Splendid portrait of Connie, from 1943, before his death, on April 3. Photographer Clarence Sinclair Bull managed to capture Connie’s beauty, but also his discreet, partly optimistic, partly melancholic smile - he couldn’t struggle anymore, he couldn’t fight against Hitler and WWII anymore, he couldn’t wait any longer for his beloved Viola to come back to him… He was tired of everything, because the whole world had changed dramatically. Doesn’t this photo tell us all “Adieu!” ? Perhaps it was his last photo session…
Connie’s make-up for King of the Damned (1935/36)
From venerated saint relics to improbable travels of famous skulls, we know well that death is not always the end for the journeys of the human body. Recently, Seattle-based writer Bess Lovejoy published Rest in Pieces on “the curious fates of famous corpses,” and tonight she’s joining San Francisoc-based musician Jill Tracy for “A Fate Worse Than Death,” an event that’s part of Atlas Obscura’s ongoing salon series at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.
We asked Lovejoy a few questions about her research into the roaming cadavers of the famous, as well as our evolving perception of death and the potential fate of her own bones, and included some of the places in the Atlas that appear in her book (you can see a complete map of the Rest in Pieces locales here):
Your book Rest in Pieces chronicles the curious afterlives of the corpses of around 50 notable people. What first drew you to this subject of death not really being the end for these famous bodies?
I used to work on a series of non-fiction books called Schott’s Almanac, where we spent a lot of time reading the news to try to find interesting ideas for stories. In December 2008, I read two news articles, one right after each other, about famous last wishes. One was about the pianist André Tchaikowsky, who had willed his skull to London’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company for use in Hamlet. The other was about the painter Francis Bacon, who had once said, “When I’m dead put me in a plastic bag and throw me in the gutter.” After his death, a photographer friend took a photo of his corpse and turned it into a piece of art, which created a bit of an uproar in the British press.
Both stories got me wondering about famous last wishes, and whether it would be interesting to do a book or some other kind of research project collecting them. But once I started the research, I realized the most interesting stories were not what people wanted to happen, but what did happen. There were just so many wonderful stories, with larger-than-life characters and bizarre anecdotes, and I could see it had great book potential.
I’ve always been interested in death — not so much the physical side of things, the blood and guts — but how humans deal with their impending mortality. How we make sense of our own deaths and the deaths of others. Finitude. I like writing about how people deal with the corpse, because in a way it’s an examination of how people have dealt with the idea of mortality. And it helps me confront my own mortality.
Einstein’s Brain in the Mütter Museum
Your book is full of surprising and unsettling stories, whether it’s the cross-country trip Einstein’s brain took or the skull of René Descartes that became a museum exhibition. Is there any one that stands out to you as a favorite?
I got attached to my stories while writing them, and I thought of each corpse as my own weird little child. So I don’t really have favorites. But people often ask about the story of Rasputin, who supposedly refused to die (despite being poisoned and shot), and whose penis may have been cut off by one of the nobles who murdered him. That object certainly has a curious story, and made it all the way to Paris, despite later being shown to be a sea cucumber. It’s hard to top that tale.
For the rest of the interview… Wandering Souls: Bess Lovejoy Chronicles Some of the Most Famous of Wayfaring Corpses
Connie in Dark Journey (1937). Many new photos at http://conradveidt.wordpress.com/movies-ii/
To respond to some of your questions, I found out, from the biographies of Connie and of Vivien Leigh, that they could have starred together in at least other 4 films: Under the Red Robe (the part went to Annabella, because of the French interests involved in the production), Fire over England, The Spy in Black, and The Thief of Bagdad - Vivien initially accepted the part of the Princess, but retired at the last moment to make Gone With The Wind in Hollywood.
Why the need for an “I hate other girls” proclamation? Is there some underlying desperation for male approval, some need to prove that you’re so different from all the other girls out there, when all that boils down to is that you’re one of those chicks who just wants dudes to like her? And you do it by insulting and generalizing about other women. And here’s the thing, once you do it, you start to make it OK for everyone to do it. So saying, “Girls are bitches” or, “Girls are shallow and catty” just opens up the door for guys to say those things. It’s one of the ways that society at large helps to keep women down: by turning us against one another, even subtly. And I know that girls who hate other girls are the first ones to say, “Oh, I’m not like that. I’m like a guy! I like guy things, and guys are easier to be friends with.” So you probably shouldn’t be surprised that all those women that you’re being a jerk about aren’t banging down your door to be your friend. Because by saying all of that, you’re being shallow and catty. You’re reducing women to stereotypes while somehow frantically begging everyone not to apply that stereotype to you.
How the fuck does Bill Nye expect this to happen? What do you want to do, force women to enroll in science courses, regardless of whether or not they want to do it? Just for the sake of having “enough” women? Why the fuck do these fractions matter so much? It’s not like people are holding guns to our head and threatening to kill us if we become interested in science.
Maybe, just maybe, a lot of us DON’T FUCKING WANT to be scientists. Is that a crime?
