Media! Undercover police operatives! Churchgoing Melburnians! Attending your first underworld funeral?
Relax! With your Crikey Gangsta Funeral Etiquette Guide, stitched
together exclusively by the Kooka Brothers, your chances of coming out
unscathed rise considerably. Simply print out this handy step-by-step
guide, memorise – and swallow.
Even though common sense and good discretion are always the best
guides to proper funeral etiquette, a few principles still apply.
After a sudden death, it is a common gesture for close friends of the
bereaving family to visit, offering sympathy and assistance. A
close friend may become very helpful with food preparation, childcare,
collecting debts, threatening the media, roughing up troublemakers, etc.
During a condolence visit it is appropriate to relate to family members
your fond memories of the deceased. When telling them of the big
winners he tipped you at Flemington, it’s always wise to play down your
winning dividends in case Uncle Salvatore or Cousin Tex gets greedy.
In some cases family members may simply want you to be a good listener
to their expressions of grief or memories of the deceased. In most
circumstances it is not appropriate to inquire as to the cause of death.
It is customary to show your respects by viewing the deceased if the
body is present and the casket is open. You may wish to say a silent
prayer for, or meditate about, the deceased at this time. In some cases
the family may escort you to the casket, sometimes while helpfully
brandishing a .44 magnum.
As with other aspects of modern day society, funeral dress codes have
relaxed somewhat. Black dress is no longer required. But heavy gold
chains, Gucci sunglasses and a shaved head are considered fashionable
in the 20-something underworld crowd.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
A note to media: It is not considered obligatory to return golf balls and eggs hurled at you by mourners.
If you attend a wake you should approach the family and express your
sympathy. Please do not wave cameras in their faces. Discreet notes may
be taken in the lavatory – although experienced police roundsmen will
know this is where much underworld business takes place.
Etiquette dictates that loud noises in the next cubicle are to be ignored.
Attendance at the wake is not mandatory – but discussions amongst
mourners regarding payback killings are regarded as strictly
If you were only acquainted with the deceased (and not the family) you
should introduce yourself. Media types please note: although AJA rules
require you to identify your news organisation, it is worth asking
yourself at this point: will the union pay for my funeral?
The length of your visit at the wake is a matter of discretion. After
visiting with the family and viewing the deceased you can mingle with
others. Normally there is a register for visitors to sign. When using a
false name, please take into account the ethnicity of the deceased. ie:
Finbar O’Flaherty is probably not an ideal nom de guerre at a Greek
After the funeral the family often receives invited visitors to their
home for pleasant conversation and refreshments, to discuss payback
details, and to arrange the next hit.
You can send flowers to the funeral home prior to the funeral, or to
the family residence at any time. Your flowers should not be too big,
garish and expensive – the larger, bad-taste floral tributes are
reserved for the Clan Boss.
Gifts in memory of the deceased are often made, particularly when the
family has requested gifts in lieu of flowers. Platinum-plated
knuckledusters, medium-calibre pistols and other useful contraband are
considered thoughtful tokens of esteem.
Even if you don’t provide a gift, a note or card to the deceased’s
family expressing your thoughts of the deceased is a welcome gesture,
especially if you weren’t able to attend the funeral.
This is often done via a death notice in the Herald Sun. Try to make it sound sincere, even if you
(a) hated the bloke
(b) knocked him off yourself
(c) are in jail after knocking off one of his mates
Friends, relatives, church members or business associates may be asked
to serve as pallbearers. Note down the names of these community-minded
souls – you will be attending their funerals in the not-too-distant
When the deceased has been active in political, business, church or
civic circles, it may be appropriate for the family to request close
associates of the deceased to serve as honorary pallbearers. They do
not actively carry the casket, but just as they may not have actively
shot the loved-one, they too are on somebody’s hit list.
A member of the family, clergy, a close personal friend or a business
associate of the deceased, may give a eulogy. The eulogy is not to be
lengthy, but should offer praise and commendation and reflect the life
of the person who has died.
Please note: underworld eulogies are not to be taken too literally, as
polite society awards poetic license to those whose occupations include
“gentlemen”,”consultants to the construction industry”, “hotdog
vendors”, “martial arts instructors”, “loudmouth underworld enforcers”,
Wearing colorful clothing is no longer inappropriate for relatives and
friends. Persons attending a funeral should be dressed in good taste so
as to show dignity and respect for the family and the occasion. Or in
bad taste, to avoid standing out as Purana taskforce members or jackals
of the press.
FUNERAL PROCESSION / CORTEGE:
When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local
area, friends and relatives might accompany the family to the cemetery.
The funeral director can advise you of the traffic regulations and
procedures to follow while driving in a funeral procession. Generally
speaking, it is wise to give way to black stretch limousines and
members of motorcycle gangs.
Media and police, please note. The occasion of a death is a very
confusing time for family members. No matter what your means of
expressing your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself
to the family, especially if you are completely insane, or have a death
A SYMPATHY CALL:
Telephoning a family member gives you an opportunity to offer your
services and make them feel you really care. If they wish to discuss
their recent loss, don’t hesitate to talk to the person about the
deceased. Be a good listener. Be aware that the Special Operations
Group will also be listening.
Your presence at the visitation demonstrates that although someone has
died, friends still remain. Your presence is an eloquent statement that
you care, or a scared enough to pretend to care. Visitation provides a
time and place for friends to offer their expression of sorrow and
sympathy, rather than awkwardly approaching the subject at the office,
supermarket or social activities, or just before being gunned down in a
Friends should use their own judgment on how long they should remain at
the wake or place of visitation. If they feel their presence is needed,
they should offer to stay. If they feel any heat, they should
When arriving at the place of worship, clasping hands, an embrace, or a
simple statement of condolence can express sympathy, such as:
“I’m sorry.” (Be careful, in the context of an underworld feud, this can easily be misinterpreted)
“It was good to know Little Pasquale.”
“Ice Pick Andre was a fine person and a friend of mine. He will be missed.”
“My sympathy to your mother. Isn’t she the only one left?”
The family member in return may say:
“Thanks for coming.”
“Vittorio talked about you often – where’s that goddam money you owed him?”
“I didn’t realize so many people cared. Where were they last Tuesday at the Brunswick Club?”
“Come see me when you can. Or I’ll send the boys around.”
Encourage the bereaved to express their feelings and thoughts, but don’t overwhelm them.
Most importantly, give them space. If possible, leave town quickly and quietly.
The views of the Kooka brother do not necessarily represent the views
of Crikey. Their contribution are published only in the interest of
public debate and entertainment.