“Autopsy” episode on Eddie Van Halen steeped in controversy


Long-running medical docs-series, “Autopsy,” is scheduled to continue its coverage of celebrity deaths this Sunday when the show examines the death of Eddie Van Halen. Famous survivors of the late guitarist, ex-wife and actor Valerie Bertinelli, and son and musician Wolfgang Van Halen, have spoken out against the episode focusing on the elder Van Halen.

“Autopsy”: Van Halen controversy

“Autopsy” has been airing since 2014. The show focuses on the deaths of famous people. Past episodes have included coverage of the deaths of Karen Carpenter, Barry White, Jim Morrison, and numerous others.

However, deaths that are sudden, are considered to be inconclusive, or otherwise include an air of mystery are typical of the coverage provided by the show. Eddie Van Halen’s death is reportedly the result of a few different maladies, including lung cancer. The show’s representatives claim that viewers can learn something about preventative care by watching the episode featuring Van Halen.

The claim sounds like a stretch, and an opportunity to discuss stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles as a reason for Van Halen’s battles with lung and throat cancer. Some would argue that there are scores of people in their 60’s who have cancer, and who did not engage in rock ‘n’ roll excesses.

Most people understand in general, what can be done to decrease cancer risks. As far as the general public knows, there is no 100 percent effective cancer preventative. To claim, as was done in one online article, that Van Halen’s illnesses were survivable, so why didn’t he, seems cruel.

Response to Eddie Van Halen’s “Autopsy” episode

Almost as soon as the episode was announced, backlash erupted. Most famously, Wolfgang and Bertinelli took to Twitter to denounce the show. In addition, radio and television host, Eddie Trunk tweeted to declare he was not a part of the episode and was not in favor of it.

Despite the intense negative reactions, Reelz, the network that produces “Autopsy,” has no plans to cancel the Eddie Van Halen episode. The show is to begin streaming Sunday, June 12, 2022. “Autopsy” can be viewed on Pluto, Tubi, Sling, Amazon Prime, and Philo, and via cable providers such as Spectrum on Demand, The Roku Channel, and DIRECT TV. In the UK, the show airs on Channel 5.

Eddie Van Halen was a guitarist with the hard rock band that bore his and his brother’s (drummer Alex) last name. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Van Halen made a name for itself through its hard-driving sound that featured Eddie’s iconic guitar work. After the departure of lead singer David Lee Roth in1985, Van Halen continued with Sammy Hagar. The last Van Halen album Eddie Van Halen played on was “A Different Kind of Truth” (2012).

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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