From “On the Religious Roots of Celebrity Worship” at Philly.com (Philadephia Inquirer/Daily News):

“There’s a kind of cultural fascination with special people who are marked out for greatness but who die young and often in tragic or violent circumstances,” says Geary, author of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2008).

Just look at celebrity funerals, says Laderman, who traces today’s cult of the famous back to Rudolph Valentino’s 1926 funeral. The crowds, Laderman says, were in a collective hysteria one usually associates with religious states.