Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saved by the Bell

You know the expression Saved by the Bell?

I’ve come to respect you as an intellect, so please don’t say the 1990’s tween series.

I had always assumed it had something to do with factory whistles ending the workday. 

I was wrong.

It has to do with safety coffins.

Fan of Poe? I’m not much of one either, but my kid is, so I’m familiar with The Cask of Amontillado. It turns out Poe has more to do with the bell than factories or bad tween sit-coms.

There was a time when families of the dead, at least in European cultures, would sit with the body. A few days for mourning and remembering but also a period of time to make sure the deceased had really passed away. 

Enter a few horrible cholera epidemics and the waiting period disappeared. People were terrified of being buried alive and coffins were fitted with emergency bells, cords placed inside if the occupant needed escape. Saved by the Bell

The tradition of sitting with the dead changed with a push from Ladies’ Home Journal. Parlors, the place of family wakes, were out of favor for new family rooms, renamed Living Rooms.

A few items buried with famous people.

Frank Sinatra
a flask of Jack Daniels 
a roll of dimes 
When his son was kidnapped in 1963, Sinatra had to call from pay phones. Carrying a roll of dimes became a lifelong habit afterwards.

George Burns
three cigars in his breast pocket

Harry Houdini 
letters from his mother
His coffin had a hermetically sealed inner liner that was used underwater in his act. Houdini had it made to prove that “any one could live without air for an hour if they did not let fear overcome them.”

John F. Kennedy
scrimshaw, pieces of whale bone engraved with the presidential seal, commissioned by Jacqueline.
letters from his wife and two children
His brother Robert added a silver rosary

Tony Curtis
a Stetson hat
a pair of driving gloves
his grandson’s baby shoes
his dog's ashes
his iPhone
A copy of Anthony Adverse, the novel that inspired his stage name

Humphrey Bogart
A golden whistle charm from Lauren Bacall engraved with the phrase, “If you want anything, just whistle.”

Roald Dahl 
snooker cues
HB pencils
Cadbury Chocolates, his inspiration for Willy Wonka
a power saw (I have no idea why)

Leonard Bernstein
conductor's baton
score of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony
his lucky penny
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
Bernstein never traveled without the book.

Bela Lugosi
his Dracula costume
His original cape from the first Dracula production he saved to give to his son.

Andy Warhol
a bottle of Estee Lauder “Beautiful” perfume
From the Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, “Sometimes at parties I slip away to the bathroom just to see what colognes they’ve got. . . . If I see something interesting, I can't stop myself from pouring it on. But then for the rest of the evening, I’m paranoid that the host or hostess will get a whiff of me and notice that I smell like somebody-they-know.”

Elizabeth Taylor
The last love letter Richard Burton, sent to her three days before he died.

Anything you would pick? 

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