Thursday, September 30, 2010

Greg Giraldo Dead at 44

Comedian Greg Giraldo tragically passed away September 29, 2010, shocking the entire comedy community and prompting an outpour of sadness online. A genuinely hilarious and intelligent stand-up comedian, Giraldo had a degree from Harvard law, was a longtime member of the Comedy Central family and is leaving behind a wife and four children.

Greg Giraldo (December 10, 1965 — September 29, 2010) was an American stand-up comedian, television personality, insult comic and former lawyer. He died Wednesday, September 29, 2010, after being hospitalized on September 25th for an overdose of prescription medication.

We will always remember his numerous stand-up appearances, as well as his time on "Last Comic Standing," but his most memorable performances were at the Comedy Central Roasts. From Pam Anderson and David Hasselhoff, to Flavor Flav and Joan Rivers, Giraldo was truly the King of the Roast.


Tony Curtis Dead at 85

Tony Curtis, the Bronx tailor's son who became a 1950s movie heartthrob and then a respected actor with such films as "Sweet Smell of Success," "The Defiant Ones" and "Some Like It Hot," has died. He was 85.

The actor died at 9:25 p.m. MDT Wednesday at his Las Vegas area home of a cardiac arrest, Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said Thursday.

After a series of frivolous movies that exploited his handsome physique and appealing personality, Curtis moved to more substantial roles, starting in 1957 in the harrowing show business tale "Sweet Smell of Success."

In 1958, "The Defiant Ones" brought him an Academy Award nomination as best actor for his portrayal of a white racist escaped convict handcuffed to a black escapee, Sidney Poitier. The following year, he donned women's clothing and sparred with Marilyn Monroe in one of the most acclaimed film comedies ever, Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot."

His first wife was actress Janet Leigh of "Psycho" fame; actress Jamie Leigh Curtis is their daughter.

In later years, he returned to film and television as a character actor after battling drug and alcohol abuse. His brash optimism returned, and he allowed his once-shiny black hair to turn silver. He also became a painter whose canvasses sold for as much as $20,000.

"I'm not ready to settle down like an elderly Jewish gentleman, sitting on a bench and leaning on a cane," he said at 60. "I've got a helluva lot of living to do."

Curtis perfected his craft in forgettable films such as "Francis," "I Was a Shoplifter," "No Room for the Groom" and "Son of Ali Baba."

He first attracted critical notice as Sidney Falco, the press agent seeking favor with a sadistic columnist, played by Burt Lancaster, in the 1957 classic "Sweet Smell of Success."

In her book "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," Pauline Kael wrote that in the film, "Curtis grew up into an actor and gave the best performance of his career."

Other prestigious films followed: Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," "Captain Newman, M.D.," "The Vikings," "Kings Go Forth," "Operation Petticoat" and "Some Like It Hot." He also found time to do a voice acting gig as his prehistoric lookalike, Stony Curtis, in an episode of "The Flintstones."

"The Defiant Ones" remained his only Oscar-nominated role.

"I think it has nothing to do with good performances or bad performances," he told The Washington Post in 2002. "After the number of movies I made where I thought there should be some acknowledgment, there was nothing from the Academy."

"My happiness and privilege is that my audience around the world is supportive of me, so I don't need the Academy."

In 2000, an American Film Institute survey of the funniest films in history ranked "Some Like It Hot" at No. 1. Curtis -- famously imitating Cary Grant's accent -- and Jack Lemmon play jazz musicians who dress up as women to escape retribution after witnessing a gangland massacre.

Monroe was their co-star, and he and Lemmon were repeatedly kept waiting as Monroe lingered in her dressing room out of fear and insecurity. Curtis fumed over her unprofessionalism. When someone remarked that it must be thrilling to kiss Monroe in the film's love scenes, the actor snapped, "It's like kissing Hitler." In later years, his opinion of Monroe softened, and in interviews he praised her unique talent.

In 2002, Curtis toured in "Some Like It Hot" -- a revised and retitled version of the 1972 Broadway musical "Sugar," which was based on the film. In the touring show, the actor graduated to the role of Osgood Fielding III, the part played in the movie by Joe E. Brown.

After his star faded in the late 1960s, Curtis shifted to lesser roles. With jobs harder to find, he fell into drug and alcohol addiction.

