Life of the party! Mortician hosts epic Halloween bashes at her G’wood Heights funeral home

Life of the party! Mortician hosts epic Halloween bashes at her G’wood Heights funeral home
Photo by Julianne McShane

She puts the “fun” in funeral home!

The director of a Greenwood Heights funeral home hosts an epic annual Halloween party for her neighbors in the basement of her burial boutique. Doris Amen — yes, that’s her real last name — said the Jurek Park Slope Funeral Home, at Fourth Avenue and 23rd Street, has been the perfect place to host her bash for more than a decade, because it allows her to bring the home of the dead to life.

“What better place to have a Halloween party than under a funeral home?” asked Amen who lives in Brighton Beach.

The multi-room basement of Amen’s building features a bar, pool table, casket room — where partygoers sip on “drinks to die for” — and Halloween decorations she keeps up year-round.

The mortician pays for the annual soiree herself, shelling out hundreds to cook huge trays of eggplant parmesan, baked ziti, and tortellini alfredo — which she serves on top of a coffin.

And the bash’s nearly 200 guests dance off the Italian cuisine by rocking out to tunes by local seven-piece rock band London Fogg until the sun rises. The band’s lead singer said the septet has played the gig annually for more than five years, adding that the creepy setting gives the soiree a special touch.

“Everybody dresses up, she takes pictures of people in costume in the coffin and stuff like that,” said John Reinhart. “It’s a very unique party.”

The death director delights in welcoming the neighborhood’s diverse crowd to the festivities — as long as they’re in costume, and they’ve received an invite.

“We have people of all different cultures and religions and socioeconomic backgrounds and colors, and everybody gets along,” Amen said. “The costumes are unbelievable — people start working on them right after the New Year. But you have to know me to get in.”

Amen’s long history in the neighborhood means many locals do know her. The born-and-bred Brooklynite has owned the funeral home — and chatted up her neighbors — for nearly 30 years, adding that the death industry complements her loquaciousness.

“It was the only funeral home I could find that was for sale, and it was the best thing I ever did,” she said. “I love the business because I’m a people person and I never shut up — 95 percent of the time you’re dealing with the live people, and five percent of the time you’re dealing with the deceased.”

And her last name definitely helps business, she said. Amen even incorporated it into the license plates of her Cadillac Roadster and her Maserati.

“Having the last name ‘Amen’ is an interesting concept — that’s why my cars have the license plates ‘amen2tht’ and ‘amen2thz,’” she said.

Amen said she hosts two services a week, and claims to offer the best rate in the city for a funeral: $2,000 for a one-day service, with a wake in a casket and cremation in a cardboard box. She can offer such bargains, Amen said, because she does it all herself, from moving bodies to dressing the deceased.

“I’m a one-woman band here,” she said.

Amen detailed the trials and tribulations of working in the death industry in her memoir, “I’m Dying to Tell Ya!!! True Tall Tales of a Brooklyn Funeral Director.”

One local who attends Amen’s Halloween bash every year said he’s never met anyone quite like her.

“She’s extremely unique,” said Jay Cusato. “She’s definitely a character.”

Cusato added that the Halloween party attracts locals young and old, and is an annual highlight of the spooky season.

“This is a party where anybody can go and anybody can have a good time — the first time I went, there were 22-year-olds and 80-year-olds hanging out,” Cusato said. “It’s just a good, fun time, and it’s a lot of neighborhood people.”

In past years, Amen has arrived at her blowout dressed as a Jazz Age flapper, Lady Gaga, and the Black Widow from the Avengers. This year, she plans to dress as German actress and singer Marlene Dietrich at the Oct. 27 bash.

But readers should expect a forced exit if they arrive without an invite, Amen said.

“All my pallbearers will be there, so if anybody is not supposed to be there, they are escorted out — in a nice way,” she said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
The living and the dead: Doris Amen has hosted her annual Halloween bash for locals in the basement of her funeral home for more than a decade.
Photo by Julianne McShane