Les révélations morbides du croque-mort de Marilyn Monroe
publié le 10/06/2015
en ligne sur vanityfair.fr
Un mythe s'effrondre. Après avoir conduit des stars à la morgue toute sa vie, Allan Abbott, le croque-mort de Hollywood, a publié ses mémoires dans un livre intitulé Pardon My Hearse. Et stupeur entre deux anecdotes à propos de John F. Kennedy ou Nathalie Wood, il dresse un portrait morbide du sex-symbol américain : fausses dents, lèvres gercées, jambes mal épilées, faux seins, peau abîmée, pédicure douteuse...
« Elle ne ressemblait pas à Marilyn Monroe mais à une femme banale, qui prend de l’âge et qui ne prend pas beaucoup soin d’elle », raconte Allan Abbot, qui s'est dit choqué par l’état dans lequel il a retrouvé la jeune femme, décédée à 36 ans d'une overdose de barbituriques.
Le croque-mort explique que, compte tenu de la position de Marilyn Monroe à sa mort, son visage n’était plus reconnaissable : « Marilyn est morte face contre terre. Elle avait des taches violettes sur ses joues et son cou était particulièrement enflé. » Ses cheveux, eux, étaient courts et crépus. « Ses jambes n’étaient pas épilées, ses lèvres en mauvais état. Elle avait besoin d’une manucure et d’une pédicure », continue-t-il.
L’état de sa poitrine a laissé les employés des pompes funèbres perplexes : « Elle ne ressemblait pas à Marilyn Monroe », révèle la femme du thanatopracteur, qui a rembouré le soutien-gorge de coton pour lui donner plus de formes.
Des révélations surprenantes pour cette incarnation du glamour, qui aurait néanmoins confié plusieurs fois à son psychiatre s'examiner régulièrement devant son miroir pour constater les effets de l'âge sur son corps.
> A lire sur le Daily Mail
EXCLUSIVE: Marilyn Monroe had purple blotches on her face, falsie breasts and 'didn't take care of herself' reveals mortician who prepared her and other stars for burial
Article published in 9 June 2015
by Caroline Howe - online on dailymail
- Allan Abbott and Ron Hast first job delivering flowers from the mortuary to the cemetery led to top funeral company - and limo service
- They picked up Marilyn Monroe's remains and Abbott describes the shocking state of her body in new book
- 'She looked like a very average, aging woman who had not been taking very good care of herself,' he writes
- They drove Natalie Wood's mother and her sister, Lana Wood to Natalie's funeral in 1981
- Their limos drove John F. Kennedy and his entourage all over Los Angeles during the 1960 Democratic Convention
- They picked up Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1963 at the San Bernardino train station for an incognito arrival into Los Angeles
From Marilyn Monroe's hairy legs, to Natalie Wood's bruises, two morticians to the stars share their last unique and final glimpse of some of the cream of Hollywood.
Abbott & Hast became the funeral service of choice for Los Angeles' rich and famous during the 1960s.
When celebrities died, the firm would be relied on to pick up the bodies and chauffer them away.
So it was perhaps unsurprising when, on August 5, 1962, the company received a call to pick up the body of Marilyn Monroe after she was found dead in her home from a suspected overdose.
Abott revealed they had been shocked by the state of the starlet who bared almost no resemble so her stunning onscreen persona.
He added that her face had been marred by purple blotches, her roots were showing and she was in need of a manicure and pedicure.
The company also transported screen stars Clark Gable and Ernie Kovacs to their respective funerals, with Frank Sinatra and Jack Lemmon serving as pallbearers at the latter.
But it wasn't just the dead famous they transported.
Their limo service chauffeured married actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and even presidential nominee John F. Kennedy.
High school friends Allan Abbott and Ron Hast had bought their first old hearse to use on camping trips while prospecting rocks and fossils in the 1950s.
It also brought their first summer job during college, delivering flowers from the mortuary to the cemetery.
