Did you ever see such a paltry, cheapskate patch of earth as my friend Dot Squires' final resting place, depicted below?
This lady was Britain's greatest singer, a veritable icon. She would be the first to confess that she had been a fool to herself with all the litigation cases she was involved with, and which saw her being declared a vexatious litigant. She lost £2 million by suing people, but despite the rumour that she died penniless, in rented property, she left a tidy sum in the bank...enough to pay for her own send-off, which was perhaps apt because she had financed most of her sell-out concerts herself, and I should imagine for a better memorial than this Woolworths inspired slab of slate that anyone can pick up from a Continental funeral parlour for around £50. So, why doesn't Dot have a better memorial? I would loving nothing more than to pay for one myself, but have a sneaking suspicion that it would be removed.
Ah, families of the rich and famous! How many times have I seen these "Grim Reapers" come crawling out of the woodwork when someone celebrated dies, or is on their last legs!
Dot had nothing to do with her family for seven years, and to me had very little to say about them which did not bring forth one of those infamous expletives. Where were they when she was near-destitute? I remember her telling me that if the boot had been on the other foot, they would have come hammering on her door...and been promptly told where to go. Dot loved her parents and her brother, who died young. She cared about her sister. But she didn't care about any of the others and did not have a good word to say about them in her memoirs. She loved Roger Moore until the day she died, and he loved her. Not once did a bad word pass from her lips about her former husband, and they always remained close. Roger dipped his hand into his pocket many times to help her out, as Dot had helped him when starting out in his career. But as for her family...all that mattered to Dot were her friends, and her ever-faithful fans.
There have been others with whom I have been involved, and whose "loved ones" have only come forward either to lord it over the genuine loved ones, or hoping to make a few bob. Damia, the great French singer, always wanted to be buried in a cemetery in the centre of Paris so that her loved ones and fans could lay flowers on her grave. Her spiteful estranged family buried her in Pantin, on the outskirts of the city. Likewise Betty Mars. Marlene Dietrich's family I have never been able to work out. They were there at the end to grab everything, it's true, but they did care about Marlene during her lifetime and could never really be called spiteful. When Marlene talked about her daughter, it was always with affection. "I live for Maria," she told me.
Kathy Kirby, who I did not know, was ignored by her family when she fell on hard times, who were first at the door when she died.
George Formby played his scrounging family at their own game by leaving them nothing in his will. Not to be undone, his mother and sisters--who like everyone else in his large family had spent their entire lives trying to rob him blind--took the unusual step of taking him to court, AFTER he was dead, and tried to have him certified insane at the time he had signed his will! And they still got nothing!
Fréhel, that other great French singer, would have had her grave bulldozed had it not been for Serge Gainsbourg, who paid to have her re-interred. My godfather, Roger Normand, a name in his day and who discovered Piaf singer-songwriter Charles Dumont, was "claimed" by distant relatives and instead of being buried in the Montmartre cemetery next to his home was interred miles out of the city.
Joey Stefano's family were ashamed that he earned his living as a porn star, quite possibly the finest male adult entertainer of his or any other generation. Poor Joey has no stone to remember him by, though his "loved ones" always remember to cash the cheques that come in from his back-catalogue.
The list is endless. And of course, because these "loved ones" are mostly nonentities, they always get away with treating the memories and legacies of our beloved stars and friends like shit.