5 Outlandish Celebrity Funerals (And What You Can Learn From Them)
Article by Rochelle Rietow, funeralOne
Whether you like it or not, celebrities are a big part of our culture. Ever since they first appeared on the silent screens, we’ve looked up to them, followed their day-to-day lives in magazines and talk shows, and kept up with their achievements… so it makes sense that millions tune in to celebrate them when they pass.
Many celebrity deaths have even become worldwide days of mourning and remembrance. Think about it… can you recall where you were when some of the biggest names in history passed away? John Lennon, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley… Over 30,000 people braved near-freezing temperatures to line the streets for John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession, and 2.5 billion people around the world tuned in to watch Princess Diana’s heartbreaking service. Their gifts and their lives have affected many of us, and that’s why many feel the need to mourn them just as we would our own friends and family.
But for some well-known celebs, their outrageous and outlandish personalities that made them so unique and interesting in life didn’t stop once they were laid to rest. Many have had huge, Hollywood-style production funerals that us in the funeral profession could only dream of putting together. Others have had services that are just plain interesting.
Here are a few of some of the most extravagant and crazy celebrity funerals in history. And as weird as some of these events may seen, they actually give a glimpse into some awesome personalization ideas that all funeral professionals could learn from. Check them out.
1. Hunter S. Thompson
Given that this famed author was best known for his debaucherous writing, excessive drinking and quirky personality, it is no surprise that Thompson’s funeral was just as exciting as his life. His close friend Johnny Depp funded a one-of-a-kind funeral for the author after he committed suicide in 2005.
The funeral kicked off by blaring the author’s favorite songs, “Spirit In The Sky” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” He also had a 150-foot tower erected (based off of Thompson’s own designs), where a cannon sat on top to shoot his ashes out as fireworks exploded in the background. Attendees were also asked to pay their respects by enjoying a glass of whiskey on ice, one of Thompson’s favorite pastimes.
What funeral professionals should take away: You do not need to build a tower to the sky to show off a person’s personality. Small gestures such as playing a person’s favorite song and serving their favorite drink go a long way towards helping their life shine through in their service. Many people in life have a signature quirk – “You never saw grandma without a glass of sweet tea in her hand” – so incorporating these small details into the service will bring back welcome stories and memories for the family.
2. Jim Henson
Many of us grew up with Henson’s The Muppets, and his life was so appreciated that he actually had two funerals – one in London and one in New York. For both of these life celebrations, Henson insisted that none of his friends and family in attendance were allowed to wear the color black. The service also included a heart-warming memorial by Big Bird himself, who turned up to sing a beautiful version of the classic, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Additional musical elements included a team of Muppeteers singing a medley of Henson’s favorite songs, as the Dixieland Jazz Band playing “When The Stains Go Marching In.”
What funeral professionals should take away: Not every funeral needs to be a traditional look back on a person’s life in order to truly celebrate their accomplishments. Henson lived a life of fun and excitement, and it was only natural that his service reflected that with the unique characters he created, uplifting music, and a strict dress code that brought color to his final moments. Help use personalization ideas such as these to convey to families that a funeral is an opportunity for celebration, and it doesn’t have to be all about mourning.
3. Sonny Bono
For many who grew up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, you can’t think of Sonny without thinking of Cher. So when the popular musician died in a skiing accident in 1998, many were happy to hear that his longtime singing partner would be delivering the eulogy. Opening by wearing a funny pair of glasses donned by Bono, Cher stated: “I have to wear the glasses that I made so much fun of him. I called him Mr. Magoo. I said, ‘You know, you’ve got to get some better glasses. You know, I don’t care if you’re Republican or not, you’ve got to look cooler than this.’ So now I have to wear the glasses.” She continued on for six minutes, and her eulogy has gone down as one of the funniest, most personal and most heart-warming eulogies in history, because it truly showcased their relationship and gave an honest look into who Bono was as a person.
What funeral professionals should take away: Many families think that a eulogy has to be a set and standard list of points that are made during a funeral service. Talk about their life, share a personal memory, mention their family, say they will be missed, fill in the blanks. There are even templates all over the internet that help guide people through these cookie-cutter steps when writing a eulogy. But this emotional tradition should be so much more than checking off boxes. This is a chance for families to really share the moments and stories that mean the most to them – from the hilariously funny to the meaningful ones. Reassure families that there is nothing wrong with a eulogy that evokes both laughter and tears. After all, life is made up of these emotions, and both should be remembered in a funeral service.
4. Steve Irwin
When you hear the name Steve Irwin, you can’t help but think of “The Crocodile Hunter,” his stage nickname. The life-long animal enthusiast passed away after a tragic stingray accident on the Great Barrier Reef, but anyone who knew Irwin knew that he passed while doing something that he loved – getting up close and personal with animals. Therefore, when it was time to lay him to rest, there was only one place that his family wanted to do it – a 60-acre zoo that has been owned by the Irwin family since 1970. The zoo also erected a monument to Irwin in the same location so visitors and fans of The Crocodile Hunter could continue to pay their respects in a place that meant so much to him.
What funeral professionals should take away: While your families may not own a large park that represents everything that they loved in life, you can still encourage them to lay their loved ones to rest in the places that meant the most to them. Rather than simply placing an urn with grandpa’s remains on a shelf, encourage them to think about the places that meant the most to him. Perhaps he had a favorite fishing river that he went to every year, or always had a dream to visit Hawaii. However, for those who still crave a traditional spot where they can go visit and be with their loved one, be sure to let them know that they can have the best of both worlds – scattering some ashes, while burying the rest. Many families do not realize that they have this choice.
5. Willie “Wolf” McCoy Johnson
We’ve all heard Chili’s famous Baby Back Ribs jingle before: “I want my baby back, baby back, baby back…” But what you may not have known is that Texas-born country singer Willie McCoy Johnson is the famous voice behind this catchy tune that just won’t leave your head. His famous jingle lived on through his funeral service, where McCoy was buried in a custom-built casket that was shaped like a BBQ smoker, the presiding pastor wore a chef’s hat, and live pigs were present to pay their respects. Even the ball-bearers donned aprons as a last tribute to the BBQ star.
What funeral professionals should take away: Maybe your families would not want to get quiteas elaborate as this Texas-style funeral. (If you do have live pigs in your funeral home though, be sure to send us a photo!) But the idea behind the personalized service is one that should be inspiring and encouraging to funeral directors everywhere.
As we’ve mentioned before, your job at a funeral is to ensure that every guest that walks out of your doors knows their loved one better than when they walked in. Decorating the service with mementos from a person’s life, and putting together a theme that captures the moments that they loved – these all go a long way towards truly showcasing someone’s life and helping families begin the healing process. Encourage your families to truly memorialize their loved ones by teaching them the value of a personalized service.
One great way to add personalization to your families’ funerals is through meaningful, beautiful tribute videos that showcase a person’s life through photos and videos. These powerful videos help tell a person’s life story, and are a great way for families to celebrate and honor their loved one. Click here to learn more about you can get a 30-day free trial of our Hollywood-style, simple-to-use Life Tributes software today.
What do you think of these outlandish celebrity funerals? Did you learn anything from the unique personalization and services that were offered? Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!