The lasting memory that many Australians will have of the late American singer Meat Loaf is his disastrous performance at the 2011 AFL grand final at Melbourne’s MCG. The ‘Loaf’ was so far off key, he could have been in the adjoining suburb. Like many famous and infamous celebrities his death saw a rash of media obituaries and reaction from dedicated fans.
In these modern times the sudden demise of somebody like Meat Loaf is reported almost immediately, via radio, television and the internet. The sense of shock is often accompanied by positive eulogies that recall the deceased’s most notable achievements. It’s only later that we discover a less than positive side, that may revive some kind of scandal or in the case of Meat Loaf, his objections to vaccination and the wearing of masks. That he allegedly died of COVID has yet to be confirmed but no doubt the discussion will continue.
In the meantime, there are bizarre reports that some long time fans have gathered to feast on homemade meat loaf (both meat and plant based) and sing karaoke versions of his greatest hits (possibly all off key). One social media post, and it could well be a hoax, suggested that he be buried in a giant casserole dish. It’s a proposal that evokes the death of Fredric J Baur, the man who invented the Pringles potato crisp packaging system. His ashes were buried in a giant Pringles ‘Original’ Can, although personally I would have opted for the more tangier ‘Sour Cream & Onion’.
Whilst most people opt for a conventional funeral or memorial service, there are those who choose a more novel way of marking their end of life. In 2005 the ashes of writer Hunter S. Thompson were blasted out of a cannon, set on a 47 metre tower, with the supposed $3 million cost stumped up by Thompson’s close friend Johnny Depp.
There was once a time when we thumbed through a newspaper to reach the daily obituary column to discover who of any note or fame had recently died. Some newspapers even employed dedicated obituary editors, running multiple obits on any one day. These days quality newspapers like the New York Times and the Sydney Morning Herald still run obituaries, but are highly selective in whom they remember.
It’s largely left to electronic media to announce the death of some well known singer, sports person or political figure. It’s then the role of their fans or admirers to express their grief through social media or gather in groups for some kind of vigil as we saw with the deaths of Princess Diana, John Lennon and David Bowie. All part of the ritual of celebrity death in the modern era.
Many people write their funeral wishes into their will, often including the songs they would like played at their service. Such a great selection on Spotify now! As with wedding planners, we now have sophisticated ‘funeral planners’ who adhere to the wishes of both the deceased and their family in creating a highly memorable event. Not every funeral has the backing of Johnny Depp, but with today’s crowdfunding every celebrity could be afforded a unique and highly appropriate send off, if their fans and supporters chipped in.
Prince Andrew, for example, has fallen out of public favour but there are still those hardcore monarchists who are prepared to absolve him for his sins or believe that he is entirely innocent of the sexual charges brought against him. Were he to expire tomorrow (his body overheating from the inability to sweat), the Palace might deem his funeral a relatively subdued affair. On the other hand, if his tireless sycophants rallied, he could be fitted out in a giant air conditioned coffin that would also accommodate his enormous collection of fluffy toys and teddy bears.
And let’s not stop there. Why not cremate the goddam lot, bung it all in a giant Pringles can (I’d go for the ‘Hot & Spicy’ this time) and fire the ashes out of one of Buckingham Palaces ceremonial cannons, to the tune of Bat Out Of Hell played by the band of the Royal Grenadier Guards. Anybody for a serving of meat loaf at the wake?