Whither Dorothy Parker's Ashes? The remains of writer Dorothy Parker reside at NAACP headquarters in Baltimore. (She donated her estate to the civil-rights group.) Now the NAACP may move to Washington, D.C. Will Parker's ashes make the trip? Parker biographer Marion Meade and John Ydstie discuss the possibilities.

Whither Dorothy Parker's Ashes?

Whither Dorothy Parker's Ashes?

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The remains of writer Dorothy Parker reside at NAACP headquarters in Baltimore. (She donated her estate to the civil-rights group.) Now the NAACP may move to Washington, D.C. Will Parker's ashes make the trip? Parker biographer Marion Meade and John Ydstie discuss the possibilities.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

What's next for Dorothy Parker? The sharp-tongued writer has been dead for nearly 40 years, but that hasn't made her situation any less surprising. Ms. Parker's literary executor, the playwright Lillian Hellman, never claimed her ashes from the crematorium. So Ms. Parker sat and sat and sat for 15 years in a filing cabinet.

She had wanted her estate, ashes and all, to go to Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP. In 1988, the NAACP built a memorial garden for her at their headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. But now, the latest twist. The organization might be moving from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

Biographer Marion Meade spoke with us in April about Dorothy Parker's curious demise. She joins us again from her home in New York. Hi there.

Ms. MARION MEADE (Biographer): Hi.

YDSTIE: So Dorothy Parker's ashes ended up in Baltimore in this lovely garden, but Ms. Parker didn't care for Baltimore, did she?

Ms. MEADE: No, she didn't. She was a New Yorker and she loved New York. And Baltimore was not a place that she probably figured she would ever end up in.

YDSTIE: It's hard to imagine her resting in Washington, D.C. either. A town not really known for its wit.

Ms. MEADE: No. As a former member of the Communist Party, she was...

YDSTIE: Where do you think she'd want to be?

Ms. MEADE: I think probably she would want to be in New York. Dorothy Parker's mother and father are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. And some of us have thought - by us I mean the Dorothy Parker Society and Parker's living relatives - that perhaps it would be a good idea for her to come back to New York. And we are willing to pay for the cost of having her re-interred here. Just an idea.

YDSTIE: Have you been in touch with the NAACP? We've been trying to call there to get some answers, but haven't been able to so far.

Ms. MEADE: Well, the Dorothy Parker Society has written to them. They haven't had a response from the NAACP. But I believe that Julian Bond was contacted by the Baltimore Sun about three weeks ago. And he did issue a statement saying that they would jump off the Empire State Building before they would give up the ashes.

YDSTIE: And Julian Bond is the chairman of the NAACP.

Ms. MEADE: Yes, he is. It's a peculiar situation for a civil rights organization to have to figure out what to do with somebody, a writer's ashes.

YDSTIE: Is there any quote of Dorothy Parker's that you think might be appropriate for the situation she finds herself in right now?

Ms. MEADE: She wrote a poem called Coda and she had really given up on life. She said this life has never been a project of mine. This is the quote. So I'm thinking of throwing the battle; would you kindly direct me to hell?

YDSTIE: Could that be Baltimore?

Ms. MEADE: I don't think she ever thought of that. Baltimore is a wonderful city, it's just not very Dorothy Parker-ish.

YDSTIE: Marion Meade is the editor of the latest revision of The Portable Dorothy Parker, out this past March. Thank you very much.

Ms. MEADE: Thank you.

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