LOS ANGELES - Millions of fans from around the globe gathered along Sunset Boulevard to pay final respects to California today, as a slow moving funeral procession transported the eccentric superstar state's remains to its final resting place in a Winchell's Donuts dumpster in Van Nuys. The self-proclaimed 'King of Pop Culture' died last week at 160, in what coroners ruled an accidental case of financial autoerotic asphyxiation. The death sent shock waves across the world and sparked an outpouring of grief by rabid fans.
"I don't care what the tabloids and the Wall Street Journal say," said a weeping Illinois. "I still love you, Cali!"
The 640-mile long funeral parade route was lined with flowers, candles, teddy bears, and IOUs from millions of mourners and debtors who made the somber journey to watch the passing of the state that had once ruled the box office and industrial charts. Among them were current chart-toppers who cited California as a key influence.
"If it wasn't for California, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Arizona of Westside 3, the popular sunbelt trio who recently benefited from the late state's generous gift of fleeing taxpayers and businesses. As a tribute to their mentor, Arizona vowed the group would start spending money "like crack-addled hip hop stars."
"California's financial and musical legacy will never die," said band mates Nevada and Oregon.
At the official funeral service at the LA Coliseum, a grief stricken Washington, who teamed with California on several hit software and wine projects, had to be physically restrained from climbing into the deceased's gold plated casket.
Similar emotional outpourings were the rule of the day. Stories - apocryphal or not - of the late state's bizarre self-destructive behavior and fondness for molesting children did little to dampen the the flood of tributes from fans who preferred to remember California as America's Sweetheart.
From a humble beginning as a water-poor remote Spanish mission outpost, California proved to be a precocious and talented child performer. It struck gold with 'Sutter's Mill' in 1849, earning accolades and attracting millions of crusty bearded prospectors. Black gold soon followed with 'La Brea Tar Pits.' Unlike many child acts, California made a smooth transition to adolescence, scoring a major hit with 'Agriculture' in 1891.
Even a frightening bout with tremors did not stop the flow of hits. The 1915 megasmash 'Hollywood' broke all records, as did the wartime favorite 'Aerospace.' More recently, California topped the charts with 'Tourism,' 'High Tech,' and 'Coastal Pretension.'
For a time it seemed as if the superstar could do no wrong, but behind the glittering facade of Disneyland Manor troubling signs of mental instability began to emerge. The state developed a well publicized drug problem during filming of 1967's 'Summer of Love,' and briefly dabbled in strange religious cults. Under the influence of spiritual guru Jerry Brown, it began wholesale experimentation in exotic spending programs, eventual resulting in a traumatic 1979 stay at the Prop 13 Rehab Center.
During the 80's and 90's California enjoyed a brief career renaissance with hits like 'Olympics,' 'Real Estate' and 'Dot Com Boom,' but personal problems plagued the reclusive star once again. During the recording of the 'OJ' and 'Rodney King' albums, friends and visitors expressed concern over its recurring tremors and penchant for self-mutilation.
"California used to be so happy and beautiful," said a horrified Ohio. "I hardly recognize it any more."
During that period, camp insiders say the increasingly psychotic state began driving away its long time professional management team and support crew. In its place, it assembled an entourage of con men and embezzlers, some of whom stoked California's increasingly bizarre environmental paranoia. It was seldom seen in public without a breathing mask to ward off imagined pollutants.
Worse, the hits began drying up; the huge 2001 flop 'Dot Com Bust' put a huge crimp into California's once unlimited cash flow. Despite the setback, insiders say the superstar was unwilling to change its lavish lifestyle, and retreated once again into spending abuse. Personal expenses skyrocketed, propelled in part by California's 8 million adopted foster children. During the 90's sensationalistic accounts of child abuse began surfacing. Eyewitnesses reported California cruising local neighborhoods in school buses, luring unsuspecting kid for sessions of 'public education.' By some estimates hundreds of thousands were left traumatized and severely brain damaged.
The charges were vigorously denied by California camp spokestate Vermont.
"California loves children," said Vermont. "California loves children, because deep inside California is a also a child -- full of innocent wonder, and the belief that any budget wish can come true as long as you just wish hard enough."
True or not, the charges alienated many longtime fans, leaving California in an ever worsening financial position. In 2003 the state rejected suggestions that it was facing bankruptcy, saying that "I can't be out of money, I still have checks left." Amid the maelstrom, though, it fired tour manager Grey Davis who many blamed for California's financial woes. In his place, California hired Arnold Schwartzenegger to help engineer a career-saving comeback tour.
Under the management of the flamboyant Austrian body builder / therapist, California began a rapid descent that ultimately ended in death. Some faulted Schwartzenegger's unconvential therapeutic methods and prescription spending pills, including state pension steroids that some say were powerful enough to kill a Scandanavian industrial power. Schwartzenegger denied culpability, saying that his spending pills "help build de upper financial torso and lats, and deese other sings and so on."
Despite the last minute financial maneuvers analysts say the state died penniless, owing creditors as much as $100 billion. Amid the swirling recriminations between California camp factions, fans chose to mark its passing quietly. Longtime California fan club president Iowa said that despite being the constant butt of the Golden State's insults and jokes, it will remember the late superstar fondly.
"Let's not remember California as a bloated, rotting freakshow corpse hanging above a filthy public pension toilet," it said. "Let's remember the good times. Like my 6-day bender at the '91 Rose Bowl."
"California's pain is finally over, and I like to think that the whole state is going to a better place," Iowa added. "Just look at all those U-Hauls headed to Oklahoma."