By Cassie Carpenter for Dailymail.com
5:12 p.m. on November 5, 2023, updated at 5:40 p.m. on November 5, 2023
- For assistance, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association at info@NationalEatingDisorders.org
Karen Carpenter’s battle with anorexia nervosa, which began in the 1970s and ended with her untimely death at age 32 in 1983, is explored in a new biography titled Lead Sister: The Story of Karen Carpenter.
In January 1982, the Carpenters’ emaciated singer-drummer checked into the $6,000/month City Regency Hotel in Manhattan to begin six months of intensive therapy sessions with psychotherapist Steven Levenkron, costing $100 per session.
“Karen’s willingness to spend time and money showed her initial level of commitment to therapy,” author Lucy O’Brien wrote in an excerpt published by THR.
“His compulsive behaviors had developed over time, so (Steven) knew it would take some time to dislodge them. In one of their first sessions, he discussed with Karen what she took for expel food and she confessed, saying she could ingest more than 90 Dulcolax at a time. Under his supervision, the goal was for her to reduce and eventually stop.
“He then asked her if she had taken anything else and she admitted to taking 10 tablets a day of Synthroid, a thyroid medication, which was said to speed up her metabolism. Levenkron was horrified. An overdose of thyroid medication thyroid can lead to coma, seizures and heart attacks. “Give me the bottle,” he said. Karen handed it over and he locked it in his desk drawer.
When Karen – who won three Grammy Awards – said: “I don’t need any care. I succeed like that,” Levenkron replied: “But you need treatment because you are incompetent… because you cannot stay alive.”
In September 1982, Carpenter realized her heart was “beating strangely” and was admitted to Lenox Hill Intensive Care Hospital on the Upper East Side, where she “weighed 77 pounds and was severely dehydrated.”
The Connecticut-born, Cali-raised musician had a life-threatening blood potassium level of 1.8 and her “digestive tract was so damaged that she had to be fed through an IV drip.”
“Even though she resisted gaining weight for a long time, once in the hospital, Karen allowed herself to be treated. Over the next seven weeks, she gained 20 pounds, first through intravenous feeding and then by eating small meals,” O’Brien wrote in her 368-page book, released Oct. 15.
“Karen began planning the next phase of her life and on October 28, in her hospital room, she signed a divorce petition (from Thomas James Burris, whom she married in 1980). It was her declaration of Independence.
Karen weighed 100 pounds and completed therapy with Levenkron in November 1982 – three years earlier than he recommended – and she presented him with a needlepoint canvas saying “YOU WIN – I WIN.”
Carpenter made his final public appearance alongside his older brother and bandmate Richard on January 11, 1983 at a gathering of former Grammy Award winners and the siblings planned a tour during their final reunion on the 1st. FEBRUARY.
The contralto crooner seemed “hardworking and excited, eager to rebuild her life” before her parents, Harold and Agnes, discovered her “undressed and motionless on the closet floor” of her childhood home in Downey on February 4 .
Karen was in cardiac arrest, her heart apparently beating every 10 seconds, and the cause of death was attributed to “cardiotoxicity of emetine due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa.”
Carpenter left everything in his will to his now 77-year-old brother who oversaw the release of 14 Carpenters compilations and four posthumous records, including Karen’s 1996 self-titled solo record.
The easy-listening pop duo – who signed with A&M in 1969 – have sold more than 150 million records worldwide and scored 35 Billboard Top 10 hits, including Close To You, Rainy Days on Mondays and We’ ve Only Just Begun.
Richard battled his own demons in 1979 when he completed a six-week rehab at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas for an addiction to Quaaludes.
Filmmaker Randy Martin’s documentary Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection is currently touring the film festival circuit and features an audio recording of Karen admitting that she suffered from an eating disorder.
“When I got sick, it scared me a lot. I mean, whoa, right down to the old 89-pounders over there, marvels Carpenter in the trailer.
For assistance, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association at info@NationalEatingDisorders.org