Some profiting from Diana's death Sales of flowers, records, books rise; part of money is donated to her fund


LONDON -- In an emotional news conference at a celebrity tennis tournament in Florida last week, pop star Elton John urged people still mourning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales to begin putting aside their grief and get on with their lives.

Still, they might like to buy the new version of John's song "Candle in the Wind," which is expected to be the biggest-selling single of all time.

zTC Proceeds, John pledged, are to go to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which is becoming the fastest-growing memorial fund of all time.

Nobody doubts that John, a friend of the princess, is deeply upset by her violent and untimely death Aug. 31. Even so, he has found himself, however altruistically, placed squarely on what has quickly turned into a speeding Diana bandwagon.

Are people profiting from the princess' death?

The flower industry, to name one group, seemed to do extraordinarily well in the past two weeks, when mourners blanketed the entrances of the capital's royal palaces with as many as 60 million flowers, one for every resident of Britain.

"If you think about it, one of the cornerstones of the florestry profession is doing funeral work and dealing with people who are bereaved," said Andrea Caldecourt, a spokeswoman for the Flowers and Plants Association, a British industry group. "People want to express their regret that she had died, and flowers are an obvious way of doing that."

While some segments of the floral industry clearly benefited -- Holland, where 87 percent of Britain's imported flowers come from, saw a 20 percent to 25 percent rise in volume -- others actually suffered.

"Due to the funeral, a huge number of large engagements, like weddings and balls and functions, were canceled, and the flowers were canceled, too," said Anthony Mcalister, chairman of the Flower Import Trade Association.

Although they were regularly cast as the villains in the tragedy, Britain's London-based national newspapers reaped huge circulation benefits from Diana's death, with readers sometimes lining up in the street outside newspaper stores to buy copies.

Final figures aren't available, but all the papers had hugely increased sales, particularly on the Sunday that Diana died and on the following Sunday, the day after her funeral, when many newspapers released what they called "commemorative" editions.

Often, sales rose by several hundred thousand copies.

In the past two weeks, Diana's photograph has appeared on the covers of magazines from Time and the Economist to Vanity Fair and Hello!, the glossy celebrity publication whose title reflects its institutional enthusiasm. (The week after her death, Hello! sold about a million copies, or double its usual volume at this time of year.)

Next come the books. Not one, not two, not three, but books into the double digits are being re-released, hastily assembled or brought out sooner than expected.

St. Martin's Press is reprinting 200,000 copies of "Diana: Her Life in Photographs," a 1995 picture book that has been updated and renamed "Diana: A Tribute in Photographs," and which will arrive in stores in November.

At Simon & Schuster, Diana books being reissued at well past the million-copy mark in total include paperbacks about Diana, Prince William, Diana and astrology, and the British royal family.

In hard cover, the publisher is reissuing "Diana: Her True Story" in early October with a fat new color photo section and a new introduction by the author, Andrew Morton. According to a spokesman, Simon & Schuster has already received 525,000 advance orders for the book.

John Murphy, a spokesman for St. Martin's Press, said St. Martin's wasn't trying to profit from the princess' death. "The advance orders we got were enormous," he said, "and a portion of the proceeds are going to Diana's foundation."

Bantam Doubleday Dell is bringing out "Diana: A Tribute," a two-hour audio book that is being assembled by the British Broadcasting Corp. Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman, said that the company wanted to release something "fresh and authoritative."

"There's been a frenzied consumer response, and of course we wouldn't have this commercial opportunity if it wasn't for the tragedy," Applebaum added. "So we're going to give a portion of the profits from the sale of the audio to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund."

What else? The restaurants along Kensington High Street, just below the princess' apartment in Kensington Palace, are continuing to enjoy increased traffic from visitors making pilgrimages to what is fast becoming a shrine to Diana.

In Paris, newspapers have reported that some tourist groups are being led to the spot in the tunnel where she was fatally injured.

And, in what has at times felt like mass hysteria, no suggestion has been too far-reaching. Some have proposed renaming Heathrow Airport after the princess. Others would like to see the Mall, the wide road that connects Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, closed forever to traffic.

Even the ultra-respectable BBC has gotten in on the action.

In addition to its audio tape, it is releasing a Diana video that will be "an uplifting rather than a sad tribute to the Princess of Wales," said Vicky Thomas, a spokeswoman for BBC Consumer Publishing.

"All the money we make out of this is going to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund," she said. "We're not making a penny out of this."

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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