Dead Celebs Make Comeback as Pitchmen

ByABC News
August 15, 2002, 10:41 AM

Aug. 16 -- In show business, everyone loves a comeback story. But 25 years ago, Elvis Presley went to a place that no one comes back from.

It's a tribute to the vitality of his recordings and the power of his persona that Elvis never did vanish from the pop culture landscape. This summer alone, his music and image have been featured in Disney's Lilo & Stitch, and he's had a No. 1 single overseas: a spiffed-up remix of a song from the '60s called "A Little Less Conversation." You can even hear part of Elvis' latest hit on a new Nike commercial.

In fact, a quarter-century after his death at age 42, Elvis has been earning more per year than he ever did when he was alive. Death, it seems, was just another phase in a career that featured so many different indelible incarnations: The hip-swiveling hero of the '50s the grinning sex symbol of '60s the jump-suited Vegas legend of the '70s and now, the eternal icon of advertisements, selling everything from pizzas to state lottery tickets.

Yes, the King of rock 'n' roll has become the king of dead celebrities, endorsing products and earning millions from beyond the grave. It's a field more lively than you might think. Because while some celebrities go to heaven, and some celebrities may go to hell, others are going straight to the bank.

From Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein, John Wayne to James Dean, a fistful of long-gone greats are defying time and achieving a kind of digital immortality through commercials. The estates of the deceased get a paycheck, and they sign off on every ad you'll see on television.

Perpetual Cool