LONDON - A weekend celebration of the musical TV series “Glee” turned into an impromptu memorial for Cory Monteith after news of his death rocked a fan convention in England.
The hundreds of “gleeks” — as fans are known — joined a chorus of thousands worldwide who took to social media to mourn Monteith’s passing. The actor’s struggles with addiction echoed those of other young stars whose premature deaths shocked young fans.
“The news was devastating,” said Chloe Harvey, an 18-year-old fan from Portsmouth, England. “No one had any idea what to say or do. It just shows how much of a truly amazing guy Cory was that everyone was so shocked and emotional about the news.”
Monteith, 31, was found dead in his Vancouver, British Columbia, hotel room on Saturday, according to police, who said an autopsy is expected Monday to determine the cause of death.
Police said Monteith had been out with people earlier, but video and electronic records from the hotel indicated he returned to his room by himself early Saturday morning. He was believed to be alone when he died.
The Fox network and the producers of “Glee,” including 20th Century Fox Television, called Monteith an exceptional performer “and an even more exceptional person.” Lea Michele, Monteith’s “Glee” co-star and real-life girlfriend, asked for privacy after hearing of his death.
While it’s not known what caused his death, Monteith’s passing recalls the lives of Heath Ledger, Corey Haim and River Phoenix — actors who battled substance abuse and died in their 20s and 30s. Monteith talked bluntly about struggling with addiction since he was a teenager, telling Parade magazine in 2011 he was “lucky to be alive.”
Monteith admitted himself to a treatment facility in April for substance addiction, a representative said at the time. He had also received treatment when he was 19.
“I think kids really need a place to go and feel like they belong,” he said in the video posted the site for Project Limelight, a Vancouver charity offering theatre and arts programs to at-risk youth. “When I was a kid, I struggled a lot with who I was and where my life was going and what I was interested in. And I was fortunate to have the arts inspire me.”
At the weekend “Glee” convention at a hotel near Heathrow airport, organizers Starfury Conventions rescheduled the final day of the three-day event so the 250 attendees could mourn him together.
“We all woke up to hear the story, and no one really wanted to believe it was true,” said Chloe-Louise Bond, a 22-year-old fan from Wakefield, England. “Walking into the main room, you could just feel the tragedy in the air, absolute strangers became a family right in that moment. Everyone was crying and hugging and just trying to get over the shock.”
It was a day filled with sadness and songs. The attendees chanted “Cory! Cory! Cory!” In unison, they sang tunes like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the Journey cover crooned by Monteith in the high school-set musical’s first episode. Curt Mega, Telly Leung and other actors who’ve played Warblers led a group discussion with fans about their memories of Monteith.
“Glee,” with its catchy song-and-dance numbers and high-profile guest stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Britney Spears, became an instant hit after it debuted in 2009 and made celebrities of Montieth and the rest of the relatively unknown cast.
Outside the Vancouver hotel where Monteith’s body was discovered, a makeshift memorial popped up where fans left flowers and notes commemorating the actor. #RipCoryMonteith and #StayStrongLea became trending topics on Twitter.