Saturday, July 19, 2014

George Carlin - Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

Controversial comedian, actor, and author George Denis Patrick Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, in New York City. His mother, Mary, was a secretary and devout Catholic, and his father, Patrick, was a national advertising manager for the New York Sun. George was raised by his mother, who left his father when he was two months old. He attended parochial school and was an altar boy, to which he credited his avowed atheism by the time he reached adulthood. At fifteen he’d had quite enough of formal education and dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He also developed a pattern of running away from home on a regular basis, thanks to a very contentious relationship with his mother, and his enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1954, at the age of seventeen, seemed like a good idea at the time. He was stationed in Bossier City, Louisiana, trained as a radar technician, earned his high-school equivalency, and moonlighted as a disc jockey on KJOE radio in nearby Shreveport. On the downside, he also received three court-martials and several disciplinary punishments, was declared an “unproductive airman,” and was discharged in 1957.
While working at KXOL Radio in Forth Worth, Texas, George met co-worker Jack Burns, and the two of them formed a comedy team, refining their act at a coffeehouse called the Cellar before moving to Los Angeles in February 1960. Calling themselves “The Wright Brothers,” they hosted a morning show on KDAY Radio in Hollywood, performed at West Coast coffeehouses at night, and attracted the attention of the brilliant and highly controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, whose influence opened the door for a Burns and Carlin appearance on Jack Paar’s The Tonight Show. Not incidentally, it was also in 1960 that George met Brenda Hosbrook while touring, and they were married in 1961. Their daughter, Kelly, was born in 1963.
Burns and Carlin went their separate ways, and George became a popular guest on variety shows, most famously The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. In fact, between appearances as a guest and as a guest host, George was booked on The Tonight Show 130 times during both the Jack Paar years and the Johnny Carson decades. He sharpened his stand-up skills in Las Vegas as well, perfecting such classic routines as “Al Sleet, the Hippie-Dippie Weatherman” and “Stupid Disk Jockeys” and recording them in 1967 on his first album, Take Offs and Put Ons.
As his career progressed, his style and the subject matter of his routines became more and more unconventional. His short hair gave way to long hair. His clean-shaven face began sporting a beard. His conservative suits evolved into jeans and T-shirts. And on July 21, 1972, George was arrested at Milwaukee’s Summerfest and charged with violating obscenity laws for his landmark comedy routine, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The case was ultimately dismissed. A similar Carlin routine broadcast on a New York City FM station in 1973 resulted in the station being fined for broadcasting “indecent but not obscene” material during the hours when children were most likely to be listening.
The controversy, combined with George’s edgy, unconventional brilliance, made him even more popular, and he was a natural host for the first episode of the equally edgy and unconventional Saturday Night Live in October 1975. By then he’d already unapologetically declared himself a regular cocaine user, so it wasn’t surprising when, after an unexpected five-year semihiatus from stand-up comedy during which he filmed the first few of what would be fourteen HBO specials between 1977 and 2008, he acknowledged that he’d suffered the first of three heart attacks.
George’s acting career took hold in the 1980s, launching an impressive list of credits that included such feature films as Outrageous Fortune, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Prince of Tides, Dogma, Jersey Girl, and Cars (a Disney/Pixar production in which Carlin is the voice of Fillmore, a psychedelic VW microbus). He also provided the voice for the children’s television favorite Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends from 1991 until 1998 and appeared as “Mr. Conductor” on the PBS Shining Time Station from 1991 until 1993. And in 1993 he launched twenty-seven episodes of a Fox sitcom, The George Carlin Show.
Tragically, in 1997, Brenda Carlin, George’s wife of thirty-eight years, died of liver cancer. In June 1998 George married Sally Wade, a marriage that lasted the rest of his life. (In fact, his death occurred two days before what would have been their tenth anniversary.)
George enjoyed long-standing status as a headliner in Las Vegas. But in 2005 he was fired by the MGM Grand after an ugly, profane exchange with his audience, and within a few weeks he checked himself into a rehab facility for addictions to alcohol and Vicodin. He announced to his audience at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, California, on February 1, 2006, that they were witnessing his “first show back” after being hospitalized for heart failure and pneumonia.
In mid-June 2008, George returned to his home in Los Angeles after a reunion with performing stand-up at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A week later, on June 22, he was admitted to St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, complaining of chest pains. He died at 5:55 p.m. of heart failure that same day. At his request, his body was cremated and his ashes were scattered, with no memorial or religious services to mark his passing.
