The Death of Fred Astaire


May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987“Dancing is a sweat job.”

Hewas born Frederic Austerlitz Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska. He entered show business atthe tender age of five, teamed with his sister, Adele, on Broadway and invaudeville. 

She got married and left show business in 1932, and Fred and his newwife Phyllis headed toHollywood.  He began appearing inmovies, his first being DancingLady in 1933. Later that year he appeared in the film FlyingDown to Rio with Ginger Rogers. 

They would appear in only ten filmstogether. After Ginger broke up the act, he would continue to appear in themovies and on TV, including Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, EasterParade, with Judy Garland and Peter Lawford, TheTowering Inferno (with OJ), and his final film, GhostStory, (where he had those weepy red eyes) in 1981. See all of hisother credits here.

InJune of 1980, he made headlines when he married Robyn Smyth, a thirty-six yearold racing jockey. Fred enjoyed the horses, and they had met on NewYear’sDay, 1973. None of his immediate family attended the wedding, which wasperformed at his house in Beverly Hills. He was eighty-one at the time. From what Igather, Robyn shut him off from a lot of his friends and family.

InMarch of 1987, he was due to receive an award in New York City from CapezioDance Shoes, but his health had begun to fail. On June 12, he checked intoCentury City Hospital, due to breathing problems as the result of a severe cold.He checked in under the assumed name Fred Giles. The cold turned into pneumonia,and he died ten days later, at 4:25 AM, on June 22, 1987. He was eighty-eightthousand years old.

Aprivate funeral was held three days later. He was buried in a smoking jacket, black slacks, and patent leathershoes.  He was put in a 2�planked mahogany Batesville casket and a copper lined Wilbert Burial vault. He is buried in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California, next tohis first wife, Phyllis, his mother, Ann, and his sister, Adele.

Just after Fred was planted

Hereis his grave:  You can almost hearhis last wife screaming in to the phone, �AND I WANT IT TO SAY �I WILL ALWAYS LOVEYOU MY DARLING!�

Fromwhat I hear now,Robyn Astaire has kept his image and likeness under lock andkey. She refused to allow footage to be used for the Kennedy Center HonorsAwards, when Ginger Rogers received an award in 1992, BUT she allowed his image tobe used by Dirt Devil vacuum to be used for a series of commercials. Shemaintains that she is abiding by his wishes to only be seen dancing with anelectrical appliance, after he dies.

I�dlike to thank dead friend of Findadeath, Mike Pare’ for this particularlydelicious shot of Ginger Rogers.  Youlive on, Mike.


GeneKelly once said “If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I’m theMarlon Brando”.

Afterhis first screen test, he was rated as “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Candance a little.”

Hewas offered the opportunity to star with Bing Crosby in White Christmas,but he declined. He was then replaced by Donald O’Connor, who quit, and he wasreplaced by Danny Kaye.

Heopened a chain of dancing schools in the Forties. Here’s one by where I live.

Hewas best friends with Irving Berlin.

Heappeared in the movie Imaginewith John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

His favorite drink was a BourbonOld-Fashioned, and he made a mean chickensoup

Heappears on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.

GingerRogers is buried in the same cemetery as him.

Heliked to play pool, and later on in his life, he took up skateboarding.

Hislegs were insured for one million dollars.

Wannatake a Fred TriviaQuiz, or see his autograph?

Thankyou to Kevin Hassell, my right hand man, for putting this story together, andMike Steen and Mike Pare’ for additional shits and giggles.

GetMike Steen’s great book,

Check out this great FredAstaire website, HERE.

Fred’s widow strikes again. See it foryourself, HERE.