The King of (Soda) Pop, or Adventures in Musical Capitalism

Funeral Potatoes and Bundt cakes may be more traditional offerings for a memorial service, but this is LA, and he was the King of Pop, so traditional is pretty much out. Entrepreneurs (and in-laws) Tonya Sandis and Mark Pahoundis hope that King of Pop Soda is in.

Pahoundis raised a respectful glass on June 25th when he heard the news that Michael Jackson had died, and "idly talked to my wife, Ynez, about how nice it would be to do something as a tribute to the King of Pop." Champagne was their beverage of choice, the popping cork an auditory brainstorm. Pahoundis then called Sandis, and the idle chat turned into a busy week. Initially, the pair thought to create re-labeled bubbly, but when that proved too complicated, they settled on soda instead.

"Michael never had a childhood, but he stayed a kid at heart--soda pop seemed perfect," says Sandis. Between June 25th and July 7th, the pair created a company, which they launched outside the Staples center during Jackson's memorial service. They and their families spent the July 4th holiday sticking commemorative labels to bottles of four flavors of soda--root beer, orange, cream soda and cola--and arrived in a truck loaded with t-shirts and soda at a downtown parking lot at 2 A.M. the morning of the service. And yes, they did play Jackson tunes while they waited for the mourning masses to arrive.

Pahoundis and Sandis are convinced that King of Pop Soda Company has staying power. "With utmost respect to Princess Di, Micheal Jackson is the King," says Pahoundis, "and we think people are going to continue to want to pay tribute and remember him forever, like they do the Princess." The bottles, which they sold at five dollars a pop, so to speak, were a special commemorative edition label, not to be repeated. But the two plan to expand their offerings to include wine and spirits. The kind of spirits you drink, that is.


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