Carl Minardo, president of AIM Holographics, believes that baby boomers will be reluctant to give up the stage — even after they’re dead and gone. Minardo would know, he’s a boomer himself and a self-taught funeral expert.
Offering his holographic eulogy recording services to funeral homes across the country, Minardo believes that the dream of living on through tech will resonate with the millions of baby boomers now facing their own mortality, and he’s here to help make it happen. From his sunny offices in West Palm Beach, Minardo, a boomer himself, spoke to Inverse about the business and beauty of cheating death holographically.
A holographic eulogy? How’d you come up with that?
My partner and I — you might not appreciate the humor in this, but we came up with it on a golf course on Palm Beach. Where else does anything happen in Palm Beach? We’ve been working on this for almost 16 months. That’s how much lead time had to go into this. But we were talking about doing something together, and he had a vision of wanting to do a hologram, like you think of in Star Wars, but in a mausoleum. I just thought there would be a lot of logistical problems to doing that with the regulations in the cemeteries, and the mausoleums are old, and they’re damp, and how do you retrofit one so it doesn’t cause a problem, get electricity to it, how will people have access, you know what I’m saying?
So how do you make this into a business?
It really became apparent to me that baby boomers have driven, since we were children, a piece of business wherever we went. So it was Silly Putty, then Slip ‘n Slide, then Slinkies, and then 45” record albums, then ‘60s muscle cars — well, now it’s the funeral industry. Because baby boomers — there are 76, 77 million — they’re going to be driving the funeral industry over the next 20 years because we’re going to be the ones dying.
How are you going to convince funeral directors to buy into this?
The overwhelming majority of baby boomers are going to get cremated. Like myself. I’m not getting buried. So if you’re a funeral director and you have a business — most of these are small, they might have a governing corporation over them — but they’re mom and pop businesses.
There are funeral corporations who we’re talking to, but in the main, they’re small businesses, and they’re used to getting, I dunno, $12,000, $14,000 for traditional, in-the-ground burial. You know, the casket, the liner, two days, blah blah, that’s all gone. It’s gonna be all gone. Because now they’re gonna get cremation. Cremation is very competitive, and no frills, and maybe you get $800. So if I’m in the business, and I’ve got three homes, and people are going to die, and I’m seeing that I’m losing a $14,000 moneymaker, and I’m replacing it on the low end with an $800 thing, I’ve got trouble.
And where do holographic eulogies fit in?
What the industry’s doing is changing. Or if they’re smart, they’re changing. You have this celebration of someone’s life, and a lot of the funeral parlors here, they do a 2- to 3-hour celebration where they’ll have food, and beverages, and a big area set up, it’s like a banquet hall, there’s photographs, there’s video collages. Well, there could be a eulogy in a small unit on a pedestal that people could walk around and see and encourage them: “Oh, God, remember when Carl did blah blah blah,” right?
So, a holographic eulogy is a way of adding value back to a funeral?
This now gives the funeral director opportunity. We’ll travel, we have the capability of having a production company here to go anywhere in the continental United States to film your customer’s eulogy. So if you’re a funeral director and someone comes in and they go, wow, I’m a baby boomer, this is great, it’s green, it’s techy, it’s me doing it my way — because baby boomers want it our way. Never forget that. It’s always our way. And it’s personal.
So it’s getting better for a baby boomer. Now, instead of just getting cremation, you can offer a cremation package that’s a celebration of life, a little bit of a luncheon, and a six-minute, holographic projection eulogy!
What’s wrong with the traditional way of giving eulogies?
I tell people, it gives you the opportunity to talk about who is important in your life and what they meant to you, not with a buffer. It’s not like in the past, where you grew up in the same town, you passed away, the minister, the priest, the rabbi, they knew you, they knew your family. Nobody knows anybody. They probably won’t even say your name right. It just takes this burden off of your family, your friends. It’s your eulogy, your way.
So, do people record their eulogies when they know they’re dying?
Unless you and I are lucky enough to be walking down the street and get hit by the beer truck, we’re all going to end up our last days of our lives, as depressing as it may sound, in hospice care. That’s not the way I want people to remember me. I want them to remember me when I did this eulogy 15 years earlier when I was still full of you know what and could have a couple of drinks and raise some hell. “Hey, here I am, and everyone would go, ‘Wow!
Okay, say I’m ready to record. How does it work, exactly?
So you book this, funeral director says fine, they prepay, they call us, we send someone at your convenience to your home — anywhere in the continental United States — they have a little setup booth, because it’s shot with a black background, and you’ve got to have certain lighting or cameras. Shoot a couple of hours, bring it back, edit it down to six minutes over the internet, through the Cloud, boom! Into the equipment at the funeral director’s end.
Wow. And why stop there, right?
We have a product that we were going to market to an ultra-wealthy individual. High wealth, over $30 million in investable assets. Put it in their home and create a real, 15-minute Life Legacy, where you can create virtually a movie of your life as a hologram, and you could have your children in it, your grandchildren in it, your pets, whatever you want. It’s your life story, and that would be something that would last forever. So your great-grandchildren, who would never know you, could sit down and you can talk to them about your family and their grandparents that they would never have known, and your grandparents.
And to me, that’s a priceless thing. It really resonates with people. Although we’re all mortal, here’s a way to do something that, for perpetuity at least, our children’s children and their children will have an opportunity to know who I was, what I looked like, what I sounded like, what my thoughts were, and have an understanding of where they came from.
Could this hologram be used to bring back people from the dead?
The University of Alabama’s got a rich tradition of a football team. Their most famous coach was Paul Bear Bryant. He was the coach for, like, 30 years. He always wore a little fedora that was checkered, white and black. Very distinctive image.
They have the licensed rights to the images of Paul Bear Bryant. So if they gave me 1,000 or 2,000 square feet of film, we could create Paul Bear Bryant to walk out on stage as if he were alive — you’d swear it was him — and deliver the President’s message.
Sounds like you’ve found a way to turn death into something pretty lucrative.
Sometimes, two guys out on a golf course come up with a crazy idea that actually has merit. I got a lot of crazy ideas come up on golf course that would never make a dime, believe me, but this one here, we really feel we’re at the right place at the right time with the right product. And we’re the first one in the field with it.