Famed publicist choked to death on free beef

Famed Hollywood publicist Michael Sands, described as “the brains behind Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List,” who also claimed to be a CIA operative, died recently after choking on a beef sample at a Gelson’s Deli Counter in Century City, California. According to his son, Sands had narrow airways caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, leaving him more susceptible to choking. Or as I like to call it, The Opposite of Your Mom Disease. He was 66.

Best known as the brains behind Mr. Blackwell’s annual Worst Dressed List, Sands also was an inveterate self-promoter who claimed to be an undercover CIA operative who may have helped in the capture of Abu Abbas, the terrorist behind the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985.

I admit I don’t know much about this guy, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that part’s not true.

Sands also handled a lineup of Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, defense attorneys, family law practitioners and Hollywood private eyes. He also sold designer cheesecakes — based on his own recipes and sold at several dozen franchised stores around the country. A tireless promoter of his own career, he once appeared partially nude in carefully orchestrated photo of himself in People magazine to promote his cakes.

I feel bad about the way this guy died, especially how it’s almost impossible not to joke about, but at the same time, so far I’m pretty jealous of his obituary. “He once appeared partially nude in carefully orchestrated photo of himself in People magazine to promote his cakes,” is up there with “Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship.”

“He was the consummate PR man who led a very colorful life,” Linda Deutsch, an award-winning Associated Press court reporter and a longtime friend of Sands, told TheWrap. “The high point in his career was the Worst Dressed List. It was his idea to host an elaborate breakfast at Blackwell’s elegant mansion in Hancock Park, and it gained international publicity.”

“He was eating a beef sample, and since he has narrow airways due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, it got stuck,” his son Nick told TheWrap.
After several attempts at the Heimlich maneuver failed, Sands was pronounced clinically dead on the scene for five minutes, until paramedics revived him and transported him to Cedars Sinai. There, his son said, he was placed in an induced coma to inhibit brain swelling, a common medical procedure for brain injuries.
“He was ashen, very gray and on the floor,” said Stephen Randall, deputy editor of Playboy Magazine, who witnessed the Gelson’s incident but did not know Sands. “There were no signs of life. It was terrible, awful to be present, watching a guy who I assumed was dead.” [TheWrap]

You think that’s awful, imagine being the guy who had to try to get rid of the rest of those beef samples.

He will be missed.

[picture source = HollywoodReporter]