Following the ongoing controversy of the Jimmy Savile affair, the days of a celebrity’s death being the ideal way to future-proof their legacy seem firmly to be over, with many famous people now avoiding death like the plague. Among those grimly hanging onto life in case reputation-ruining rumours appear are said to be Bruce Forsyth, Liza Minelli, Ken Dodd and Richard Hammond.
‘It used to be that the convention of not speaking ill of the dead, plus the immediate boost to CD and DVD sales, made death a shrewd business move,’ said PR consultant Abby Jerard. ‘But now all that’s changed and the skeletons in your closet are likely to take up the first four rows at your funeral, and they won’t be singing ‘Candle in the Wind’. There is no comeback from a post-mortem scandal – you can’t open a home for abandoned kittens when you are dead.’
The new-found awareness of the dangers of death has caused startling changes in celebrity behaviour. Cocaine, ecstasy, and meth use are at all-time lows, and celebrities offered rehab are now saying ‘yes, yes, yes’. Jeremy Clarkson has even traded in his Ferrari 458 for a Volvo station wagon and has enrolled on a ‘Careful and Considerate Driver Course’.
‘Our worst nightmare is an unexpected death,’ said Max Clifford of a ‘much-loved’ entertainer he manages. ‘If that happens we won’t publish a death notice, but will instead announce that he has moved to New Zealand – it’s close enough to the truth. One of my BBC presenter clients is so worried he’s left explicit instructions that in the event of falling seriously ill life support is only to be switched off if England win the World Cup and Kate Middleton gives birth on the same day.’
A newly-sober prominent guitarist summed up the gloomy celebrity mood: ‘Fuck Savile – I have to eat this salad shit, and can’t climb palm trees while stoned anymore. It’s enough to make me feel suicidal, but that’s no longer a viable option – not least because I was too out of it to remember what happened when I invited Gary Glitter, a bus load of schoolgirls and the Epping Photography Society to visit my sanctuary for retired stud donkeys.’