George was once asked what he was proudest of in his career. He answered that it was the number of books he’d sold, totaling nearly a million copies. Beginning in 1984, he wrote six books, the last two of which—Watch My Language and his autobiographical Last Words—were released posthumously.
From Francine
I wish you could have seen the look of shock on George’s face when he emerged from the tunnel and rediscovered that there really is life after death after all. And when he found his first wife, Brenda, waiting to greet him, he was stunned into a long silence while he held her, after which I’m told he gaped at the hundreds of spirits and animals who gathered for the reunion and said, “I’ll be damned.” George is an excellent example of the fact that atheists are embraced on the Other Side as surely as the most devoutly religious, and with his humor, self-honesty, and misguided but honorable intentions, he tried to live a godly lifetime, no matter what words he used to define it.
Once he spent time at the Scanning Machine and in Orientation, all his memories came flooding back, not only of the life on the Other Side to which he’d just returned, but also of the life that preceded this most recent one—he was a black man in the mid-1800s, wrongly convicted of and executed for a murder he did not commit, the murder of a white woman, which, it was later learned, was actually committed by the presiding judge. It was understandable that George arrived angry and rebellious against “the system,” and it was brilliant of him to have charted a sense of humor that would allow him to express his outrage through the power of laughter. He regrets that he found it difficult to distance himself from the penetrating anger that drove his comedy, so that he could genuinely relax and enjoy his success from time to time. He also recognizes that he was conflicted about his success, loving the comfort it afforded him, but also not wanting to get so comfortable that he’d lose his edge, and it was in pursuit of that edge that he allowed himself to indulge in his addiction to cocaine. He wants his daughter to know how much he adores her, wishes he’d been the father she deserved, and is intensely proud of her. He’s also grateful to his second wife, who he says was more understanding and compassionate about the “baggage” he brought to their marriage than he could ever repay.

His life at Home is blissfully happy, in its own unique way. You need to remember that all of us maintain the same basic personality traits throughout the eternity of our spirits—the outgoing remain outgoing no matter how many times they incarnate and return to the Other Side, the introspective remain innately introspective, the humorless remain humorless, those with a sense of humor eternally have a sense of humor, and so on. George is no exception. He loves spending time in the Hall of Records, researching past and present charts of historically powerful men and women and entertaining at large gatherings with his singularly insightful perspective on those who experienced power on earth. He’s also very devoted to study and meditation on the charts of his own lifetimes, intent on tracking the onset of his avowed atheism in an effort to learn how he grew to be so loudly, outspokenly wrong about the existence of God. He has no plans to incarnate again.

Cary Grant - Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

Charismatic, debonair, and irresistibly handsome, Cary Grant epitomized the words “leading man” and “movie star” for three decades, more than earning his place among the American Film Institute’s greatest male stars of all time.
He was an only child, born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904, in Horfield, Bristol, England. His father, Elias Leach, barely made ends meet by pressing suits for a living, while his mother, Elsie, was a vague, unhappy presence until she disappeared when Cary was nine years old. Elias told his son that Elsie had gone away on a long holiday—somehow he decided that being abandoned by his mother would be easier on a child than the truth that she’d been institutionalized in a mental facility for a severe, crippling depression. (In fact, Cary continued to believe the abandonment story until he was in his thirties and found his mother in the asylum, where she’d been living for all those years. It was a less than joyful reunion. His mother had no interest in her wildly successful son or in getting to know him, and he never saw her again, although he paid for her care for the rest of her life.)
Cary was expelled from school in 1918 and joined the Bob Pender Stage Troupe, a comedy circus group that traveled throughout England, where he learned stilt walking, pantomime, pratfalls, and comedic timing. The troupe toured the United States in 1920, and when they were to return to Great Britain, their young star elected to stay in America and work his way toward a stage career. After some light comedies in St. Louis and finally on Broadway, Archibald Leach traveled to Hollywood in 1931 and evolved from Cary Lockwood to Cary Grant at the preference of Paramount Pictures, who eagerly put him under contract. He was quickly cast in 1932’s Blonde Venus as Marlene Dietrich’s leading man and was already headed for stardom when a force field named Mae West selected him as her leading man in two of her most successful films: She Done Him Wrong, which was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in 1933, and I’m No Angel, a huge box-office hit that rescued Paramount from bankruptcy. Paramount went on to cast Cary in a string of mediocre movies, and in 1936 he left the studio for a contract with Columbia Pictures, which promptly loaned him out to Hal Roach for his first real comedy showcase, Topper.
