Benjamin Krass was buried June 9 in a blue polyester suit with the lapels removed and in a white shirt and white tie secured with a Philadelphia Eagles pin, thus giving proof to his often-watched commercial, the one in which he popped out of a casket and said, "If you gotta go, go in a Krass Brothers suit."
Mr. Krass, 85, died June 7 at a nursing home in Rosemont, Pa., in suburban Philadelphia. He had Alzheimer's disease.
For more than three decades beginning in the mid-1960s, Mr. Krass -- who spent 54 years peddling polyester suits and flashy menswear from a series of stores on South Street -- was one of Philadelphia's most recognizable citizens.
His fame began when he started appearing -- starring -- in a series of corny 10-second commercials made on the cheap, and usually airing late at night, promoting Krass Bros., the South Philadelphia landmark once known as the "Store of the Stars."
In various ads, Mr. Krass pranced around in diapers, was drooled on by a cow and was mobbed by women. In one spot, he bellowed: "If you didn't buy your clothes at Krass Brothers, you was robbed."
All the commercials were filmed in his store, where the coffin was kept.
He stopped doing the commercials in the early 1990s, when tastes changed, sales plummeted and the store fell on hard times. It went from more than $2 million in sales in 1984 to about $500,000 in 1996.
By 1999, the glory days were over. The store declared bankruptcy after city officials said Mr. Krass owed $339,339 in back wage taxes.
Krass Bros. closed in 2002.
When the going was good, Krass Bros. -- which started in 1947 in an old movie theater at 937 South St. -- had the kind of reputation and clientele not often seen in Philadelphia.
Mr. Krass chose suits for Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Redd Foxx and Muhammad Ali when they came into town.
"Benny Krass is the guy who made South Street famous," said disc jockey Bob Pantano, host of the "Saturday Night Dance Party" on WOGL-FM.
Mr. Krass's love for the absurd entertained Pantano's listeners at Halloween parties during live radio shows at area clubs.
"I gave him the mike inside the coffin, and the ad for his suits was broadcast," Pantano said. Then he popped out of the coffin.
Mr. Krass decorated his store with promotional glossies of such names as Birdie Castle and the Stardusters, the Ink Spots, the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Dovells. A painting of Frank Sinatra, done on black velvet, hung in the window.
Mr. Krass owned the business with his brothers Jack and Harry, but he was the store's frontman.
He lived the good life, owning a succession of Rolls-Royces and -- after divorcing Naomi Wagor, his wife of 30 years -- clubbing around town in his luxury vehicles.
Krass Bros. began as a humble business in 1947, when Mr. Krass and his brothers pooled $7,000 to open a store across the street from their father's shop.
Krass Bros. became a success, eventually moving to a proper building at Ninth and South in 1985. The 135-pound dynamo and self-styled "King of Polyester" ran the store with a broad smile and retail ingenuity.
Survivors include four children, two sisters, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.