Many doubt Lay is dead
July 14, 2006
HOUSTON ” Mark Twain once said reports of his death were premature. In the case of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, reports of his death were national news and there are still people who don’t believe it.
“Some people will go to any lengths required to escape the joint. Besides, he is not hanging out with Elvis. He’s writing songs with Jim Morrison,” said a posting to Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ blog.
Lay died July 5 while vacationing with his wife, Linda, near Aspen and did in fact escape his Oct. 23 sentencing date on his conviction for fraud and conspiracy.
“I think Ken Lay pulled a Tupac on all of us and is enjoying his retirement in the hills of Sweden or on a pristine beach somewhere,” said a posting Thursday on http://www.livejournal.com.
“Lay wuz so connected… he is probably hanging out in some island paradise,” said a reader at aspentimes.com. “No way is this guy dead. Come on,” said another.
One website is hawking “Ken Lay Lives” T-shirts. At least two Web sites merrily eschew all evidence that Lay indeed died of heart disease ” including a statement from the Colorado coroner who performed an autopsy.
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Lay’s own website simply displays his lengthy paid obituary published July 7 and 10 in the Houston Chronicle.
The Web features photos with cutouts of Lay’s face as tongue-in-cheek evidence that his demise was fabricated: Lay in a crowd in Pamplona, Spain, running with the bulls. Lay as E.T. on a bike about to fly away from bad guys. Lay disguised as a gnome posing next to the Eiffel Tower.
Elvis Presley’s 1977 death sparked the same kind of disbelief by word of mouth in the pre-Internet days.
Steve Jones, head of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said entertainers, corporate celebrities and even notorious felons are larger than life ” and can be even larger in the afterlife.
“Once they’re gone, they’re no longer in control of the stories we tell about them. Their telling of their own story stops, so we get to make things up. Sometimes it’s downright fun to do that, and other times we’re simply in disbelief,” Jones said.
As the theories go, Lay, 64, supposedly relied on wealthy friends to help him fake his death to avoid prison.
One found it a little too convenient that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was treated for altitude sickness at the same Aspen hospital where Lay was pronounced dead the day before. Powell was in the resort town to participate in a panel discussion.
“I was a bit on the fence about faking his death/not faking his death … until Colin Powell shows up in the exact same hospital a day or so later with airsickness. A big macho military guy like Powell goes to the hospital for airsickness? Please, does anybody buy that one? I’m sure Mr. Powell had a nice little package of new passports, ID and the escape plan all wrapped up in a secret folder to present to Kenny Boy,” said another poster on Adams’ site, invoking the nickname President Bush had for Lay before Enron collapsed in 2001.
Other theorists comment on the theories.
“Oh well, the conspiracy theorists will love this one, and since we have the technology to clone humans, we will undoubtedly continue to see reports of his body clones popping up in all the usual places throughout the world from now on!” said another posting.
Lay’s lead lawyer, Michael Ramsey, irritably dismissed all the Web talk after Lay’s memorial service in Houston on Wednesday:
“When I read the garbage that’s on the Internet, I’m reminded of the parable of the jackass kicking the dead lion. I think that’s enough said.”