Bob Morris, who was interviewed on A Good Goodbye Radio about his book Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents, also writes stories for Town & Country Magazine. The September issue features his story How the Celebrity Funeral Became the New Royal Wedding: A look at how the other half dies.
Here’s a sample of his writing in this great article:
Not so long ago funerals for most people were somber affairs. Now death has joined weddings, bar mitzvahs, and fundraisers as another showcase for vanity.
When Evelyn Waugh satirized the funeral business in The Loved One decades ago, he wrote of corpses “more chic in death than ever before.” He had no idea. In recent years, proceedings have become so elaborate that what used to be handled entirely by funeral homes and houses of worship now require producers.
David Monn, a leading New York designer, sometimes helps with arrangements at the request of friends, including the services for Henry Grunwald, former Time chief and ambassador to Austria, as well as Wall Street stalwart John Whitehead. That one included a boys choir.
“In general people don’t plan ahead, which is a shame, because funerals are such an important ritual,” says Monn, who handles everything from invitations to seating charts to music, entries, and exits. For his good friend Saul Steinberg, trumpets played the Battle Hymn of the Republic as pallbearers lifted his casket. “You have to do it right,” Steinberg’s widow Gayfryd says. “For funerals there are no do-overs.”
Monn also wrangles speakers, which he likens to arranging the perfect guests for a dinner party. “It’s challenging to get someone notable,” he says. “I often have to provide suggestions about what each will be speaking about so there’s no crossover.” His biggest issue is brevity, something Buckley understood when planning his mother’s memorial. “I told Henry Kissinger I had snipers ready to shoot anyone who went over four minutes,” he says.