While Cary was sharing the screen in the 1930s and 1940s with some of Hollywood’s greatest actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, and Irene Dunne, he was devoting much of his off-screen time to the first three of his five wives. In 1934 he married actress Virginia Cherrill. She divorced him a year later, claiming that he hit her. In 1942 he married Barbara Hutton, the insanely wealthy socialite who was heiress to both the Woolworth and E. F. Hutton fortunes. Any accusations that Cary was only after her for her money (Hollywood cynics nicknamed them “Cash and Cary”) were disproved when, after their divorce in 1945, it was revealed that he’d signed a prenuptial agreement waiving any claim to a single dime of her money. Cary and Barbara Hutton remained friends for the rest of their lives, and he continued to treat her son, Lance Reventlow, like a member of his own family. His next marriage was to actress Betsy Drake, on Christmas Day, 1949. That marriage didn’t end until August 14, 1962, despite Cary’s having fallen in love with Sophia Loren while filming The Pride and the Passion with her in 1957. Sophia was already very much in love with her future husband, Carlo Ponti, at the time of the filming of The Pride and the Passion.
These marriages took place, by the way, against persistent rumors that Cary was either bisexual or homosexual, particularly in light of his unapologetically being roommates with his great friend, actor Randolph Scott, off and on for twelve years. He was well aware of the rumors and was quoted as saying, “Look at it this way. I’ve always tried to dress well. I’ve had some success in life. I’ve enjoyed my success, and I include in that success some relationships with very special women. If someone wants to say I’m gay, what can I do? I think it’s probably said about every man who’s been known to do well with women. I don’t let that sort of thing bother me. What matters to me is that I know who I am.”
In the meantime, on the professional front, Cary Grant also teamed up for several films with director Alfred Hitchcock, who called Cary “the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.” Their films together, which include Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959), are still considered classics, as are so many of the more than seventy movies Cary made in his lifetime.
He was smart enough, and rebellious enough, to be the first actor to form his own production company, Grantley Productions, in the mid-1950s. This allowed him to control all aspects of his career, and the films his company produced, distributed by Universal, included such successes as Operation Petticoat (1959), That Touch of Mink (1962), and Charade (1963; with the extraordinary Audrey Hepburn). His last movie, Walk, Don’t Run, was shot in 1965. Thanks to Grantley Productions, Cary Grant received a share of the gross profits for these films, and his estate when he died was said to be worth approximately $60 million. It’s theorized, though, that Cary’s politically unpopular decision to turn his back on the well-established “studio system” and become an independent entity cost him the two Academy Awards for which he was nominated.
Cary’s next marriage, at the end of his film career, was to actress Dyan Cannon. They eloped to Las Vegas in 1965, and to his profound joy, his only child, a daughter named Jennifer, was born on February 26, 1966. This troubled marriage ended in a bitter, widely publicized divorce in 1968 and an ongoing custody battle over Jennifer that continued well into the 1970s.
On April 11, 1981, Cary married his fifth and final wife, his longtime friend and companion Barbara Harris, a British hotel publicist who was forty-seven years younger than he. She traveled with him when, in the last years of his life, he began touring the United States in a one-man show called A Conversation with Cary Grant. On the afternoon of November 29, 1986, he was preparing for an appearance in Davenport, Iowa, when he suddenly seemed a bit confused and told his wife he needed to rest. When he headed off to his dressing room, she realized something was very wrong and called for an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at 11:22 p.m. in Davenport’s St. Luke’s Hospital of a massive stroke.
Cary’s substantial fortune was divided between his wife, Barbara, and his cherished daughter, Jennifer, who, in August 2008, gave birth to her first child, a son she named Cary Benjamin Grant.
From Francine
Laughter spread through the large crowd that welcomed Cary to the Other Side, when he emerged from the tunnel and announced with his trademark droll wit, “Well, that was interesting.” Alfred Hitchcock was among the first to embrace him, along with his soul mate, a woman named Rachel, who looks a great deal like Barbara Hutton, but with long braided black hair and a very tall, ample body. Cary was enormously introspective about his trip to the Scanning Machine, interested to find out that he was angrier about his lifetime while he lived it than he was aware of at the time. “I didn’t much care what people thought or said about me, whether it was the studios or the fans. I knew exactly who I was and who I wasn’t. What I did care about was the astonishing number of purported experts on me and my life who couldn’t be bothered to take the simple truth for an answer. I had more than my share of faults, but lying wasn’t among them.” His life themes of Aesthetic Pursuits and Experiencer worked both for him and against him, he believes, making him a versatile, highly adventurous performer who had a marvelous career, but was “for the most part, an unfortunate choice for a husband.”
