A 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan hearse, listed on EBay at $27,970.
Queen of the Dead – dateline April 16, 2012
• Australia’s Silver Duchess has died: 92-year-old fashion editor, writer and socialite Sheila Scotter died on April 6. The founder of Vogue Living and former editor of Vogue Australia was “opinionated, fastidious, fiercely loyal to her friends, she terrified and charmed in equal measure, tossing in the occasional social grenade to keep things frisky,” says the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2009, Scotter told Vogue Australia, “Anyone can buy fashion, but you cannot buy style. You either have it or not.” She always championed Aussie designers, and noted that “A golden rule of mine was that if anyone from my staff was visiting a Condé Nast office, they must be wearing Australian-made clothes (the rule included myself, of course).”
• I had never heard of novelist Dora Saint till I read her obit, but now I must seek out her books. Saint (who died at 98 on April 17) wrote zillions of warm, humorous, non-sensational books about small-town British life, just the sort of thing one’s auntie would love (well, maybe not my auntie, who was a bit of a rogue). The village of Thrush Green became as vital to readers as Mapp and Lucia’s Tilling, or Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford. Just the thing for getting my mind off the Presidential race or my bank balance. One delicious fact from her obit: Dora Saint’s publisher was Sir Robert Lusty! Bliss.
• Here is another horrible, depressing story from New York (they can’t all be uplifting or amusing!). Karyn Kay, a 63-year-old teacher, screenwriter (Call Me, 1988), writer/editor and film historian, was beaten to death by her teenaged son on April 10, as a horrified 911 operator heard the whole thing. The son’s lawyer, says the Times, “suggested that the attack was a result of medication [he] takes for epilepsy.” Kay wrote the Myrna Loy volume in that fabulous Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies series (remember those?), and the Times also credits her with Women and the Cinema: A Critical Anthology, but I’ll be damned if I can find any such book. One of her LaGuardia High School students said, “She would talk to us in a way that you knew she trusted us and we could trust her. She had a unique style of teaching that got through to a lot of kids.”
• “Setting out to win her fame, the Titanic was her name,” as the song goes, and it was 100 years ago on April 14-15 that “many passengers and her crew went down with that old canoe.” Why does the Titanic continue to fascinate; why is it the most famous shipwreck ever? Don’t you feel sorry for the 1,012 people who died when the Empress of Ireland sank in 1913? “Screw you people, you weren’t on the Titanic!” The tale has been retold in countless books (notably Walter Lord’s 1955 A Night to Remember), films (from a 1912 re-creation starring survivor Dorothy Gibson to the 1943 Nazi version—where the ship was sunk by a Goldberg, not an iceberg—to the current James Cameron 3D re-release and Julian Fellowes miniseries), songs, plays. Some feel the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 marked the end of La Belle Époque, while the beginning of the Great War two years later rushed in the modern era. Certainly the ship held a universe: heroes and villains; millionaires and proletarians; socialites and steamfitters. The rediscovery of the wreckage in 1985 completed the ship’s ability to haunt us: we can see the ghostly remains of staterooms and passages, and practically walk among the ghosts, along with the anemones, crabs, shrimps, and starfish that now inhabit it.