"From 22 to about 37, I was lucky," Curtis told Interview magazine in the 1980s, "but by the middle '60s, I wasn't getting the kind of parts I wanted, and it kind of soured me. ... But I had to go through the drug inundation before I was able to come to grips with it and realize that it had nothing to do with me, that people weren't picking on me."

He recovered in the early '80s after a 30-day treatment at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage.

"Mine was a textbook case," he said in a 1985 interview. "My life had become unmanageable because of booze and dope. Work became a strain and a struggle. Because I didn't want to face the challenge, I simply made myself unavailable."

One role during that era of struggle did bring him an Emmy nomination: his portrayal of David O. Selznick in the TV movie "The Scarlett O'Hara War," in 1980.

His health remained vigorous, though he did get heart bypass surgery in 1994.

Curtis took a fatherly pride in daughter Jamie Leigh's success. They were estranged for a long period, then reconciled. "I understand him better now," she said, "perhaps not as a father but as a man."

He also had five other children. Daughters Kelly, also with Leigh, and Allegra, with second wife Christine Kaufmann, also became actresses. His other wives were Leslie Allen, Lisa Deutsch and Jill VandenBerg, whom he married in 1998.

He had married Janet Leigh in 1951, when they were both rising young stars; they divorced in 1963.

"Tony and I had a wonderful time together; it was an exciting, glamorous period in Hollywood," Leigh, who died in 2004, once said. "A lot of great things happened, most of all, two beautiful children."

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the son of Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States after World War I. His father, Manny Schwartz, had yearned to be an actor, but work was hard to find with his heavy accent. He settled for tailoring jobs, moving the family repeatedly as he sought work.

"I was always the new kid on the block, so I got beat up by the other kids," Curtis recalled in 1959. "I had to figure a way to avoid getting my nose broken. So I became the crazy new kid on the block."

His sidewalk histrionics helped avoid beatings and led to acting in plays at a settlement house. He also grew to love movies. "My whole culture as a boy was movies," he said. "For 11 cents, you could sit in the front row of a theater for 10 hours, which I did constantly."

After serving in the Pacific during World War II and being wounded at Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the G.I. Bill. He appeared in summer stock theater and on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills. Then an agent lined up an audition with a Universal-International talent scout. In 1948, at 23, he signed a seven-year contract with the studio, starting at $100 a week.

Bernie Schwartz sounded too Jewish for a movie actor, so the studio gave him a new name: Anthony Curtis, taken from his favorite novel, "Anthony Adverse," and the Anglicized name of a favorite uncle. After his eighth film, he became Tony Curtis.

The studio helped smooth the rough edges off the ambitious young actor. The last to go was his street-tinged Bronx accent. His diction became a Hollywood joke, as when he uttered to Piper Laurie in a medieval potboiler "The Prince Who Was a Thief": "Yonder lies the castle of my fodder."

Curtis pursued another career as an artist, creating Matisse-like still lifes with astonishing speed. "I'm a recovering alcoholic," he said in 1990 as he concluded a painting in 40 minutes in the garden of the Bel-Air Hotel. "Painting has given me such a great pleasure in life, helped me to recover."

He also turned to writing, producing a 1977 novel, "Kid Cody and Julie Sparrow." In 1993, he wrote "Tony Curtis: The Autobiography."


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perhaps it'll be like an Irish Wake?

You have heard of people dying for a drink, but Monahan Funeral Home in Rhode Island wants to bring that experience even closer to reality.

City officials in Providence have granted a liquor license in a funeral home for the first time ever.

The new pub will be known as McBride’s and will be open by St.Patrick’s Day.

The pub will be in the attached garage to the funeral home, which will be converted to the bar.

Other local bar owners are said not to be thrilled by the move which may affect their businesses as they had previously hosted Irish wakes.

But owner Mark Russell has promised that the pub will close earlier than other bars in the area.

No word on whether the faithful departed will partake of a parting glass on their way to the next world but no doubt many of the mourners will.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Burial Alternatives

You don’t have to end up six-feet under...

Charles Chafer has a comic book mounted on his office wall in Houston, Texas — a kitschy, colourful 1941 issue of Spicy-Adventure Stories featuring a story called “Space Burial.”

In fact, Chafer, co-founder and CEO of Celestis, Inc., says he has tracked the sci-fi notion of funerals in space to at least the 1800s — long before humans were anywhere near sending themselves into orbit, dead or alive.

