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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what’s the best way to honor the lives and work of famous people when they die?

Fast & Furious 6 - World Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals

We’re used to seeing the piles of flowers, stuffed toys, and candles that accumulate in likely locations when a celebrity dies. But an unusual sort of impromptu fan memorial to actor Paul Walker happened yesterday in Los Angeles. From Reuters:

Thousands of fans, some driving souped-up cars, converged in Southern California on Sunday at the site of actor Paul Walker’s death, paying tribute to the “Fast and Furious” star and a friend who were killed in a fiery crash two weeks ago.

The unusual public memorial took the form of a car rally, with drivers filing slowly past the spot in Santa Clarita, where Walker, 40, and Roger Rodas, 38, died on November 30.

The memorial, which was organized via social media, was scheduled for noon but Captain Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that mourners began arriving as early as 6 a.m. to pay their respects.

Parker said that more than 1,000 cars drove past the site of the wreck, now marked by flowers and cards, and estimated that a total of 5,000 people took part in the event. He said some mourners had come from as far away as Texas, Arizona and Nevada, driving in caravans.


A story in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal offers an intriguing tidbit:

Organized through social media and with no clear schedule of events, the memorial turned into an automotive parade after law enforcement, anticipating the crowds, turned streets in the area into one-way thoroughfares.

Street racers and cops tend not to have the best of relationships, but that the local police went so far out of their way to accommodate this particular sort of tribute to Walker says something about his cultural influence… or the collective influence of the Fast & Furious movies, at least. And the tribute itself seems a particularly fitting one.

On the professional side, Universal has announced that some of the proceeds from the DVD sales of Fast & Furious 6 will go to Walker’s charity Reach Out WorldWide (via The Hollywood Reporter), which is absolutely fitting.

What’s the best way to honor the lives and work of famous people when they die? Is it doing something in the spirit of their work… whether that’s movies about fast cars or — in the case of Nelson Mandela (not that I’m equating Walker with him!) — more profound actions with wider-ranging impact? Is it not deifying them by pretending they were more or other than they were? Have you ever done something special as a mark of respect or grief when someone famous you didn’t know died?

(I feel like we may have talked about a similar topic before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. Still, it’s worth talking about again, probably.)

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • RogerBW

    Something useful. But I’m the sort of nasty heartless person who sees those death-site floral tributes and thinks “couldn’t you at least have unwrapped them, so that they don’t rot in their plastic?”.

  • Well, this may be the most spectacularly failed Question of the Week yet…

  • Bluejay

    Has there ever been one with zero responses? :-)

    I do feel like we’ve answered this one before, when someone-or-other died. Michael Jackson, maybe?

    My short, boring answer: If it’s an entertainer, keep enjoying and appreciating her work. If it’s a leader whose principles you admired, keep trying to live up to those principles in your own life.

  • Danielm80

    I guess I’m just feeling cynical this week, because I keep seeing ads that tie into celebrity deaths: “Buy Fast and Furious 6 and you’ll be giving to a cause Paul Walker believed in.” Or “Remember Mandela’s legacy by seeing Long Walk to Freedom.

    I don’t even disagree with the spirit behind these campaigns, really. Paul Walker supported some worthy charities. I just want to see one aspect of life that isn’t touched by commercialism or corporate spin. And I’d rather remember Mandela by actually remembering Mandela, or looking for a contemporary activist who supports the same sort of ideals.

  • David_Conner

    It’s not really relevant (or *as* relevant) for those who die young, but someone made a remark after the death of a comic book great from the Golden Age or Silver Age (and sadly but inevitably, there have been a lot of such deaths over the past decade or two among this Greatest Generation age cohort).

    The suggestion was that, while outpourings of love and affection for their work are all well and good, it would have been even better to fully express these feelings while the people were still alive and able to appreciate them.

  • bronxbee

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