He couldn’t wait to return to his life on the Other Side, to which those same themes seem to apply. He changes homes frequently—at any given moment he might be living in a Greek Revival captain’s house on what corresponds to your northern Atlantic coastline, a brownstone near the Towers where he goes to meditate, a simple tent in the midst of the jungle animals he adores, or a lavish castle carved into the rocky slopes of our Mount Everest. He delights in a very busy social life, never missing an opportunity to gather with everyone from actors and musicians to physicists and astronomers to former world leaders, all of whom comment after socializing with him about his charming eagerness to listen and learn, no matter what the subject. He continues to act, particularly in a brilliant stage interpretation of None but the Lonely Heart, which he performs with such “volunteers” as Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Rock Hudson, Lee J. Cobb, Anthony Quinn, and his great friends Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. He’s also an avid golfer and is learning to play the cello, the sound of which he’s always found soothing and “soul cleansing.”
His great passion at Home, though, is his dedicated work with our many research teams determined to reverse global warming on earth and infuse solutions to your diligent scientists, researchers, and environmentalists on earth. All of us are deeply concerned, but none more than Cary, who refuses to “stand by and do nothing while my innocent grandson grows up on an endangered planet.”

His visits to earth, by the way, are devoted entirely to his grandson, and he promises, “I’ll be watching over that precious boy all his life.”

Marilyn Monroe - Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

Marilyn Monroe defined the terms “movie star” and “sex symbol” during her lifetime, and she continues to define them now, nearly five decades after her controversial death. She was shamelessly sensual but fragile, intelligent but helpless, ambitious but difficult, an icon of perfection but deeply flawed.
On June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, Gladys Monroe Baker gave birth to a daughter she named Norma Jeane. Norma Jeane’s paternity has never been authenticated, although Gladys’s estranged husband, Edward Mortenson, is listed on the birth certificate. Whoever fathered Norma Jeane Baker, though, was definitely nowhere to be found, nor was Gladys on a regular basis. Mentally unstable and institutionalized from time to time, Gladys handed over most of the care of her daughter to a succession of orphanages, guardians, and foster homes, in some of which she was reportedly abused.
In June 1942, when she was sixteen, Norma Jeane married James Dougherty, a marriage arranged to keep her out of yet another foster home. Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1943 and during World War II left his young wife in the care of his mother. Norma Jeane was hired by a munitions factory, where she was photographed for an article in Yank magazine. As a result of that photograph, she was signed by the Blue Book Modeling Agency and, with its encouragement, transformed herself from a brunette to a blonde and became a successful model who began to dream of an acting career. Dougherty demanded, when he returned home, that she choose between their marriage and her career. She chose her career and divorced James Dougherty in 1946.
Norma Jeane quickly captured the attention of Ben Lyon, a Twentieth Century Fox executive, who signed her to a six-month contract and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. After a couple of nonstellar film appearances in 1947, Marilyn was released from her obligations to Fox and returned to modeling until 1948, when she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures.
It was her appearance in a Marx Brothers film called Love Happy in 1949 that attracted a successful agent named Johnny Hyde, who promptly signed her and was instrumental in landing critically acclaimed roles for her in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve. Hyde is also credited with negotiating Marilyn’s seven-year contract at Twentieth Century Fox in 1950.
Her film career was well on its way by the end of 1952 despite the stage fright that had begun to plague her, causing her to hide in her dressing room for hours while the rest of the cast and crew waited impatiently for her. She graced the cover of the first issue of Playboy in 1953, the same year in which she was suspended from her Fox contract for failing to appear for work and in which she met baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio, whom she married on January 14, 1954, a marriage that lasted less than a year.
Displeased with the quality of roles being offered to her by Fox and with the relatively small salary, Marilyn broke away from the studio and moved to New York, where she studied acting at the famed Lee Strasberg Actors Studio and began dating playwright Arthur Miller, whom she married on June 29, 1956. Her severe stage fright continued to plague her throughout her acting classes, but she was also recognized as a genuinely gifted standout. In the meantime, her film The Seven Year Itch was released to enormous success, and she re-signed with Twentieth Century Fox with a much more lucrative nonexclusive contract.
