Have you ever wondered what your favorite dead celebrity would be doing if they were still alive today? Of course you have -- there are a lot of hours in the day, and sometimes you have to spend them daydreaming about meaningless bullshit. "Where would they be now?" is a question we try to answer on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Lahna Turner (Perfect 10 podcast) and Cracked art person Randold Maynard. Up first, we discuss the music legend who brought this topic roaring back into the public consciousness recently.
#5. Elvis Presley
Getty Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Holy shit, have you seen that picture of Elvis where some artist gave him the "let's not give up on finding this kidnapping victim" treatment and digitally altered a photo to show what he'd look like today?
ABC News tracked down a photo restoration firm called Phojoe and, immediately blown away by one of the most visually stunning websites of the modern Internet age, no doubt ...
This is what Walgreens.com looked like in 1998.
... commissioned them to produce that now-famous image. Phojoe scoured dozens of photos of the King of Rock and Embarrassing Toilet Deaths and, I'm assuming, at least one or two photos of the funny one from The Blue Collar Comedy Tour ...
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Elvis would be holding a sandwich and a bottle of pills, though.
... to draw their final conclusion. As fascinating as their work may be, it doesn't address what Elvis would be doing if he was alive today. It got me thinking about that very question, though, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing about it here today.
So what would he be doing right now? Well, my first guess is that, you know, he'd be dead. No way was this guy living to see 80. Johnny Cash barely broke 70. If the age progression is any indication, those two were on a relatively similar trajectory.
Scott Gries/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Johnny Cash is better though.
Still, assuming they died around the same approximate age, that leaves the King a lot of years to get his shit together and do something other than eat fried peanut butter sandwiches and shoot at his television. It's possible that his first steps toward another comeback may have come from a seemingly unlikely source. Remember the 1970s Pointer Sisters classic "Fire"?
Of course not, because everyone on the Internet is young and beautiful. Nevertheless, it's a song that exists that a lot of people enjoyed, and it wasn't written by or even for the Pointer Sisters. It was originally penned by a young Bruce Springsteen during the sessions for his goddamn fantastic Darkness on the Edge of Town album, with the intention of passing it along to Elvis to record.
That never happened, on account of how death intervened first, but it certainly sounds like something Elvis would sing, so let's assume he did and things went well and everything was back on track. What happens next?
Unfortunately, the '80s happen. You know who was awful in the '80s? Damn near everyone, and unless someone can give me a compelling reason why not, I think it's safe to assume Elvis would have been as well. For him to do anything at all would have required at least a temporary recovery from the ravages of drug addiction, which almost always meant Jesus for musicians of his era, and if there's one thing that never mixed well with the age of synthesizers, it's religion. Bob Dylan proved that by ending the '70s/kicking off the '80s with a trilogy of albums all about his recent conversion to Christianity. They actually aren't as bad as people make them out to be ...
... but the Lord was no competition for cocaine and parachute pants back then, so no matter the quality of the songs, it's almost guaranteed Elvis would have spent most of the '80s as a bit of an afterthought musically.
That doesn't mean he would've been done, though! For starters, given that his 1968 comeback special was basically a prehistoric version of MTV Unplugged ...
... it's not unreasonable to consider that he might have made an appearance on that show. It's also quite possible Rick Rubin would have swooped in to give him an acoustic guitar-driven career makeover, just like he did with Johnny Cash and, eventually, Neil Diamond.
Then, after all that, assuming that famous Public Enemy line about Elvis being racist is true, he probably would have called Obama a Muslim at some point and spent the rest of his days touring state fairs with Hank Williams Jr. Dammit, Elvis!
#4. John Lennon
Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
For a long time after his death, criticizing John Lennon was something people just didn't really do. One, he was a Beatle, two, he was tragically murdered at a ludicrously young age, which has a way of shielding a person from unwanted criticism for an extended amount of time.
It seems the statute of limitations on shit-talking Lennon has passed, though, because these days the Internet is brimming with retrospective contempt for the man who famously had the gall to question if you could give up your possessions in the name of the greater good while he was playing a piano worth more than your car inside the confines of gigantic house worth more than your entire life.
