Sometimes death is a good career move

Years ago, National Lampoon magazine called Elvis Presley’s death a good career move.

Years ago, National Lampoon magazine called Elvis Presley’s death a good career move.

Obviously they were playing the King’s death for laughs, given the shock value found in vintage editions of the controversial magazine. But National Lampoon was right on the money in a business sense.

Dead celebrities are a growth industry in the entertainment business.

A good example is Michael Jackson. The guy was about half a billion in the pail when he moon-walked to the big stage in the sky.

In the year since his death, his estate has inked a $250 million Sony deal and his record sales have soared.

Mike would probably have been happier to be broke and alive, but that option was no longer available to him.

The upside to the business of Michael Jackson is that Michael Jackson’s personal life no longer gets in the way.

Mike found his way to the front of the publicity line for some very questionable legal issues, but that will no longer be a barrier to his future earnings. Now all he needs is a good contract lawyer instead of a criminal or litigation lawyer.

There is a certain ghoulish quality to the business of celebrities without a pulse, but they leave behind a legacy of financial success that could never be achieved when they were alive.

Neverland was a very expensive indulgence for Jackson which, in its best light, was a troubling look at an adult who didn’t want to grow up. Rest assured that the people currently in control of Mike’s financial portfolio are not burdened by the same bad game plan.

Dead celebrities are no longer able to tarnish their halos after death. Their embarrassing moments are behind them, and repairs can be made to their reputations.

Nothing says saintly like a dead sinner. It’s human nature to cut some slack for the departed because they are no longer able to defend themselves. We make a sincere effort to find the good part of a dead person’s personality because it is the right course of action. It also makes famous dead people more attractive to their fans.

Famous dead people pull in around 800 million a year as a collective group. Elvis averages about 50 million big ones a year, and he is no longer looking to buy a fleet of Cadillacs anymore. And the front door to his beloved Graceland is always open-as long as you pay an admission. Southern hospitality is still around, but it’ll cost you 28 bucks to get through the door.

The new era of computer imagery also means that dead stars can appear on stage with live stars. It looks pretty good on a TV screen if you bypass the fact that dead people are pretty one-dimensional and they are very poor at ad-libbing onstage. They are also fairly poor at personal appearances.

The odd thing about famous dead people is the guy who makes the most money in the people- who- no-longer-care-about-earning-a-buck category. That would be Albert Einstein and who would have thought that brains would run at the top of the wealthy dead people list? Even a genius like Albert couldn’t have seen that possibility.

More of Jim Sutherland at

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