Under her new contract Marilyn starred in Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl with critical acclaim and relatively few problems. She took a year off to focus on her marriage to Arthur Miller, but she sadly suffered a miscarriage in August 1957. She returned to Hollywood in 1958 to shoot Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, costarring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, during which her compulsive tardiness, hostile refusal to take direction from Wilder, and general obstructive behavior contributed to her growing reputation for being difficult to work with. But the film was a huge box-office success, received five Academy Award nominations, and earned Marilyn the Golden Globe Best Actress Award.
By the late 1950s Marilyn’s health was in a conspicuous decline, due largely to a growing dependence on prescription medication, particularly sleeping pills to battle her chronic insomnia, and the strains on her marriage were becoming more and more apparent.
Arthur Miller had written a screenplay called The Misfits, which began filming in July 1960 with Marilyn, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift, directed by John Huston. It was to become Marilyn Monroe’s last completed film. She was often too ill and too anxious to perform, her fragile health further compromised by a steady stream of prescription medications and alcohol. A month after filming began she was hospitalized for ten days with an undisclosed illness, and when she returned to the set her open hostility toward her husband was a recurring obstacle. Clark Gable became ill while shooting The Misfits as well, and less than ten days after filming was completed, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller officially separated and Clark Gable was dead from a heart attack.
Marilyn’s addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs escalated following the lackluster box-office performance of The Misfits, and in February 1961, once her divorce from Arthur Miller was finalized, she checked into a psychiatric clinic. For the remainder of 1961 she battled a series of mental and physical health challenges, with her former husband and still loyal friend Joe DiMaggio by her side.
In 1962 she started filming Something’s Got to Give, but her repeated failure to report to work forced Twentieth Century Fox to fire her and file a lawsuit against her. On May 19, 1962, she gave an unforgettably breathy, voluptuous, and somewhat slurred performance of “Happy Birthday” at the birthday celebration for President John Kennedy, with whom she was later reported to have had an affair. She launched into a busy series of interviews, photo shoots, and meetings about future projects. She and Fox resolved their dispute, and they renewed her contract. And Something’s Got to Give was scheduled to resume filming in the early fall of 1962.
But at 4:25 a.m. on the morning of August 5, 1962, Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, placed an emergency call to report that she’d been found dead in her small Brentwood, California, house. She was just thirty-six years old. Following an autopsy, the cause of death was listed as “acute barbiturate poisoning—probable suicide.” Even now, nearly fifty years later, the circumstances surrounding her death continue to create any number of theories and allegations, including homicide. Marilyn Monroe was laid to rest on August 8, 1962, in the Corridor of Memories at Westwood Memorial Park, leaving behind a legacy of thirty films and an iconic standard of beauty and glamour at their most vulnerable that will never be duplicated.
From Sylvia
Several years after Marilyn’s death I was asked by a nationally syndicated television show to visit her house with a film crew to see if she would communicate with me. A condition of filming on their part was that I wouldn’t be allowed inside the house or even that close to it—just inside the gate was as far as we could go. A condition on my part was, “No promises.” There are no spirits or ghosts who can be counted on to come when I call them, and I hadn’t even established yet whether Marilyn had made it to the Other Side or if she was still earthbound. For all I knew we could end up with a lot of footage of me standing in front of a house staring mindlessly into the camera without a peep out of Marilyn.
I admit it, I’d done no research on her life before I arrived, so I didn’t think much about being introduced to a lovely older gentleman named James Dougherty until I was told he was her first husband. He was quick to clarify that he’d never been married to Marilyn Monroe; he was married to the young (pre-Marilyn) Norma Jeane Baker. He spoke of her with deep affection, and her death had touched him deeply.
As soon as we’d arrived as close to the house as we were allowed to get, a brief Latin phrase came to me. I pronounced it as best I could, and when I saw him staring at me, I explained, “It’s in the tiles above the entryway. It means something like ‘Everyone is welcome here.’”
He asked how I knew about that, since I’d never been to the house before, and I told him. “Marilyn’s telling me.”
It was a nice surprise. She was definitely on the Other Side, she definitely had a lot to say, and she was ready to say it to me without preferring to talk through Francine. I can’t judge or comment on its accuracy. I’ll just report what she passed along and leave the rest to you.
She was adamant about the fact that she did not commit suicide. She described being alone in her bedroom that night, taking too many pills and making some blurry phone calls. But she had a clear memory of a man coming in and sticking a needle of what she believed to be Nembutol into her heart.
She never stopped loving Joe DiMaggio, and one of the sources of depression that plagued her in her later years was the fear that, because she confided so much in him about things she undoubtedly wasn’t supposed to know, which she’d written in a red journal or diary, loving her might have brought him more pain and potential danger than joy. She visited him often from the Other Side, particularly when he slept, and she was already determined to be the first to greet him when he came Home.
