New York city is certainly the place to find a varied assortment of passtimes and personalities. If you're looking for the more macabre (in either case), then Paul Bearer (yes, he swears it's legally his name) may be the man of your dreams. In the city that offers a venue for just about everything, he has sliced himself a big chunk of the city's tourist business with two excursions that take you to New York's more somber side.
ABOVE: Hearse, complete with comfy coffin seats.
Are you dying for the ride of
When the sun goes down, Paul is your host for Tombstone Tours' Crimestyles of the Dead & Famous, a nightly two-hour tour of New York's well-known death sites. Departing from the historic Le Bar Bat Restaurant on West 57th street., the tour is billed as a "joyride in the world's most expensive funeral hearse." Crimestyles is hailed by CNN as "the trip to take when you want to know who offed whom, and who's haunting what."
After you slip into your comfy coffin-seat aboard a roomy Cadillac, Lincoln, or Rolls-Royce hearse-- complete with tombstones-- Paul proceeds to usher you to the city's darkest crime spots, from the city Morgue to the sites of John Lennon's assasination, the "Preppy Murder," and locations of some of the Mob's greatest "hits." Also included in the itinerary are sites of famous sex scandals, suicides, "sinful secrets" and hauntings.
If you die on this ride, it can only be from laughter. Paul's unlikely puns, as well as background music and commentary, actually make this could-be-morbid topic quite entertaining. During the cruise, you are encouraged, of course, to wave to people, "to let them know you're alive."
According to Paul, the tour teaches you how to love life. "People go in quiet, scared and depressed, but they come out happy and full of life," he says.
Tiptoe through the tombstones?
If you prefer to take your "creepy" by day, you may opt to join him for Cemetary Tours-- views of the resting spots of the city's dearly departed. The tour sites take in Ferncliff and Gate of Heaven Cemetaries, as well as the locations of unmarked graves left behind in Central Park. According to Paul, the city still refuses to acknowledge that these gravesites, dating from the early 1800's, exist.
Among the tombstones on this trek you'll find those of Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Malcom X, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and a "host" of others.
But "there's more to this tour than meets the eye," says Paul.
"The art inherent in the design and architecture of the markers is unique and expressive, yet conservative. It's thought provoking. People come in touch with their feelings here," he says. "They come to a place inside themselves where they find acceptance of death, and an appreciation of life. All these stones are symbols of life. That's what this tour is really about."
PHOTOS RIGHT: Unmarked grave in Central Park. Paul Bearer, host of New York's most unusual attractions.
In a vocation that most would consider morose, Paul Bearer feels in his element. "From my childhood, I've always had an attraction to hearses," he says. "My first car was a hearse. When I sit inside, I feel very comfortable and at home."
It's Paul's personality that actually makes Crimestyles the attraction that it is. A seemingly natural-born "ham," he plays the part 100%, turning a topic that most would shun into two hours of first class entertainment.