This Party Is Dead, Not for This Planner of Fabulous Funerals

July 26, 2011
Advertisement

The patrons of the Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel, on Madison Avenue a block east of the Met, often don’t know what to make of Elizabeth Meyer. Steeped in tradition–it was the chosen mortuary-services provider for John Lennon, Jackie Onassis, and Jim Henson–the place is staffed mostly by middle-aged men for whom the business runs in the family. Meyer is a stunning 26-year-old brunette who went to NYU and began her professional life interning for designers and fashion-PR firms. Officially, she is Campbell’s director of family services, but it would not be inaccurate to call her its first in-house party planner. “The bane of my existence,” says Meyer, dressed in a black suit with a crisp white shirt and significant pearls, “is that I need to wear dark colors to work.”

When Meyer was 21, she lost her father, an entertainment lawyer, to lymphoma. She took it upon herself to give him a fitting send-off. “I planned it like an event. It was a success!” she says. The casket was hidden under a blanket of peonies; songs by the Stones and David Bowie were played, loudly. “Someone said, ‘I want to dance,’ and my best friend, Ali ≠Hilfiger”–Tommy’s daughter–“said, ‘Go ahead, then, dance!’?” Afterward: lunch for 200 at Centolire.

Meyer, realizing she was on to something, pitched her services to Campbell; Campbell bit. As a kind of orientation, the mortuary started her as a receptionist, a role that included collecting bodies from homes and morgues. “The first time they asked me to do that, I was wearing suede Gucci loafers. I was kind of concerned about them,” she says. “Now I keep a pair of shoes here that never go back into my apartment.”

Advertisement

Meyer’s mother was horrified to learn of her little fashionista’s career change. “She thinks I’ve been fixated on death since my dad passed away,” says Meyer, who wears her father’s Rolex every day. For her part, Meyer finds the job cathartic, now that she’s gotten over her initial discomfort. “It’s not glamorous, I can’t sugarcoat it. But I have high-powered executives telling me their fears and wants, and I’m honored they open up to me.”

Those wants can be highly specific: For guitarist Les Paul’s memorial service, she was asked to secure a tour bus; for an exotic-car collector, she organized a cortËge of Ferraris; for a prominent Latin American, she transformed a chapel into a tropical setting, complete with palm trees and a D.J. “It reminded me of Bungalow 8,” Meyer recalls.

Thomas Parmalee, editorial director for the company that publishesAmerican Funeral DirectorandAmerican Cemetery, sees more Elizabeth Meyers in the industry’s future. “People are now demanding creative ideas; event planning ties in nicely,” he says. Meanwhile, Meyer recently set up a second office, at Riverside Memorial Chapel on West 76th Street, and has developed a particular interest in “prearrangements.” There are a lot of New Yorkers, she has found, who want to extend their controlling streaks into the afterlife.

“People get surprisingly into it,” she says. “They call quite a bit to change details, like what they want to wear or the location of the luncheon after.” This is understandable, of course. “They may have more than one wedding, but they know they will only have one ≠funeral.”

CDFuneralNews

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
CDFuneralNews
Advertisement

You may be interested

Winter is coming: How forward-thinking funeral homes are preparing for the Internet Generation.
Cremation
164 views
Cremation
164 views

Winter is coming: How forward-thinking funeral homes are preparing for the Internet Generation.

Will Chang - November 15, 2017

Four years ago, my cofounder Tyler’s grandmother passed away. Tasked with the responsibility of planning a funeral in his late…

Marching Forward, Making Sales at the 2018 ICCFA Wide World of Sales Conference
Funeral Industry Press Releases
28 views
Funeral Industry Press Releases
28 views

Marching Forward, Making Sales at the 2018 ICCFA Wide World of Sales Conference

CDFuneralNews - November 15, 2017

STERLING, VA (November 13, 2017) – The International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association (ICCFA) has announced its program schedule for…

BEAN TOWN BREAK DOWN | FUNERAL hustle 015
FUNERAL Hustle
230 views
FUNERAL Hustle
230 views

BEAN TOWN BREAK DOWN | FUNERAL hustle 015

CDFuneralNews - November 14, 2017

Ryan is exposed EXPOSED as a terrible (.....) in FUNERAL hustle 015! Part 2 of our Boston NFDA recap we…

Comments