Then she was gone. Even in that brief encounter, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked her and the depth of her sincerity.
From Francine
Marilyn was indeed the first to welcome Joe DiMaggio Home. They lead very quiet separate lives here, but they also spend a lot of time together walking on the beach. Marilyn is a voracious reader and can often be found studying the great literary classics in the Hall of Records.

Like everyone else on the Other Side, she looks back on her most recent lifetime with increasing clarity. She knows she was bipolar. She knows that she was at her most comfortable when she was acting—pretending to be someone else. She knows that if she’d lived a long life, she would never have been the icon she’s become. She just wants those who try to emulate her not to fall into the same trap she did, the excess that comes with fame. People stop saying no to you. You stop saying no to yourself. And before long you’ve forgotten what a loving word “no” can be.

Death . . . and Then What?

Even as a child in Catholic school I was frustrated by how vague everyone was about this “life after death” thing. There seemed to be general agreement that our spirits survive after our mortal bodies give out. It was the “and then what?” part that inspired a lot of throat clearing and hazy, halfhearted answers; I often got the feeling it was the one question the nuns et al. were hoping no one would ask. From what I could piece together, when we die, some sort of tunnel apparently drops down from the sky like a big sparkling megaphone to kind of inhale our souls up to heaven. Alternately, we were offered a lot of lovely imagery about our souls floating away from our dead bodies and disappearing beyond the clouds. But after one or the other or something else happened, our immortal souls either ended up in heaven, which looked like who knows what, to live happily ever after with God, doing who knows what, or we were sent to hell for an eternity of fiery damnation—by a God who was always described as all-loving and all-forgiving.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that I wasn’t satisfied with those answers, or lack of them, particularly the ones that made no sense. But finally, between Francine’s generous, articulate expertise, a lifetime of study, including a degree in theology, and my own near-death experience at the age of forty-two, I learned the truth about “and then what?” and it’s far more sacred and exquisite than anything my imagination could have created.
There is a very real tunnel, it turns out, and it doesn’t drop down from the sky when our bodies die. Instead, it rises up from our own etheric substance, or energy field, angles across our body at about a twenty-degree angle, and delivers us to the Other Side, which is actually just three feet above our ground level, but in another dimension whose vibrational frequency is much higher than ours. It’s a perfect mirror image of the natural topography of our planet—our continents, our oceans, our mountains, our rivers, our forests, our deserts, our coastlines, every single feature of earth as it once existed before pollution, erosion, and human destruction came along. Because time doesn’t exist on the Other Side, nothing ages, nothing corrodes or erodes, and everything is eternally, perfectly new.
As we move through the tunnel we feel weightless, free, and more thrillingly alive than we ever felt for a moment in the finite, gravity-challenged bodies we left behind. No matter what the circumstances of our death, there’s a pervasive sense of peace in the awareness that we’re on our way Home, and we quickly see the legendary white light ahead of us, indescribably sacred, God’s light.
No matter where on earth we take our last breath, all tunnels lead to the same entrance to the perfect paradise of the Other Side: a breathtaking grassy meadow filled with flowers whose colors seem magnified a thousand times beyond anything we’ll ever experience here. Waiting in that meadow to joyfully welcome us are loved ones from all our lifetimes on earth and at Home as well as every animal we’ve ever loved from those same lifetimes. (Would it be paradise if there were no animals?)
Once we’ve experienced our reunions in the meadow, we proceed to the triumvirate of buildings—yes, there are buildings—that create the “hub” of the Other Side. You’ll read more about their specific purposes in the glossary of terms that follows, without which some of Francine’s celebrity comments will just be confusing, but for now, in brief, the first three buildings we see when we return Home are:
  • The Hall of Wisdom: a Romanesque structure of gleaming white stone adorned with statuary and surrounded by fountains and fragrant flowers in constant bloom. Its most stunning feature is the infinite expanse of marble steps that lead to its countless entrances.
  • The Hall of Justice: a pillared Greco-Roman building with a massive white marble dome. Standing guard at its entrance is a magnificent statue of Azna, the Mother God. Surrounding the Hall of Justice are its exquisite Gardens, impeccably designed and extending for as far as the eye can see, filled with sparkling waterfalls and fountains, meditation benches, towering trees and canopies of Spanish moss, crystal streams rushing through carpets of soft green grass, lush forests of ferns, and endless walls of jewel-tone bougainvillea.
