The Dick Cavett Show 'Jerome Rodale episode' (lost death footage; 1971)
On the 5th of June (or the 8th, depending on who you ask), 1971, during a taping of The Dick Cavett Show, guest longevity and health guru Jerome Rodale suffered a fatal heart attack and was pronounced dead shortly after.
After finishing his interview, Rodale sat in a chair next to the then-current interviewee (New York Post columnist Pete Hamill), when his head suddenly slumped backward, as he let out what was said to be a "snoring-like" sound. Allegedly, at this point, Dick Cavett turned to Rodale and asked "Are we boring you, Mr Rodale?", though Cavett has emphatically denied being able to recall ever having said such a thing. He's also stated that he somehow knew there and then that Rodale was in fact dead, and not joking around. He specifically remembered asking "Is there a doctor... in the audience?"
Somewhat ironically, during his interview, Rodale was quoted as saying "I’m in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way" (an anecdote often mentioned by Rodale) , "I’ve decided to live to be a hundred" and "I never felt better in my life!".
Cavett and his staff warily viewed the recording of the incident several weeks later, only then noticing for the first time the irony in what Rodale had said during his interview. The episode was never broadcast, for obvious reasons (instead a re-run took its place), but Cavett has described the event many times in documentaries, interviews and on his online blog, just to name a few. Rumor has it that Cavett is still in possession of the master tape, and while this claim is likely true, it has never actually been verified by Cavett himself.
In the 1974 biography of Rodale J.I. Rodale: Apostle of Nonconformity, a transcript of the episode (which may still exist) is cited. According to it, Cavett actually said "Mr. Rodale, are you alright?"
- A released snippet of Dick Cavett talking about the incident, as seen in the as-of-yet unreleased documentary, Unforgettable. Retrieved 08 Mar '13.
- An interview in which Cavett once again talks about the event. Retrieved 08 Mar '13.
- An entry on Cavett's online New York Times blog, in which the event was thoroughly documented. Retrieved 08 Mar '13.