The last time Cameron Sue saw her friend, mom and dad singer Cass Elliott, it was a beautiful summer evening in late July 1974, and the two were having dinner at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. “It was the night before she flew to London for her solo concert series at Palladium,” the writer told PEOPLE. “We were cruising down Mulholland Drive in her blue electric Cadillac. ‘Monday, Monday’ was on the radio and she sang along. She was happy. She really did.”
A few days later, on July 29, Cameron heard the news of Elliott’s death, at the age of 32. She immediately called her London apartment. “Her manager Alan Carr picked up the phone and he was hysterical. Alan said, ‘You have to tell them she died of ham sandwich suffocation. You have to go to your typewriter and write it down. There’s half a ham sandwich on her bedside table. “
“I didn’t ask any questions,” said Cameron, then a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter who later wrote about the story behind the story in her 2018 book “Hollywood Secrets and Scandals.” “I know she didn’t choke on the ham sandwich. I don’t trust Ellen, but I thought I’d just do it because something went wrong.”
“Ham sandwiches are taking the world by storm,” Cameron told PEOPLE. “A lot of people don’t realize it’s not even true. Even though I’ve said — and wrote — it’s not true, it’s still going on. I never thought it would last this long.”
Cameron met Carl a few days after the singer’s death, and the two mourned their friend. “We hugged and cried and cried,” she said. “He said, ‘Thank you for writing that, I’m trying to save her reputation.’ It’s a terrible loss.”
An autopsy revealed Elliott died of a heart attack. No drugs were found in her system. But in the years since her death, more revelations about the singer’s substance abuse and the fast-food diet she sometimes undergoes in front of her appearance may have weakened her heart.
“Then people around her would say, ‘You mean you don’t know?’” Cameron said. “But I’ve never seen any drugs. I’m so outspoken that people, even if they do, don’t take drugs around me.”
On the day Elliott died, Cameron wrote her an obituary and rushed to the singer’s house.
“The door is open. The front door is unlocked. I just go there to protect anything because sometimes on the day a celebrity dies, people try to get into the house. Something in my head tells me to go upstairs. Why lie? Ham Sandwiches? So I went to her bedroom and looked at the cupboards and it was completely cleaned out,” Cameron said.
“Years later, I was a guest at a party and [there] had a well-known model from that era. Somehow, the topic of Cass came up and she said, ‘I’m the guy out there cleaning up the drugs. It’s weird, Because that’s 30 years from now. I must have arrived after her.”