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New York’s morticians to the stars

N­ew York’s Frank E Campbell Funeral Chapel is so renowned, says Sam Kashner in Air Mail, that even the fictional character Logan Roy was taken there after his death in Succession. Since its founding in 1898, the home has sent everyone from Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland and Jackie O to Norman Mailer and Biggie Smalls on their final journey. Uber-elite families “just like to see ‘Frank Campbell’ on the death certificate”, explains employee Martin Kolibas. “It gives them class.”

Campbell’s has a reputation for staging the most elaborate send-offs. It was the first to have a “yacht with a chapel on it, for taking bodies down the Hudson or the East River to a burial at sea”, and to have a biplane for scattering ashes from the air. The home even specifically recruits pallbearers of specific heights, says former employee Dominic Carella: “The two back guys are equal, two middle guys and two front guys are all equal, because most of the time the casket is on a slight angle.” But for all the planning, “mistakes can, on occasion, happen”. At the burial of founder Frank E Campbell himself in 1934, the sarcophagus casket he’d arranged was too big for the family crypt. So he ended up being “stowed under the mausoleum’s stairs, where he remained for 80 years”.