Dispatches

Smoking Tupac’s Ashes

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The last will and testament: your final chance to have it your way, to tell the world if you want to be buried, burned, or boated out to sea. Most of the time, if the dead are watching over us, they see their wishes carried out, and they probably smile at still exerting influence from beyond the grave. Sometimes, however, things don’t go exactly as planned. Did Tupac ask him band members to mix his ashes into a spliff for a last smoke? Did Keith Richard’s father want to be snorted? Did Ted Williams want his frozen head to be detached from the body, then beaten with a wrench? Somehow we don’t think so. So, in honor of Halloween, that most morbid of holidays, here’s our Top 10 Celebrity After-Death Atrocity list. Let’s hope, when you shuffle your mortal coil, that you get treated a little better. — Jack Harrison

1. Napoleon’s ashes are now in Les Invalides in Paris, but not everything got cremated. His penis, described as "one inch long and resembling a grape," was kept by a collector (as was his heart and stomach) and later put on display at the Museum of French Art in New York City. Apparently the current owner has refused a $100,000 offer for the displaced member.

2. Groucho Marx’s ashes were stolen by a cemetery employee and taken to Burbank, California, despite Groucho’s famous claim that he’d "never be caught dead in Burbank."

3. Charlie Chaplin’s corpse was stolen by a small band of Swiss mechanics who tried to ransom it back to his family. The sticky-fingered thieves were caught and Chaplin was reburied eleven weeks after first interment.

4. Sammy Davis, Jr.’s wife, Altovise, realized that Davis owed millions in back taxes and had his body exhumed so she could remove $70,000 worth of jewelry Davis had had buried with him.

5. Albert Einstein’s brain was kept for science, but not like you’d think. The pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy took it without consent, injected it with various substances, photographed it from all different angles, and dissected it into 240 sections. Eventually, journalists discovered the brain in the pathologist’s house, stored in two Mason jars filled with formaldehyde and stuffed in a box under a beer cooler.

6. Selena, the Mexican pop icon, kept earning even after her death. Her family set up a "condolence line" for her fans to leave messages . . . at $3.99 a minute.

7. Tupac Shakur’s band members honored the murdered rapper by mixing some of his cremated ashes with marijuana and giving him one last puff. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

8. Singer Gram Parsons had asked to be cremated in Joshua Tree National Park. His road manager and a friend managed to finagle his final wish. They got the corpse, drove it out to the park, and tried to create a pyre by pouring five gallons of gas on the open coffin. The resulting fireball managed only to mutilate sixty percent of the corpse, and the dutiful friends were arrested.

9. Keith Richards once said: "I snorted my father. He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow." Richards has since retracted the claim.

10. The last man to hit .400, Ted Williams wanted to be frozen after his death — in time, not in pieces. Instead, not only was he decapitated, but a recent book claims that the author watched an official of the storage company "swing a monkey wrench at Williams’ frozen severed head to try to remove a tuna can stuck to it." Apparently the company, Alcor, "used the cans, from a cat that lived on the premises, as pedestals for the heads." Well, what do you expect for $136,000?

The facts for all but the last of these entries come from Morbid Curiosity: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous by Alan W. Petrucelli, copyright Alan W. Petrucelli, 2009. Used by permission of the author and Penguin Books.