Have you ever heard of Mario Lanza, because before this week when Matthew Weiner talked about him on the Nerdist podcast, I never had. In the 1950s, he was an incredible dramatic operatic singer, thought by some to have the “voice of the century,” who went on to become a huge Hollywood celebrity, best known for his role in The Great Caruso, the top grossing film in the world in 1951. It was so successful, in fact, that it took him away from opera singing completely.
But Lanza was also a man of great excess, who had a huge temper and was reportedly difficult to work with. In 1952, he was fired from a film for his “excess” passion over one song (and another actor came in and lip-synched songs to his voice), he lost his MGM contract, and his career began to decline.
His excesses, however, included a huge appetite for both food and alcohol. At 5’7, Lanza’s weight would balloon upwards of 260 pounds before he started strange diets to lose it all, and get back to his working weight of 170. In fact, in 1957, he tried a diet in which he injected hCG (a hormone extracted from the urine of pregnant women) and reduced his food intake to 500 calories a day. It worked! He lost 30 pounds in 9 days, and 44 more pounds over the next several months.
Of course, the weight loss didn’t stick, so by the very next year, he tried a new diet called the “twilight sleep method,” which entailed entering into a clinic and being given sedatives to keep him asleep. You can’t eat while you’re asleep. It was effective! He entered the clinic several times, according to Weiner, and he’d quickly lose 30 pounds while he was asleep.
The weight loss never stuck, though. He entered the clinic again in August 1959 to lose more weight for an upcoming film role. On September 25, 1959, they put him to sleep again. On October 5, 1959, the day before he was set to be discharged, he died. No autopsy was performed, but I think it’s safe to say that he died from complications due to sleeping for two weeks straight without eating.
tl:dr: Do not try the Twilight Sleep Method at home. It might work, but FYI, you also might die.