singer Karen Carpenter fell victim to heart failure after an eight-year battle with anorexia nervosa. She seemed to be on the verge of recovery when she died at the age of 32. After spending almost all of 1982 undergoing treatment for the eating disorder, the 5'4½" Carpenter had managed to pump her weight from a frail 80 pounds to a nearly normal 110.
Karen had been a little overweight as a teenager—she loved tacos and chili. But we never teased her—to us, she wasn't that fat. When she was 17, she went on the Stillman Diet with a doctor's guidance, and she lost between 20 and 25 pounds. She was at her best weight—between 115 and 120—until 1975, when the illness first became serious.
Karen had been in therapy for nine months or so, and the therapist was getting nowhere. She wasn't putting any weight on—if anything, she was losing. I was extremely upset about that. Finally Karen was put into Lenox Hill Hospital [checking in under an assumed name] for force-feeding to put some weight on her.
We all went to see her in the hospital. She had been down to 80 pounds, and she was about 110 when she came home to L.A. for Thanksgiving 1982, when we had turkey and all the trimmings. She was definitely improved, but there were signs that she wasn't 100 percent turned around—she was picking at food