dear famous person: a guide to protecting your posthumous privacy in 10 easy steps

c-17 Sketch of Jackie by Robert

here’s what you do:

1) close all your correspondence.

Hantmans auction Jackie Bouvier letters to older girlfriend 1944-1947

(omg, better yet, BUILD A LIBRARY, put your correspondence in it and then close it.)

jbko sketch of the blue room, white house

jbko sketch of the blue room, white house

2) so that when the researcher thinks ah, yes, i will include many of her words… the researcher will then have to go hunt down all your correspondence in the archives of your friends in lieu of just looking in yours.

from one special summer, 1951

from one special summer, 1951

3) your friends who, because you were- despite the rumors- close to a lot ‘o women and because they have…

* married multiple times

* names that are inconsistently paired

* nicknames like “puffin” and “bunny”


journey of the magi, jacqueline kennedy, printed in mccall's december 1963

journey of the magi, jacqueline kennedy, printed in mccall’s december 1963

and so the researcher will devote HOURS to tracking down and determining whether or not they are even still alive, much less available for interviews, and will also- much to his/her shame- at one point even be forced to create a spreadsheet entitled DEAD OR ALIVE.xls in order to manage the whole lot.

4) dear famous person, once you’ve got these impossible to find friends with tricksy names, have each of them place their archives with a different institution which offers copying services for a fee, so the researcher will have something to spend his/her birthday money on.


from one special summer, 1951

5) have them include three to five letters from you in each collection. (enough to enduce excitement, cost $$$ and reveal astonishingly little beyond the fact that you always wrote a thank you note when someone loaned you a book.)

1960, letter to oleg cassini

undated letter to unknown person

6) instruct the institution not to put the finding aid online so that googling the phrase “[insert subject’s name] finding aid” will yield nothing and the researcher will have to stumble upon the collection by sheer chance then track down the name of the archivist to request the finding aid.


undated cartoon of JFK

7) do not include details of these letters in the collection’s finding aid or- if they must be included- feature them under the vaguest possible description (the standard form of an obit is preferable, ie. “[insert subject’s name] 1929-1994”, as it conveys nothing except that you lived and died- two things the researcher cannot help but already know by this point) and be sure also that they are inconsistently featured under your first and second married names, your maiden name and your nickname.

(dear famous person, remember: the goal is to create the absolute maximum number of opportunities for gems to fall through the cracks.)

standard-gauge-still-2 (1)

8) in terms of legacy, ensure that your heirs feel deputized to inconsistently yet fiercely exercise copyright claims on your behalf, swooping in and shutting down archives and auctions, so that the researcher dwells always in fear that he/she will be shut down.

from one special summer, 1951

9) because what you want, dear famous person, is for the researcher to be terrorized by the notion that the very few gems this process has yielded, the handful of letters turned up through the seemingly endless years-long grinding work of sussing out all these people and archives and the making of the shameful spreadsheet and all the emails and pay-offs and the draining bit by bit of the researcher’s sad little bank account, all of which has ended in maybe 300 quotable words- GEMS to be sure, but still…- you want the researcher to assume that this will all somehow end in a violation of fair use and inevitably result in jail time.

from one special summer, 1951

because 10) if all of that hasn’t stopped them, then they were probably The One meant to write your life.


2 thoughts on “dear famous person: a guide to protecting your posthumous privacy in 10 easy steps

  1. Pingback: dear famous person: a practical addendum to the guide to protecting your posthumous privacy in 10 easy steps | finding jackie

  2. Pingback: checking in with my celebrity boyfriend adrien brody, artist, at art basel; celebrity, art and life | finding jackie

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