Thursday, October 25, 2007

Out of the Box: Bopper's casket hits the road

The Bopper's son, Jay Richardson (left) and forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass
exhumed J.P. Richardson's casket last March in Beaumont

In what will certainly be one of the most macabre musical mementoes in Texas history, the new Texas Musicians Museum will display the "used" casket of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, the Beaumont pop star killed in the same 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Take the kids!

The Bopper was exhumed from his next-to-final resting place in Beaumont's Forest Lawn Cemetery last March and moved to a new grave in a brand-spankin'-new casket. The old one was stored secretly by his son, Jay Richardson of Katy, while he considered donating it to an appropriate museum, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, a vintage 1949 hearse will deliver the Bopper's original box to the Hillsboro, Texas, museum. Rock 'n' roll authority Bill Griggs of Lubbock -- who observed the Bopper's exhumation and autopsy in March -- will talk about the famous 1959 plane crash, what the autopsy revealed, and the Bopper’s musical legacy.

The casket will be displayed through November in Hillsboro, about 60 miles south of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Coming in December 2007: Willie Nelson's booger collection.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dig One for The Gipper: George Gipp exhumed

They've gone and dug up the Gipper.

The family of George Gipp (left), the Notre Dame football player who died from pneumonia and a strep infection during his senior year in 1920 and inspired Knute Rockne's locker room exhortation to "win one for the Gipper," sought a DNA sample from from the 87-year-dead corpse.

Why? Was George adopted? Is someone claiming to be his love child? Did the fantastically popular Gipper pull an Elvis and fake his own death to escape the limelight? Or is Notre Dame hoping to clone the Gipper to bolster its awful backfield this season? Nobody's telling. But ESPN filmed the exhumation in Laurium, Mich., and a noted sports author was on hand. So we're likely to find out in the good old-fashioned American way: Marketing!

Some cousins believed the exhumation desecrated Gipp's grave and memory, but Gipp was dug up because at least one family member -- reportedly his sister's granddaughter -- asked for it.

I love a mystery, even a fabricated one. After attending the exhumation and autopsy of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson last March, I'm even more fascinated by what modern forensics can tell us about long-ago deaths of famous people. But I'm not sure we should go digging them up willy-nilly merely to satisfy idle -- and ultimately unimportant -- curiosities.

Perhaps the exhumed Gipper will answer some important questions. I desperately hope he wasn't disturbed just to sell some books.