Karen Carpenter Part Three
I enjoyed listening to her, all my life, and three days of blogging of her really makes me rememberer my childhood. In Karen Carpenter Part Three, is the of her life, but not by a long shot will she ever leave my website.
Illness And Death
Carpenter began dieting while in high school. Under a doctor‘s guidance, she began the Stillman diet, eating lean foods, drinking eight glasses of water a day, and avoiding fatty foods. She reduced her weight to 120 pounds (54 kg; 8 st 8 lb) and stayed approximately at that weight until around 1973, when the Carpenters‘ career reached its peak. That year, she happened to see a photo of herself taken at a concert in which her outfit made her appear heavy. Carpenter hired a personal trainer who advised her to change her diet. The new diet caused her to build muscle, which made her feel heavier instead of slimmer. Carpenter fired the trainer and began her own weight loss program using exercise equipment and counting calories. She lost about 20 pounds (9.1 kg; 1 st 6 lb) and intended to lose another five pounds. Her eating habits also changed around this time, with Carpenter trying to get food off her plate by offering it to others at the meal as a taste.
By September 1975, her weight was 91 pounds (41 kg; 6 st 7 lb). At live performances fans reacted audibly to her gaunt appearance and many wrote to the pair to inquire what was wrong. She refused to publicly declare she was in ill health; on her 1981 Nationwide appearance, she simply said she was “pooped“. Richard later stated that he and his parents did not know how to help Karen. In 1981, she told Richard there was a problem and she needed help with it. Carpenter spoke with Cherry Boone, who had recovered from anorexia, and contacted Boone‘s doctor for help. She was hoping to find a quick solution to her problem, as she had performing and recording obligations, but the doctor told her treatment could take from one to three years. She then chose to be treated in New York City by psychotherapist Steven Levenkron.
By late 1981 Carpenter was using thyroid replacement medication she obtained as “Karen Burris“, in order to increase her metabolism. This was used by Karen in conjunction with increased consumption (up to 80— 90 tablets per night) of the laxatives she had long relied upon, which caused food to pass quickly through her digestive tract. Despite Levenkron‘s treatment, including confiscation of medications Karen misused, her condition continued to deteriorate and she lost more weight. Carpenter told Levenkron she felt dizzy and that her heart was beating irregularly. Finally, in September 1982, she was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, where she was placed on intravenous parenteral nutrition. The procedure was successful and she gained some weight in a relatively short time, but this put a strain on her heart, which was already weak from years of improper diet. She maintained a relatively stable weight for the rest of her life.
Carpenter returned to California in November 1982, determined to reinvigorate her career, finalize her divorce and begin a new album with Richard. On December 17, 1982, she gave her last singing performance in the multi-purpose room of the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, singing Christmas carols for her godchildren, their classmates and other friends. On January 11, 1983, Karen made her last public appearance at a gathering of past Grammy Award winners, who were commemorating the show‘s 25th anniversary. She seemed somewhat frail and worn out, but according to Dionne Warwick, was vibrant and outgoing, exclaiming, “Look at me! I‘ve got an ass!“ She had also begun to write songs after returning to California and told Warwick she had “a lot of living left todo“.
On February 1, 1983, Carpenter saw her brother for the last time, and discussed new plans for the Carpenters and resuming touring. A few days later, on February 4, Carpenter was scheduled to sign final papers making her divorce official. Shortly after waking up on that day, she collapsed in her bedroom at her parents‘ home in Downey. Paramedics found her heart beating once every 10 seconds. She was pronounced dead at Downey Community Hospital at 9:51 am.
Carpenter‘s funeral was held February 8, 1983, at Downey United Methodist Church. Approximately one thousand mourners attended, including her friends Dorothy Hamill, Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark and Dionne Warwick. Her estranged husband Thomas Burris also attended, and tossed his wedding ring into her casket. Carpenter was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California. In 2003 her body was moved, to be placed with her parents in a mausoleum at the Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.
An autopsy released on March 11, 1983 ruled out drug overdose, attributing death to “emetine cardio toxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa“. She was discovered to have a blood sugar level of 1,110 milligrams per deciliter, more than ten times the average. Two years later, the coroner told colleagues that Carpenter‘s heart failure was caused by repeated use of ipecac syrup, an over-the-counter emetic often used to induce vomiting in cases of overdosing or poisoning. This was disputed by Levenkron, who said he had never known her to use ipecac, or seen evidence she had been vomiting. Carpenter‘s friends were convinced that she had abused laxatives and thyroid medication to maintain her low body weight, and thought this had started after her marriage began to crumble.
“This is a sad day, but at the same time a very special and beautiful day to my family and me. My only regret is that Karen is not physically here to share it with us, but I know that she is very much alive in our minds, and in our hearts“.
Richard Carpenter speaking at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1983