Today is the anniversary of Elvis's death in 1977, and last week, an auction of possibly the most gruesome memorabilia of all time was planned to capitalize on the King's untimely demise. The very same autopsy/embalming tools used to prep the King's final appearance, plus the toe tag identifying him, were going up for sale* and expected to fetch around $15K. And it got us wondering: What other grisly celebrity death souvenirs can the enterprising ghoul track down for his personal collection?
James Dean's car The car that killed James Dean has something of an urban legend about it. The young actor (yes, we know he's not a musician, but his Rebel Without a Cause character defined about a third of rock and roll's classic iconography, and plenty of musicians are famously obsessed with him, so he's close enough) met his end in his Porsche Spyder, just a short while after appearing in a car safety ad (oops!). Legend has it the car was later sold as a curiosity, then resold for parts, and basically every one of the parts killed someone before the damn thing mysteriously disappeared.
The bullet-riddled car door of the Notorious B.I.G.'s murder car This one could be another urban legend, but there's a (possibly false) AP story floating around the Internets about the sale of the bullet-riddled car door of the vehicle that B.I.G. was murdered in. It's just stupid enough to be true, and who wouldn't want to own a piece of the twisted hulk that failed to save your favorite rapper from multiple gunshots? If it is true, the question is, where is it now? We'd like to think that it's keeping James Dean's car company in the same evil collection we speculated about above.
Copy of Lennon/Oko's Double Fantasy, autographed by John Lennon for Mark David Chapman. It doesn't get much creepier than owning the very same copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy LP that Lennon autographed for his murderer, Mark David Chapman, just hours before the guy shot and killed him, does it? Yeah, well, you can purchase it (or could -- it's not clear if the item was sold or not). Maybe if you play it backward, there's a secret message discernible only to crazy, murderous idiots and collectors of the most tasteless items imaginable... The Sharon Tate murder house Speaking of murderous idiots and tasteless collectors, none other than Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor managed to top nearly everyone when he moved into the house where Charles Manson's followers committed the grisly murder of pregnant Sharon Tate and friends. Apparently feeling that merely living there and giving tasteless interviews about why he chose to do so wasn't icky enough, Reznor felt he had to up the ante on grossness, so he named the studio he built there "Le Pig," in honor of the cryptic words left scrawled in blood by the killers. Later, he reportedly felt bad about that when confronted by Sharon Tate's sister. But not too bad, since he allegedly took the door with him when he moved out and installed it in his studio. The bodies of James Brown and Gram Parsons If you need the ultimate in death souvenirs, how about the body of the deceased? James Brown's daughter claims her father's corpse is missing, supposedly to prevent an autopsy from taking place. Or maybe...as a one-of-a-kind conversation starter and collection piece? But, hey, that's just speculation. What's not speculation is that Gram Parsons's road manager stole his body and set it ablaze in the desert to fulfill the singer-songwriter's wishes. We can appreciate that, but the dude definitely missed a once-in-a-lifetime (er, death time?) opportunity to secure the greatest and most morbid rock-and-roll collectible ever. Word is he didn't even hold on to the ashes, due to being chased by the police...
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
*Oh, if you were planning on grabbing those Elvis autopsy tools, you won't get an opportunity -- yet. There was apparently a dispute between the retired embalmer who was selling them and the mortuary he used to work for about who actually owned them...