Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, PA
Halloween, Saturday, October 31, 2009 @ 7 p.m.
Book signing and discussion
The Royal Gazette (Bermuda, September 21, 2009)
Fatal Attraction: For author, Alan W. Petrucelli, dead celebrities are buried treasure
By Jessie Moniz
Some little boys like football or dinosaurs, but as a young child Alan Petrucelli had a passion for dead celebrities.
Now as an adult, Mr. Petrucelli has turned his fascination with the morbid into a lifelong career as a celebrity obituary writer.
And he will be visiting Bermuda next week with his new book Morbid Curiosity: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous which details the horrific, and often bizarre, deaths of celebrities.
There’s plenty of death by misadventure in Mr. Petrucelli’s book.
Jon-Erik Hexum (1957-1984) died while on the set of the television series Cover-up. While playing with a prop gun, he accidentally killed himself.
“The blank-loaded 44 Magnum’s charge blew a quarter-size piece of Hexum’s skull into his brain," wrote Mr. Petrucelli.
According to Mr. Petrucelli, Mr. Hexum's last words before pulling the trigger were: “Let’s see if I got one for me!”
Olive Thomas (1894-1920) the wife of actor Jack Pickford died while on their honeymoon in Paris, France. After an evening of heavy partying she got up in the night and gulped down something in a brown bottle labelled in French. It turned out to be her husband's syphilis medication, mercury bichloride.
Sometimes what happened after a celebrity's death was almost as interesting as their life. For instance, Star Trek writer Gene Rodenberry had his ashes launched into space by Celestis Inc., a global leader in space flight.
Actor Charlie Chaplin’s (1889-1977) body was snatched after death by a band of Swiss mechanics. It was later recovered and he was buried in two metres of concrete.
Mr. Petrucelli’s interest in the deaths of celebrities first developed when he discovered that his grandmother was spending eternity, one floor up from Sherlock Holmes at the Shrine of Memories at Ferncliff, in Hartsdale, New York.
Of course it wasn't actually Sherlock Holmes, because fans will know the great fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle faked his death at Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland in the story The Final Problem.
Mrs. Petrucelli's next-floor neighbour, interned with his wife in what Mr. Petrucelli described as “the cheapest seats,” was Basil Rathbone, the actor who played Sherlock Holmes in films in the 1930s and 1940s.
“I became curious to know what other celebrities were buried in my area,” said Mr. Petrucelli.
He discovered a number of them including Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) who wrote the story It Had to Be Murder which inspired the Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window.
Mr. Petrucelli's grandfather was resting across the street from actor Eddie Foy (1856-1923) who was well known for a vaudeville act called The Seven Little Foys.
“Actor Bob Hope played Eddie Foy in the 1955 film, The Seven Little Foys,” said Mr. Petrucelli.
As Mr. Petrucelli got older he began to travel further afield to find the gravesites of celebrities.
“My very first bylined story as a college senior was the obituary of David Janssen who was in the television show The Fugitive,” he said.
After college Mr. Petrucelli, from Westchester County, New York, got a job with Us magazine and began travelling the country, always stopping to pay his respects to whatever deceased celebrities happened to be permanently in town.
“There was something about standing six feet above the celebrity,” he said. “In real life you could never get that close.”
He would have to sometimes break the rules, (and laws), by climbing fences or scaling walls.
“For me a celebrity is a movie star, author, criminal or politician,” he said. “It doesn't matter if they were famous or infamous.”
Mr. Petrucelli is also a true-crime junkie and collects wanted posters and police death-scene photos.
Morbid Curiosity was originally supposed to be a photo book of celebrity deaths.
“The publishers turned it down,” said Mr. Petrucelli. “I collected the photos over the years or people gave them to me,” he said. “A friend of mine has seen Princess Diana’s photos and he said they were horrific. This is not something for the squeamish.” Diana died in a car accident in Paris, France in August 1997.
“When you are a celebrity, you in many ways give up your rights to privacy. That is also true in death,” said Mr. Petrucelli.
He said people often ask him how he finds death scene photos or information about celebrity deaths.
“I have been researching these things since I was 10-years-old,” he said.
“I looked into police files. I looked into witness reports. I looked at death certificates. I wanted to be as accurate as possible.”
He is also the author of Liza! Liza! An Unauthorized Biography of Liza Minnelli written in 1983 about the life of actress Liza Minnelli.
He has also written Fodor’s travel guides about Cape Cod & the Islands, and articles for The New York Times.
Morbid Curiosity will be released by Perigee publishers next week.
Ask for it at your favorite bookstore.
FROM THE DETROIT NEWS (September 18, 2009)
RUMBLE IN CRYPT NO. 6
A new book, Morbid Curiosity: the Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous by Alan W. Petrucelli, claims that diva supreme Diana Ross intends her final resting place to be in Detroit, at Woodlawn Cemetery on Woodward. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin , also has a place waiting for her there. We called and Woodlawn confirmed both. That Franklin would want to be at Woodlawn is no surprise; her father, the Rev. C. L. Franklin, and other family members are at final rest there. And some of Detroit's most glittering names are taking the big sleep at Woodlawn: the Dodge Brothers, Edsel Ford , Levi Stubbs and Obie Benson of the Four Tops. They even have a special commemorative crypt for Michael Jackson.
But is Woodlawn big enough to hold two divas of such magnitude? Would there be a glitter gown, wig and extension-pulling rumble in the graveyard? As for her fall plans, Sister Ree told Women's Wear Daily that she'll start leading vocal classes at the Westin Hotel in Southfield in November. "It's a natural progression," Aretha said. "I want to see what singers are coming along... ."