Tax time is over. And I often wonder if tax preparers suffer bouts of depression once they realize they’ve lost their power to really mess up our lives — until next year. Imagine being considered dorky and lame most of the year for working in the tax field. Then, come springtime, you’re the coolest, most powerful motherfucker in the world. Then again, aching over losing power isn’t the worst thing. Which brings us to the issue at hand and taxes’ unavoidable partner in cliché, death. Yeah, everybody dies — but not everybody is marketable after his/her respective bucket is kicked. The whole notion of a “legacy” doesn’t matter much anymore (unless you count Memorial Day cookouts). The real test of a celebrity’s post-mortem cultural worth can only be determined at the cash register. Dale Earnhardt is the most recent, obvious example of the official merchandising of dead people, and I already mentioned his official sunglasses a few columns ago. But, damn it, I can’t resist … here are two more examples: Dale Earnhardt Mud Flaps (two to a set, $29.99 at www.racingusa-online.com); and the Dale Earnhardt No. 3 Profile Rug (a 6-ft. rug shaped like Dale’s car for $64.99 at www.freemats.com).
At first thought, it seems like it would be kind of hard to market dead people because, after all, they’re unavailable for participation in advertising and marketing campaigns. But then consider that they are indeed dead — so they can’t create too many hassles or complaints. This is especially important when the stiff in question has a checkered past. Take, for example, the new GI Joe John F. Kennedy PT 109 Boat Commander action figure ($29.99 at Toys-R-Us). This muscle-bound, World War II-era JFK is officially licensed by the JFK Museum and Library (which, of course, will receive the obligatory “portion of the proceeds”). On the back of the box is a long essay covering JFK’s history as a war-hero skipper on a PT boat; essentially, the packaging tells us that Kennedy’s war experience “proves that one man can make a difference.” OK, but what about the proverbial woman behind every man? I am glad I asked.
You had to know there would be some lame sex joke connected with a JFK doll, didn’t you? Regardless … what better to accompany the prince of Camelot than the Marilyn Monroe “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” 18-inch doll. Those fine folks at the Franklin Mint have commemorated the “moment when she sang Happy Birthday to the President!” with a very vacant-looking, sequined-dressed toy. The official Marilyn Monroe Web site (www.marilynmonroe.com) kindly linked me to www.franklinmint.com so I could purchase this gift for five monthly installments of $27.00, or $135.00 up front. Just think of the time you could waste playing with the JFK and MM dolls. Hubba, hubba.
WILLIE AND WOLFIE
Speaking of mints, at Merchant’s Fine Wine store (22250 Michigan Ave., 313-563-8700) in Dearborn, I stumbled upon a $4.99 package of seven William Shakespeare chocolate mints (also available at www.groceryretailonline.com). They taste suspiciously like Andes mints or those hotel-pillow mints. But taste is irrelevant because each individually wrapped piece of chocolate features a portrait or quote from the king of high culture (“To be or not to be/That is the question”). And, if you’re really into having a high-culture candy dish, also available are Mozart cubes ($3.99) of dark chocolate with marzipan and hazelnut filling. I tried like the Dickens to eat one, but they’re pretty gross. Dead white males seem to be an acquired taste reserved for the cultured.
Last, but not least, a mention of the Tupac Shakur memorial marketing machine is obligatory. Sure, the guy’s been dead quite a few years, but that didn’t stop his recent album, Until the End of the World, from soaring to the top of the charts. But don’t think Tupac is limited to just music. There was the recent Broadway stage production, Up Against the Wind. And don’t forget the poetry. First, there was the book of Tupac’s early (bad) poetry, The Rose that Grew from Concrete. Now there’s a CD of various rap artists (Q-Tip, Dead Prez, even “Cosby Show” star Malcolm Jamal Warner!) reading said bad poetry. And sometime this spring, Evil Genius Toys will release the Tupac Shakur action figure, featuring the infamous “thug life” tattoo across the stomach.What grabs your attention? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org