I think it’s safe to say that Death Salon LA was a great success. It certainly exceeded this organizer’s expectations. We started off early this year with just a corpse and a dream — to bring The Order of the Good Death members and other likeminded folk together to share ideas and get to know each other. Now I find that my mind is still reeling over the level of talent and artistry we had all in one place, the amount of amazing information conveyed in creative ways, and the potential collaborations that now loom on the horizon. It’s hard to distill everything that took place in one little weekend (and thanks to Aida Manduley I don’t have to try), but I did want to share a few thoughts about Death Salon LA and fill you all in on how we’re moving forward.
Our speakers & performers
I am still pretty flabberghasted at the level of scholarship and creativity we managed to gather into one weekend-long event. All of the talks were stellar but at the same time very different from one another. The music was transcendent. People expressed their creativity in more unexpected ways as well. For instance, Sarah Troop of Nourishing Death created an elaborate and delicious menu for our party of funerary foods from varied parts of the world and different historical eras. It was quite a spread! (You can see lots of photos of the food and the rest of the events from the weekend here.) Everytime I turned around, someone was going above and beyond to make the Death Salon experience special for everyone, and it really warmed my black little heart.
I wish I could come up with a better word for “attendees” because the 30 folks who came from all over the country for the full slate of events did far more than just attend. We really managed to make this an actual salon in the old sense of the word, with people excitedly sharing ideas, planning collaborations, and generally getting to know each other. I know I made a lot of friends that weekend that I am so honored to know now.
I am especially heartened by the reactions of the other kind of attendees — the public who came to our events. In the feature about Death Salon in The Atlantic, I think my favorite part is a quote from a member of the public who came to the Death Salon Cabaret not necessarily even knowing what we were trying to do, and came away with this response:
“This is even cooler than I thought it would be,” said Savannah Dooley, a 28-year-old television writer who professed to have no particular obsession with death. She stumbled upon the Death Salon on Facebook and decided to bring a date. “For someone not comfortable with death, this makes it accessible.”
This budding death acceptance movement, what ever we end up calling it, ultimately lives or dies by the public’s interactions with it. If we can get people to walk away from our events engaging with their own mortality in a healthy and thoughtful way, then I think we’re doing some real good.
With a little help from our friends
Whether it was getting an embalmer friend to infuse some cupcakes for our party, having local vendors sell their macabre wares at our events, getting a local craft beer & soda brewer to make us something special, or asking a friend to let us throw a party at her place, we were helped at every turn by generous friends to help us pull off events with special touches on a non-existent budget. Aside from our partners Atlas Obscura, LA Beer Hop, Los Angeles Ale Works, and all of our wonderful Death Cabaret vendors, everyone involved in this inaugural Death Salon event gave so freely of themselves for the greater good, and I will be eternally grateful to all of them for that. I’m not going to do an “I’d like to thank the Academy” speech because no one would read it, but they all know who they are, and they are legion.
O deathlings, do we have some news in store for you! We have many plans quickly taking shape for future Death Salons. Going forward we’re going to have two kinds of events… our annual Death Salon, and smaller, 1-day “pop up” events called Death Salon Forum. So far we’re excited to announce that we’re jumping the pond to do Death Salon UK at Bart’s Pathology Museum in London, April 11-13, 2014. The 2015 Death Salon will be in Cleveland at Dittrick Medical Center, and we’re making tentative plans for future years. Meanwhile we’re very excited at the beginning murmurs of our Death Salon Forum San Francisco for around this time in 2014, and we’re even toying with a 2014 Forum event in Seattle. Stay tuned…
Speaking of staying tuned, you all asked and we listened. You heard it here first! We’ve got a mailing list now, and we are still figuring out how to use it so please make like Dorothy Parker and pardon our dust. Sign up, and we’ll keep you posted on the rapidly-changing animal that is Death Salon.
True ’til death,
Director, Death Salon