But in 1997, with Chafer’s help, space burial became a reality. That year Celestis dispatched the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, along with psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary and about 20 other people, including a few restaurant owners and a 4-year-old Japanese boy.

The remains were launched in a Pegasus rocket from an Atlantic Ocean site near the Canary Islands. Celestis is close to announcing the date of its 10th mission, which will carry the ashes of 300 people. The ashes, either one or seven grams per person, are placed in aluminum capsules inside a small Celestis spacecraft, which orbits Earth for anywhere from a few years to several hundred years, depending on how far into space it goes.

The Celestis spacecraft, a small cylinder or box, is a “secondary payload” on a rocket heading elsewhere — typically, to place a satellite in orbit. Rockets have stages that fall away as they head deeper into space, and the Celestis craft stays attached to the rocket’s final stage.

Eventually, solar wind and the natural degradation of the orbit pulls the spacecraft back into the Earth’s gravity. It incinerates like a meteorite the minute it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere.

“It’s kind of an ashes-to-ashes experience,” Chafer says. Prices range from $695 to $12,500 (U.S.). If space burial is the most bizarre thing you’ve ever heard of, stay tuned.

The posthumous options available to the regular Joe have grown in number in recent years, as people have become open to mourning in unique (and more commercial) ways. Stephen Fleming, a psychology professor at York University, says that as society changes, death rituals are changing, too. Society is becoming less agrarian and more urban, with people moving around more and often dying far from where they were born. Funeral homes are offering more flexibility, choice and creativity.

“We’re moving from a ritual that was largely based on religion to a ritual that is largely based on creativity or individual uniqueness,” Fleming says. At a funeral today you might see golf clubs decorating the corners of the casket, or digital photographs “flashing around.”

Cremation has grown in popularity, jumping from 42.2 per cent of Canadian deaths in 1998 to 56.4 per cent a decade later. After cremation families have many options for what to do with the ashes, including keeping them in an urn or scattering them in a meaningful place.

But there are more creative and radical alternatives. A U.K. company called And Vinyly tops the list. For £2,000, about $3,179 (Cdn.) you can have your ashes pressed into 30 vinyl records to be shared amongst your family and friends. The record is “literally a record of your life,” says Jason Leach, who knows a thing or two about records. He’s produced more than 50 records on his own labels, including Death to Vinyl, and founded the techno group Subhead.

As he approached 40, Leach found himself thinking about his own mortality — and the struggling record industry. Pressing human remains into vinyl records seemed as good a use for the dated technology as any. Although his company has received a considerable amount of attention online in recent weeks, so far he’s only working with 10 people on preparing their records. Some choose music, others take more of a spoken-word approach, recording themselves speaking along with “sound photos” from places important to them.

Leach says it’s up to the client to decide how much of their remains to include in the records, because the more ashes, the poorer the sound quality. “You’re going to hear scratches and pops and crackles, more than you normally do on vinyl,” he explains. “But I think that’s kind of part of it, I like that part of it.”

When Toronto filmmaker Connie Diletti renewed her health card recently, she signed up to be an organ donor. After staring at the “massive sheet” with all the organs and tissues to donate (Did she want to donate her eyes? Her skin?), she decided to explore the options available for her body after she’s done with it.

Diletti, 33, crossed traversed across North America and back visiting experts and entrepreneurs who spend their working lives thinking about death. In California, she visited glass makers who use human ashes to make paperweights and keepsakes.

At the University of Maryland, she learned about modern mummification, and in Clinton Township, Michigan, about cryonics, the freezing of dead bodies in the hopes that one day, with technology that doesn’t exist yet, they will be revived.

What the film couldn’t possibly divulge, Diletti says in an interview, are the odours she encountered along the way, for example the scent of mummified limbs and organs. “Most things had a smell,” she says. “Most places had a smell.”

Diletti says what you do with your body after you die is yet another choice available to people in a consumer-driven North American society — but she suspects it isn’t something people spend much time looking into.

More options are available thanks to technology and a certain 21st century openness, Diletti says. Her film, Corpus, premieres Oct. 6 on TVO, at 9 p.m. “I feel like people are becoming more open to possibilities beyond their traditional frameworks with what and where their body would go after they die,” Diletti says. “I feel people just don’t know though, what those options are.”

