Forever Yours

Move Over, ALCOR. Phoenix-based Preserve A Life wants to make sure the dearly departed are ready for their close-ups.

As Bryce Cunningham likes to maintain, the possibilities are limited only by a family member's imagination, the prime factor in Preserve A Life's decision that it will go public next year.

"The funeral industry in this country is a guaranteed cash cow of $10 billion a year," he notes. "If Preserve A Life captures only part of that market over the next decade, we're going to make our investors very, very happy. Our closest competitor is ALCOR, but they're offering only the possibility that maybe one day you'll be brought out of the deep freeze. 'Give us your money today, and take us on faith,' they're saying. But here at Preserve A Life, you get a quality product that your loved ones can utilize here and now. There are no gimmicks or IOUs."

While Cunningham professes to want nothing to do with ALCOR, a well-placed source tells New Times that this claim may be all talk. The source says that the two firms are working on a deal in which Preserve A Life would offer humidermy, where only the skin is utilized, and the rest of the body could then be frozen over at ALCOR.

At an office in downtown Tempe, the mounted heads of 
a businessman's son and daughter, killed in an auto 
At an office in downtown Tempe, the mounted heads of a businessman's son and daughter, killed in an auto accident.
The Braswell family with Sparky and the deceased Granny 
Jeff Newton
The Braswell family with Sparky and the deceased Granny Dunlop.

"What they're telling people is that a skinned body could just as easily be fixed in the future as anything else," the source says. "Jeez, ALCOR's convinced people that they can get their heads chopped off and that medical science might one day be able to clone a new body! Wouldn't it be easier for advanced medical science to clone a new coat of skin? If the two companies were to join forces, it would offer the deceased and their families a chance to have their cake and eat it, too."

The source continues, "What you have to realize is that what these two companies offer is not mutually exclusive."

Comparisons to ALCOR, the Scottsdale cryogenics lab best known for turning late Red Sox slugger Ted Williams' head into a much-fought-over human Popsicle, is on the mark for a number of reasons.

City fathers struggled tirelessly to have ALCOR come to Scottsdale, and similarly Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Governor Janet Napolitano teamed up to bring home the Preserve A Life bacon to Arizona's capital city.

When PAL execs were hunting for a new home in the southwestern United States, having decided that Canada's regulations were too strict and its taxes too high, Gordon and Napolitano took Cunningham and Crittenden on a whirlwind three-day tour of the Valley, wining and dining them, and tempting them with a package of tax breaks and incentives that ultimately proved too tantalizing to turn down. For Gordon, it meant another in a string of initiatives to revitalize the downtown area, of which PAL headquarters is on the eastern edge. For Napolitano, it was all about bringing more business and jobs to the state.

"Mark my words," exclaims the mayor, "what seems controversial now will be conventional in the near future! Preserve A Life offers a terrific service to our citizens, and when the history of downtown revitalization is written, their move to Phoenix will be seen as a key factor in the ultimate success of our plans. With the ASU extension and light-rail attracting more residents and commerce to the central city, it won't be long before the PAL complex is surrounded by an expanded downtown."

Though Governor Napolitano was away meeting once again with Mormon leaders in Utah -- this time for a conference titled "Bigamy Today: Bad Rap or Poor PR?" -- her press office issued the following statement to New Times:

"The Governor believes Preserve A Life will be a boon to the state's economy, and is glad to do anything to further ease their transition to the welcoming climate of the Valley of the Sun."

The statement didn't mention that Napolitano has already done a great deal to help Preserve A Life's business. During last year's legislative session, an amendment to a budget bill in the state Senate, introduced by Senator Ken Cheuvront, created a loophole so that Preserve A Life need not register with the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Executive Director Rudy Thomas was miffed, telling a subordinate, "First ALCOR, now this!" But as Thomas serves at the discretion of the governor, his anger was quickly mollified with a phone call from Napolitano, a source at the state capital reveals. Napolitano, Gordon and Cheuvront believe Preserve A Life will ultimately mean a $500 million jolt to the local economy.

PAL's reclusive genius, Crittenden, never gives interviews, but Cunningham is plainly tickled that the pols are falling over themselves to please PAL. "I've offered all three of them our services free of charge when they expire," says Cunningham. "The gift will be legal. After all, they'll be dead. And in all three cases, it'll be a piece of cake. Especially with Mayor Phil Gordon, who's looked especially corpse-like ever since he endorsed Andrew Thomas for Maricopa County Attorney."

Cunningham smiles after the latter statement; as a Canadian, he has found local politics in his company's new home amusing in a macabre sort of way.

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