Banking on the Heath Ledger Tragedy

How long must you wait before attempting to capitalize on the tragically premature death of an international celebrity? Just a few hours if you work at a Best Buy in San Diego, where one enterprising store manager set up a “Remember a Great Actor Through Great Performances” table, a subtle reminder to customers that the best way to mourn the passing away of Heath Ledger would be by purchasing A Knight’s Tale on DVD.

Paparazzi agencies—businesses not exactly known for tact and grace—have been similarly aggressive: Within 12 hours of Ledger’s death, Radar received three e-mails from outfits looking to unload stock photos of the Australian actor, presumably in happier times. (A typical message: “In memoriam, April 4, 1979– January 22, 2008. Please contact [redacted] for more images.”)

“Every agency wants to sell him out—that’s what happens when someone dies,” explains one photo director. Which doesn’t exactly make it any more palatable. That only comes if you’re “reporting” on the story.

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