Sunday 22 September 2019

Feud at a funeral: When final goodbyes induce bizarre behaviours

Olive branches and funerals don’t always make easy companions as witnessed last week when Twink reached out to former pal Rory Cowan at his mother’s ceremony. Indeed, those final goodbyes can often induce some downright bizarre behaviours, writes Sheena McGinley

Adele King and Rory Cowan at the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards 2017 at The Marker Hotel Dublin.
Picture: Brian McEvoy
Adele King and Rory Cowan at the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards 2017 at The Marker Hotel Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy

Sheena McGinley

There are two sides to every encounter, every fraught fight. Unfortunately for Twink the olive branch she extended to former cohort Rory Cowan at his mother’s funeral last week clearly didn’t turn out how she expected.

The finer details of the pair’s feud are invariably shrouded in myth and legend at this point, but I believe it started almost two years ago and involves a pilot for a TV show focussing on Twink’s showbiz career. For various reasons the production stalled, with Cowan choosing to walk away in the summer of 2017. According to reports, Twink wasn’t best pleased and penned him letters claiming she felt abandoned.

The point of no return, however, was reached when Cowan had the audacity to land the lead role in last year’s Olympia Panto. This was the proverbial straw, with Cowan claiming via various sources that Twink wrote him another letter stating:

“To add insult to injury, you’re now working instead of me for Xmas. In my role, in my shoes, in my job — in my Olympia Theatre. And they say there’s a God.”

Twink. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Twink. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

In the quest for balance, it’s worth bearing in mind that in January 2017, Cowan had allegedly helped his friend out with her behemoth abode — Idrone House, a €1.2million Georgian property in Knocklyon. It was on the brink of repossession, when — at the 11th hour — Twink managed to pay the €18,000 on arrears. 

When the pair’s very public spat blew up in February of this year, post-Panto-gate, Twink branded Rory “a rat.” We could delve into all the layers of ‘he said, she said’ but — suffices to say — this was the last hurrah for their friendship. Twink clearly thought otherwise and turned up to the funeral of Rory’s mum last Thursday. Rookie mistake. Yes, people have been known to forgive and forget at funerals. We’re reminded of our dwindling mortality, re-evaluate our priorities and say “Meh, life’s too short, g’is a hug.” However, this usually involves minor squabbles and doesn’t usually revolve around the death of one’s mother.

Speaking as someone who was treated to an estranged friend bounding up at my father’s funeral (with a big ‘Lookit what I’ve done, ammint I great’ head on her) such a manoeuvre is rarely appreciated. Someone is trying to say goodbye to an irreplaceable loved one, the last thing they need is an old foe launched into the mix. If you’re that desperate for your former friend to know you’re sorry, do the decent thing and send them a card. Don’t make it all about you. It’s not appropriate.

Twink’s ill-advised attempt to blindside by way of condolences at his mother’s funeral mass last Thursday led to a rather unfortunate encounter with Cowan. Speaking with The Sunday Independent, she said: “I had done the decent thing by rising above everything between Rory and I, to pay my respects to his mother Esther — and in a way to him at the funeral on Thursday.” And that’s probably why he asked her to leave; his feelings seemed incidental.

Either way, Esther Cowan’s farewell was somewhat hijacked by drama, which isn’t an uncommon event in the world of celebrity — the below are just a few examples. They don’t all put the ‘fun’ into funeral, but these send-offs will be recalled for possibly all the wrong reasons...


Princess Diana

Elton John and Princess Diana.

Diana’s funeral will be remembered for two things. Firstly, Elton John’s rendition of Candle in The Wind. It was most poignant considering the pair had recently reunited after a falling out. They first met when Elton was drafted in to play at Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle. They remained best buds — until Elton and Gianni Versace brought out a coffee table book entitled Rock and Royalty. While it featured shots of the princess, with her two young sons, it also depicted models in a state of undress, which Diana feared would upset the Royal family.

Sir Elton John performing at Diana's funeral (PA)

However, the pair cast aside their differences when, later that year, Versace was murdered outside his home. Six weeks later, Diana herself was killed in a car crash. The second most memorable thing about Diana’s funeral was 12-year-old Prince Harry’s face as he walked behind his mother’s casket in front of millions of mourners. Wrong, on many levels.

