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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 04/ 4/2006

In Death, the Joke's on Farley

By Liz Kelly

Use of dead celebrities in ad campaigns is always a little creepy. Think Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil, Steve McQueen driving a 2005 Mustang and John Wayne taking a Coors break.

"Saturday Night Live" alum Chris Farley may have passed away over eight years ago, but that hasn't stopped him from appearing on a new billboard advertising a substance abuse program. Farley died after overdosing on cocaine and morphine in 1997 at age 33.

SNL funnyman Chris Farley (Edie Baskin - AP)

The billboard, set to tower over Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard near famed drug den Hotel Marmont, features a picture of Farley and the words "It wasn't all his fault." The company responsible for the billboard received permission from Farley's family and is negotiating with the families of several other dead celebrities to do the same with their likenesses.

Rather than engaging in a little tasteless fun with creative mix-and-matching of dead celebs and their vice of choice, let's use our power for good and plead with celeb relations to forego this kind of posthumous spokesmanship.

We get it. Folks like Farley, John Belushi and River Phoenix all made very bad choices and didn't live to tell their cautionary tales. We should pay attention to their fates and learn from them. But let's not get confused here. This is nothing short of exploitation. Although Farley's family hopes his image will let others know help is available, they are also accepting $25,000 for use of the image.

As an LA Times story points out:

"...some are questioning the propriety of such a commercial link between a celebrity's death and a specific product, implying that the celebrity's life could somehow have been saved."

Any person -- megastar or not -- who self-medicates enough to end life deserves to be remembered, missed and retired.

By Liz Kelly  | April 4, 2006; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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