From standard hearses, to flower trucks, to rental limos, to an 'air hearse', a boat for scattering ashes at sea, funeral prop rentals - the company that Abbott and Hast created evolved into the leading hearse, mortuary and funeral service company in Hollywood.
Allan Abbot candidly writes about transporting famous corpses as well as driving celebrities and renting his cars and props to movie studies in Pardon My Hearse, a Craven Street Books publication to be published on June 15.
A 1941 morbid-looking black Packard hearse the pair purchased for a mere $40 started it all. They fitted what they called the 'black elephant' with a mattress and used it for long camping trips.
It felt creepy knowing that it had a history of transporting corpses and 'it took awhile to get used to seeing people make the sign of the cross or remove their hats as we drove by', Abbott writes.
Even Ron's parents made him park it a block away from their house.
When they were offered $400 for it, they sold it, bought two more hearses so that each of them owned their own hearse as their personal vehicle.
Their lucrative move to a venture in undertaking was serendipitous and began when they accepted a summer job to deliver flowers from a mortuary to a cemetery.
That segued into a request to pick up bodies for $95 - a big sum of cash for the two, new to the shroud business. They practiced on Abbott's mother – picking her up off the floor and placing her on an old ambulance cot.
'Now the time had come for us to decide if we were really prepared to be in such a predictably disquieting line of work, and we needed to know if we were mentally resolved to deal with what was sure to come', Abbott writes.
They rented an old building on the west side of Los Angeles in an area dubbed 'Death Row', zoned for mortuary operations and set up shop. In the basement they found old mortuary paraphernalia that included artificial arms, legs, dentures, wicker caskets, early embalming equipment.
And they were in business with calls from San Quentin State Prison to remove bodies after executions. They were called to remove a body at a candy factory after the worker had fallen into a vat of chocolate and drowned.
Movie studios starting calling requesting funeral cars to use in films.
The pair added a large flower truck in their fleet of vehicles using it for funerals of Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, actor Jimmy Durante, singer Mario Lanza, to name a few.
They were called on in the early 1960s to pick up Swedish film actress, Inger Stevens who was in a popular television show at the time, The Farmer's daughter, and drive her to Los Angeles International Airport.
When Abbott knocked on the door of her Hollywood apartment, he was informed by a man on the other side of the door that she had left for the airport in her own car.
Rigor: Marilyn Monroe's body was first taken to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's office. Early stages of rigor mortis had begun indicating she had been dead longer than the presumed three hours.. Monroe was found dead of a suspected barbiturate overdose
Shock: The body of actress Marilyn Monroe arrives at the mortuary. 'When we removed the sheet covering her, it was almost impossible to believe this was the body of Marilyn Monroe,' writes Abbott. 'She looked like a very average, aging woman who had not been taking very good care of herself'
Abbott and his girlfriend took it upon themselves to investigate the unidentified voice. It turned out to be Isaac Jones, President of Nat King Cole's Kell-Cole Productions and the first black person to produce an A-list picture when he was a producer of 'A Man Called Adam', starring Sammy Davis Jr.
Jones and Stevens had secretly married in Mexico in 1961 and kept it a secret believing an interracial relationship would ruin her career. Nine years later, after dating Burt Reynolds for a year in a reportedly volatile relationship, she was discovered unconscious on her kitchen floor and died of acute barbiturate intoxication en route to the hospital.
Friends never believed that she took her own life. She was still married to Jones at the time of her death.
Abbott & Hast were called for cars and drivers for Inger's funeral.
The following year, a call came into the West Los Angeles Police Station in the early hours of August 5, 1962. Dr. Hyman Engelberg identified himself to Sergeant Jack Clemmons on the desk and stated that Marilyn Monroe was dead in her house at 1230 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood.
Engelberg said Dr. Ralph Greenson had informed him that her death was from an overdose of Nembutal and stated it was suicide. Clemmons jumped into a squad car and headed out to her house.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office called Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery and instructed them to remove her body. Manager Guy Hockett took the assignment and discovered her body was in the early stages of rigor mortis, a condition that typically begins six to eight hours after death but he had been informed that death had occurred three hours prior to his arrival.
