Comedian and actress Lucille Ball, a gay icon and early ally, was using poppers before to her 1989 death, according to a new forensic report on her death.
Reelz’s Autopsy, The Last Hours Of… devotes its Sunday installment into looking at the last days of the star. In a new teaser for the episode, Dr. Michael Hunter said it’s clear Ball used amyl nitrate, a street drug known as poppers, for four years before her death.
While the drug today often gets associated with sexual enhancement, it appears she used it to treat years of chest pains.
“My investigation has discovered reports of a major setback for Lucille, some two years before her life ended,” Hunter says in the episode trailer.
He said she likely suffered from cardiovascular disease for years before using poppers.
Ball had surgery eight days before her death to treat dissecting aortic aneurysm. She seemed to survive the eight-hour surgery fine, but then started suffering severe back pains. When her aorta ruptured just over a week after the surgery, she died within minutes.
Some 30 years after her death, public fascination continues with one of the earliest TV stars. She remains a popular impersonation subject in drag clubs decades after I Love Lucy.
But Ball didn’t just inspire with her comedy. During a sit-down in 1980, she gave an interview to People where she celebrated gay entertainers in her life.
“It’s perfectly all right with me. Some of the most gifted people I’ve ever met or read about are homosexual,” she said. “How can you knock it?”
In that same interview, she discussed exposure to drugs, saying she never tried smoking marijuana. She said she had an allergy to morphine, Percodan, codeine, and those drugs for her “work in reverse.”