Dead celebrity profits? It’s all about location 2014.08.06


I was a bit surprised to read recently that Woodlawn Cemetery in New York is developing several thousand new burial plots to accommodate music fans who want to be buried near several jazz music legends already interred there. Making the fans happy is turning into a financial bonanza for the cemetery.

According to an Associated Press report, Woodlawn is adding 2,275 new burial plots between the final resting place of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton and other musicians in an area known as Jazz Corner and the nearby grave of Celia Cruz, a well-known Latin music star. No word yet on how much it’ll cost a fan to join the jazz greats underground, but I’m betting it won’t be cheap.

 Earlier this year, the cemetery created 70 new burial plots behind the Jazz Corner grave of Davis and almost all of them have been sold. As part of that project, a mausoleum was also built with space for 275 sets of remains. Prices for mausoleum spots start at $6,000 each. That amounts to over $1.6 million at the minimum price. Four smaller mausoleums are also being built near the new complex, but no details on capacity, pricing or completion dates are available.

I have to wonder what the big attraction is here. It’s not like Miles, Duke, Lionel or Celia will know you’re there. If they did, they’d probably say something like, “John Doe’s moving in? Never heard of him.”  Or  maybe a simple “There goes the neighborhood!” Plus, why have yourself buried where there’s so much competition for visitors? It would probably be hard for your relatives and friends to concentrate on visiting your grave knowing that Miles Davis and other celebrities are nearby.

And do survivors of the musicians get a cut of the profits? After all, there wouldn’t be all this demand if they weren’t buried there. It doesn’t seem fair for Woodlawn to make all the money from the project. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t a lawyer already thinking the same thing.

And then there’s the curious case of a writer and “non-performing performance artist” who goes by the name of Nick Beef. Mr. Beef’s name appears on the gravestone next to Lee Harvey Oswald’s grave in Fort Worth.

Beef, real name Patric Abedin, was six years old and the son of an Air Force navigator  when President Kennedy made his fatal trip to Texas in 1963, landing at Carswell Air Force base in Fort Worth. Young Patric was sitting on the shoulders of a military police officer when the President and Jackie Kennedy passed by, just a few feet away.

Patric was a big hit at school the next morning, sharing stories of seeing the President. A few hours later, President Kennedy was dead.

His parents later divorced and Patric’s mother sometimes took him to visit Oswald’s grave, located in a nearby cemetery, telling him, “Never forget you got to see Kennedy the night before he died.” In 1975, he read an article that mentioned that the grave next to Oswald’s had never been sold. He visited the cemetery office and bought the gravesite for a mere $175. That didn’t leave much profit to share with any of Oswald’s heirs, although I doubt anyone even considered asking at the time.

When Patric’s mother died in 1996, Patric, then living in New York, returned to Texas for the funeral and visited his gravesite. He decided to add a marker and ordered a stone the same dimensions as Oswald’s. Wanting to shield his children from publicity, he chose Nick Beef, a name he had created years before as a joke, to grace the memorial. 

The name quickly entered the world of Kennedy assassination theories as those who worry about such things wondered about Nick Beef. Who was he, what was his connection to the assassination, and why did that headstone suddenly appear so many years after the event?

 Nick Beef, aka Patric Abedin, revealed himself and his story to the New York Times last summer, shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Now the conspiracy theorists can put one mystery to rest. And for anyone who cares, Mr. Beef, who plans to be cremated when his time finally comes, has no plans to use his gravesite. Unless someone else moves into the cemetery, Lee Harvey Oswald will probably remain the most famous dead guy in his neighborhood.