Fleming, however, is a little bit skeptical. He says that if a creative ritual is meaningful to the deceased person — if they plan it before their death, leave it in their will, and set aside money so not to burden the family — than that’s the important thing. But he worries about grieving families making these decisions for themselves.

“They are extremely reluctant to let go of that sense of connectedness, that sense of being ‘in touch’ with people,” he says. “It’s that fervent wish that can get capitalized on.”

Other after-death alternatives

Compost yourself

A new ecological burial technique developed by a Swedish company called Promessa Organic, promession involves freeze-drying the body in liquid nitrogen, which makes the body very brittle. Vibrations turn the body into a dry powder, which is laid in a coffin made of corn starch and buried in a shallow grave. Watch the Video Now!

Within six to 12 months, the coffin and its contents are turned to compost.

Promessa Organic is hoping to start offering their services in Sweden, South Korea and the U.K. next year.

Be a diamond

DNA2Diamonds, headquartered in Philadelphia, creates diamonds from DNA — either ashes or hair, from an animal or a human.

Diamonds range in price from $2,250 to $16,990 (U.S.) and come in red, blue, yellow-green, cognac or white.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stolen Funeral Urn Returned to Widow

A stolen koa urn containing the remains of Donna Glover’s late husband, William, was anonymously returned to her this morning.

Glover noticed the urn about 7 a.m. inside a white plastic bag that had been left on the edge of the front lawn of her Hawaii Kai home.

“I’m just very happy and excited that he is home,” she said. Her husband of 25 years died in June 2006 of health-related problems.

The urn was reported stolen Friday. That night, Glover and her family returned from a birthday get-together at about 11 p.m. when she noticed urn had been taken in a burglary.


During Funeral Thief Steals Priest's Car

A Leominster, NH priest is getting his wheels back, two days after a heartless thief drove off with his station wagon during a funeral Mass.

“My message to him is not to prey on people and steal,” said Monsignor John E. Doran, 69, of St. Leo’s Parish. “I hope he learns from the experience. This isn’t the way to go.”

Authorities in Hampton, N.H., recovered the stolen 2006 Subaru station wagon early yesterday at the Flagship Motor Inn, said police Lt. Daniel Gidley.

Doran said he saw a man with a large backpack enter the church Saturday, say a few prayers and then leave during the funeral. A few minutes later, Doran said he saw the man enter the sacristy, where the priest left his car keys.

He said he couldn’t see inside the sacristy from where he was sitting, but had a bad feeling. He had never seen the man before.

“There wasn’t anything I could do,” Doran said. “The funeral was going on.”

Doran said he saw the man exit the sacristry while a eulogy was being delivered. After the Mass, he discovered his car keys and his car missing.

Authorities called him at 2:30 a.m. yesterday to inform him that the car had been recovered.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Don’t Make the Mistake of Making a Will!


If you are a married man, making a Will can be a dangerous illusion.

Estate Planning

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dad, Will You Walk me Down the Isle?

A Special Story About a DNA2Diamond...

My father passed away in January of 2008. That day and the days, months and years that followed, I knew I lost a lot of things. I lost the man who taught me the importance of hard work. The right way to paint a house. The best way to tell a joke. I also lost the one person who was so much like me and understood me that it pains me to think I'll never be able to share a special moment with him again. What I would give to just be able to tell him about a great accomplishment or to just share a funny story.

When I think about the things that my Dad has missed in my life over the past few years it brings tears to my eyes. I bought a foreclosed home, gutted it and totally remodeled it with my boyfriend. Everyday at the new house I'd remark how wonderful it would be if Dad could see the new floors going in, how the kitchen was coming together, or even at the garden I planted. Somehow, I hope that he can see it and that he is watching over me.

Having recently become engaged, I am thankful that my Dad was able to meet my boyfriend before he passed away. I think it was important for my Dad to know that I would be ok. He'd want to know that, although I think I don't need it, I would have someone to take care of me. I guess that's just how Dad's are. So, in the last few months of my father's life, my boyfriend got to know my Dad and I could tell, my Dad liked him.

After our engagement, I was thrilled that I finally found the one man who embodied many of the qualities I loved about my father. My fiancé can build and fix anything. He is a hard worker and he loves me. What is better than that? But, even in all of my happiness of our engagement, one thing lingers in my mind. My Dad won't be there to walk me down the isle.