Hi there, princess-munchkin. Female engineering student here.
Bill Nye is not saying that you HAVE to be a scientist, and you are right that no one is holding a gun to my head because I am interested in science, but let me tell you some of the struggles of being a woman in the STEM fields.
1) Because I am a woman, I am not expected these fields. I first fully realized this when I was in high school, on my robotics team. See, although my robotics team was about 50% female, most of the women were part of the “business administration” side of things: finance, marketting, PR, membership, etc. Was this a problem? Absolutely not. But I was there to be an engineer, and specifically, to be the robot programmer. This was met with a lot of hesitation at first from some of the other students (all of whom happened to be male. This is not necessarily a bad thing.) You see, all of the robot programmers before me were guys. Computer programming is just a thing that guys do, or so they thought. Even after I had proved myself to the mentors on the team, many of the students still underestimated my abilities. There were rumors going around that I wouldn’t have been able to program the robot at all if the lead software mentor wasn’t there to help me. This was just flat-out false, but it wasn’t until I won an award for the team that the other students actually saw my merit.
2) There is not a lot of encouragement for women to go into these fields. I first noticed this when I was in elementary school. I was always interested in math, science, you name it, but many of my teachers and family members pushed that to the side for a long time. When I asked for legos for christmas, I would get ballet slippers. In fact, for a long time, I was training to be a professional dancer. I loved to dance. I loved math more, but no one seemed to notice that about me. It wasn’t until I had a long conversation with one particular teacher in high school that I decided to look into engineering. I had never even considered it as an option before, because no one decided to encourage me to pursue my interest in science. If it hadn’t been for that teacher, I would probably not be at the school I am at right now.
3) For a long time, Engineering/Science/Math WAS a “boys only” club. Let me tell you when some of the top technical schools and societies started letting women in:
- RPI, The oldest tech school in the country, founded in 1824. Started admitting women in 1942 to “replace men called to war.” Campus housing for women wasn’t constructed until 1966.
- Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honors Society - Founded in 1885. Started admitting women in 1968.
- Caltech - Currently rated #3 in undergraduate engineering. Founded in 1891. Started admitting women in 1970.
- Georgia Tech - Currently rated #5 in undergraduate engineering. Founded in 1885. Started admitting women in 1952.
Do you see the implications of this? Engineering has been a part of our society since around the late 1800s (in the case of RPI, since the 1820s), but women weren’t even allowed in for the most part until the 1950s, regardless of their merit.
4) Because of the fact that it was a “boys only” club for such a long time, there are not a lot of women engineers and scientists to look up to. When you’re reading your physics, chemistry, and math text books, the majority of those theories were came up with by men. It is true that much of our history was written by White Men, but this does not mean that the fact that there are few women scientists to look up does not matter.
So, as you can hopefully see, princess-munckin, or anyone else that shares the opinions of princess-munchkin, Bill Nye was not arguing that women that are not interested in STEM should go into those fields anyway. But he IS arguing against all of the systematic barriers set up against women who ARE interested in engineering and science. There are several women out there who are just as good as the boys at math and science, but will never pursue their interests because it just doesn’t seem like an option. That was me for a long time. I am super grateful for the fact that I fought against that, and that I ended up where I am.
if you don’t like science, fine. Don’t be a scientist. But if one day you have a daughter and she shows interest in being a scientist, PLEASE encourage her. Because Bill Nye is right, there needs to be more women scientists in the world.
OPs comment was so ignorant wow. Great response.
I’m not a science person either but my sister is an engineer and she def has faced difficulties being a woman in the math/science world. Not to mention being a Black woman in the math/science world. Now that’s a whole other set of complications.
This is the largest mass shooting in the United States where the shooters were still at large after the crime was committed. Think about that for a minute. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Fort Hill to Aurora, all the shooters were either killed or apprehended on site. But the person or people responsible for shooting 19 Americans are still free.
So why am I allowed to go outside? Where’s the city quarantine or FBI and Homeland Security presence for this act of “terrorism”?
Because this is an act of domestic terrorism right? Just because the alleged shooter was wearing a white tee and jeans does that suddenly make the shooting a gang-related affair? And we all know how irrelevant gang-related shootings are in America. The Mother’s Day shooting is so irrelevant that politicians haven’t even bothered to mention it to further their anti-gun agendas. If the shootings aren’t even important enough for politicians to spin, then it’s truly reached a black hole of irrelevance.
Did I mention the shooter is still on the loose? I have? Just checking. Police have released photos and video of one of the suspects, but he is still at large.
Now take a moment and imagine a Mother’s Day Parade in the suburbs of Denver, a neighborhood in Edina or a plaza in Austin where bullets rain down on civilians and even hit children. I can’t help but imagine the around-the-clock news coverage. And I can’t help but think it’s because most of America can identify with the fear of being bombarded with gunfire while just enjoying a parade in the middle of town. But America can’t identify with being at a parade in the “inner city” where “gang violence” erupts. The “oh my God, that could happen to me” factor isn’t present with a story about New Orleans or the Chicago southside.