We’ve seen their talent on the big screen, but it’s lesser known that before (or after) these 5 celebrities became stars, they worked in the deathcare industry. So, who are they and how did they get there? We’ve wrapped up everything you need to know in this guide.
American actor, filmmaker, author and humanitarian
You may know her best from her 1999 breakout film, Girl, Interrupted, the lead role in the Lara Croft film series, or as the powerful villain in Maleficent. And yes, Jolie was once married to Brad Pitt (but like all celebrities, she has plenty of other achievements that don’t involve her dating history). Which brings us to our next point.
While Jolie didn’t work in the funeral industry, she did pursue an at-home course in funeral studies as a teenager, and has said in interviews that this was her ‘backup career’ had she failed to find work as an actor.
Jolie was inspired to study the profession after attending her grandfather’s funeral, where she was disappointed with how his funeral was conducted. At the time, she was introduced to the many parts of the death and dying process, including how families deal with the death of a loved one. She then completed the funeral studies course, before jumpstarting her acting career.
Scottish actor and producer
Sean Connery is best known for his portrayal of James Bond, where he starred in seven films between 1962 and 1983. He is also famous for his collaborations with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and John Huston.
After serving in the Royal Navy, Connery worked several jobs – one of them being a coffin polisher. He also spent time bleaching mahogany coffins to make them appear like oak. The more you know!
American former baseball player and inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame
If you’re a baseball fan, you may remember Andre Dawson by his nickname “The Hawk” or “Awesome Dawson”. After retiring, Dawson entered the funeral business in 2003, investing in a funeral home that his younger brother owned. In 2008, Dawson became the owner and operator of Paradise Memorial Funeral Home in Richmond Heights, Florida. An April 2020 Associated Press article centred on how Dawson and his business were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, Dawson was working as a mortician, and he is still the owner today.
During his final game, Dawson was removed from the field as a respectful farewell to the fans and baseball. He received a standing ovation as he walked off the field. If we could give him a standing ovation for his commitment to the deathcare industry, and for all the great work he and his family have done, we would certainly do that, too!
American former professional baseball player and coach
By 1971, Former Detroit Tigers third baseman Richie Hebner was often nicknamed ‘the gravedigger’ by reporters – referring to his second profession as a gravedigger. Hebner’s father was a supervisor of an old Jewish cemetery just outside Roxbury in Massachusetts and had given him a job for the off-seasons.
Throughout his 18-year stint in the major leagues, Hebner continued to work for his father in the funeral industry. In 2020, at age 72, a Detroit Free Press article reported that he was still driving a hearse for two funeral homes.
American actor, comedian and filmmaker
For more than half a century, Danny DeVito has been gracing the big screen. But few know how he got his big break (and honestly, this is one of the most interesting segues into showbiz we have heard!)
From ages 19-21, DeVito worked for his older sister Angela’s beauty salon as a licensed hairdresser (okay, consider our interest PIQUED). On the George Lopez show, DeVito revealed that in his youth, he was a hairdresser for corpses and that he used to go to the mortuary to style women’s hair who had died
As for how he got his big break – well, working as a hairdresser and beautician led him on a search for a professional makeup instructor, which led him to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s pretty cool to discover that a celebrity has so many other skill sets or life achievements up their sleeves. It’s even more impressive when it’s something totally out of the ordinary, like working in the deathcare space, which is such important work. From Angelina Jolie’s funeral studies certificate to Andre Dawson’s tireless work as a mortician and funeral home owner, it’s pretty incredible what these big names have achieved outside the film and sports industries.
Now that you know all about the 5 celebrities who have dedicated their time and energy to the funeral business or ‘deathcare’ industry, you might want to have a quick read of these guides: