The best-paid dead stars
For celebrities, the adage goes, death is often a great career move.
Just in time for Halloween, Forbes.com has released its annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities. For the fifth year in a row, the performer who has racked up the most in sales from the crypt is Elvis Presley, whose death reportedly inspired manager Col. Tom Parker to say that nothing would change; it would be just like when Elvis was in the Army. This year, the King earned $45 million, $10 million more than the No. 2 ghost, ”Peanuts” cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. A lot of perennials made this year’s list (John Lennon, George Harrison, Andy Warhol, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Irving Berlin), but there were some newcomers: the recently deceased Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, and Marlon Brando. Charles and Cash earned their place via biopics and the inevitable post-death surge in record sales, while Brando’s comes from a lucrative estate auction and his appearance in that new Godfather video game. Thanks to the digital revolution, Brando and other dead celebrities may actually be working to earn their royalties for eons to come.
By the way, the Forbes site not only has quick links to past years’ lists, but it also has these excellent print-’em-yourself Halloween masks of some of this year’s top earners. Though I’m not sure even the most rabid Lord of the Rings fan will recognize you if you go trick-or-treating as Tolkien.