Cai Jinlai and his son Cai Ruigong had a bet; if Jinlai lived past 100 his son would hire a stripper for his funeral.
He lived to 103, and Ruigong followed through on his end of the deal. He paid the equivalent of $160 for an adult dancer to perform a ten minute striptease in front of his father’s coffin.
In farming villages across rural China and Taiwan, stripper funerals have become commonplace. Local folks believe that the number of mourners who gather for a funeral indicates the worthiness of the deceased. Also, the more people who come to the funeral, the more luck will befall the surviving family and offspring. Strippers are a surefire way to draw mourners. In some towns in Jiangsu, a province in eastern China, the events have become nightly spectacles, drawing the entire town out. Sometimes rival funerals occur, and strippers compete to see who can attract the best crowd. “Some strippers even take off the trousers of male viewers and persuade them to join in the dancing, while others bathe in public or perform nude with snakes,” reports one Chinese newspaper.
Stripper funerals have become so popular that they have caught the eye of the overbearing communist government, which a few years ago detained five people for running “striptease send-off funerals”. The arrests also took place in Jiangsu province. Local officials have ordered a halt to the performances, calling them “obscene” and are requiring funeral plans to be submitted to the state in advance for approval. Officials have also set up a hotline, asking villagers to call in and report funeral misdeeds.
As wacky as some funerals get in the United States, a thorough search revealed nothing about stripper funerals. Surprisingly, China seems to be ahead of the curve. But there is one recent case that involves nudity on the part of a funeral home director. That is Gregory J. Routson, an Ohio funeral home director whose business was shut down by the police last month. The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors says that Routson Funeral Chapel, in Findlay, Ohio, “presents a danger of immediate and serious harm to the public.”
The charges against Routson are absurd. In an eight-page report the state accuses him of the mishandling of a corpse, unprofessional embalming including failure to sterilize equipment and failure to destroy waste materials in accordance with state and federal regulations, misappropriating funds including taking money donated as memorial contributions for the deceased, intoxication and drug addiction and unprofessional behavior such as appearing naked or partially clothed during business hours in public areas of the funeral home.
Routson “failed to treat at least one body with proper care and dignity by partially embalming it and leaving it unrefrigerated for 13 days” and was “habitually intoxicated, or addicted to the use of morphine, cocaine or other habit-forming or illegal drugs.” He also reportedly harassed his employees and used a container that previously contained cremated remains to make a gift for a female employee. On one occasion he tried on the jacket of a dead man in front of his family.
“We were appalled,” the man’s sister reported. Later the woman came to the funeral home to check on her brother’s remains. “A very sickening stench in the funeral home was actually the decomposition odor coming from my brother’s body,” she said. “Upon my insistence to find out the condition of my brother’s body, I learned that there were serious deficiencies in the embalming that had been done and that maggots and mold would have to be treated as well as additional embalming and restoration done to try and have the body viewable.”
He “appeared to be impaired,” reported the woman. “When we inquired about this to the two girls working for Mr. Routson, they informed us that he was using cocaine and was under the influence and that this was a frequent occurrence on a regular basis.”
Routson has denied the charges, claiming a competitor is trying to destroy his business.