The Last Meal

Gacy meal by Henry Hargreaves

I’m too old and sad to enjoy mocking death the way I used to. But Death Row trivia continues to fascinate me, even though it’s politically incorrect to express anything but outrage on the subject of the death penalty.

Photographer Henry Hargreaves has recreated the last meals requested by some notorious killers in a project called No Seconds. Looking at the photos, it’s hard not to form conclusions about each meal and the man who chose it. The meal above, for example, increased my disdain for John Wayne Gacy: “What a pig,” I thought.

Mcveigh by Hebry Hargreaves


Timothy McVeigh, on the other hand, limited himself to his favorite ice cream. Clearly, he was more focused and less self-indulgent.

Feguer by Henry Hargreaves


Look at what Victor Feguer asked for. What a cunt. Or maybe he was being a smart-ass. I can’t decide. I ‘d like to have told him ‘No way, buddy. You’ll eat a pitted olive or nothing at all.’

My reactions probably say more about me than the meals say about the convicts. That’s why this is art.

Here’s more to think about:

In Louisiana, the prison warden traditionally joins the condemned prisoner for the last meal.

In September 2011, the state of Texas abolished all special last-meal requests after prisoner Lawrence Russell Brewer requested a huge last meal and didn’t eat any of it, saying he wasn’t hungry. His last-meal request was for two chicken-fried steaks with gravy; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers. The abolition followed a complaint by Texas Senator John Whitmire, who called the meal “inappropriate.”  (Thanks Lawrence Russell Brewer, for ruining things for everybody else!)

You can read more about last meals here.  If I end up on Death Row, I plan to ask for a Fatburger with fat fries and a vanilla milkshake.

Feel free to place your order or rant about the death penalty.

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16 Responses to The Last Meal

  1. ali says:

    I ran away to catholic boarding school for one year in high school (Carmel valley, CA). Took a catholic studies class (two were required) that focused on the death penalty.

    We read Loaves & Fishes, and the novel about Terrance Williams…blah blah blah.

    We also watched a documentary featuring a Texas death penalty chef. I believe the purpose of the documentary was to humanize death row club members. Whatever, after taking the class I am staunchly anti-death penalty. mission accomplished, catholic boarding school.

    But the food documentary/ your post does a strange commentary on the oral fixation. The last meal request imposes an antithetic regression to babyhood. The ward, with total control of the prisoner’s consumption, offers one final freedom as token of mercy. The freedom to choose functions to emphasize the authority of the ward and provides a lens for explicating his life.

    In reverse, the baby gains freedoms from the mother as he chooses to renounce the breast. Every subsequent choice instigates his life.

    Ok. Sorry about that. I had an itch to be a mediocre pontificator instead of an office wench for a split second.

    I love this post!


  2. Sister Wolf says:

    ali – and I love your comment. We could probably talk about this for hours.

  3. Andra says:

    Wonder what the Castro bros. will want for a last meal.

  4. Cricket9 says:

    Ali, you are probably the only person ever running TO, not FROM, a catholic boarding school! Very interesting post.
    I suspect Victor Feguer wanted a pitted olive so he could spit the pit – perhaps at the warden?
    I know, not very deep thoughts, but if I start ranting about Paul Bernardo, his ex-wife Karla Homolka and death penalty, I will never end…

  5. Iron Chic says:

    Sister W,
    Have you seen Werner Herzog’s documentary series “On Death Row?”
    I believe there are four parts. One in particular gets into the ritual of last meals. I may be biased – I could listen to Herzog recite the phonebook….

  6. Tina says:

    When you mentioned Lawrence Brewer, it reminded me of this —I work at a Texas prison where Shawn Berry (one of the co-conspirators in the dragging death of James Byrd) is incarcerated. He is is administrative segregation. The inmates who have contact with him refer to him as “the nicest guy”. Whitmire was fairly pro-inmate until a guy on death row got a cell phone, called Whitmire’s house and threatned his family. Texas units were on lockdown for 2 weeks so they could do a “shakedown”. I think they confiscated 14 cell phones on death row–they sell for about $1500 a piece.

  7. Sister Wolf says:

    Andra – He’ll be lucky if he gets one decent meal in prison. He won’t be very popular.

    Cricket9 – I need to google Paul and Karla, never heard of them.

    Iron Chic – I really want to see this – I feel the same about Werner Herzog! His voice and diction are mesmerizing.

    Tina – Wow, fascinating. Thank you for the inside scoop. I want to hear more.

  8. Hi Sister Wolf. These are fascinating indeed – I like the quality of the photographs, and that they are recreations. It’s a ripe subject for artists obviously. Here is something about an artist who painted the meals onto plates:

    I guess it appeals to our imaginations too as it is something graspable – what you you have? – in a situation that is otherwise beyond most people’s understanding or experience. One olive though…?

  9. Tina says:

    More stories…Hmm. Well, one thing I find interesting is that people have this idea that there is some sort of vigilante justice in prison. For example, if a child molester goes to prison, the other inmates will “take care of him”. I am hearing this a lot with Ariel Castro, that people will kick his ass when they find out what he did to those three girls. Now, I am only speaking for the unit that I work at (teach college classes) for the past 20 years, and have a limited view on what is actually going on, but I don’t think that really happens. Years ago, I had a guy in my class (brilliant, sociopath). He molested a number of boys and taped these interactions. It was rumoured that he molested over 100 boys but was tried for 3 cases. THe other inmates would kiss his ass because he was the only one making good grades in statistics and he would tutor them. It’s all about what a person can do for you rather than what they did on the outside.

  10. Sister Wolf says:

    Tina – That is interesting! A real myth debunker. One may still hope that Ariel Castro can’t do a fucking thing for anyone.

  11. Dj says:

    I love what mr brewer did. Stick it to them one more time. Once one of my returns back to the u.s. from Europe was totally fd up,was sent one a four stop route before I was dumped at Newark for a night. No bags btw..anyway, got a toiletry kit at the Hilton they put me in, breakfast was on them….well…think of ol mr brewer…

    Now whole foods. I remember the original whole foods co-op as it was referred to and thin women in Mercedes did not shop of them did crash into my foot royally at the one in dc. Multitasking I guess “omg are you ok” and I politely responded “fuck no!” I had a terrible bruise from the back of my heel up to my calf…

    Take care sister. We love you

  12. Cricket9 says:

    Andra, you may find Paul Bernardo and his lovely wife (now ex-wife) Karla Homolka, and a royal screwup by the police sickening. Thanks to the screw up and Karla’s cunning she did 12 years in prison, got a free education, remarried, has children and lives happily ever after on a Caribbean island under a different name. She willingly and eagerly participated and helped her husband Paul Bernardo in abduction, torture, sexual abuse and killing of two teenage girls, and drugging, sexual abuse and death of her younger sister. Paul got a lifetime sentence.

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    Dj – Thank you, I will try.

    Cricket9 – Jesus.

  14. Amanda says:

    If I had a choice for my last meal (death row or otherwise), I’d go for Crabby Tots from Ale Mary’s in Baltimore, MD–tater tots smothered in a cheesy crab dip. Perfection.

  15. Meow says:

    I thought I should share this with you.

    Not sure if you have the least bit of interest in this:


  16. Sister Wolf says:

    Meow – Thank you so much! Sounds fascinating. xo

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