The casket’s shaped like an oversized grill used for smoking meat, and pallbearers are wearing crisp white aprons and chef’s hats. Live pigs squeal and run amok, while a tabletop fountain spits out barbecue sauce instead of chocolate, perfect for dipping freshly cooked ribs.
This is the eternal send-off, after all, of Willie “Wolf” McCoy, the man whose soulful voice is immediately recognizable to millions of people. Anyone, in fact, who’s ever heard the Chili’s restaurant theme song has heard McCoy singing, “I want my baby back, baby back, baby back.”
The ceremony, staged by the massive Dallas-based Golden Gate Funeral Home, is intended to properly remember the local celebrity who had performed at Harlem’s Cotton Club and toured with the Drifters. What it’s not, insists the architect of the event and the cable network that intends to air it, is morbid or tasteless.
“We want you to know who the person was and how he lived, not just the fact that he passed away,” said John Beckwith Jr., chief executive of Golden Gate and star of the TLC special “Best Funeral Ever.” “This is a celebration.”