Aug. 21, 2002

Dead and Don't Know It

By Roy Rivenburg
It’s A Dead Man’s Party: As you know, we are always on the lookout for creative new ways to enjoy the afterlife. And this week, we struck pay dirt.

Item No. 1, although probably apocryphal, comes from Bozeman, Montana, where a dead cattle rancher has reportedly turned his tombstone into an automatic teller machine. According to Wireless Flash News Service, the rancher gave debit cards to his heirs and told them they could withdraw $300 a week from his grave. His goal was to ensure regular visits to his tomb.

Another afterlife option is to turn yourself into a Frisbee. Dearly departed Frisbee pioneer Ed Headrick, who added grooved ridges to Wham-O’s flying discs and later invented Frisbee golf, asked that his ashes be sprinkled into a set of limited-edition Frisbees. ‘‘My father would be really happy if we actually played Frisbee with his remains,’’ his son told the San Francisco Chronicle this month. ‘‘He said he wanted to end up in a Frisbee that accidentally lands on someone’s roof.’’

Or, if Frisbees seem too low-rent for your tastes, you could opt to become a diamond. The Chicago Tribune reports that an Illinois company called LifeGem can transform cremated ashes into polished diamonds. For a minimum fee of $4,000, the company collects carbon from the cremation process and converts it to a quarter-carat gem at a lab in Germany. No word on whether LifeGem might combine forces with Headrick’s relatives to produce a diamond-studded Frisbee.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, a mortuary has begun offering themed funerals in theater-like sets designed to match the deceased’s favorite hobby. If the dearly departed loved to cook, there’s ‘‘Big Momma’s Kitchen,’’ complete with a replica stove, the scent of baked brownies wafting through the air and, of course, big momma herself resting in a personalized coffin. For dead sports fans, the funeral service or viewing can be held in a fake living room, with Dad laid out next to a La-Z-Boy recliner while a big-screen TV shows a taped football game. For outdoor lovers, there’s an optional barbecue grill. ‘‘We actually put dry ice in the bottom of the barbecue pit so it would be smoking when you lifted the cover,’’ a mortuary official told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It’s an innovative idea, but other themes are needed. For example, relatives of a fitness buff could gather in a replica gym and work out during the viewing, perhaps even dead-lifting the deceased.

Expired surfers could be mourned in a fake beach setting where children can have fun burying the deceased up to his neck in sand or, if the corpse was cremated, building a sandcastle from the ashes. Miniature golfers who’ve passed on to that great 19th hole in the sky would be memorialized in a replica mini-golf course in which the coffin lid raises up and down like one of those castle drawbridges as mourners aim for a cup fitted into the deceased’s mouth.

Alarming Trends Bureau: A Connecticut-based underwear company has announced plans to place talking billboards inside men’s restrooms nationwide. The urinal ads will utter such phrases as ‘‘Hey, don’t stir your drinks with that’’ and ‘‘Want to try a career in urinal broadcasting?’’ while pitching the company’s new line of boxers and pajamas.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Shrunken Head of Jimmy Hoffa Found in a Florida Souvenir Shop!’’ (Weekly World News)
It’s yet another innovative afterlife option.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Sue Losi Huber, PR Newswire.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
Off-Kilter is syndicated to newspapers in the U.S. and overseas by
Creators Syndicate