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The death of Peter Sellers

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

On this day in 1980, Peter Sellers died of a heart attack. His health had been up and down for years, and he’d already survived several previous heart attacks.

Peter Sellers recovering from a heart attack (and making the headlines) in 1977

He was reportedly on his way to dinner with Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, having written to them asking about reviving the Goon Show. This telegram was published by Shaun Usher in Letters of Note in 2012.

The Washington Post described Sellers as a “gifted British mimic and comic actor” – its obituary is available here (although it incorrectly states that he was in the Goon Show for seven years – sorry, it's my pedantry coming out again).

Sellers is a difficult man to understand. He was unpredictable, could be very nasty, but also unexpectedly generous. My guess is he was profoundly uncertain of himself, which had some unpleasant side effects on him and others. This is reflected in several quotes on his official website.

“There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.”

(Peter Sellers confides in Kermit the Frog in an episode of The Muppet Show, broadcast in the UK 1 January 1978)

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