17 November 2018

How the other half die: celebrity funerals

5 min read



When it comes to celebrity funerals, many stars choose occasions in keeping with how they lived their lives – ostentatiously, loudly and, quite often, expensively. Here are a few of the weird and wonderful ways that some of our famous friends were sent off.

James Doohan

The actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Scotty in the TV show Star Trek, died in Washington in 2005.

As legend has it, in 1973 the Canadian actor was supposedly told by his dentist: “Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead. If I were you, I'd go with the flow.” Doohan took this advice literally, even upon his death. Rather than opting for a quiet and understated ceremony, the actor chose a farewell perfectly suited to his famously misquoted catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty” – and had his ashes fired into space.

Michael Jackson

When the Prince of Pop died in 2009 his memorial service was a global spectacle, streamed live to millions all around the world. Due to the popularity of the Jackson 5 singer, organisers decided to distribute 8,750 pairs of tickets to the service to the public; names were chosen at random from those who applied.

To say it was an opulent occasion would be putting it mildly. The star was buried in a $35,000 suit inside a gold-plated coffin. The cost of his private funeral alone was around $1 million, according to court documents, with more than half of that spent on his crypt in the Glendale mausoleum, a popular destination for celebrities.

Freddie Mercury

When Freddie Mercury died, aged 45, from pneumonia resulting from Aids, it came as a tremendous shock to the world – he had recorded songs only weeks before his death and released a music video only a couple of months earlier. The song “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”, released in the UK on Mercury’s 45th birthday, is now widely believed to be a goodbye to his fans.

Mercury was cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London. His lifelong muse Mary Austin then, according to Mercury’s wishes, buried his ashes in an undisclosed location, and it is thought that she is still the only person to know their whereabouts. 

Alexander Bernard Harris

American hip-hop stars are known for their love of the champagne, fast-car lifestyle, and this is often reflected in their funerals. Alexander Bernard Harris, the murdered record-label CEO, was no exception. Harris was shot at a barber shop in 2003, and his last wish was to be buried in his banana-yellow Lamborghini Murcielago. At his memorial friends and family paid their respects to the rapper, whose embalmed corpse sat in the driver’s seat of the sports car.

Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith – whose real name was Vickie Lynn Hogan – died suddenly from a drug overdose in 2007. Smith, who’d found fame as a model, television personality and Playboy Bunny, was sent off in a costly ceremony befitting an American reality-TV star.

Her solid-mahogany coffin was covered in a pink-rhinestone blanket and carried up a red carpet at her funeral in the Bahamas – after being flown in on a private jet. 

Bruce Reynolds

On the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery, Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind of the heist, had most of his ashes buried at Highgate Cemetery with his wife’s – near the most famous inhabitant of the cemetery, philosopher, economist and political revolutionary Karl Marx. The rest of his ashes were scattered in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt by his son, Nick, a musician with the band Alabama 3.

Jimmy Dean

American country-music singer, actor and businessman Jimmy Dean left very specific instructions for his burial in his will. Several years before his death he bought a piano-shaped tomb in preparation for his passing in which he wanted to be buried. He also requested that “Here lies one hell of a man” was written on the piano.

Of course most of us will not be expecting our own funerals to be quite so eccentric, but these certainly serve as inspiration. There are many ways for your life to be celebrated after you have gone - it really just comes down to personal choice. That’s why it’s important to talk to your loved ones so they know exactly what you want. 

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