  • The Hall of Records: a vast edifice with spectacularly carved columns and a dome of sparkling gold. It is constantly bustling with “locals” and spirit visitors from earth alike. Inside stretch an infinite number of aisles, lined with an infinite number of shelves filled with an infinite number of scrolls, books, documents, maps, artwork, blueprints, and such, every shelf in perfectly kept order. One of the functions of the Hall of Records is to house every historical, literary, and artistic work ever written, drawn, drafted, sketched, or painted since time began, and it is revered as the sacred home of the Akashic Records, which are the complete written body of God’s knowledge, laws, and memories.
There are also the Towers, two identical monoliths of blue glass, glistening from the hushed waterfalls that flow down their facades and mist the forest of jasmine that lines the path to the Towers’ etched gold doors.
Through this “formal” entrance we resume the lives we chose to briefly interrupt for a trip to earth, in the divine world of the Other Side. And they don’t call it paradise for nothing. The weather is constantly calm and clear with a temperature of 78 degrees, except on the highest elevations, where the 30 degree temperature maintains a perfect snowpack. There is no day or night—no time at all, in fact, beyond an eternal “now.” The sun, moon, and stars are not visible, and the sky is always the pastel blend of a summer dusk.
The landscape is rich with magnificent libraries, research centers, schools, houses of worship of every denomination, concert halls and museums, not to mention stadiums, golf courses, tennis courts, and ski resorts—in fact, every noncontact sport is enjoyed on the Other Side.
Since money is nonexistent and unnecessary, there is no commerce and no reason to work for a paycheck. Most of us do work, though, for the sheer joy and passion of it. We also socialize, as much or as little as we choose, and because we have no need to eat or sleep, we literally have an uninterrupted eternity to seek out anyone and everyone we care to know, explore anything and everything we’ve ever wanted to see, research and learn about any and every subject and activity that’s ever intrigued us, attend every party, concert, play, and sports event that interests us, and generally bask in the bliss of limitless possibilities in a heaven of sacred universal love, respect, and peace.
We’re free of the earth’s limitations of space and gravity and the laws of physics. We have houses if we want, wherever we want, and we create the homes we want by simple thought projection, just as we travel wherever we want by simply thinking ourselves there.
And how’s this for something to look forward to: not only is our physical and mental health perfectly restored once we’re Home again, but on the Other Side all of us are thirty years old. Why thirty? As my Spirit Guide, Francine, replied when I asked her that question, “Because we are.” Mind you, the transitions to thirty and to perfect health are usually processes after we’ve arrived, rather than an instantaneous “Poof! You’re thirty!” effect the moment we emerge from the tunnel. And when we visit loved ones on earth, we’re easily able to take on whatever appearance will make us recognizable to them. After all, if we passed away as an infant or a very elderly person, how comforting would a spirit visit from a thirty-year-old really be?
I could go on and on about the joy that awaits us after we leave this world—the same joy we temporarily interrupted to come here for what I like to call “boot camp.” In fact, I have gone on and on about it, in a book called Life on the Other Side, so I’ll leave it at that for this discussion in the hope that these brief “highlights” will help Francine’s descriptions of the current lives of the celebrities in this book make much more sense.
But there are other available options for our spirits when our earthly bodies die, most of them the result of our own choices during our lifetimes, and since a few of the celebrities we’ll be discussing made those choices, we should briefly explore those options as well.
Despite what most of us (including me) have been taught since we were children, there is no such thing as hell. The threat of hell implies a God so vindictive and unforgiving that He could turn His back on us and banish us to an eternity away from Him, and not for one minute is that a God I believe in. The God I believe in, worship, and have committed my life to is all-loving, all-knowing, all-compassionate, and all-forgiving; He would never turn His back on a life He created.
Sadly, we don’t have to spend much time on earth to learn that there are those who choose to turn their backs on God. And “choose,” by the way, excludes anything to do with mental illness or physiological chemical imbalances, which are completely involuntary. I’m talking about people who, given a choice between contributing light to this world or contributing darkness, opt for darkness—the deliberately cruel, amoral, remorseless sociopaths who view the rest of us as props for their amusement, to be used, manipulated, and in some form or other destroyed, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Darkness can’t exist where there’s light, after all, so the Dark Side, as I call this segment of society, feels perfectly entitled to the destruction it inflicts. Its devotees know right from wrong. They just don’t care. Unlike the misguided or the genuinely lost among us, residents of the Dark Side can’t be rehabilitated—without a conscience to begin with, they have no conscience to be guided back to. They can feign charm, compassion, love, generosity, and often a devout faith in God, not because they mean a word of it, but because they know how seductive those qualities can be, and it’s so much easier to destroy someone whose guard is down.