Hockett delivered her body to the mortuary.
Ron Hast and Allan Abbott stand next to Monroe's casket prior to the service at the cemetery crypt. Their hearse drove Marilyn Monroe's casket in her funeral procession on August 8, 1962 to Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles
Incognito: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor arrive in San Bernadino in 1963 by train in an effort to avoid large unruly crowds in LA. But Liz was put off that there weren't more fans waiting to see her
The mortuary men picked up bodies for $95 - a big sum of cash for the two new to the shroud business. They practiced on Abbott's mother – picking her up off the floor and placing her on an old ambulance cot
Abbott's company was called and they sent Leonard 'Chris' Kreminski to assist in removing the body. It was later transported downtown for the postmortem.
'Because of the tremendous implications of this case, it took much longer for Coroner Theodore Curphey to finally make some statements. His best and most dedicated pathologist, Thomas Noguchi, known to some as 'The Knife,' spent about three times as much time as it usually took him to do a full postmortem.
'The deputies at the coroner's office informed me that Dr. Noguchi had been extremely thorough with his examination of her body. He spent a great deal of time looking for hypodermic needle marks, which he did discover in her arm pit, but this area is often used by doctors when treating female movie stars.
'He continued to search in unusual places like inside her nose, between her toes and fingers, under her tongue, and in her genitals, but was unable to discover any additional injection points', Abbott writes.
Abbott was present and entered the embalming room with the embalmer, identified only as 'Frenchie'.
'When we removed the sheet covering her, it was almost impossible to believe this was the body of Marilyn Monroe. She looked like a very average, aging woman who had not been taking very good care of herself. Obviously, the circumstances surrounding her death had greatly exacerbated her poor appearance and she was unrecognizable.
Abbott drove the hearse for the 1962 funeral of actor Ernie Kovacs with Frank Sinatra and Jack Lemmon serving as pallbearers. Kovacs had been killed in a Chevrolet Corvair, one of the early rear-engine American cars that were discontinued because the car was known to go out of control after hard braking
'When someone dies, gravity causes the blood to settle to the lowest point of the body. This condition is called lividity, and considering that many people die lying on their backs, the discoloration that occurs is seldom visible.
'In Marilyn's case, she died face down, so there were purple blotches on her face, and her neck was very swollen. They had bathed her at the coroner's office, and her hair was frizzy and fairly short.
'You could tell she had not bleached it for some time, because the roots were darker and had grown out about half an inch.
'Her natural hair color was a light brown, not blonde. Her legs hadn't been shaved for at least a week, and her lips were badly chapped. She was also in need of a manicure and pedicure.'
'We began discussing the terrible swelling in her neck, and Frenchie decided that a surgical procedure was needed. This was out of my area of expertise, so I deferred to his decision. Frenchie knew how to correct the problem, but it wasn't going to be pretty.
'He instructed me to hold her on her side so he could make an incision in the back of her neck in the shape of a marquis diamond and remove about two square inches of skin. He then pulled the sides together and stitched it up. It wasn't pleasant to watch, but it was quite effective in reducing the swelling.
'Marilyn's executrix had just brought in her clothing, so Mrs. Hockett, wife of the cemetery's manager, rang me to come up to the office and pick up the package. She also informed me that the lady said Marilyn didn't wear panties, and she couldn't find any among her clothing.
In 1981, Natalie Wood mysteriously drowned in the waters off of Catalina Island, California where she and her husband Robert Wagner and guest and actor Christopher Walken had been partying . Natalie's body was bruised from hitting the rocks and the coroner's pathologist chose to surgically remove some of that tissue to examine closely. Natalie was dressed in a full-length fur coat so that the bruising was not visible when the casket was open
Robert Wagner comforts his daughter Courtney Brooke Wagner at Natalie's funeral. The casket was carried from the hearse to the device used to lower it into the grave. Moving over to stand next to Abbot who was at the head of the casket was Christopher Walken – separated from the other attendees
'I also noticed that among the items was a small pair of false breasts. I had seen falsies before, but these were much smaller than any I'd seen'.