For weeks I would think about my wedding day and wonder how something so great could bring me such pain knowing Dad wouldn't be there. But then I discovered a company in Pennsylvania called DNA2Diamonds. I am so thankful that I did.

DNA2Diamonds can create a genuine diamond from either a lock of hair or cremated ashes. At first my finance and I thought it would be wonderful to combine a lock of his hair and a lock of my hair to make our diamond. But, then he came up with the best and most wonderful idea. He suggested to create my diamond for my engagement ring from my Dad's ashes. Knowing how important it would have been to have my Dad with me not only on my special day, but with me every day, my fiancé's wonderful suggestion really touched me. Once my diamond is complete, it will be set in my engagement ring so my Dad can still walk with me down the aisle.

Although my Dad won't be there in person, he will be there in spirit and will be right there with me forever in my diamond engagement ring. My ring will be the most precious and priceless possession I own. It will forever represent the bond my fiancé and I have in life and the connection I have with my Dad, even after he's gone.

Having a part of the man who gave me life in the symbol of the love from the man who is now the most important one in my life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DNA2Diamonds Announces New White Diamond

Fort Washington, PA., September 7, 2010 - DNA2Diamonds, a premier provider of laboratory-created diamonds from signature carbon taken from a lock of hair, has recently expanded its fancy colored diamond selection to now feature a white diamond.

“A DNA2Diamond is a unique memorial idea, many customers are already inquiring about our new white diamonds,” said Tom Bischoff, President of DNA2Diamonds. DNA2Diamonds are genuine, certified diamonds created by turning hair into diamonds within 70 days or less. DNA2Diamonds can be created in various cuts and colors of stunning red, brilliant yellow-green, warm cognac, dazzling blue and now traditional white.

“With the addition of our white diamond, requests for special, unique and personal diamonds have increased,” said Bischoff. “Consumers seek DNA2Diamonds to celebrate all of life’s special moments — anniversaries, engagements, births of children, and memorial diamonds as well.”

DNA2Diamonds are available in various sizes ranging from 0.25 carats to 2.0 carats. These precious and priceless gems can be set into an unlimited selection of jewelry settings – a ring, pendant, bracelet or earrings.

To purchase a personal signature carbon memorial diamond, please visit DNA2Diamonds website or call DNA2Diamonds direct at 888-335-3630.

Australia's Misleading Funeral Ads

The plethora of advertisements claiming funeral insurance can cost less than the cup of a coffee a week are not telling the full story, a funeral operator says.

Invocare Ltd chief executive Andrew Smith says some policyholders could be overpaying in premiums by as much as 14 times what a funeral actually cost.

He said the details of rising premiums as a funeral insurance plan matures are often buried in the fine print.

Mr Smith said he decided to speak out about the real long-term costs amid an increasing amount of negative feedback from funeral insurance policyholders.

Research by Rice Warner Actuaries commissioned by Invocare shows a 60-year-old who takes out an InsuranceLine Funeral Plan, a popular policy offered by Tower Australia Ltd, would pay over $85,000 in premiums if they reach the age of 90.

A 75-year-old who takes out the same policy will have paid $20,000 by the time they are 86.

On current terms, both policies would cover a funeral worth about $6,000, Invocare said.

The research shows funeral insurance provides good value if you pass away soon after taking out a policy, Mr Smith said.

For those planning well ahead, pre-paid funerals offer better affordability, he said.

"The desire to be responsible, coupled with the effective marketing campaign by the insurance industry with some catchy little lines, is why so many Australians over 50 now own funeral insurance," Mr Smith said.

"But millions of Australians who over the last 10 to 15 years have applied the insurance model to their funeral planning needs are now starting to realize just how much they are contributing in premiums each and every year."

Funeral plans require an up-front deposit, which is often a deterrent to customers.

A spokesman from Tower Australia said many people were unable to find the thousands of dollars required for an upfront fee.

"A funeral insurance plan provides affordable peace of mind and is designed to meet the separate needs of the individual," he said.

"Last year InsuranceLine paid out around $20 million in funeral insurance claims."

Invocare will soon offer a product allowing contributions to be made toward a deposit before a plan is commenced, Mr Smith said.