By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In the Strange Bedfellows Department, we were struck by the recent pairing of Democratic politico Joe Cerrell with the Dalai Lama. Cerrell’s PR firm is representing the Dalai Lama on his Southern California tour this month. We wondered what the head of Southern California’s 19th largest public-relations company (according to O’Dwyer’s 2000 directory), loyal Sons of Italy member and Realpolitik adviser to every mainstream Democrat from JFK to Gore would find in common with the blissed-out Tibetan spiritual and national leader. Cerrell’s favorite books, perhaps (The Power Game, The Powers That Be)? Well, we hope the Dalai Lama has a chance to discuss the Buddha’s tenfold virtuous practice with Cerrell, or perhaps delve into some of his past lives. Bismarck, maybe?
Jack’s Lakers Moment
We were so notsurprised when vandalism or violence — as the L.A. Times and CNN had it, respectively, in their post–NBA championship wrap-ups — erupted after the Lakers’ victory Tuesday. After all, the national taunts about L.A.’s flaccid fanmanship had flown so fast and furious, even a teary Shaquille O’Neal had to take time out from savoring his victory to defend L.A.’s honor — and to shamelessly flog the Staples Center. (Is corporate boosterism just a reflex for celebrities, or are they paid to say these things?) Only carousing and mayhem could restore our reputation. The media failed to make much of a point about this, but we couldn’t help but notice the vandals’ targets were the same as during the 1992 riots: a TV van and a police car. L.A. never really changes, does it? But for us here at OffBeat, the finest, purest moment at the NBA finals came when Jack Nicholson stepped forward to offer Larry Bird the first post-game condolence handshake. It wasn’t a Pacer or a Laker, or even Magic, but rather Jack Nicholson who stuck out his paw in sympathy, celebrity-a-celebrity. It was a beautiful thing. In response, we’d like to propose an honorary city position for the acting great: Jack Nicholson, L.A.’s Official Consoler.
After years of homelessness and sleeping under freeway overpasses, 57-year-old Anne Marie Bates was off drugs and had an appointment to talk to a production company about her recently completed novel. But the sudden turn of fate for Bates, a self-professed vampire and research source for novelist Anne Rice, was too good to be true. In the early-morning hours of June 1, Bates suffered an apparent heart attack and died later at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.
That’s when Bates’ poverty came back to haunt her and her friends. Although her death was not considered suspicious, it was referred to the L.A. County coroner, as she had no family physician to sign the death certificate. And although Bates had a common-law spouse for 37 years, California law would not recognize his right to claim the body.
“If he is married to her, then he can go ahead and make arrangements, but since he isn’t the spouse he has no say in the matter,” said coroner investigator Joyce Kato. Bates’ boyfriend could gain custody of her remains only by permission of the probate court, and for a $197 coroner’s fee. He would also have to pay for the funeral or cremation. Fat chance. Bates’ boyfriend has been on welfare for years, and she left no assets behind, except for her manuscript.
If the boyfriend fails to come up with the cash, Bates’ body will be sent to the county morgue and cremated, one of 200 to 250 cases each year in which next-of-kin are not located. In another 250 cases families either refuse to claim the body or can’t afford funeral arrangements.
“It is really heart-wrenching, dealing with these people you know want to do something for them but can’t afford it,” said Doyle Tolbert, supervisor of the notification section at the coroner’s office. The opposite is true in too many other cases, said Kato. “Sadly, a lot of times family and friends show concern, but as time goes by, we just stop hearing from people and nobody seems interested.”
Bates’ ashes will be kept in a plastic urn for two years, unless a relative comes forward with $541 to cover transportation and cremation costs. The fee is discounted to $426 if the person dies in the county hospital. (Moving the body from the county hospital is theoretically less expensive.) Eighty percent of the time, the remains go unclaimed, and authorities scatter the ashes in a common grave located in a separate county cemetery next to the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Boyle Heights.
A nondenominational service is held, according to Sandy Bornhauser, supervisor of decedent affairs at the L.A. County Morgue. But the only memorial to the lives so unceremoniously and communally dispatched is a circular 5-inch cement marker noting the year of death. Inside the crematorium, which is on the cemetery grounds, is a ledger with the name, date of death and cremation of the deceased. This year, authorities will bury 1,200 people who died in 1995.
“We are only here for the indigent and the people with no families,” said Kenya Stephens, mortuary attendant of decedent affairs with the county morgue.
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