MAE WEST, so determined to be in control of her image and her legacy, is now at the mercy of some "receivership" [ahem] that profits from selling her likeness and claims to represent "her estate." It's interesting that the actress's Will left one-third of her estate (including future earnings) to benefit the Actors Equity Fund. Several phonecalls (over time) to union headquarters in Manhattan revealed that they did not know this nor have they received one penny, as Mae had intended. Who IS raking in the green, you might wonder?
• • According to Canadian journalist Katrina Onstad, who did a fascinating article for The Globe and Mail: Technology has reshaped celebrity death. In 1997, Dirt Devil released an ad showing Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner. The press and public were appalled, and sales of the vacuum cleaner actually declined. Exhuming the dead for the purposes of shilling engendered a protective feeling in the audience. Astaire had no agency in this particular pas de deux (not to mention poor, erased Ginger Rogers) and there was something chilling about the fact that the strings animating the corpse were held by a computer.
• • “A dead person is vulnerable in ways a living person is not!” • •
• • Katrina Onstad writes: In 1981, Greil Marcus wrote with horror that Elvis Presley had become in the mere four years since his death “a T-shirt, a black velvet wall hanging, an emblem of working-class bad taste or upper-class camp.” “A dead person is vulnerable in ways a living person is not,” Marcus wrote. “A dead person can be summed up or dismissed.”
• • Katrina Onstad continues: Three decades later, dead celebrities aren’t just reduced, but regurgitated, revived, remixed and reissued, making a silk-screened T-shirt seem like a folksy little problem. Today, anyone with a computer can put herself in a room with Elvis, add a Santa hat and send a Christmas card around the world. The Dorchester campaign didn’t seem to generate any disgust at all. In the age of techno-mechanical reproduction, manipulation of the dead is a yawner.
• • Corbis acquired Mae West, now for rent (not unlike a taxi dancer) • •
• • Katrina Onstad emphasizes: And so, dead celebrities have become big business. In 2005, stock photo agency Corbis acquired a roster of “classic personalities,” including Einstein and Mae West (psst — — classic means dead). The arm where they now reside at Corbis is called GreenLight, which reportedly earned $50-million in 2009 by renting dead stars for endorsements. “The nice thing about a dead celebrity is [that] scandal is behind them,” a GreenLight VP told the Puget Sound Business Journal. Living artists should be wary of these shenanigans, at least if they believe their work is what creates value. To split a dead performer from her context for fun or profit seems like . . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Dead celebrities are big business"
• • By Katrina Onstad
• • Published by: The Globe and Mail [Canada] — — a division of CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc., 444 Front St. W., Toronto, ON Canada M5V 2S9
• • Published on: 17 December 2010
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •
• • Feed — — http://feeds2.feedburner.com/MaeWest