I Talked To A Bunch Of Morticians About "Weekend At Bernie's"
For the sake of science, I decided it would be a good idea to cold-call a couple morticians from all over the United States of America and ask them about the validity of the classic '80s film, Weekend at Bernie's. The experience took me back to the 1951 film, A Streetcar Named Desire: "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Except, when talking to these men, I felt the exact opposite. It seems every mortician I talked to was pretty keen on strangling me through the phone.
It quickly became apparent that every mortician north of the Mason-Dixon line was "too busy" to talk to me. Southern folks seemingly will give you the time of day but then chastise you heavily for asking if they don't approve of the topic. That's what happened here. Below are the four conversations I had with morticians. All of the transcripts are verbatim.
I dunno, man.
William — Indiana
Despite being from Indiana, William had the thickest southern accent I'd ever heard. Do people from Indiana generally have accents like that? (My editor, whose mom's side of the family is all Hoosiers, says it varies by region. In other words: he knows nothing.) It was as if someone had genetically spliced Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson together and wrapped the demon spawn in a confederate flag. He also may or may not have been born in the nineteenth century.
Jeremy Glass: Hi, William. I got your number through the Internet and wanted to ask you about the film Weekend at Bernie's.
JG: Alright. So, are you familiar with the film? Basically this man dies and two guys have to keep up the appearance that he's alive.
W: "Yes, we have room."
JG: Oh, ok. No, I'm asking about the film Weekend at Bernie's from a mortician's point of view.
W: "For the weekend? We'd have to embalm."
JG: No, I'm sorry, I'm talking about the film Weekend at Bernie's. Basically I'm asking what happens to a body after a person dies.
W: "Right, well, rigamortis sets in six to eight hours after the person passes and you'd want to embalm them as soon as possible."
JG: Uh-huh. And what happens if you don't?
W: "Well, you'd need to."
JG: And if you don't over, say, a two-day period? A weekend?
W: "Well, if you don't—let's just say you wouldn't want an open casket after the third day. The body would decay."
JG: So, if my boss died, I couldn't just prop him up and throw on dark sunglasses? He'd decay?
W: "I really have a lot of work today, do you have what you need?"
[WILLIAM HANGS UP]
Kelly — Mississippi
JG: How viable is the concept of a dead body being moved around for a weekend?
K: "I don't know 'bout that. I don't think a body is ready for that. You're doing a movie?"
JG: No, I'm not doing a movie, I'm just—
K: "I think you should talk to someone with more experience."
[KELLY HANGS UP]
John — Alabama
JG: How valid of a concept is Weekend At Bernie's?
J: "You're a writer in New York? Why did you choose me to call?"
JG: Oh, just through Google. Could a man give off the impression he's alive after death?
J: Could a man give the impression he's alive after death? No."
JG: Why exactly?
J: "Well, that's really not a good question; if you're deceased you're deceased."
JG: But could you move the body?
JG: Would it be hard to move?
J: "No, not really."
JG: Despite the fact that it would be totally stiff?
J: "Uh, yes. Rigamortis sets in."
JG: Would dark sunglasses help?
JG: Would it help if you put dark sunglasses on the corpse?
J: "That doesn't make sense."
JG: How would the body smell?
J: "I'm a little bit leary of this call."
JG: I think you mean 'weary'.
[JOHN HANGS UP]
Jesse — Georgia
JG: Hi, I was wondering if we could talk about Weekend at Bernie's?
J: "What is this referring to?"
JG: I'm calling a bunch of morticians about the viability of Weekend at Bernie's. Have you seen that movie?
J: "Yessir, I have. But it's not exactly possible. The body goes through a state of decomposition after the person becomes, uh, deceased."
JG: So it wouldn't be possible to, like, dress up a dead body and take it on a wild trip for a weekend?
J: "In a coffin?"
JG: Just resting the body on two young men. Or in a convertible.
J: [Laughs] "It'd stink the convertible up. It wouldn't smell good at all, no sir."
JG: What would you suggest for two men if they found their boss dead?
J: "Like in Weekend at Bernie's?"
J: "Bury it. Embalm and bury the body. There really isn't anything else you should do. Don't...don't take it on a joyride.
JG: How about the beach?
"No. Definitely not."
[JESSE HANGS UP]