I was recently at a funeral for someone in my extended family, when something the minister said caught me totally by surprise. “We’re going to be live streaming the service,” she’d said, “for friends and family far away.” Suddenly, I felt totally self-conscious and began fussing about how I might look on the Internet if I cried and my mascara smeared or whether anyone would notice that I’d just tried to discretely use my sleeve as a tissue — not the thoughts you should be having at a funeral at all.
More: 2015 Celebrity deaths
But live streaming funerals is going mainstream, and now celebrity fans are getting to mourn their favourite artists’ deaths along with those closest to them.
The sudden death of Motörhead frontman Ian Fraser Kilmister (aka Lemmy) sent shockwaves throughout his fan base across the world. Several have taken to Twitter to share their grief, while others have taken more creative means, petitioning for Lemmy to get his own element on the periodic table named after him — “Lemmium.”
Many of them will be tuning in this Saturday when Lemmy’s funeral is broadcast from Los Angeles’s Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery. Fans will be able to watch their favourite singer get laid to rest, saying their goodbyes from their couches at home or wherever they happen to be.
We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of tributes and kind words. Play it LOUD & thank you all. #motorheadforlife
— Official Motörhead (@myMotorhead) December 30, 2015
The band’s rep made a statement to fans, encouraging them to enjoy the funeral from home, rather than crowding in at the cemetery: “Motörhead is respectfully asking that fans don’t attend the service at the cemetery, but the band wants everyone to be a part of this, so they are setting up a live feed of the service via the Internet on Motörhead’s official YouTube channel,” they write.
“So wherever you are, PLEASE get together and watch with fellow Motörheadbangers and friends. GO to your favorite bar, or your favorite club, make sure they have access to an internet connection and toast along with us,” they add. “Or simply invite your pals around and celebrate Lemm’s life at home.”
Lemmy’s not the first to have his funeral live streamed — fans streamed Whitney Houston’s funeral live following her sudden death in 2012, and many also live blogged the funeral. Michael Jackson’s funeral was live streamed as well, and dubbed “the single biggest web event in history.”
As fans demand more and more access into the lives of celebrities, watching them give birth and sharing other deeply personal moments on camera, it’s not surprising that celebrities don’t have any privacy in death either. And honestly, I’m not quite sure about how I feel about this collapse of having a personal life. When do celebs get to stop performing, if the cameras keep rolling even after they die?
What freaks me out a little is the fact that we’re mirroring celebrity behaviour through increasingly sharing our own private moments, like funerals, on the internet. According to Posey Funeral’s director Walker Posey in South Carolina, roughly a quarter of his customers choose to webcast private family funerals on the Internet, so my recent experience was fairly typical of the modern funeral.
But whether or not you find making such private and sombre moments public unsettling, in the end it all comes down to personal preference and how you feel about turning your own or your loved one’s death into an online performance.
Of course there are plus sides too of live streaming funerals. For instance, at my recent family funeral, a relative who’d arrived late told me how wonderful it was to be able to watch the funeral online and get a sense of closure. I’m sure diehard Motörhead fans will feel the same way. Already, plenty of people are gearing up on Twitter for the funeral, with many preparing to steam it in Lemmy’s favourite Sunset Strip bar, the Rainbow Bar and Grill.
So it’s probably best that we listen to Lemmy’s bandmates and pour ourselves a drink and play Lemmy loud. “Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself,” they write on Facebook. “HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT.”
Lemmy's Favorite Bar Plans 12-Hour Memorial Service https://t.co/PluEnRsTcE
— Rainbow Bar & Grill (@Rainbowlive) January 4, 2016
Lemmy's seat reserved for life at the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Hollywood, CA. pic.twitter.com/GxUC7ZQXQA
— 9GAG Tweets (@9GAGTweets) January 1, 2016