It's a bit of an understatement to say he wasn't without his flaws as a person, so it's not unreasonable to expect that at least some years of his life would have been dedicated to a messy public divorce.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Imagine there's no Yoko!
Or, if nothing else, that's what the rest of us would've wanted, so let's indulge in that fantasy for a bit and predict that Lennon v. Ono would've been one of the first really high-profile divorces of the tabloid age.
Speaking of fantasies, his last album is called Double Fantasy and, if I'm being completely honest, it isn't his best moment. It's his last album, so people tend to be kind to it in reviews and such, but half of it is Yoko Ono songs and the other half is John Lennon sounding like the godfather of '80s adult-oriented rock.
If you don't have time to give it a listen, just know that song is what "Imagine" would sound like if it was mostly about being all right with buying a minivan. I know the romantically ideal version of John Lennon as a counterculture rebel dictates that, rather than delving further into Christopher Cross territory, he would've been swept up in the excitement of the punk and/or new wave movement and made some truly interesting music, but his posthumous releases ...
This is some Jimmy Buffett shit.
... and comments from around that time both vehemently disagree. Besides, if that was going to happen, it probably would have well before he died.
Still, it might not have all been comparatively disappointing music and relationship drama for John Lennon. For one thing, if he lived, a legitimate Beatles reunion would have been a possibility at least until 2001, when George Harrison died. Given his penchant for political activism, a prime reunion opportunity would've prevented itself in 1985 when Bob Geldof managed to get every musician on the planet together for Live Aid, a massive benefit concert to aid famine relief in Ethiopia. A full-on Beatles reunion with all four members would've beat the shit out of Led Zeppelin featuring Phil Collins on drums ...
... that's for damn sure. As for everything else after that, I'm afraid it can likely be summed up in one disturbing photo.
John Phillips/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
In other words, if John Lennon was still alive today, things would be exactly as they are; we'd just have a second Bono to contend with.
#3. Princess Diana
Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Quick! Name a female celebrity whose death seemed to have the same impact on the public as, say, a John Lennon or even Michael Jackson. Did you say Princess Diana? If so, great job, although I have no doubt your answer was at least somewhat aided by the fact that there's a fairly large photo of her right above these words.
Patrick Riviere/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
And right here.
Now that we have that out of the way ... quick, name another! Not so easy, right? Sure, plenty of talented and powerful women died well before their time, but naming one whose death immediately brings to mind a sea of mourners holding candles and crying in public the way the death of Princess Diana does is something I still haven't really been able to do, although I'm sure the comments section will try to help.
The point is, whether you care about the royal family or not, Princess Di, as she's so rarely been called since she was killed in a car accident in 1997, meant a whole lot to a huge part of the world. So don't let your apathy toward British politics fool you into thinking that her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 meant she would just fade into relative obscurity.
For one thing, her death happened a bit too early for sites like TMZ and bloggers like Perez Hilton to have been of any concern at the time, but not by much.
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
Life was better then.
History since then has proven that, relevant to our lives or not, British royals will always make headlines in this country. In this case, we're talking about a divorce that involved infidelity and all sorts of other players on both sides. In all likelihood, Princess Diana would have ascended to the throne of Queen of Tabloid Headlines before anyone else.
It wouldn't have been all petty fights and relationship talk, though. Her divorce didn't mean she was completely stripped of her royal title, it just changed from Her Royal Highness to Diana, Princess of Wales. That didn't exactly sit well with everyone. In her book, The Diana Chronicles ...
You've read it, right?
... author Tina Brown reports that the Duke of Edinburgh warned Princess Diana that her title would be taken from her if she didn't "behave." In the very likely event her personal life turned into constant tabloid fodder, it's just as likely a fight to jettison Princess Diana from the royal family altogether would've ensued. How successful it would have been is anyone's guess, but I don't doubt that someone would have tried to strip her of the privilege and authority that comes with being a ceremonial figurehead in England.
So, a decade and a half of fights about titles that mean nothing to us and salacious blog posts about who she might be sleeping with later, where would we be? I'm not a fortune teller, but I'm assuming that, like anyone else who's rich, lives in England, and appears in tabloids frequently, she'd probably be friends with Jay-Z and Beyonce right now. Oh, hey, speaking of that guy!