It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of that three-ring circus that was Michael Jackson’s funeral — we hope you kept your rhinestone-encrusted gloves at the ready — and though 2010 hasn’t seen anything quite that spectacular, we’ve already had our share of bizarre celebrity memorials. There’s Corey Haim’s family’s fight with the city of Toronto over who should pay for his funeral, and Gary Coleman’s request to have his ashes scattered over train tracks. But these pale in comparison to some of the, um, death-styles of the rich and famous. From having your mourners smoke your ashes to being buried in piano-shaped tomb, we present the craziest celebrity funerals of all time.
1. Jimmy Dean
When the country music legend — and inventor of the pancake-wrapped breakfast corndog — died earlier this month, he left very specific instructions for his burial. To wit: that he would be entombed in a $350,000 piano-shaped mausoleum that he purchased several years before his death. And the inscription on the piano? “Here lies one hell of a man.” Indeed he was.
2. Tupac Shakur
Tupac never had a funeral. The private ceremony that his mother planned was canceled at the last minute, and the rapper was cremated, which is when shit got real: Shakur’s crew, the Outlawz, then mixed his ashes with weed and smoked him. Today, there’s a life-size Tupac statue and “peace garden” — which is apparently available for weddings — near Atlanta.
3. Jim Henson
After the Muppet master passed away, two memorial services were held, one in London and one in New York, both featuring a heart-wrenching version of “Bein’ Green” by Big Bird. A team of Muppeteers sang a medley of Henson’s favorite songs. The service closed with the Dixieland Jazz Band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and attendees were prohibited from wearing black, in accordance with Henson’s wishes.
4. Hunter S. Thompson
It was only fitting for the gonzo journalist to have an equally gonzo funeral, and Thompson’s memorial service did not disappoint. Funded by friend Johnny Depp, Thompson had his ashes shot out of a cannon that was mounted on a 150-foot tower designed by Thompson and shaped like a two-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button. Attendees were asked to pay their respects by enjoying the sound of the clink of ice in a glass full of whiskey. And, oh yeah, there were fireworks, too.
5. James Doohan
Doohan, best known as Star Trek‘s Scotty, requested a burial in space in his will. Luckily for him, there’s a company that specializes in just that, Celestis Memorial Spaceflights. Doohan’s family launched his ashes into space on two occasions, but, alas, they failed to make orbit — the first time, the rocket and the ashes were briefly lost.
6. Rudolph Valentino
After the sex symbol’s death at the age of 31, Valentino had one of the largest funerals New York City had ever seen. Approximately 100,000 people swamped the streets where his casket passed, whipping themselves into such hysteria that there were riots along the route. The funeral home hired four actors to impersonate an honor guard sent by Benito Mussolini. His body was transported to Hollywood, where a second funeral was held, complete with a small plane that dropped thousands of rose petals over the procession.
7. Evel Knievel
For a motorcycle daredevil’s funeral, Knievel’s funeral was relatively tame. Sure, there were fireworks. Sure, it was held in a stadium that could seat 17,000. And, of course, Knievel was buried in a leather jacket with red and blue trim. But things really got crazy during Matthew McConaughey’s eulogy, a speech that was as bizarre as it was, well, kind of touching.
8. Frank Sinatra
Ol’ Blue Eyes drew a crowd of 100 photographers and 1,000 onlookers for the ceremony in Beverly Hills. The ceremony was fairly tasteful — Frank Jr. gave a memorable eulogy, and friends and admirers reminisced. But at the end, they sent Sinatra off King Tut-style, tucking a bottle of whiskey, a Zippo lighter, and ten dimes into the casket — in case Sinatra needed to make a phone call.
9. Malcolm McLaren
Punk maestro McLaren was laid to rest this year in the midst of a lot of jeering and cries of “Anarchy!” His coffin, pulled in the procession by a horse-drawn carriage, was spray-painted with the phrase “Too fast to live, too young to die” and followed by a green double-decker bus emblazoned with “Cash from chaos.” Plus, Boy George sent a floral arrangement shaped like the anarchy symbol.
10. Graham Chapman
Though the other members of the Monty Python crew stayed away from Chapman’s service — instead, they sent a wreath emblazoned with a foot and the words “Stop us if we’re getting too silly” — they held a private memorial for Chapman in which John Cleese delivered what is possibly the most inappropriate and hilarious eulogy ever.