Don Becker, the late and legendary Denver comic, poet and playwright who cut off his arm beneath a passing train in 1986, died from "acute cocaine and Phenobarbital toxicity," according to the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner. The autopsy report on Becker didn’t say whether the overdose was intentional or accidental.
Becker, who was profiled here shortly after his death, died on May 15, 2008 at approximately 11:40 a.m. He was found nearly 24 hours later.
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Phenobarbital is typically used as an alternative in the treatment of seizures; side effects can include sedation and dizziness. Becker had been complaining for weeks about feeling dizzy and even had an appointment to be looked at by a doctor on the day that he died, according to friends. When he was found in his apartment, he had an injury on his head from a fall, though that was not the cause of his death.
Friends held a raucous June wake for Becker, who was 53, at the Mercury Café, where he had held forth at many a poetry slam, and they will gather this week to scatter his ashes in the Harvey Park neighborhood where he grew up.
For some people, the cause of Becker’s death will close the book on his story. But Denise and Brent Johnson, who were as close to him as anyone, feel otherwise. "Ultimately, while those factoids may fill in some blanks, they pale in significance compared to the meaning that overflows Don’s life, humor, insight, writings, and the loss we all feel that he is no longer with us," they wrote in an email.
He will be missed. – Adam Cayton-Holland