As someone only a few months younger than Michael Jackson, I can't entirely ignore the frenzy surrounding his untimely death, much though I'd like to put the entire subject out of mind. I managed to avoid watching any of the coverage of the memorial service and even managed to avoid reading much about it, until one odd item caught my eye — the extensive media coverage of his casket.
Coverage of his kids and his family and his friends and his career I can understand — though Al Sharpton's conspiracy theories and the declarations that Jackson was the greatest American of the 20th century seemed beyond the bounds of reason. But his casket? What's newsworthy about a box that goes in the ground and isn't seen again (hopefully) until the trump of doom? And why on earth was "jackson casket" ranked in the top 10 google search phrases for two days?
Well, obviously it's one hell of a casket. Jackson will be enjoying his eternal slumber in the velvet-lined luxury of the Promethean from the Batesville Casket Company. It's solid bronze, plated in 14 carat gold and lined in fine blue velvet. It retails for $25,000 and has been the choice of other celebrities who wanted to go to the pearly gates in style, like Bob Hope and Jackson's idol James Brown.
My interest in industrial design inspired me to find out more about this Cadillac Brougham of caskets. It turns out that the gold-plated bronze model is not a normal mass-production item, but a custom modification of their standard cast-bronze casket, made by special request. Aside from the gold plating, it is the same as their top-of-the-line bronze casket, and features an air-tight seal with a rubber gasket to make sure nothing gets out of or into the casket, plus a MemorySafe® drawer used to display "cherished keepsakes" — in this case a sequined glove.