SOOKIE: She’s [Rory] like the most unmaterialistic kid in the world.
LORELAI: No, it’s not about what she would buy. I don’t care if she buys a house, or a boat, or The Elephant Man’s bones.
Joseph Merrick, often incorrectly called John Merrick (1862-1890) was an English man with severe facial and physical deformities who was exhibited at freak shows as “The Elephant Man”. He then went to live at London Hospital and became well known in society, even being visited by royalty. It is not known from which medical condition Merrick suffered, and DNA tests have been inconclusive.
His life story was depicted in a 1979 Tony Award-winning stage play, The Elephant Man, by Bernard Pomerance, and David Lynch did a film version in 1980, starring John Hurt in the title role.
In 1987, Michael Jackson, who had apparently related to Joseph Merrick after seeing the film The Elephant Man, reportedly offered the London Hospital one million dollars for Merrick’s bones, but the hospital refused to sell them. It seems to have been a story fabricated by Jackson himself to add to his “Wacko Jacko” persona. For some time, rumours persisted that Jackson actually owned the bones.