Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Will on the Chest

Playboy, May, 1954, pp. 41-2.


[No byline]

[...] [Photographer Lejaren] Hiller recalls one experience in his career that fairly well illustrates the sort of unbelievable life he has led. He was sent down to Greenwich Village to photograph a man for an advertising testimonial. The man absolutely refused to have his picture taken, but since Hiller had come all that way for nothing, the man invited him in for a couple of drinks. After the couple, they had a couple more, and a couple more after that. The alcohol made them chummy and the man suggested they throw a party.

"Why not," said Hiller. "You call your friends and I'll call mine."

They had a party.

Hiller's next recollection was noon the following day. He got to his feet, found his hat and coat, the door, and a taxicab. The cab took him home.

In his apartment, he headed for the shower. Under the cool current, he thought of his hat, and removed it. This reminded him of his clothes, so he stepped out of the shower. Undressed, he glanced in the mirror and was surprised to note writing across his bare chest. He tried to read it, but it appeared backwards in the mirror and he was too tired to try and figure it out. He'd just crawled into bed when the phone rang. It was a friend from the party with some rather startling news. Their late host had put a gun in his mouth, after the party, and blown his head off. Returning from the phone, Hiller again thought of the writing on his chest. With the help of a second mirror to correct the reversed image in the first, he was able to read: "I hereby bequeath all my worldly possessions..." Hiller stopped reading. It was the last will and testament of the guy who'd blown his brains out -- scrawled across Hiller's chest. [...]

[For a longer version of this anecdote, see H. Allen Smith, The Compleat Practical Joker (NY: William Morrow & Co., 1980), 303-5. It doesn't appear in the 1953 edition.]