Johnny Hallyday’s Bottled Health Scare

"It will never end "

Johnny Hallyday, France's answer to Elvis Presley, hit by a rumoured drink problem.

In November last year Johnny Hallyday, 66, was hospitalised at Cedars-Sinai clinic Los Angeles for treatment of a post operative infection after surgery for a slipped disc. France held its collective breath; the media splashed with fears for his life; doctors decided to induce ‘coma’ and hysteria reached its peak.  

Now L’Express magazine claims the French rocker’s life was never in danger.

He was, says the magazine, placed in an artificial coma for respiratory problems and an addiction to alcohol.

L’Express reports it has seen confidential medical files from the Californian clinic — where the singer was hospitalized for sixteen days in December 2009 — which throw new light on the star’s health scare.

The magazine says the health check reflected a dozen diseases, including some connected with a long history of smoking and a “binge drinking”. The singer, it says, had earlier talked of his demons in a book by Daniel Rondeau, a writer and diplomat.

In Los Angeles, a cardiologist called the singers own admission of how much alcohol he imbibed daily, “unbelievable”. L’Express says this dependency complicated the singer’s care and there were concerns he might experience “alcohol withdrawal” symptoms.

This in fact was what happened and according to one medical report: “During his hospitalization, his condition changed, the patient experienced breathing difficulties which required intubation and sedation justified by obvious signs of alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens.” 

At this time, December 8, Johnny Hallyday’s doctors induced “coma” both to relieve and protect him from the effects. This “coma” was interpreted in France as a sign of a worsening of his condition, which the media pumped up into the risk of a tragic outcome.  

However says the magazine, the doctors’ report notes that after the December 9 operation: “the patient Jean-Philippe Smet will remain for two more weeks and attend therapy sessions for  ‘severe alcohol withdrawal’ “. The doctors also noted that the star “continues to recover well”.

Before leaving the clinic on December 23, they made one final recommendation that he consult “an addiction specialist about his history of alcohol use”.  

The national drama at the time was enhanced by the way his managers spun information about his hospital stay in California, and was further complicated by a demand for an inquiry into his laminectomy (spinal operation for a hernia) carried out by the French neurosurgeon, Stephane Delajoux .

At the time, in a letter sent to a court in Paris requesting an independent medical expertise, the singer claimed narrowly to have escaped death.

In his claim before the court signed by him and forwarded to the judges, and calling for the review, he said:  “I came close to and witnessed death”.

However lawyers for Dr. Delajoux rejected any responsibility. A judge reserved a decision on December 28, and the court announced it could appoint two experts to examine the matter.

At stake, as it turns out, was responsibility for a financial loss for the cancellation of his planned ” Tour 66 “.

  • Johnny Hallyday, real name Jean-Philippe Smet, was only 13 when he went on stage for the first time in Copenhagen to sing ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’ .  In 1957 he saw the film ‘Lovin’ You ‘, starring his idol Elvis Presley, and for him everything fell into place — he would become a rock ‘n’ roll star. Jean-Philippe was only 16 when he morphed into Johnny Hallyday , a soft-hearted rocker with a powerful voice, who continues to fire up audiences. Among his best known albums are: ‘Johnny Hallyday sang’ (1965), ‘Beyond Love’ (1976), ‘Lorad’ (1995), ‘Blood Simple’ (1999), ‘The Heart of Men ‘(2007) and’ It will never end ‘(2008). Now with millions of records sold, his fans remain loyal to ‘the’ teen idol ‘.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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