Photo: 1996 Cadillac hearse listed on EBay, with bids starting at $4,900.
Queen of the Dead – dateline December 26, 2011
• Kitchener is dead! No, not the World War I field marshal with the fabulously lush moustache, who died in 1916. But his heir, Major Henry Herbert Kitchener, 3rd Earl Kitchener, who died on December 16 at 92. On the military side, Kitchener served in the Royal Corps of Signals, was Deputy Lieutenant of Cheshire, and was vice president of The Western Front Association. He was also president of the Institute for Food Brain and Behaviour, “a charity conducting scientific research into the effects of nutrition on brain function and behaviour.” He left no heirs, so there will be no 4th Earl Kitchener—but among his survivors is niece Emma Kitchener-Fellowes, wife of writer/actor Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame.
• Was there ever a more fashion-modelly name than Doe Avedon? Avedon—who died on December 18, at 86, and whose real name was Dorcas!—had been married to photographer Richard Avedon, director Don Siegel and actor Dan Mathews. She got her start onstage in the 1940s, in Broadway’s The Young and Fair and My Name is Aquilon, then in the 1950s she moved on to TV (Big Town, The Public Defender, Climax!) and movies (Jigsaw, The High and the Mighty, Deep in My Heart, The Boss). Though she never moved beyond starlet caliber, Avedon became a show-business legend as the inspiration for Audrey Hepburn’s character in the 1957 film Funny Face, with Fred Astaire as “Richard Avedon.”
• All New York has been buzzing—and nervously taking the stairs—since two unusually horrible elevator deaths recently. On December 14, 41-year-old ad exec Suzanne Hart was crushed to death in a midtown elevator, which jolted upward as she entered—it took seven hours to remove what was left of her from the elevator shaft; “yikes” does not begin to cover it. Hart and her boyfriend had recently moved into a Brooklyn flat with a garden; he told the Times that “Suzanne always put a happy face on, no matter what the situation.” Then, on December 18, 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie was set on fire in her Brooklyn apartment elevator, apparently by a crazy homeless guy she had been hiring for odd jobs. “If we didn’t have no heat, she always called out the superintendent to get the heat going. If there was garbage in the hallway, she was always the one to pick up the garbage,” a neighbor told the Times.
A real-life Mephisto, one of the last of the old-time UFA stars, died at the age of 108 on December 24: Johannes Heesters. The Dutch-born actor was already a star when he moved to Germany in 1935 (to Germany—in 1935—like a salmon swimming downstream). Hitler and Goebbels and Goering loved him, as Germany was hemorrhaging stars; some fleeing Germany, others being loaded into trains “bound East.” The handsome, charming Heesters starred in 16 wartime films, also appearing at concentration camps to entertain the SS guards. As was all too common, Heesters’ career did not suffer after the war; he continued to work right up through this past year (among his later vehicles were Bel-Ami, a 1957 remake of Viktor und Viktoria, numerous TV movies, and the 1990s series Zwei Münchner in Hamburg). Heesters—like Leni Riefenstahl—was a slippery character when discussing his past. He made a bit of a splash in 2008, saying on the TV show Wetten, dass..? that Hitler was “a good guy.” His appalled wife objected that Hitler was the worst criminal in the world, and Heesters reminded her, “I know, doll, but he was nice to me.”
Happy holidays, everyone, and stay the hell out of the New York elevators!