Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Jaws" Dies - Richard Kiel Planned His Own Funeral

Actor Richard Kiel has died.

Richard Kiel Dies - "Jaws" From James Bond Movies Dead At 74

In 2007, I met Richard Kiel in New York City.  I interviewed him and wrote an article about his book "The True Story of Cassius Clay: Kentucky Lion."

In writing the article, Kiel told me that he already planned his funeral.  He planned in advance because of his size of 7'2" and 350 pounds by purchasing an oversized casket.

He led me to his testimonial here:

Caskets by Design - Oversized Caskets

Richard encouraged pre-planning funeral details to save money.

He said:  "I would like to share with you the story regarding my funeral planning as I had to have a custom (Longer and wider) casket made in advance in order to avoid paying $4,800 for a metal one plus the extra costs ($1,000) of shipping by wide body aircraft, etc.  I found that this larger casket required a larger concrete vault and neither would fit in a standard size grave. I did find that because the street-side graves had a 1.5' easement that they could use one of these to make it work.

Everything has been arranged for so my wife doesn't have to deal with these problems including a budget for the minister's honorarium and the cost of having some music. I want a local Dixieland band to play songs like 'I'll fly away.' By planning in advance I saved my estate at least $7,500 and my having to deal with a lot of last minute problems.

My casket has been built and is in a crate in our storage shed that we rent. It's covered with cardboard so you can't see it. Instead of $4,800 plus costly last minute shipping it only cost $800 shipped.

I can share with you about my job as a pre-need cemetery plot salesman at age 19 and how I came to be doing that and how it helped me to become an actor."

Richard was a great man and very kind to his fans.  He gave away 8 x 10 glossies to fans regularly. He will be missed.

Here is the entire article about his book about Cassius Clay, where he also talks about his height, size and being typecast.

James Bond Actor Turned Book Author 
by Pam Vetter
November 30, 2007
Every James Bond fan remembers actor Richard Kiel as the character "Jaws," in the James Bond films "The Spy Who Loved Me," and "Moonraker," but he is about to put his mark on history in quite another way.
For the past 27 years, Kiel has found his labor of love in researching and writing the true story of Cassius Clay.
"The True Story of Cassius Clay: Kentucky Lion," is not a book about Muhammad Ali, but instead the true story about a plantation owner by the name of Cassius Clay, who freed the slaves when he inherited his father's estate and paid them wages. Clay was a hero who also had a great influence on Abraham Lincoln.
"I'm donating half of my royalties to establish a scholarship fund for qualified yet financially handicapped students to attend Berea College, a school that Cassius Clay helped to start by donating land and money to one of the first interracial schools," Kiel explained.
"I want people to know that Cassius Clay was very sensitive and dedicated his life to ending slavery. This is an amazing story."
Kiel wants everyone to know that only four percent of people in the South owned slaves. Part of his goal is in educating people about stereotypes and a nearly lost part of history.
"I made trips to the South, looked at microfilm of speeches Clay had given, visited the mansion, and even attended a Clay family reunion. I also found letters and his daughter's diary. I really got into his head. My passion in researching this story started when I was filming 'The Longest Yard.' I married Diane, a girl from the South. I found that people in the South weren't all like I had been brainwashed to think," Kiel explained.
"The mini-series 'Roots,' left us with the impression that everyone in the South was racist and created a stereotype prejudice. All people weren't like that. Being of German descent myself and growing up at the end of World War II, I could identify because everyone hated Germans. But, everyone wasn't like Hitler," Kiel said.
"I also could understand because being 7' 2" tall and 350 pounds, I was sensitive to the story because of my own history. Guys my size have been relegated to playing monsters or dummies and these are stereotypes. I had only one line in 'Moonraker,' but I made a big impression through facial expressions and pantomime. People also confuse me with 'Lurch,' from the Addams Family or they call me Herman Munster from 'The Munsters,' or sometimes they even confuse me with Andre the Giant."
"The party of Abraham Lincoln, as influenced by Cassius Clay, started 985 new elementary schools and four new universities for the freed slaves. Of course, they started out as segregated, but it was a big first step that no one knows about. The evolution of society began in the 1800's as most of the Civil Rights laws were written in the 1860's. My research was astonishing."
"I feel that African Americans have come a long way as today they are in politics, play leading men and women in the movies, and are news anchors and talk show hosts. I hope this true story will help all people feel different about the South and many of its people."
Kiel became fascinated with Clay's life, also realizing that the character is an actor's dream role.
"Clay lived a long life. They say he fought 200 duels and there were several attempts on his life. This story should be a mini-series or a movie. Cassius Clay grew up with slaves and he wrestled with what he saw. He believed they could be educated. He saw their plight and even as he was a teen, he wanted to do something to change it. He made up his mind to be a legislator and use his family money to publish the anti-slavery newspaper, 'The True American,' 30 miles from where slave auctions were being held. He did more than any other man to abolish slavery and he paid the price," Kiel said.
"Clay was a victim of assassination attempts and they even killed his young son by poison because of his stance against slavery. Even the death of his son didn't stop him."
Kiel's book, written with Pamela Wallace of 'Witness' fame, is an incredible read, professional, and thought provoking, especially considering few people are aware of Clay's role in history.
"I'm trying to make a difference in sharing this story. It's a passion to bring an awareness to someone who stood up for what was right and that man was Cassius Clay," Kiel explained. "Muhammad Ali has had misconceptions about the name, wondering why he was given the name of a plantation owner. I don't know if he knows the pivotal role Clay played in history. Clay was a hero to hundreds of thousands of slaves he helped to set free and his story should be shared."
In trying to raise money for the aforementioned scholarship, actor Richard Kiel is also giving away a free autographed photo of his James Bond character "Jaws," as pictured with actor Roger Moore, with every purchase of the book through his website

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