Star-inspired products twinkle and fizzle out


How long before Karl Malden comes out with a nasal decongestant? In a world where more-than-ample actress Roseanne Arnold is preparing a line of plus-size women's clothes and dog-eared country singer George Jones is selling his own pet food, anything licensed is possible.

Ms. Arnold, star of the hit television series "Roseanne," is planning to launch a line of Roseanne apparel for women's sizes 12 and larger, and reportedly has talked with executives of the QVC Network about selling it on their shopping channel.

Mr. Jones has begun advertising George Jones' Country Gold Pet Food on The Nashville Network cable channel, and is in the process of writing a song to promote it through Wal-Marts, said his wife and manager, Nancy Jones.

Certainly, celebrity-inspired products aren't new. Remember Billy Beer, named after former President Jimmy Carter's convivial brother, the late Billy Carter? That was a hit for a few days in 1977.

Roseanne wear and George Jones chow, on the other hand, are riding the crest of a celebrity licensing wave, according to Rob Stone, president of New York licensing firm, Names International. "Celebrity products are like 900 numbers were two years ago," says Mr. Stone. "Everybody gets into them, then the field gets crowded and crazy, then everybody gets out of them."

Other celebrities who've lent their names to products include Kathie Lee Gifford (apparel), boxer Riddick Bowe (apparel), Farrah Fawcett (exercise equipment) and Joan Rivers (costume jewelry).

Most such products have the longevity of Pet Rocks, however. "Remember Frank Sinatra pasta?" Mr. Stone says. "I didn't think so."

According to Karen Raugust, editor of the Licensing Letter, the key to a successful celebrity product is that the celebrity be actively involved in promoting it, and that the product be a natural fit.

"Michael Jackson had a line of athletic shoes a few years ago and that didn't work out," says Ms. Raugust. "No matter how popular he is, people don't [talk about him] in the same breath as they do athletics."

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