If you’ve ever wanted to own the mortal remains of a famous 20th century author, here is perhaps your only shot: Truman Capote’s ashes are going up for auction in September. You’ll just have to beat the Addams Family to the punch.
That’s according to Vanity Fair, which reports that in late September, Julien’s Auctions will be holding a sale they’re billing as a “peek inside the lives of some of Hollywood’s most private stars,” whose lots include Capote’s ashes contained within “a carved Japanese wooden box,” expected to sell for $4,000 to $6,000.
“I am sure people are going to think this is disrespectful,” admitted CEO Darren Julien. Nevertheless!
“But this is a fact: Truman Capote loved the element of shock. He loved publicity. And I’m sure he’s looking down laughing, and saying, ‘That’s something I would have done.’ He was a larger-than-life character.”
He also spoke a bit to the ethical issues involved.
“Yeah, but it’s really body parts [that you have to worry about],” Julien said. “You can’t sell things like that. But, I will say, Christie’s sold Napoleon’s penis years ago. And we sold William Shatner’s kidney stone for $75,000. There’s all kinds of precedents for this. Like I said, if it wasn’t Truman Capote, we would pass because we wouldn’t want to be disrespectful. And the antics he was always up to, and how much he loved press—it’s no question that that is something he would have wanted done.”
Apparently, Capote left part of his ashes to dear friend Joanne Carson, wife to Tonight Show host Johnny. (The rest supposedly went to his partner, Jack Dunphy.) The ashes have had an eventful afterlife.
According to Page Six, Carson kept the ashes in an urn in the room where he died. The remains were stolen twice, however—once during a 1988 Halloween party (before being mysteriously returned), and again at a party Carson hosted (with the urn in attendance) for a play about Capote. The culprit, however, did not make it out the door with the remains. In 2013, the ashes were even invited to the opening-night gala of Broadway’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (“We did try to get him here,” a Breakfast rep confirmed at the time. “Joanne says he always wanted to (see) Holly Golightly open on Broadway, and we thought it would have been poignant for the entire company.”) Alas, Carson did not want to risk another theft.
Carson died last year and, “basically, the estate didn’t know what to do with them,” said Julien. If this all gives you the willies, just consider it a testament to the importance of very clear and specific estate planning.