Were there unexplained tappings at the window in 1987? Mysterious lights in lonely places? Ghostly whispers on the unquiet wind? The dead—or some of the celebrity dead anyway—seemed not to rest easy; bodies and bits of bodies were everywhere but in their appropriate final resting places.
The ashes of humorist Dorothy Parker, who reached her wit’s end in 1967, sit in a can in a New York vault because playwright Lillian Hellman died without disposing of them as stipulated in Parker’s will.
The very considerable remains of singer Kate Smith spent most of the year in legal limbo. A conflict between Kate’s will, which directed that she be placed in a mausoleum, and the rules governing her Lake Placid cemetery of choice, which prohibit such tombs, kept the Philadelphia Flyers’ favorite singer on ice for 17 months after her death in 1986. A compromise allowed Kate to be buried last month where she wanted to be. God Bless America! Less conclusive was the fate awaiting the bloody hands of Argentine dictator Juan Perón, a big man on pampas who died in 1974. Last July the Perón mitts were hacked off by ghouls who demanded $8 million ransom. When the authorities washed their own hands of the matter, the kidnappers refused to hand over Perón’s, which are still out there somewhere.
By contrast, the twisted body of John Merrick, the celebrated Elephant Man, still rests in London, despite the blandishments of Michael Jackson, who offered $1 million for it. Maybe Michael wanted spare parts, since he too contributed to the list of the missing: His original nose and lips are not with us any longer, although he has gained a dimple no one noticed before. There’s no use telling him to lighten up: Michael has taken care of that too.