Richard "Dick Clair" Jones was an American actor. He never married, had no kids and died on December 12, 1988 of AIDS, at the age of 57. Though he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and Merv Griffin, he was best known as a writer of many very popular television shows including The Facts of Life, Mama's FamilyFlo, Carol Burnett & Company, Different Strokes, Soap, The Bob Newhart Show, Mary Tyler Moore and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Two aspects of Dick Clair's existence spelled trouble for any will attorney; well, other than he was eccentric as any Hollywood actor can be expected to be: he was a fan of cryogenic and he changed his mind at the last minute.

Clair specified in his will that his remains as soon as possible after death, was to be given to the Alcor Corporation, the so-called hi-tech firm that freezes freshly-dead human bodies with the faint hope that one day a cure for whatever killed them can be found and they can be safely and slowly warmed up and revived. According to People Magazine:

"Alcor takes its name from a faint star in the Big Dipper that only those with keen vision can spot."

Dick ClairCourt papers explain the attraction:

"Cryonic suspension (also known as cryogenic suspension) is a process by which the legally dead but biologically viable body of a person who has been ill or injured is preserved at low temperatures until such time as medical science may be capable of reviving the person and implementing effective cure or treatment of the illness or injury."

The cryogenics process costs about $100,000 (Alcor offers a head-only neuro-suspension at the bargain rate of $35,000).

And Alcor, according to Clair's first will, was also to get Clair's entire estate, estimated at about $1-million but expected to grow to $20-million with royalties on the reruns.

Sensing trouble from California health authorities, Clair sued the California Public Health Service to make sure that his body went promptly to Alcor, the cryogenics company. The State had come out swinging against Alcor, refusing to issue death certificate where the body was to be given over to cryogenics. No death certificate, no access to human remains.

Clair sued in the name of John Roe to remain anonymous. An Alcor press release, perhaps not the most reliable of sources, but still the custodian of the person of Dick Clair, picks up the story. With Clair on is death bed, a restraining order was obtained allowing Alcor to take the body from Sherman Oaks Community Hospital, within two hours after the pronouncement of death:

"Judge Munoz cited Mr. Roe's right to determine the course of his medical care and postmortem disposition as being paramount and as overriding the rights of the hospital to determine what kinds of procedures are carried out on patients in their facility providing that such procedures did not jeopardize other patients or staff."

Then the death-bed change to his will. Three days before he died, Clair changed his will. The Alcor executive that had been named executor? Out. His best friend, Jenna McMahon was to be his new executrix. The new will gave only half of his estate to Alcor; still not chopped liver.

Alcor sued wondering, reasonably, how an almost dead guy, heavily drugged, could have the wherewithal to change his will so dramatically? McMahon's attorney made the mistake of telling the press that (and again, according to People Magazine):

"He (Clair) said there were balloons coming off the wall, but he knew he was hallucinating and that there really were no balloons there. It was like a '60s acid trip."

That prompted Alcor's lawyer to retort:

"That just shows how incompetent (Clair) was. Would you let a person on an acid trip sign a complicated legal document?"

Within minutes of his death, Dick Clair was frozen. That same day, the United Press International (UPI) published this story:

"A cryonic laboratory has frozen the body of Dick Clair, an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer who died of AIDS Monday, in hope that he can be revived when a cure for AIDS is discovered. His body became the third placed in cryonic suspension by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Riverside, Calif. The firm also has frozen the heads of eight people in hope that new bodies may one day be cloned for them.... Clair, born Richard Jones, appeared on talk shows and in documentaries espousing cryonics, and once created a television character to advocate his beliefs. His body, which will be encased in a stainless steel vacuum container and frozen in liquid nitrogen at minus 320 degrees, will remain frozen for from 50 to 150 years, Alcor officials said. The procedure costs $100,000."

Clair was the 13th suspension at Alcor after eight other humans, three dogs and a cat (baseball legend Ted Williams was added to the Alcor lineup in 2002).

In May of 1989, Alcor discontinued the attack against Clair's second will.

On June 10, 1992, four years after his death, the Court of Appeals of California, Justice Gates presiding, ordered that in future, the death certificate should issue from the State of California, without which Alcor could not take custody of bodies. The California Court of Appeals forced the State to issue death certificate even though the bodies were stipulated to be delivered to Alcor. In ominous words, the case concluded:

"Should cryonically suspended people be considered dead or should a separate category of suspended people be created? How should such people be registered in official records? What happens to the estate and the assets of the decedent after the decedent is put in cryonic suspension? What would happen to such estate and assets if and when cryonic suspension is successful and the decedent is restored to life? Whose identity is the person to assume or be assigned and what of the record of the person's death? Alcor also stores body parts, such as human heads and hands. In such cases, whose identity will the suspended heads and hands assume upon their restoration; the identity of the original owner of the body part or the identity of the new body to which the body part will be attached?

"These are, of course, but a few of the presently imaginable conundrums which could arise should Alcor at some future time actually succeed in reviving the currently dead. Nonetheless, we are confident that those persons who will then head our various branches of government will be far wiser than we and entirely capable of resolving such dilemmatic issues without our assistance."

According to Alcor,  decedents stored in sub-zero solutions are not dead; they are just suspended. So, how, then, can Alcor cash in on the estate checks which, in accordance with law, ought not to be payable until such time as the decedent is admittedly dead?

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