Dead men working still getting paid


It used to be said that there were only two things you could really count on in life: death and taxes.

Now it has come to pass that death, rather than being the career killer you might have assumed, is a prime time for paying taxes.

That is if, like any number of celebrities among us (or no longer among us) you continue to out-earn the average, still-living, Joe.

Still performing. Consider that legendary crooner Frank Sinatra will appear not-so-live and in concert five years after his death. Despite having (technically) died in 1998, Sinatra will perform at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall later this year.

Three-dimensional holographic images will be projected on screens to give the appearance of Sinatra, well, appearing. Better yet, a 10-piece orchestra, a full choir, and the Rockettes will provide backup.

No expense will be spared to make Frank larger than life. Literally. That’s gotta hurt for all the aspiring performers who can’t score a concert at Radio City despite, at the very least, actually breathing.

There’s more. Curious as to what other dead folk I might not be living up to, I did a little research and came up with the following: Elvis Presley, Charles Schultz, and John Lennon, despite being deceased, each earned upwards of $20 million or more in the last year alone.

I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that even the dead are living larger than you and I.

Mind you nothing is certain. James Dean, who has been dead longer than some of the up-and-coming dead people were alive, is considered a slacker among the dearly departed; having reported only a modest annual income of $3 million or so.

Meanwhile, Rapper Tupac Shakur, one of the upstart dead at only 25 and six years passed, has continued to ride the charts: releasing over 200 hits since his demise.

Apparently, seniority means nothing among the dead. It’s clearly not a union operation.

Despite the passing of the aforementioned Charles Schultz, his Peanuts comic strip continues to run in nearly every U.S. comic page. Ditto for Erma Bombeck’s humor column, At Wit’s End, which is still available in syndication, despite her having died in 1996.

Tough competition. Perhaps I’m showing my bias, but I think I can speak for all writers and related artists when I say, unequivocally, that it is hard enough to face rejection without the added sting of being rebuffed in favor of non-living competition.

Anyone seeking publication can commiserate with the rejection letter that gently, but firmly, states: “We have no use for your work at this time.” However, “Try again when you’re dead” just plain hurts.

Why the plethora of work for the dead while unemployment continues to plague so many of the living?

Best kind of workers. Speaking to the venerable Forbes magazine, Mark Roesler, a leader in the field of licensing deceased celebrities, summed it up: “There’s very little risk of surprises.”

Yes, I can see that. After the ultimate surprise of dying, very little is going to come as a shock. It almost makes sense.

When you engage John Wayne to sell your particular brand of beer 15 years after he has died, you know that John isn’t going to show up on a talk show somewhere stating that he never touches the stuff.

Hire Fred Astaire posthumously to dance with your Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner, and you can rest in peace that a Hoover isn’t the skeleton in his closet.

And it goes without saying that when it comes to a solid-gold endorsement, the dead rarely get arrested.

No retirement age. Clearly, this is all part of the push to extend the retirement age. Today’s average 20-something worker is predicted to remain in the workforce until 72, if not later.

Obviously, our dearly departed celebrities are, as usual, staying abreast of the latest trends and amending that to mean much, much later. If ever. Death itself no longer being an ironclad reason to retire.

Calling it quits. We have long known that the famous are not like you and me. Call me a slacker, call me less than committed, call me anything you want, but I’m telling you right now – when I die, I’m calling off.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt works as little as possible in this life, let alone the next. She welcomes comments c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.