Hunter S Thompson


Not one to go gentle into that good night, the writer/Gonzo journalist stipulated he wanted his ashes blasted skyward after taking his own life on February 20th, 2005. Thanks to Johnny Depp (who went to great expense; a reputed $5million), Thompson indeed got fired from a rocket at his funeral.

His other requests included said rocket be mounted on a 150-foot tower (Thompson’s own design) modelled on “a two-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button.” With the likes of Depp and Bill Murray rubbing shoulders while quaffing whiskey on the rocks, one can assume it wasn’t a quiet one.

Rudolf Valentino

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: Actor, Rudolph Valentino (last known photo shot), with slicked-back hair, wearing a light suit, with a bowtie, standing with one hand in his jacket pocket, and holding a cigarette in the other, looking down to the side (Photo by Edward Steichen/Conde Nast via Getty Images)

Spin was alive and well in the roaring twenties. The 31-year-old actor, who allegedly died of pleurisy, was paraded through the streets of New York in a casket much to the hysteria of the hundreds of thousands who lined the streets. Riots were even reported.

Legend has it that the funeral directors hired professional mourners to incite a frenzy, and it worked. The body was then brought to Hollywood for another funeral, a more muted affair involving a light aircraft unleashing thousands of rose petals on those assembled.

Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean

He may not have gone out in a great ball of fire (rather he died of natural causes at his Virginia home, aged 81), but he did ask to be buried in a “piano-shaped mausoleum” worth $350k and inscribed with “He was one hell of a man.”

Indeed he wasn’t just a country music legend, but also a TV host, actor, and a savvy businessman/creator of “pancake-wrapped breakfast corndog.” Only in ‘Merica.

Mother Theresa


Fireworks, small planes, processions and custom built coffins weren’t part of the agenda, but Mother Teresa’s funeral still created the biggest of impacts. Despite innumerable dignitaries from across the globe clamouring to pay homage to the nun, it was requested that at least half of the perches at the funeral be reserved for the people she tended to in Calcutta. It didn’t end there. According to CNN, at her funeral in September 1997: “Wine for the Eucharist was brought into the hall by a leprosy patient; water by a woman released from prison; bread by a handicapped man.”

Other notables...

Tupac Shakur


Tupac never had a funeral when he died in 1996. Seemingly one was planned but was cancelled last minute, leading to a cremation. In turn, this led to the Outlawz (Tupac’s crew) rolling spliffs comprising of his ashes and presumably high-quality weed.

Michael Hutchence


There was a lot of décolletage on display from his assembled lovers, past and present. Like, a lot.

(AUSTRALIA OUT) Paula Yates (centre) holds her daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily in her arms and is comforted by her friend Belinda Brewin (right) during the church funeral service for INXS singer Michael Hutchence at St Andrew's Cathedral, 27 November 1997. SMH Picture by ROBERT PEARCE (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

James 'Scotty' Doohan

james doohan scotty.jpg
James Doohan as Scotty in the original Star Trek

Best known for his role in Star Trek, the actor cited in his will that he wanted to be ‘beamed’ into space. Doohan’s family launched his ashes into space, twice, but the rocket failed. On the first occasion, the ashes went missing. On the second, they didn’t make orbit. Presumably, Scotty’s rockets didn’t cost €5million.

Evil Knievel


There was everything you’d expect — fireworks, thousands of mourners, leather burial attire — and actor Matthew McConaughey providing a suitably eccentric eulogy, which is worth Googling.

Kim Cattrall

Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall (PA)

Former Sex and the City stars Cattrall and SJP were always thought to be a logger heads and this was confirmed when Cattrall admonished Parker’s “continual reaching out” following the death of her brother as “a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now”. She went on: “You are not my family. You are not my friend” and urged Parker to “stop exploiting our tragedy.”

Jim Henson

Puppeteer and creator of the Muppets Jim Henson wins a 1989 Emmy Award (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

The founding father of The Muppets, creative genius Henson had Big Bird sing at his funeral.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra.jpg
Frank Sinatra

While nothing outlandish happened at the ceremony itself, the singer was buried with a bottle of whiskey, a Zippo lighter, and a dime for a phone call for his trip to into the great big yonder. The Vikings had nothing on Old Blue Eyes.


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