the 80's.

  • katpat says:

    Dex said:
    "I don't understand. Does going to the random spot of someone's death somehow make you feel closer to them?"
    Yes, for some, it does.
    "Do you derive some sense of completion picturing John Hughes stumbling, falling, waiting, dying?"
    I can't speak for all, but I doubt highly this was the motivation in finding the spot where Hughes passed away. I believe it has everything to do with the whole process of closure and gives those who didn't know him, the chance to pay their respects. And yeah, unfortunately, maybe for some, it affords a morbid fascination.
    "Does leaving something 'in honor' make you feel like you have now become part of John Hughes' life? How truly twisted."
    Really? I find it rather sad that you don't understand the innocence and poignancy in this simple act of paying tribute to someone. The tradition of leaving shrines has been a part of human culture since the dawn of time. What harm is there in leaving a flower, or a memento to a person who touched your life, even if you never knew them?
    "Pop in one of his movies instead – I'm pretty sure he'd prefer that."
    What a great way to remember and honor the life of someone who has died.
    "And then make an appointment with a psychiatrist."
    Wow. Why so harsh? I think maybe YOU should sit down and watch some of John Hughes' movies. It just might make you lighten up a bit.

  • Chama says:

    I wish I had seen this much earlier. We stayed at the Hilton in October and had no clue that he died right around the corner.
    Hughes' films touched so many, with "Christmas Vacation" being my favorite, watched every year.
    Good job of tracing to wear this cinematic genius fell, to be forever remembered.

  • diane vehorn says:

    ~ RiP John~ you made life a little easier & a whole lot funnier than it really is. I will "never forget about you".

  • Jim Copeland says:

    My kids grew up on John Hughes films. What a great talent. His ability to cast just the right person in the right part really made the day.

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