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SCOTT MICHAELS

Founder, FindADeath.com & Dearly Departed Tours 

In His Own Words

 

I've been interested in death since I was a tyke.  My mother recalls taking me to a funeral of a young family member when I was 3 years old. On their way to the gravesite, I noticed the tent set up, and asked, "Mom, are we going to the circus?" That was the beginning.

 

Growing up in Detroit, I lived on one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. Fatal accidents were normal. There was a family ritual - when we were jarred awake from our slumber by that horrible noise of a car accident. One would call the police while one would grab the towels etc. One night while I was asleep, a car hit a lamppost in front of our house. I heard the sound of slamming breaks, the impact, and the live wires of a fallen streetlight zapping away. I got out of bed, looked out the window, yawned, and returned to bed.  You get the idea.

 

The first celebrity deaths of any real recollection to me were Martin Luther King and Janis Joplin. When Florence Ballard of the Supremes passed away in 1976, I was transfixed.

 

A habit I started when I was young was to thumb directly to the end of any biography, to find out how and where they died. If there photos were included, even better. I could (and still can) stare for hours at that photo of Marilyn's body being removed from her Brentwood home in a body bag. At the same time, I also discovered the joy of cemeteries. When I was a Boy Scout I would ditch organized hikes, to explore a new bone yard.

 

Eventually I tired of circling the bowl of Detroit, and made my way to Chicago, where I started my company, Dearly Departed, specializing in dead celebrity memorabilia. Key chains, T-shirts etc, adorned with tombstone photographs. It was also then that I became fanatic about tracking down my favorite celebrity graves. It was natural that I hooked up with Greg Smith, and his famous Grave Line Tours, in Hollywood. With a smile on my face, I loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly, on my own dime.

 

One of the first things I changed at Grave Line Tours was the rule to wait five years until after someone died before adding them to the tour.  My thought is: we bring people to the news.   I brought the company from near bankruptcy, to success - appearing on such shows as 20/20, Entertainment Tonight, and with a little help from O.J. Simpson and CNN.   Of course, with success comes nonsense, and I left.

 

Just before my liberation from Grave Line, in 1996, I fell in love and moved to the UK to be with my partner at the time, Graham Norton (Comedy Central’s “The Graham Norton Effect,” and “So Graham Norton”.)  Because of my immigration status, I was unable to leave for about a year and a half after Princess Diana died. It drove me nuts not being able to travel the short distance to Paris to see the tunnel. Eventually I made it. Within minutes of getting my status from the government, there was me, straight (well…) to the pillar. When I got there, and I touched the exact spot where the Diana's Mercedes hit the post, I felt really strange - awe-struck. I kept thinking, "All that drama - the event of Diana's death - the world's reaction - it all started Right Here."

 

That's what gave me the idea to start Findadeath.com: To assemble the stories of people's deaths, with photographs.  I get a lot of flack for this, but obviously it hits the right nerve, because on average 8000 Death Hags visit the site each day. I also get a lot of heat for interjecting comments and opinions.  My response to that: Get your own website and do it yourself.  I did.  Am I being disrespectful?  Maybe.  What this all boils down to is:  If you don't want the attention, don't get famous.  Period.  It doesn't stop when you die.

 

In my research, I have visited hundreds of final breath locations, and documented them in detail.  Along the way, I have managed to acquire a tastelessly wonderful collection of articles including an oil painting done by convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a piece of the Hindenburg, bricks from fireplace which witnessed the famous Manson Murders, a piece of John Denver's airplane, and many more.

 

My Greatest Hits:

 

  • Being named in the Supreme Court (Office of Independent Counsel v. Favish) as the worst case scenario for what can happen to you when you die

 

  • Becoming tabloid fodder (Irish Mirror, “How Fame Wrecked My Gay Love For Graham Norton”)

 

  • Dean Martin buying me a beer

 

  • Owning my own final resting place at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and that my neighbor there is “Larry Tate” from the Bewitched

 

Now I've happily returned to Hollywood, and it is with great joy that I announce my own new venture into the Sightseeing Industry. 

 

 

Additional Information

 

Scott Michaels has been featured on many television and radio programs as an expert in chronicling the last hours of celebrity lives.  Programs include “20/20,” “Entertainment Tonight,” the “Real Wild Child on BBC Radio 2” series (focusing on Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams), a 2-hour interview on David Quantick's radio show for Resonance FM in London, “Ghostly Graves” for the Travel Channel, and “Living Legends” for the Discovery Channel.

 

Michaels is also the author of “Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult,” a collection of interviews from the cast and crew of The Rocky Horror Show, and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 

His other credited contributions include Bizarre Magazine, Guitar World Magazine, and the books “Revolution - the True Story of The White Album,” “Here’s Johnny (Carson),” “Brady Mania,” “Here on Gilligan’s Isle,” “Cooking in Oz,” “The Munchkins of Oz,” “The Addams Family Chronicles,” “Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here,” “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Memory Book,” “The 25th Anniversary Edition of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson murders,” “Celebrity Death Certificates,” and the biography of Sojourner Truth.

 

-- December 2004 --

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Lisa Burks, (818) 524-4404, lisa@burksmedia.com