Wednesday, July 8, 2009


It wasn’t what she wanted. The procession, the cavalcade of famous mourners, the speeches, the tears, the mausoleum with scenes from her films played on a 24-hour loop. What she wanted, and she’d been quite clear on this to Danny at least, was to be taken to Bikini Atoll and blown up with a nuclear bomb.

For a long while there, Skye Ferris was the most beautiful woman in the world.

She grew up in a tiny basement apartment in Queens, New York, from where her final procession would begin. A simple wood coffin at first, to remind us all of her humility. Daughter of immigrant parents, who changed their name upon arriving here. A trifling fact, this, but part of her narrative, part of the American Dream mythology of her.

And now that she was dead, Skye Ferris had graduated to full-on mythological construct.

There was the question of what to do about all those billboards, of course. Some of them, the ones you could get to easily, had become shrines. Candles and everything. Not even the Bonnie & Clyde way she’d gone out could dim the people’s enthusiasm for her.

Since computer layouts made it so easy, magazines like People and Us had files at the ready, whole commemorative issues laid out for the moment news hit that someone famous was dead. They were working overtime. The New York Times obit column was already fetching a hundred dollars on eBay, and it was the private view of many that North Korea’s latest missile tests were Kim Jong-Il’s frustrated attempt to shift the limelight back to himself. It didn’t work. The whole world seemed at a standstill. Actress & humanitarian Skye Ferris, dead at thirty-five.

There was a serious rumor going on that her embalmed body would be put on permanent display, vacuum-sealed or whatever it was they did with Lenin, in her mausoleum. All Sleeping Beauty, in a cradle of glass. Guests allowed in nine-to-five. Closed on Sunday. Cosmopolitan magazine wrote a column on “Ten Steps to Ferris’ Funereal Hair” that was widely acknowledged as both tasteful and actually kind of moving.

She was breathtaking in life. Her bright, expressive laughter, her enigmatic eyes, her hair face lips neck shoulders arms breasts back waist hands fingers hips ass legs knees feet toes. She was perfect. (Also, she could act, which, let’s face it, wasn’t always the case in these situations.) Sure, there was the string of bank robberies across Southern California, but too there was the white dress she wore in Don’t Say a Word and the shy, self-conscious way she demurred from singing on Late Night with David Letterman. Her accomplice, screenwriter Danny Freeman, was cremated without ceremony, according to his wishes, one week after the standoff.

A hundred thousand white roses would be dedicated for the purpose of putting her to rest. White roses on her casket, white roses on the street leading from Queens to the cemetery where her mausoleum, hastily but soundly constructed and guarded over by stone angels that bore more than a passing resemblance to Ferris herself, waited.

There were those of course who pointed out, when the 24-hour news cycle had briefly exhausted itself on coverage of her last film or her mission in Darfur, that this was the last thing she would have wanted to be remembered merely as ridiculously good-looking, and others too that pointed out she was, in fact, a criminal, that she and Freeman were shot to death during an armed robbery of the East Los Angeles Savings & Loan carrying two million dollars in currency and with a dozen hostages who, really, were just happy to be in the same room with her. But these alternate takes on her were dismissed as cynical attempts to cash-in on her legacy.

Sotheby’s sold the glass slippers she wore in Surviving Cinderella for 1.8 million dollars.

Skye Ferris’ father forgave the officer who fired the shots, but Leo Luntz got death threats every day until he died, which, as it happened, was about two weeks later, courtesy of a noose he’d threaded himself.

All this was getting everyone down. Talking heads extolled her virtues even as other talking heads with slightly different hair called her campaign of terror across the Pacific coast yet one more example of Hollywood Liberal Media Elite Left-Wing Liberal Mayhem Excess Insanity. But mostly they all agreed that Skye Ferris was really just devastating to look at.

On the day of her funeral, it rained. Not enough to call the thing, but enough so that none of the mourners in the packed Giants Stadium felt all that comfortable. Perfect funeral weather. Fellow actors and friends gave tearful tributes. Singers sang songs. There were wreaths of white roses and petals dropped from the air, bringing the estimated count up past a quarter of a million. She was a gentle soul, said Walter Hurley, one of the hostages the Former Miss World kept in the East Los Angeles Savings and Loan for nine hours.

Whatever she was, whatever private pain or exquisite boredom drove her first to acting and later to make off with almost ten million dollars in cash over a period of six weeks, whatever answers there were to the question of her, died on that day in Los Angeles, thousands of miles from her home.

No comments:

Post a Comment