Now that Tupac has been resurrected digitally, who's likely to be next?
—Randy, via the inbox
I'm tempted to create a new segment called America's Next Top Hologram, except, of course, Tupac was flat, and any subsequent dead stars who get the same treatment will be equally two dimensional. Did you hear me? Flat.
But as for which other stars may be on their way, I guarantee you these folks will surprise you:
For this answer, we'll need the help of people who would know: the licensing agents of dead stars.
There are whole companies dedicated just to, you know, shepherding Marilyn Monroe's face into the same room with Charlize Theron for a Dior perfume commercial. These companies know better than anyone which dead stars are in demand. And I found out.
The company CMG handles publicity rights for deceased legends ranging from Monroe to Marlon Brando to Big Pun.
But Mark Roesler, CMG's CEO and chairman, tells me that two other stars will probably take center stage first: James Dean and Bettie Page.
"Fans can't seem to get enough of them," he tells me.
I know, I know, neither Page nor Dean was a rapper. But that doesn't matter, Roesler tells me.
Dean's image, name and likeness has sold millions of products from Dolce and Gabbana T-shirts to Triumph motorcycle jackets. And he's been featured in commercials for Mercedes Benz and in ad campaigns for Lee Jeans and Converse.
"He is relevant now more than ever," Roesler tells me "He has high commercial appeal."
Ditto with Page, who has been ranked as one of the top 15 dead celebrity earners. There are eight Bettie Page clothing stores, plus shoes, lingerie, a Bettie Page movie, and a soon to be jewelry line.
"She has become a lifestyle brand," Roesler says.
So how might we see them in the near future?
"Since Tupac's image was 100 percent original," Roesler mulls, "any deceased star could be used in a live performance. James Dean could host an awards show and Bettie Page could dance live on stage during a burlesque show in Vegas.
"There are numerous opportunities for these deceased icons."
And they don't have to rap either.