It seems like many celebrity deaths ago. Yet the fumes still linger from the social media conflagration that followed the demise in one bad week in February 2019 of Karl Lagerfeld, Lee Radziwill, and Marella Agnelli. Those who knew them and those who didn’t grab their phones to broadcast conspicuous displays of grief. Supermodel Helena Christensen’s lengthy Lagerfeld screed of sorrow on Instagram included references to fun shoots at his mansion in the south of France and a UFO she thought might have taken him away to a better world.
“Of course I posted,” she told me at dinner months later. “We were close.”
In a more discreet era, mourning was observed with close ones in private. In the age of oversharing, even grieving has gone viral, and social media has turned everyone into a hot-winded eulogist. Death be not proud, but there’s definitely pride in it—for the living, anyway. How else to explain all the posts about Gloria Vanderbilt jeans on the day the style icon died? These days we will use the news of any celebrity’s passing as kindling to throw onto the bonfires of vanity, to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe. His death last year, of course, ignited its own conflagration, including one influencer posing with a copy of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. As the late Doris Day would have said, “Que sera sera.”
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