5 Celebrities Who Left Weirdly Specific Instructions for Handling Their Corpses
It’s strange how even in an era filled with boundless (some would argue, annoyingly so) individuality, funerals tend to be a one-size-fits-all affair — black suits, uncomfortable seating and a minimally customized wooden box as a permanent residence. It’s all very somber and religious, even in the year 2023, when finding a bible in someone’s home is probably genuinely surprising.
It’s not like I’m suggesting that it should be a time to call a DJ or dust off old Halloween costumes, but it can occasionally feel strange depending on the dearly departed. Especially for celebrities who were larger than life, you’d think things would be a little more glitzed up, though maybe it’s a nice “we’re all dust in the end” bit of philosophy. Some celebrities certainly thought the same, and cued up delightfully unusual ways to kiss goodbye to this mortal coil.
Here are five celebrities with very specific instructions on what to do with their remains…
Carrie Fisher, probably to her own slight annoyance, is best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. It’s a crime that such a unique person’s most lasting legacy is going to be a metal bikini for people to perv out over at comic conventions. Usually, actors are playing more interesting people than themselves, but in Fisher’s case, the opposite might be true. The more you see of her being herself the more it becomes clear that her most famous role was infinitely less interesting than the person behind it.
Even after her tragic passing, she injected the humor that made people love her into her final goodbye. Not through ghoulish CGI necromancy, but in the urn she chose to carry her cremated remains. It’s hard to even truly call it an urn, since, outside of the contents, it was about as far away from a traditional, somber bit of pottery as you can get. Her remains were, at her request, interred inside a ceramic recreation of a Prozac pill.
Hunter S. Thompson
If you figured that Hunter S. Thompson was going out in a plain lacquered wood box, I would assume that was the very first time you’d ever been made aware of him. One of recent history’s wildest personalities, one that obnoxious alcoholics have been trying to co-opt for decades, had no intention of going out in any normal sort of way. He left complicated burial instructions that included, of course, pyrotechnics.
In accordance with his wishes, Thompson’s ashes were blasted out of a massive, fist-shaped cannon. The cost for the funeral/fireworks show was paid for by Thompson’s good friend and future conversational landmine, Johnny Depp. You can watch the launch of his ashes on YouTube if you’d like, and if you’d like to learn more about Hunter S. Thompson, simply head to your nearest freshman college dorm.
Speaking of people that assholes think they're reincarnations of, let’s look at the Sex Pistols. Specifically, their manager, Malcolm McLaren. The only part of a classic funeral that anyone involved with the Sex Pistols would have any connection to, likely, was a predilection for the color black. Outside of that, it’s a gathering subsumed with pomp, circumstance and religion — three things that the group pretty roundly had a distaste for.
So, when it came time for McLaren’s last ride, he set out instructions to ensure one last bit of chaos. His coffin was pulled by horses through the streets of London, decorated on the side with the spray-painted phrase “Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die.” It was trailed by a double-decker green bus with the destination set to “NOWHERE” and the sides reading “CASH FOR CHAOS.” Former Sex Pistols member John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, hated it, which is a pretty ringing endorsement these days.
One specific request from Tupac’s last wishes wasn’t found in a will, but publicly released in one of his songs. Exact knowledge of how he wanted to be memorialized might have been a bit of a guessing game in the first place, given that he was murdered at age 25 in a drive-by shooting. Even living a lifestyle that invites the presence of bullets, most people probably aren’t bringing in an estate lawyer before 30.
When it came time to figure out how he would like to be honored, members of his group the Outlawz looked to his discography for instruction, and found it in the song “Black Jesuz.” The instructions were clear and concise: “Cremated, last wishes n***** smoke my ashes.” Outlawz member Young Noble later confirmed that at a beach memorial, they rolled up the late rapper and smoked him, meaning in a weird way, Tupac is one of the few people to be cremated twice.
Mariah Carey isn’t dead, but I think we can all agree that when she passes, there’s going to be a wild set of instructions getting unsealed. When someone’s been rumored to have requested white kittens and doves as part of her concert riders, the bar for strange ceremonial details has already been set alarmingly high. One thing’s for sure: They’ll definitely have a tough time finding someone she would have approved of to sing the hymns.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.