Neil sat down exclusively with WeHo Confidential this afternoon to chat about the interesting and mysterious world of working..hands-on with the dearly departed.
Neil, thanks for much for taking the time to talk to us about yourself and career. You do read the website, yes? ;)
Yes. I Just can't get enough of "coke slut of the month"!
Great! We thought so. You'll probably see some of those "winners" at some point (we kid). So, first off--how did you get involved in the world of mortuary science? and How long have you been the head honcho?
Well I would be lying if I said it was purely out of morbid interest but my family owns burial vaults and grave digging companies back home. I absolutely hated being out in the cold snowy weather so I decided I'd try and work inside the mortuary. Head honcho... I could get used to that term. I'm one of the few directors here and I've been there almost three years now.
What are the requirements to be a mortician? And what's the difference between a mortician and funeral director?
The requirements to be a mortician requires you to go to Mortuary Schooling on top of a degree that your state requires. Funeral director vs Mortician in my eyes is the same thing. Growing up on the East Coast, Mortician is the most commonly used term however west coast is Funeral director. I feel FD (Funeral director) is more apropos and less gruesome. However you must pass your funeral directors exam in the state where you work.
So, do you receive a corpse... is that the PC term anyway?
Corpse is PC but we call them decedents.
Gotcha. So, how do you receive a decedent? Directly from a morgue?
I can receive them from the morgue, but I tend to work mostly with the families who have recently lost some one rather than the decedents themselves.
Any...strange discoveries that the doctors at the hospital might have missed?
Usually there are not many discoveries, however if there is something such as a bed sore that was "over looked" or "covered up" we are required by law to report that to the coroners office and have them come in for examination to make sure that malpractice or neglect was not involved.
We can imagine. We spent one night in the WeHo Sheriff's Dept Jail, we know how bad "bed" sores can be...What do you like about your line of work, what are the perks?
The perks... humm... I wish I could say there are physical or monetary perks (Just kidding) Hey, this is a non-judging zone Neil.... Honestly, the only perks that I receive are just the good feelings of being able to help someone thru their most difficult time of need. The clients never giving you any backtalk must be a plus... THANK FUC-KING G-D! lol.. However being with the families at their most difficult time of need, I get some backlash from the families regarding appearance, clothing, and other choices the deceased requested themselves when they were alive. They [the family] question me as if I helped them choose. (I wish we could still ask them why they chose what they did - It would solve so many problems haha)
What are the ideal qualities you look for in someone looking to work at the Memorial Park in funeral services?
It's hard to say, when I was interviewed I had many, many discussions regarding schooling, ability to be flexible, and knowledge of the industry.If you (the funeral director) feel it should be done a certain way and push that it can negatively affect ones memory of the funeral. so we look for someone who is okay with allowing families do things their way, going from ultra religious to a totally non religious service.
Do you do background checks on employees?
I'm trying to think. I think since it was my first actual job in the funeral industry coming directly out of College they may have not ran a back ground check on me. However they may for other people, because if you are let go for violating state regulations or have your license suspended or revoked that would need to be discovered. Good question, I will have to research that.
Necrophilia is one of the most common fetishes out there, I mean that's what we've heard.
Who are some of your most famous "clients", if you can tell us? You must have seen a certain number of celebrities thus far. Porn stars? Politicians?
Hahah Porn stars.... I haven't had any come in that I know of yet... However celebrities yes, we have had many. Old Hollywood, famous writers, directors, actors, singers, publicists, and many people in the Los Angeles area who have started some significant business that all Los Angelenos know. I honestly can't' even recall the names of the famous people who come in. We have big names from all ages and times come in for funerals these days living and deceased.
We're guessing you would've remembered Michael Jackson so guess ya didn't work on him....Tell us some crazy stories. Anyone ever be delivered unto you and turn out to still be alive?
Oh gurl... (too gay lol?), let me tell you if a body arrived "dead" and woke up and I was near the deceased. I'd be dead of a massive heart attack. If in the event they are not dead inside "the coolers" (where all the deceased are stored at a temp under a certain degree, I know ours runs at about 39F) where the deceased are kept, there is a huge axe that is near the door so that they are able to break out and not freeze to death until someone realizes they are still alive (thankfully the technology in the states is so advanced we think we can tell when some one is dead or not).
We'll refrain from some Arnold Schwarzenegger-Mr. Freeze pun and move on. Tell us exactly what is involved in the embalming process and don't be PC or shy. we wanna know all the gory details.
Well gore depends all on the manner of death, If some one dies in a car accident, suicide or natural death. Natural deaths are fairly simple and clean (I can't believe I just used the word clean considering what others may think is a crazy mess). In embalming we want to preserve and disinfect. We start by washing the deceased, closing the facial features to make them look as they are sleeping, we close the eyes and mouth, and then preceded to make a tiny incision near the neck, closer to the throat on the clavicle bone. From there we enter in to find the Jugular vein and carotid artery. We mix fluid's (many of different chemicals, some break down blood clots, some preserve, some disinfect and all probably cause cancer) into a tank and then set a pressure and flow rate that will then enter the body. A cut will be made into the artery and that is where the fluid is injected. After that we will make a cut into the vein from there the blood will drain (since the body has a circulatory system.) At this point the deceased receives a good massage (to promote blood flow, help break up major clots that my prevent fluid from circulating) after that it's all trade work of setting the deceased to positions that look "natural or normal" in the casket. We allow the deceased to sit for a few hours because formaldehyde is a gas and uses liquid as a vehicle to flow thru the body. During the sitting time the gasses diffuse thru out the body and bond with the proteins and preserve the body.... and then you get what I call the last injection of botox!!!
