Entertainment

He’s been dead for 30 years — but he’ll take the stage in South Florida

"He's hot, he's sexy and he's dead!"

Few cover teases caused so much attention as Rolling Stone's legendary headline for its Jim Morrison cover story in the Sept. 17, 1981, issue.

That article was about how a new generation had latched on to the former Doors singer who had died a decade earlier of an overdose at age 27 and how the marketing of dead pop stars could be a lucrative business.

Back then, that meant the reissuing of old albums and repackaged hits sets — a marketing ploy that sounds antiquated and downright quaint today.

Now, dead stars are learning what their live counterparts have known for the last five or so years: the real money is in touring.

If that means dead men touring via holograph image, so be it.

Coming to Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse on Nov. 18: Roy Orbison, the "Blue Bayou" crooner whose final studio album, "Mystery Girl," was posthumously released two months after he died on Dec. 6, 1988, at 52 of a heart attack.

The family estate-approved event, "In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert — The Hologram Tour," opens Oct. 1 in Oakland, California, and closes Nov. 19 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Before the Orbison hologram tour wraps its North American leg, it will have stopped at four locations in Florida, including the Walt Disney Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando and Fort Myers' Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.

Other stars who have already hit concert stages from the hereafter, or who have digital resurrections in the planning stages, include slain rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, who performed at Coachella in 2012 some 16 years after his death. Others include Ronnie James Dio, the former Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Dio frontman, and rocker Frank Zappa, R&B/pop superstar Whitney Houston and opera star Maria Callas.

Death doesn't guarantee a rest in peace, after all.

Some living rock stars have proclaimed they were dead set against being turned into a hologram and put back to work after their deaths — Prince being among the most famous examples.

"That whole virtual reality thing ... it really is demonic. And I am not a demon," Prince told Guitar World in 1998. "Also, what they did with that Beatles song ('Free As a Bird'), manipulating John Lennon’s voice to have him singing from across the grave ... that’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control."

Prince's quote was resurrected in February when word leaked that Justin Timberlake was rumored to be performing with a Prince hologram at his Super Bowl 52 halftime show in Prince's hometown, Minneapolis.

That didn't happen.

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BASE Hologram interactive concert performance with Roy Orbison. Base Holograms

But Orbison's long-planned, and hard fought in the courts "In Dreams" holographic tour is happening.

Credit the kind of motion capture visual effect that had movie audiences forming an emotional bond with Andy Sirkis' Caesar in the latest "Planet of the Apes" movies.

Much as in the movies, by which an actor works as a body double so that computers can capture the movements and digitally place them atop an animal, as in the "Apes" series, or an "Avatar" from director James Cameron, that's largely how show creators are putting Tupac, Orbison, Dio and Callas back to work on hologram tours.

Mix in projectors and carefully placed screens with the stop motion-like digitization, digitally remastered arrangements, and a live orchestra, and you have Orbison in Florida 30 years after he had any business singing his oldies like "Oh. Pretty Woman," "I Drove All Night" and "Crying."

Said Brian Becker, founder and CEO of BASE Entertainment and BASE Hologram, the company behind the Orbison and Callas hologram tours: “Roy loved playing smaller more intimate venues because he loved having that type of connection with fans. We also want to give fans across the globe the unique opportunity to once again experience the legend who continues to be a pivotal force in rock ‘n’ roll music and ensure that people in every city, in every type of venue, have a chance to witness what we truly believe is the future of live entertainment.”

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BASE Hologram interactive concert performance with Maria Callas, who died in 1977, at the Jazz at Lincoln Center on Jan. 14, 2018, in New York. Base Holograms

So we've gone from Natalie Cole singing an electronically created duet with her late father Nat King Cole on the Grammy-winning 1991 duet of "Unforgettable" to the two-hour, 32-song "Elvis - The Concert" at the former Sunrise Musical Theater in January 2001. That concert reunited Elvis Presley and his sequined pelvis (via video screen) flanked on both sides by in-the-flesh members of his TCB Band who had performed with him on his 1970s concert tours.

From that, there's been a spate of recent duets albums by living stars Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow crooning with the late Presley, Judy Garland and John Denver. Streisand also "sang with" the late Anthony Newley on stage at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena during her recent tour in December 2016.

Now, Tupac, Callas and Orbison, in the digital flesh. "Demonic" as the late Prince once suggested? You be the judge.

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Rolling Stone's Sept. 17, 1981, Jim Morrison cover proclaimed, "He's hot, he's sexy and he's dead." Rolling Stone

As Rolling Stone wrote in the 1980s of the Jim Morrison revival that began with The Doors' music being featured in the 1979 film, "Apocalypse Now," and a 1980 "Greatest Hits" LP release that sold millions: "The extraordinary distance between his life, his stardom and their own youth likely fuels the worship: maybe if these kids saw Morrison today, they wouldn’t be so certain all his activities were godlike. But in death, he remains their ageless hero, the biggest of them all."

Veteran music publicist Bryn Bridenthal, then with The Doors' label Elektra, told Rolling Stone at the time: "The group is bigger now than when Morrison was alive. We’ve sold more Doors records this year than in any year since they were first released.”

Orbison's last Top 10 hit was the posthumous "You Got It" in January 1989, the song he co-wrote with Traveling Wilburys mates Jeff Lynne and the late Tom Petty. You got him again.

If You Go

What: "In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert — The Hologram Tour"

Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: Nov. 18

Information: www.orbisonconcert.com or 954-462-0222

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.
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