David Bowie’s wish to have his ashes scattered in a Buddhist ritual in Bali is the latest in a series of distinctive provisions in celebrities’ wills. Surprising specifics, and curiosity about them, go back at least as far as Shakespeare’s bequest to his wife of his “second-best bed.” Here’s a look at some other luminaries whose final instructions had uncommon features.
A modest request
As Benjamin Franklin parceled out property ranging from land to printing materials to books in his will, he left his daughter a diamond-encrusted miniature portrait of France’s Louis XVI, a gift from the king. But it came with a request that she not make the stones into jewellery “and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country.” Franklin’s enthusiasm for the new nation and his fellow founders was also reflected in a bequest of a gold-tipped walking stick to a man he called a “friend of mankind”: George Washington. Franklin died in 1790.
A will, and a won’t
Illusionist Harry Houdini was famed for his suspenseful escapes, and he evidently expected death would have its own trapdoor: He arranged with his wife a secret code to be used to communicate with her from beyond the grave. His widow, Beatrice (also known as Bess), duly tried to connect with his spirit at siances on the anniversary of his Halloween 1926 death. She gave up after a decade: “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man,” she later explained. When she died in 1943, her own will declared she’d never believed in spirit communication and specified that any service be devoid of “spiritualist creed or belief.”
Have dinner on me
Choreographer and director Bob Fosse left a special thank-you to 66 of his friends in the arts: $378.79 (Dh1,391) apiece to “go out and have dinner on me.” The beneficiaries - who included actors Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, playwright Neil Simon and novelist E.L. Doctorow - “all have, at one time or another during my life, been very kind to me,” Fosse explained in his will. The director and choreographer of Sweet Charity, Chicago and All That Jazz died in 1987.
Hotel tycoon, convicted tax evader and “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley earned new notoriety after her 2007 death, when the public learned that her will left $12 million to her dog, a Maltese named Trouble. A judge eventually trimmed the bequest to $2 million. Trouble went on to live in Florida until her own death in 2011.
The Beastie Boys’ Adam “MCA” Yauch rapped during his life that he wouldn’t “sell my songs for no TV ad,” and his will sought to make sure that pledge survived him. It specified that his music, image and name couldn’t be used for advertising. Yauch, who died in 2012, was a founding member of the groundbreaking hip-hop group behind such hits as No Sleep Till Brooklyn and (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!).
Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted to provide for his children not only financially but also culturally - and to him, that meant living in Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco. The Oscar-winning actor’s will asked that his offspring be brought up in those locales or at least visit them twice or more each year, to “be exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that such cities offer.” The star of Capote, Doubt and The Master died in 2014.