What has genealogy given me? “Bounce Your Boobies,” and some other things

Several decades ago, I answered a phone call from a guy named Thomas who said he thought he was my cousin.

My first reaction was oddly protective, defensive. I’m not sure why. At peak, I have had fifteen first cousins and am close to almost all of them. So was my psyche planning to construct emotional fences against new putative cousins?

Well, it didn’t. Thomas is indeed a cousin. He found us (I’m including all the other cousins) because he had ventured into compiling a genealogical table/tree of his family which eventually branched out, like the great tree it is, into mine. Which is also his.

Over the years, the table has grown into a benign monster. While my attentions to it slowed down at some point, Thomas’ did not. This may be an exaggeration, but he remembers everyone on it. And he’s a mega-gregarious person so he’s contacted and met with numbers of heretofore unknown cousins. (He’s also discovered wrinkles in some family legends, such as children unknown to their parents, and vice versa. Oops. Some people don’t mind hearing about their unknown relatives; some do.)

Then, Thomas learned the cremains of his grandmother were sitting on a shelf in a crematorium where a family member I won’t identify (even though he’s dead) unceremoniously dumped her. When he called the crematorium to verify the facts, the lady he was speaking to put the phone down for a few minutes, came back and said, “Yep, she’s here.” So he went through legal procedures to gain possession and had them buried in a graveyard.

It was around then that Thomas developed a fascination for cemeteries. He discovered a site called Findagrave.com. where he uncovered (so to speak) all sorts of family graves. He’d relate to me in his characteristic rapid-fire speech his delight in his pandemic-bound explorations.

The last time I was intrigued by a cemetery was when I worked on a film in England. We were based in a very small town. One day, the town priest conducted a couple of us through the cemetery, gesturing at the names on the tombstones. About five of those names showed up regularly. “Look at that,” the priest said, with more than a soupçon of disparagement. “Intermarriage, intermarriage. It’s why the town is full of idiots.”

Since then I’ve not been particularly devoted to cemeteries but am not opposed to hearing tales about them. So I heard tales.

A few days ago, Thomas, in great delight, announced a celebrity, uh, sighting in a Woburn, Massachusetts cemetery with a name I found irrationally ecstatic: Pride of Boston. Does it accept into its earth only people like, say, Ted Williams? Only famous Boston people?

Pride of Boston. Made me think about the day I borrowed my friend Sue’s car and drove from her home in L.A. to Disneyland, where I ventured into the largest parking lot I’d ever seen. I found it entertaining that the lot was divided into sections named after Disney toons, presumably to facilitate finding your car when you wanted to leave. I parked in the Flower (skunk) section. Nevertheless, it took me an hour to find the car.

Actually, Pride of Boston is one of the many Jewish segments of the Woburn cemeteries. So I guess Ted Williams isn’t buried there.

But — aside from Thomas’ grandma — you know who is?

Rusty Warren. Yeah, Rusty Warren.

In fact, she seems to be the only famous person buried in Pride of Boston.

Why was she famous? Well, did you ever hear her 1961 hit song, “Bounce Your Boobies”?

No, we’re not related to Rusty and thus she does not appear in Thomas’s tree. But she appears here now because she has newly (she died in May) graced the Pride of Boston with her celebrity. Perhaps this will be something to brag about. Posthumously.

Shall we call this Dead Star Fucking? Yes, I think so.

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