'That doesn't look like Marilyn Monroe,' Mrs. Hamrock stated. 'What happened to her boobs ?' In his own defense, Frenchie told her that the cutting of the ribs during the autopsy had caused this condition. He further stated that he had even used the falsies that were brought in with her clothing, but they had been much too small to enhance her physique'.
Mrs. Hamrock reached down and pulled at the neck of the dress, which was a very springy material. She reached in with her other hand to remove the falsies and threw them into the trash can. She then pulled some clumps of cotton off a roll and formed much larger breasts by stuffing her bra. At this point she stepped back and proudly exclaimed, 'Now that looks like Marilyn Monroe !'
Abbott later retrieved the falsies from the trash and took them home.
Sydney Guilaroff, Monroe's makeup man, and Allan 'Whitey' Snyder, arrived at the mortuary. Sydney brought the wig that was made for her for the film, Something's Got to Give, and Whitey applied her makeup.
Whitey told Abbott that Marilyn's breasts at age thirty-six were beginning to sag. She wore a bra but placed the little falsies between her bra and the sweater to make it look like she was unsupported and braless.
Joe DiMaggio kept a vigil at the mortuary. He stood by the casket for a while and then he walked in the cemetery outside and cried. They had married in January 1954 and Marilyn had filed for divorce 274 days later. They remained close and Joe never stopped loving her. Monroe was buried in Westwood Cemetery.
That same year, 1962, Abbott was called to drive the hearse for actor Ernie Kovacs funeral. He directed pallbearers Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon and four others during the funeral ceremony with actress Kim Novak in attendance.
Kovacs had been killed in a Chevrolet Corvair, one of the early rear-engine American cars that were discontinued because the car was known to go out of control after hard braking. Ralph Nadar's book Unsafe at Any Speed sped up the demise of the Corvair.
In 1981, Natalie Wood mysteriously drowned in the waters off of Catalina Island, California where she and her husband Robert Wagner and guest and actor Christopher Walken had been partying. The call came in to Abbott to drive the family car and pick up Natalie's mother as well as her sister, Lana Wood.
The casket was carried from the hearse to the device used to lower it into the grave. Moving over to stand next to Abbot who was at the head of the casket was Christopher Walken – separated from the other attendees.
Natalie's body was bruised from hitting the rocks and the coroner's pathologist chose to surgically remove some of that tissue to examine closely. Natalie was dressed in a full-length fur coat so that the bruising was not visible when the casket was open.
'People have often asked me if my line of work was depressing. Sometimes that was the case but all things considered, it was certainly never dull'. Abbott admits to developing a gallows sense of humor. If asked how's business, he answered, 'Dead'. A slogan for the company was 'We'll be the last ones to let you down'.
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A MORTICIAN TO THE STARS
- They picked up Marilyn Monroe's remains and helped prepare it for burial, witnessing the shocking state her body was in at the time of death.
- Two years earlier, Abbott drove a family car for screen star Clark Gable's funeral at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California in 1960.
- Abbott drove the hearse for the 1962 funeral of actor Ernie Kovacs with Frank Sinatra and Jack Lemmon serving as pallbearers and attended by Kim Novak.
- They drove Natalie Wood's mother and her sister, Lana Wood to Natalie's funeral in 1981.
- Their limos drove presidential nominee John F. Kennedy and his entourage all over Los Angeles during the 1960 Democratic Convention – and had a hard time collecting from the candidate.
- They picked up Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1963 at the San Bernardino train station for an incognito arrival into Los Angeles sixty miles away, to have Elizabeth complain of no stargazers and Richard needing a drink
- They drove Carly Simon and a girlfriend to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in the Sixties listening to her complain that her new boyfriend resented her latest song. Carly then pulled two joints out of her handbag and the girls lit up. Allan didn't want to be high while driving but neither did he want to close the divider and not hear their gossip.
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Pardon My Hearse by Allan Abbott and Gregory Abbott published by Craven Street Books is available on Amazon June 15, 2015