Mama Cass’s Daughter is Setting the Record Straight on Her Tragic Death

Singer Cass Elliot performing in circa 1969
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Cass Elliot’s daughter Owen Elliot-Kugell wants people to stop making fun of her mother. For years, there was a rumor that Elliot, best known as the singer Mama Cass in the Mamas & the Papas, died while choking on a ham sandwich. Elliot-Kugell was just seven years old when her mom died at age 32 from a heart attack. Not only was she trying to deal with the emotions of her mother’s tragic death, but she said she always had people making fun of her.

She explained, “In my younger years, when people would talk to me about my mom, it was always about the stupid sandwich. I would go over to kids’ houses after school and eventually one of their parents would ask me ‘Did your mom really die choking on a ham sandwich?’ First of all, the chutzpah to say that to a child is just crazy but it happened a lot. So I felt it was my duty to figure out what that story was all about.” As she got older, she wanted to learn more about her famous mother and the truth surrounding her death. Now she has written a book called My Mama, Cass, which will be available wherever books are sold on May 7, 2024.

CIRCA 1970: Singer Cass Elliot poses for a portrait with an umbrella and matching pink suit circa 1970

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While doing her research, she uncovered why it was said that she died choking on a ham sandwich. She learned that it was to dismiss any other rumors, especially about drug overdoses that might come up. Elliot-Kugell said that she discovered that it was Mama Cass’s manager Allan Carr who told her mother’s friend and former Hollywood Reporter columnist Sue Cameron to write that she choked on the sandwich after he found a half-eaten sandwich on her nightstand.

Owen Elliot-Kugellattends the star ceremony for "Mama" Cass Elliott honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame posthumously on October 03, 2022 in Hollywood, California

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She added, “I really believe they were protecting her legacy. And they were trying to protect me. And in a weird way, I’m grateful for that crazy story. As much as it caused me grief, and people made jokes, I now realize it kept her relevant and ready to shine again.”

Find out what else Elliot-Kugell learned about her mom in the book. You can pre-order it on Amazon.

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