Something tells us you'll be acquainted with some of those Real Housewives someday...anyway, A question we love to ask at WeHo Confidential is 'How do you pay your rent'? Is working at a funeral parlor or memorial park lucrative??
Depends on where your at. It's very demand driven. If you work in a high end mortuary or low end (both are lucrative because high end you won't need to do as many funerals and still make the income or at low end you do so many that it adds up to the high end) It also depends on your job description and seniority.
Do the stories we hear about funeral workers gettin down with the dead hold any weight?
Haha no, well I guess as for being a gay man no. There is no blood circulation after death so there is no way of an erection occurring (a very popular question i'm asked) However for maybe straight men it could be a possibility but honestly after death you have to really be desperate because just think if there's no blood flow, there's no muscle constriction which means body fluids start flowing from "areas" and those sphincter muscles are loosened. Eh, I just threw up in my mouth thinking about someone doing that.
We throw up in ours (and other peoples') mouths quite often when we think of some of the nastiness that goes on round town but we digress...So you never saw a real good looking young person who just happened to be deceased and just maybe for a second, the thought crossed your mind...?
No, honestly death is not pretty when you first die. Think, most deceased have tubes for feeding, breathing, fecal matter, catheters, and those are just the ones who pass away of old age. When it comes to younger individuals, its 9 out of 10 the worst case scenario: Murder, accidents or cancer. They aren't good looking when I get them however when I'm done, then I can say they are good looking but I know in the back of my mind what they looked like coming in.
Hot. Do family members ask you to do extreme makeovers on their departed love ones?
Oh dear goodness, yes. This is my biggest frustration. I can't understand why someone wants to be buried in their 1947 wedding dress... First of all it was 1947, second they weighted 130 lbs less and last but not least they bring in the wedding picture when the hair was curly poofy and 36 inches long. After 60 years, weight gain, and short manageable hair... YOU JUST WON'T LOOK LIKE THAT! Same for the military men who want to be in their uniform. Thankfully in the past few years, camera phones have been around we are able to take recent pictures of our loved ones so that when they do pass we have a recent photo to do hair, make up and style them as close to what they looked like. I take great PRIDE (fitting word since it just ended) in giving the family a lasting impression that they will have forever of their loved one.
A great movie that not a lot of people have seen called Only the Lonely with the late John Candy (what would working on HIM have been like btw??) features Ally Sheedy as a shy young mortician who specializes in making the clients look like famous movie starts they resemble. Do you do that? Have you been approached by family members to do that?
I haven't seen the movie however, yes some people do ask you to do some out-of-the-ordinary things. But we do request they bring their own make up or whatever. We don't keep glittery lime green fingernail polish on hand or for that matter, lipstick. If a family requests it, we ask that they bring it in. With some of their skin tones, face lifts and botox... it looks very good!
What is the strangest request a family member asked you to do?
There have been many. Most come from back home growing up in the sticks and not working in the ritzy mortuary I'm at now. I have seen families having kegs and throwing beer can's in to the grave as a celebration, joints placed in when some one overdoses. Where I currently work I have had requests for deceased to be on their sides (to face husband and wife), golf clubs, poker chips, extremely expensive jewelry, outfits and favorite alcohols.
We can think of some people for sure that will probably be laid to rest with some of their "friends" (see The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper... album) and a magnum of Ketel One. Has anyone in their final wishes (or their family members) requested to lie in his or her casket naked?
Ha! I haven't had that request yet... If it would be a request it probably wouldn't shock me. After living in WeHo/LA for a few years, honestly nothing shocks me anymore.
Well, we've seen Bobby Trendy's will.. so you've been warned! What are the most usual, and some of the most unusual requests. Tell us what you legally can and can't do regarding a displaying a body at a wake or funeral?
Most usual questions are- can I touch the deceased? (yes - it's cold tho because we are required to keep deceased refrigerated by law), Can I kiss them? Unusual: I have had families who have purchased double depth graves (meaning one on top of the other) after the viewing or identification they have asked before we go to graveside to turn the loved one facing down so that they are facing their loved one for eternity. Certainly begs the question round these parts if tops and bottoms will want to be arranged to be buried with their partner according to preferred position. I'm not sure if that's really strange or cute.
A lot of people are having trouble paying their rent. Are you currently hiring?
I'm not hiring, but most people can't' stomach the job any how so it would be a short lived career for most.
One last question. Ok a few questions: Do you have a will? what are YOUR final requests if any for yourself? and of course, are you single??
I don't have a will, but everyone at my work knows my requests if I do pass anytime soon. My final requests are: NO embalming, all wood casket, and to be buried in the ground ( just preference ) Well single is a tough question ;) I'll answer that at a later date.
Thanks so much for your time, Neil. If we wind up on your slab sometime soon, Madonna forbid, we hope you'll make us look super duper sexxy please.