Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The remains of celebrity

After '40s silver-screen siren Veronica Lake died, a shadow of her former self, in 1973, her ashes were spread across the water near Miami--or so it was thought. It turns out that at least some of her ashes may have survived and are now on display in a junk store in Phoenica, NY. Although the ashes' provenance are in doubt, the store owner believes that they are the real thing, and is staging publicity stunts featuring Veronica Lake look-a-like contests and "peek-a-boo" cookies. After he has exhausted the profits brought to him by Ms Lake's corporeal presence in his shop, the store owner is considering selling the remains.

Selling Veronica Lake.

There are not proper words to describe how mind-bogglingly disrespectful these people are. Veronica Lake was not merely a screen legend and an American icon; she was a human being. But her humanity seems to have been absorbed and destroyed by her own celebrity. At some point, she ceased to be a person and became a concept, an image, as thin as the celluloid icons of herself that flickered before her worshipping followers in the dim light. Like Marilyn Monroe, she sought to flee the abrupt erosion of her personality. Unlike Marilyn, she survived the hard, painful escape and ended her days as a New York waitress. The journey took an awful mental and physical toll, however, that resulted in her premature death at the age of 53.

Unfortunately, even in death she cannot escape being used as a pawn for publicity.

If Ms Lake's remains go on sale--and if I can afford them--I will buy them. I will take them to her hometown of Brooklyn and I will lay them to rest alongside the rest of her family. She deserves that at least.


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