Wanted: Dead or Alive. (And in the case of Steve McQueen, that’s wanted dead.)*
There’s been quite enough class-warfare bashing of the living wealthy to last us for a bit. It’s high time we started paying more attention to the real problem haunting our economy, and that’s the vast discrepancy between the earnings of dead celebrities and those of the plain old dead. Talk about an earnings gap.
Apparently, Forbes agrees with me that this needs to be exposed, because last week they published a listing of the top-earning dead celebrities.
Michael Jackson heads the list. His haul, between October 2009 and October 2010, was $275M, which Forbes points out is is more than the income of the next twelve dead celebrities on the list combined.
Life Death is so unfair! Even among the ultra-long night of the living dead, there are hideous and profound inequalities. And then when you figure in the rest of us who won’t be earning one red cent after we’re gone, given the pushing up daisies pays squat…well, death stinks.
Of course, Jackson’s fortune likely got a shot in the arm by his untimely death in 2009. We’ll see how his death-to-date gross stacks up next to that of Elvis Presley in another 20 or so years.
Elvis is #2 on the hit parade of top earning dead celebs. He took in $60M, which would pay for an awful lot of peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches and diamond encrusted TCB belts, if only El and the boys were here to enjoy them. Elvis is up $5M from the prior year, an excellent performance in this bad economy. He may not be able to sustain the same level of growth moving forward, however. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and The King had a good outing last year thanks to the celebration of his 75th birthday, and to the launch of something called the Elvis Presley Cirque du Soleil spectacular. (Skinny Elvis, I presume.)
It’s not all singing and moonwalking in the after life earnings biz, however.
The #3 position is held by J.R.R. Tolkien, who grossed a cool $50M. Talk about Lord of the Rings! Unfortunately, J.R.R. was not able to take any of the $50M with himself to Middle Earth.
Charles Schulz came in fourth, at $33M. Some of that comes from Met Life, I’m sure, but does he earn anything from Snoop Dogg, I wonder. John Lennon placed 5th, at $17M. And poor Steig Larsson died before any of his lucrative works were published. If he’d lived, he would have brought in $15M this past year. (Note to self: add writing best-selling trilogy to bucket list; make sure this particular item is completed well before hitting said bucket.) Dr. Seuss earned $11M, and close at his heels was Albert Einstein, who made $10M, thanks in part to Baby Einstein, “Chrysler’s Ram brand truck ads and a collection of A.J. Morgan “geek chic” glasses.”
Einstein’s personality rights are handled by Corbis Greenlight, which also manages fellow top earning dead celeb Steve McQueen, tied for 11. Let’s go, alright.** (Further note to self: contact Corbis Greenlight; inform them that you have a ‘nice personality’ and are planning on writing best selling trilogy, topic t.b.d. Ask if they’d consider personality rights even without best-selling trilogy. I could do “geek chic” glasses.)
Along with Einstein and McQueen, Corbis also manages the Wright Brothers, Maria Callas, and Mae West. Albert Einstein and Mae West. Hmmmmm. Is that an equation in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
The list is rounded out by George Steinbrenner, Richard Rodgers, Jim Hendrix, Steve McQueen, and Aaron Spelling.
I’d say that Steinbrenner’s the dark horse, here. He’s only been dead for a few months, and already he’s cracked the top dead celebrity earner list.
And harrumph, harrumph.
Bad enough these folks earn a lot more in one year after death than most of us do beforehand in toto.
There’s another thing that’s bugging me here.
Just as there’s a gender gap in the here and now, it apparently lasts ad infinitum. Guess we’ll have to wait for J.K. Rowling to die before some one on the distaff side cracks the afterlife’s glass ceiling.
*For those who don’t recall black and white TV, Steve McQueen starred as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the 1950’s series Wanted: Dead or Alive.
**Randall’s catch phrase was “Let’s go,” pronounced/mumbled as “Lezzzgo.”
And a doff of the Pink Slip chapeau to my husband, who pointed the Forbes article out to me.