With sales of Princess Di memorabilia falling off sharply after a record 1997, collectible-plate-industry leaders Monday called for the tragic death of beloved entertainer Barbra Streisand.
"For the 1998 Christmas season to be anywhere near as successful as last year's, we need a heartbreaking, untimely end to a wonderful life that we can commemorate with a series of limited-edition collector's plates," said Franklin Mint president Jim Campion, who joined representatives from the Bradford Exchange and Danbury Mint in a unified call for Streisand's tragic demise. "The death of Barbra Streisand, with her upscale, intensely devoted following, would be ideal."
Economists say the unexpected death of a star of Streisand's magnitude would translate to a 70 percent sales boost for the $1 billion collectible-plate industry.
"A Streisand death would probably outsell all other recent celebrity deaths combined, including Princess Di and Frank Sinatra," said Andrew Culpepper of The Wall Street Journal. "I could easily see QVC moving anywhere from 500,000 to a million units of Streisand memorabilia in the first week alone. After all, we're talking about the woman who sang 'People,' 'Evergreen' and 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers.'"
Directly addressing the Funny Girl star, Campion urged Streisand to give "serious consideration" to the collectible-plate-industry's request.
"Ms. Streisand, you have lived a life of comfort and wealth, much of which was made possible by the selling of collectibles and memorabilia bearing your image. We feel it would be fair and honorable of you to 'give something back,' both to your fans and the collectibles industry, by passing away in a manner that leaves the world stunned and deeply in want of some tangible object commemorating your rare beauty and talent, an object your fans can hold on to as a treasured keepsake and an assurance that your spirit will always be with them."
Among the means of death recommended by collectible-plate-industry leaders: car crash, helicopter crash, skiing accident, drowning, accidental shooting, or a rare, degenerative disease that Streisand had been bravely battling for years in secret. Surprisingly, they were also open to the possibility of a sleeping-pill overdose.
"While embarrassing and potentially tarnishing to a star's legacy, the perennial success of Elvis Presley memorabilia proves that a drug-related death does not necessarily hurt sales. In fact, in some cases it can actually help," Campion said. "We therefore wholeheartedly approve of this mode of demise."
In anticipation of a possible Streisand death, plate-makers are busily developing merchandise lines. The Bradford Exchange is planning "The Evergreen Collection," a line of premium, gold-inlaid plates depicting Streisand in scenes from such cinematic triumphs as Yentl, Nuts and The Mirror Has Two Faces. Additional plates commemorate such landmark moments in Streisand history as her triumphant 1994 return concert at Madison Square Garden, her 1981 "Best Pop Duet" Grammy for "Guilty" with Barry Gibb, and her brief 1970s marriage to Elliott Gould.
Said Bradford Exchange vice-president of marketing Theodore Deele: "Each Evergreen Collection plate will be available for just two easy payments of $49 plus shipping and handling, and will be limited to 200 firing dates, virtually guaranteeing it to be a rare, sought-after collectible. It will also come with a certificate of authenticity stating unequivocally that this is indeed a plate with a picture of Barbra Streisand on it."
The Bradford Exchange is already accepting reservations for the plate, promising customers an unconditional money-back guarantee should Streisand decline to expire.
Numerous other industries have praised the collectible-plate manufacturers' call for Streisand's death. Said Laura Samuelson, president of the American Association of Florists: "In September 1997, British florists sold $11.5 million worth of Di-related bouquets, nearly half of which were laid at the gates outside Buckingham Palace. Based on those numbers, we are confident we could easily sell $20 million in flowers for fans to lay in front of Streisand's Brooklyn birthplace."
Also supporting Monday's call for an untimely death were the Home Shopping Network, People magazine, and Columbia Records, which would stand to enjoy a 300 percent surge in Streisand-back-catalog sales from such an event. Beanie Babies manufacturer Ty has also expressed interest in producing a limited-edition Barbra Bear. And close Streisand friend Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote her 1973 hit "The Way We Were," said he would record a new version of the Grammy-winning song in her memory. "The Way You Were (1998)" would hit stores the first Tuesday after her death, and would likely become the best-selling single of all time.
According to collectible-plate-industry leaders, a number of other celebrities were discussed as possible candidates for tragic death, but Streisand ultimately emerged as the best choice. "We talked about all sorts of people--Bette Midler, Elton John, Oprah, Leonardo DiCaprio, Celine Dion--the list goes on and on," Martin Krujczek of the Danbury Mint said. "But the more we talked, the more apparent it became that no one could match the incomparable Barbra Streisand."
Buzzing over Monday's call for their idol's death, Streisand's famously devoted fans are already eager to purchase something to remember her by.
"I can't even tell you how crazy I am about Barbra--I've seen A Star Is Born at least 200 times," said Rick Childress, a Hermosa Beach, CA, hairdresser. "If she died, I would buy anything and everything that's even remotely commemorative."
"There's nobody else like Barbra. Nobody," said Woodmere, NY, homemaker Joan Kushner, whose 6,000-item Streisand collection includes an autographed copy of My Name Is Barbra and the boxing gloves she wore in the movie poster for The Main Event. "God forbid anything should ever happen to our Barbra. But if it must, let there be merchandise to help us cope."