Lucille Ball America’s Favorite Dead Celebrity

Lucille Ball continues to be America’s favorite dead celebrity, with Tom Hanks again topping the live list.

Lucille Ball Tops List of Dead Celebs (AP)

Lucille Ball is America’s most beloved dead star. The company that developed the “Q score” that broadcasters and advertisers quietly consult to measure a personality’s popularity has done a survey that tests the reputation of performers who have gone on to that big soundstage in the sky. The redheaded sitcom star of the 1950s and ’60s, who died in 1989, has topped past “Dead Q” lists as her comedies seemingly live forever on television, said Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations, Inc., which conducts the tests. “What is there not to like about Lucy?” he said.

Bob Hope, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Red Skelton follow her on the popularity list.

For 41 years, Levitt’s company has given consumers a list of names and asked if they know the people and to rate how much they like them. From their responses they calculate the Q score, a measure of both familiarity and likability. Advertising executives use the information to make sponsorship decisions, while broadcasters check Q scores to see how well their news and entertainment stars are connecting.

Tom Hanks has been the most popular live star in the last few surveys. Dead stars still do business, though. Coors used film clips of Wayne in a popular commercial, while Fred Astaire has danced to hawk a vacuum cleaner. “Some of these deceased personalities have Q scores equal to or greater than some of the live personalities we measure,” Levitt said.

Two performers are relatively new to the list: Johnny Carson and John Ritter were both ranked among the 10 most popular dead stars. Others offer a reminder of television’s power to keep people figuratively alive; “The Honeymooners” star Jackie Gleason, who died in 1987, is still remembered and beloved. “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and Michael Landon fill out the top 10.

I’m a bit surprised that Red Skelton and Charles Schulz rank as high as they do. I’ve never thought of Skelton as a mega-star in the same sense as Ball, Wayne, Stewart, or Carson. And, while “Peanuts” is an American institution even though it hasn’t been funny in decades, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Schulz on television; I’m not sure I would recognize him from a photo that didn’t include one of his cartoons.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Schulz on television; I’m not sure I would recognize him from a photo that didn’t include one of his cartoons.

    I have, and would.

    And that frightens me.

  2. former marxist says:

    In his time Red Skelton was as big a presence on TV as Ball, Gleason or Carson.

    Skelton on Tuesday Nights pulled a 25 share and was easily the #1 show on that night.

  3. spencer says:

    Red Skelton was really big in the 1950s, so among older Americans he would be much more popular then the others. Moreover, like Bob Hope, his humor was topical so you do not get reruns of his programs — also both were hour long variety shows not popular for reruns.

    If you are under 50 (?) much of your exposure to these stars would hae been watching reruns as a kid.

    Where is Elvis?

  4. McGehee says:

    Where is Elvis?

    Busing tables in Kalamazoo. Why do you ask?