Churchill author delves into mortality

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 12:14 p.m.

For those who ever wondered what happened during their favorite celebrity's final moments, author Alan Petrucelli will be giving a talk on his book, " Morbid Curiosity: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous" at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the William E. Anderson Library of Penn Hills, located at 1037 Stotler Road.

Petrucelli will tell gruesome — and true — stories of celebrities and their deaths.

His work has been published in a variety of places, including The New York Times, People, Us Weekly, USA Weekend and the New York Daily News.

Petrucelli's first book was a biography of Liza Minnelli called “ Liza! Liza!

The book he will be talking about, “Morbid Curiosity,” first was published in 2009 by Penguin Group and is in its third printing.

Petrucelli, 51, of Churchill, originally is from New York City. He received his undergraduate degrees in communications and theater at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Through his work with various publications, Petrucelli has had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with several celebrities who have given him insider information on their world.

Petrucelli said people have an innate curiosity about death and that by quenching that curiosity, something is satisfied in ourselves.

“Everybody is morbidly curious,” he said. “I think people tend to like the macabre.”

The way that celebrities die is not necessarily unique or different from other deaths, Petrucelli said.

“This may be happening other places, but because they're famous people, we take that interest,” he said.

When Petrucelli was 10 years old, he found out that his grandmother was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester, N.Y., the resting place of celebrities such as actress Judy Garland and actor Basil Rathbone. Since his discovery, Petrucelli has been on a constant “quest” for the burial sites of the famous, rich and powerful.

“I've just always been fascinated by dead celebrities because for the most part, the average person cannot get close to a celebrity ... now you could go to Liz Taylor's grave and be 5 feet, 3 feet from her grave.”

Petrucelli, during his time as entertainment editor for Redbook magazine, would ask celebrities, “What do you want on your tombstone?” This question, and the subsequent answers, also helped spur Petrucelli's fascination with dead celebrities.

As part of his presentation, Petrucelli will be showing some of his collection of photos of dead celebrities.

“Some people collect stamps, some people mount butterflies. I collect morbid photos,” Petrucelli said. “It somehow makes me accept what is going to happen.”

Some of the photos are quite graphic and because of this, the show is intended for mature audiences only.

Jean Kanouff, the reference librarian at the Penn Hills library and Petrucelli's contact at the library, said children are not going to be allowed into the room during his talk.

Petrucelli told Kanouff that people have been known to leave while he is speaking.

“They've been warned,” Kanouff said. “If they want to get up and walk out, that's fine.”

While the program will contain some graphic images and scandalous stories, Petrucelli promises an evening of fun for those that attend.

“I just hope people come,” he said.

“It's entertaining.”

Petrucelli stressed he does have respect for celebrities and their deaths.

“I would like people to know that I am not mocking celebrities or mocking death,” he said. “I'm just spinning the way we look at celebrity and a celebrity's final moments.”

Matt DeFusco is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5811 or

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