There’s no such thing as action without consequence, for better or worse, and that’s as true for the Dark Side as it is for the rest of us. Remember, these dark entities have chosen a path that keeps their backs turned squarely away from God, and that arrogant rejection of Him prevents them from experiencing the perfect bliss and love of the Other Side when they die. Instead, they head straight to a nightmare called the Left Door (which my granddaughter Angelia used to refer to as “mean heaven” when she was a child).
The Left Door is the entrance to a joyless, godless world of nothingness, an abyss through which dark spirits briefly pass before heading right back in utero for another incarnation that’s likely to be as destructive as the one they’ve just completed. So when you come across those in this book who’ve gone through the Left Door, know that within a few months of their death they were born again on earth with a whole new identity, a whole new incarnation to live out, with no more of a conscious memory of their past lives than you and I have, and another opportunity to finally choose light over darkness.
And by the way, just as God doesn’t condemn any of His children to an eternity of hell, He also doesn’t condemn any of us to an eternity of recycling through the Left Door and back to earth again and again and again. Sooner or later (which in the context of eternity might mean hundreds of years), the spirits on the Other Side will retrieve a dark soul in that instant before it reaches the Left Door and return it to the healing peace of Home, where God’s unconditional love is always available, even to those who don’t reciprocate.
There’s a kind of anteroom to the Left Door, a desolate gray expanse filled with lost souls who’ve been separated from their faith, hope, and joy by oppressive depression. They shuffle silently around in no direction, heads down, eyes empty and lifeless, never acknowledging each other or the hopelessness that’s trapped them there.
The Holding Place is like the purgatory I learned about in parochial school, and it’s sometimes, but not always, the temporary destination of spirits whose death was caused by suicide. It’s simply not true—in fact, it’s a cruel lie—that all suicides lead to eternal damnation. Again, God would never inflict such vindictive judgment on any of His children. Some suicides are inspired by revenge; others are an ultimate mean-spirited demand for attention or an act of self-centered cowardice (the latter typical of murder-suicides). And those particular suicides can look forward to a quick trip through the Left Door and another immediate incarnation without enjoying a moment of the blissful peace of Home between lifetimes.
But as we all know, some suicides are the result of mental illness or untreated chemical imbalances that create severe, crippling, mind-altering depression, and in the perfection of God’s universal laws no one is held accountable for actions that aren’t their fault. (Injustice is strictly a human invention.) A great many of these blameless, unplanned, despair-induced suicides, I promise you, make it straight through the tunnel to the Other Side. Others, often confused throughout their lives on earth about their faith in God and their occasional attraction to the Dark Side, find themselves in the Holding Place, where, if they can overcome the desolation around them, they can still choose between the doomed cycle of the Left Door or Home, where God’s embrace will always be waiting for them.
And then there are those who, when their bodies die, refuse to acknowledge the tunnel or see it and reject it. This leaves their spirits stranded here, outside of their bodies, stuck between the lower vibrational level of earth and the much higher vibrational dimension of the Other Side, not one bit aware that they’ve died. And that’s how ghosts are created.
Ghosts, or earthbounds, are tragic, fascinating beings. As far as they’re concerned, they’re every bit as alive as the rest of us, and everything is exactly and perpetually as it was at the moment of their death, from their surroundings to their age, health (or lack of it), and scars, wounds, or visible signs of injuries that might have killed them. The one thing that’s changed, which often makes them desperately confused, if not downright cranky, is that because they’ve changed vibrational frequencies without knowing it, the people around them suddenly seem to act as if they don’t exist.
There’s nothing haphazard about some spirits’ determination to remain earthbound. Ghosts stay behind for a variety of misguided reasons—to care for a loved one, to protect a home or land they’re deeply connected to, to seek revenge, or, with sad frequency, to avoid facing God out of fear that He’ll turn them away (which is an impossibility).

No ghost is ever trapped on earth for eternity. Some of them are sent to the Other Side by people who are compassionate and educated enough, when they find themselves in the presence of an earthbound, to simply say, “You’re dead. Go Home.” (Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s worth a try.) Many more of them are eventually rescued by residents of the Other Side, who are well aware of them and can be counted on to perform persistent interventions for as long as it takes to pull these trapped, confused souls into the tunnel and on to the joyful peace that’s waiting for them in God’s outstretched arms.