Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

Mitchell Fink, a former New York Daily News gossip columnist and best-selling author, has spent much of his life reporting on the inner lives of celebrities.

In his new book, "The Last Days of Dead Celebrities," he reports on their deaths, examining 15 of Hollywood's brightest stars, many of whom died tragically before their time. His subjects include John Lennon, Lucille Ball, John Ritter, Warren Zevon and Ted Williams.

Despite a harsh-sounding title, the book chronicles each celebrities' physical, spiritual and emotional journeys to their final days.

You can read an excerpt of the book below:

It took a long time for John Lennon to feel comfortable in New York.

Like so many others before him, Lennon had chosen to settle in the greatest of all American cities after spending a lifetime somewhere else. New York, in any era, has always promised its new residents lives of unparalleled excitement, round-the-clock action, and enough culture and contrasting beliefs to keep them on their toes for centuries. In public, Lennon seemed to relish the idea of becoming a New Yorker. "I love New York. It's the hottest city going. I haven't been everywhere, but it's the fastest city on earth," was how Beatles chronicler Geoffrey Giuliano quoted the former Beatle in his book Lennon in America.

Lennon had even told Rolling Stone in 1970 that New York was "the only place I found that could keep up with me. . . . I'm just sort of fascinated by it, like a fucking monster."

The trouble with fucking monsters, of course, is that they can often appear in the guise of an autograph hound, and if the sixties had provided Lennon with anything, it was definitely enough autograph hounds to last a lifetime.

Despite his public pronouncements, Lennon was undoubtedly looking beyond all the noise and fascination of New York on August 13, 1971, when he and his wife, Yoko Ono, moved their belongings into three suites on the seventeenth floor of one of the city's classic Fifth Avenue hotels, the St. Regis.

Lennon wanted something else from New York, something far more precious and comforting than the speed of the city. Being in New York was a chance, finally, for him to get lost, be anonymous, and walk among thousands of other New Yorkers, free of bodyguards, in a fatigue jacket, sunglasses, floppy hat, and with body language that politely suggested how unnecessary it would be to squeal, scream, cry, or demand an encore.

And for the most part, New York complied because of an unwritten rule that grants all new New Yorkers the benefit of the doubt. The famous and the near famous get it, along with the wannabes and nobodies. You want to be left alone? Fine, New York will leave you alone. You stay on your side of the sidewalk, and I'll stay on mine. Don't brush up against anyone else's body, certainly not without saying, "Excuse me," and life on the street will happily go on. Act like a New Yorker and you become one. Act like a schmuck, and New York will have you for lunch.

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