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Officials Find No Records of Harrison's Alleged Death Site

Mystery: They can't find the address listed on a death certificate. Police say families of celebrities often falsify the documents.

December 12, 2001|LOUISE ROUG and GINA PICCALO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Bad news for celebrity-death-tour promoters: Two weeks after George Harrison passed away, it is still unclear where he died.

Harrison's death certificate, filed with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, lists the place of death as a Coldwater Canyon address in Beverly Hills occupied by his wife, Olivia.

But the location cannot be found by the Beverly Hills post office, which said it has no record of it as a mailing address. The county tax assessor has no record of the property either. And reporters driving in the area could find no sign of the address.

When Harrison died Nov. 29 at 58, a short statement by the family said he "left this world . . . surrounded by family and friends" but did not contain the place of death. His remains were cremated by a Los Angeles company and flown to India, where they were strewn over the Ganges River.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 13, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Harrison death--A story in Wednesday's California section about the death certificate of George Harrison misspelled the last name of Maria Iacobo, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Public Health program.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 3, 2002 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
George Harrison--A story in Southern California Living on Dec. 12 about George Harrison's death erroneously reported that security expert Gavin de Becker told Associated Press that Harrison had died at a property owned by De Becker. The location where the former Beatle died has not been disclosed.

Gavin De Becker, a noted security expert and author who was acting as the family spokesman, told the Associated Press that Harrison had died at a property that De Becker owns. But a search of property records did not show anything owned by De Becker on Coldwater Canyon Drive.

To willfully falsify the address on a death certificate is a misdemeanor, said Scott Carrier, a spokesman for the county coroner. But for charges to be filed someone would have to make a formal complaint about it, "and so far, no one has," said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the county district attorney's office.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Jack Richter said police have seen many cases of a false address deliberately placed on the death certificate of a high-profile person. The former Beatle and his family may have been concerned that the site of his death could become a shrine for fans. Some reports have suggested that Harrison might have died in Studio City, where De Becker is connected to a secluded property on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

Los Angeles has long been haunted by the cult of dead celebrities. Otherwise anonymous homes across the city have become destinations for scores of Hollywood tour guides.

Visiting the place of death provides fans with "possibly a little more understanding," said Mark Chiavaroli, owner of the Glendale-based Web site citymorguegiftshop.com, which specializes in information about where celebrities died and their graves. "They feel a little more connection with that person. It probably starts a healing process in themselves and a bit of closure," he said.

To put the wrong address on a certificate makes sense, Chiavaroli said, "because as soon as the document becomes available," fans will "go to that location and inundate it with traffic and property damage."

For many, the Chateau Marmont is known only as the Sunset Boulevard hotel where comic actor John Belushi died of a drug overdose. The Cielo Drive home where Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by the Manson family was demolished years ago, but fans of the macabre still make pilgrimages to the site.

Harrison's death certificate was signed by UCLA oncologist Dr. Lee S. Rosen, although that does not mean Rosen was present at Harrison's death. As is customary when a cancer patient dies outside the hospital, Rosen signed a special work sheet given to him by the mortuary, UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center spokeswoman Kim Irwin said.

Doctor-patient confidentiality laws prevent Rosen from revealing details surrounding Harrison's death, said Irwin, who spoke on behalf of the physician. Rosen specializes in experimental cancer treatments.

When cancer is the cause of death, Irwin said, "it's not uncommon" for the doctor to sign the death certificate work sheet without examining the patient at the place of death. Harrison's cause of death is listed as "metastatic non-small cell lung cancer." An autopsy was not performed.

A death certificate is often filled out by mortuary staff members who take information from relatives. The death certificate lists Olivia Harrison as the provider of information.

"The information we receive on a death certificate comes from a funeral director's office," said Maria Iacoboa, a spokeswoman for the vital records section of the county health department. "That's the information we're given. That's the information that we use. It's not our role to verify that information."

Family spokesman De Becker could not be reached for comment. A message on his voice mail said he was working on the East Coast and unavailable.

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