Funeral Movie: Grand Theft Auto

This story is very special, and if it doesn't really happen, no one will believe it. It involves two people, a hearse, a dead rock star, five gallons of petrol and a promise.

Remember the influential country rock musician Gram Parsons? He has performed with Emmylou Harris, The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and The International Submarine Band. Parsons died in 1973 in a motel room near the Joshua Tree National Monument due to a 26-year-old morphine overdose.

Movie Grand Theft Auto (2003) is based on the true story of what happened. The body after Parsons died. The film illustrates some of the issues that may help start a funeral or heritage planning dialogue.

Before his death, Parsons said that he wanted his body to be cremated in Joshua, his ashes throughout Cap Rock, a prominent natural feature. His road manager Phil Kaufman (he also managed Parsons' drug and alcohol use as much as possible) and he signed an agreement. No matter who died first, another person took the body to Joshua Tree and “allowed his soul to be free”, that is, let the body catch fire.

Taking a corpse from a hospital

At the beginning of the movie, Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville) attempted to obtain Parson's body from a remote small hospital near Joshua Tree. The nurse said that because he is not a doctor or a close relative, he has no right to enter the body. He tried to steal the body from the hospital but was unsuccessful.

Parsons's body went to Los Angeles International Airport to New Orleans for burial. Parsons' stepfather arranged a private ceremony and ignored the invitation to any music industry friend.

In the film, Kaufman hired a hippie with a psychedelic hearse to retrieve the body from the airport and bribe the Air Cargo office staff to get Parson's body.

Once in the Joshua Tree, Kaufman tried to ignite Parsons by pouring 5 gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit cigarette inside, creating a huge fireball. The part of the movie is very close to the real story.

What makes a will?

The film adds a sly ex-girlfriend Barbara Mansfield (played by Christina Applegate). She tried to cash in Parson's money and land property by handwriting notes on the back of the flyer. She said that this is his will, but there is no notarization or anything that can be formalized.

The note says: "Who might be involved: I hope I know that I want to leave Barbara Mansfield in the event of my death, assets and property. Signature, Gram Parsons."

Kaufman told her that this is not a will. She said that this was a promise signed by Gram and asked to leave everything to her. Parsons was married to another woman.

She used this note to try to get Parson's guitar and music master from Kaufman. She also tried to withdraw money from the bank. The banker told her they had rules, and the paper was invalid. They needed at least one death certificate to prove that she was indeed dead. She did not successfully obtain a death certificate from the county registry.

In addition to the legitimacy of setting up corpses on the National Monument, Grand Theft Auto opened the door to discuss the following:

  • No matter how a desperate girlfriend tries to stick to it, handwritten No notes can be an acceptable will. Find a real estate lawyer who knows how to actually make the law effective.
  • The hospital will not publish the body of "close friends", no road administrators or life partners, no lawyers. In fact, those who want to do family death care for family members may have difficulty releasing their bodies to close relatives.
  • Bribery air cargo clerk must violate certain laws, but the film is scheduled for 1973, and the airport's security improvement measures will take effect before September 11. Only the "known shippers" can now handle the bodies of air cargo. You can't just drive a psychedelic hearse to the air transport office. sigh.

Incidentally, in the real story, the police chased Kaufman and his friends after setting the body on fire, but the two fled. They were arrested a few days later. Because there was no law prohibiting theft, they were fined $750 for stealing coffins and were not charged for leaving 35 pounds of Parsons charred remains in the desert.

Grand Theft Auto is a fun movie with some life and death courses integrated into comedy. It can be rented on DVD via Netflix and purchased on (if available). Drug reference and PG-13 rating for a language.