Marilyn and Hedda Hopper

It’s hard to imagine today that gossip columnists like Hedda Hopper once had the power to make and break careers, but in the age of the Hollywood blacklist, that’s exactly what she did. Hedda was never Marilyn’s closest ally in the press: that honour fell to Sidney Skolsky, and Hedda’s bitter rival, Louella Parsons.

However, it was Hedda who planted the (possibly apocryphal) story about an ailing Howard Hughes spotting Norma Jeane on a magazine cover back in 1946, and in 1952, she would champion MM as Hollywood’s finest ‘blowtorch blonde.’ She made no secret of her disapproval when Marilyn abandoned her studio contract and formed her own production company, and in 1960 she would expose Marilyn’s adulterous affair with Yves Montand.

Although more feared than liked, Hedda’s influence should not be underestimated. Originally published in 1963, her memoir, The Whole Truth and Nothing But, has now been reissued via Kindle, and for fans of Hollywood history, it’s a must-read.

David Gainsborough Roberts Has Died

David Gainsborough Roberts, owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Marilyn’s film costumes, memorabilia and personal effects, has died in Jersey aged 73 after a short illness, BBC News reports. A true admirer, he wore clothing emblazoned with Marilyn’s image to public events and shared his treasures with fellow enthusiasts in numerous exhibitions across the UK and beyond. In 2005, I visited a show at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire (the enchanting family home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) It was a very touching experience, and like many other fans, I will always be indebted to David for his generosity. In November 2016, his collection was sold for £1.5 million at Julien’s Auctions.

You can read a selection of posts about David here.

When Jane Met Marilyn…

In Scotland’s Sunday Post this weekend, Craig Campbell looks back at the life of Marilyn’s most congenial co-star, Jane Russell, who would have turned 96 this week. The article was first published in the June 17 issue of Weekly News – and you can read my own tribute to Jane at Immortal Marilyn.

“This most-unusual woman, by Hollywood standards, also started a weekly Bible study group, something she would invite a most-unexpected guest to in years to come.

Jane was an established star by the time that she made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953 with the most-famous blonde of them all — but her opposite number certainly hadn’t yet attained iconic status.

Already an ‘old, established broad who’d been around’, Jane felt Marilyn Monroe might like to come to some faith discussions, but the idea didn’t quite click.

‘At that time, Marilyn didn’t even have her own dressing-room, which sounds insane now!’ Jane laughed. ‘She only got one for that movie.’

‘She was super-sensitive, had her feelings hurt a lot, and the guys around the studio weren’t exactly tactful.’

‘We had a group called The Hollywood Christian Group, and I asked Marilyn along.’

‘She did say the next day: It’s not for me!’

What both leading ladies did have in common, however, was movie success … Jane’s razor-sharp wit was the perfect foil for Marilyn’s portrayal of gold-digger Lorelei Lei, and the song ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ became a classic.

Russell would also star in the follow-up, Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes, which was lacking the Monroe effect and didn’t fare so well.”

Gabe Pressman 1924-2017

Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Pressman, a reporter for New York’s WNBC-TV for over 50 years, has died aged 93. Born and raised in the Bronx, he covered events ranging from the assassination of Malcolm X to 9/11. Among his many interviewees were Harry S. Truman, Elvis Presley, Fidel Castro and, of course, Marilyn. Gabe is at her left in the above photo, as she confirmed her engagement to Arthur Miller in 1956. In a recent Facebook post, he paid tribute to Marilyn.

“She was effervescent. She was beautiful and she transfixed the reporters who interviewed her one day in New York. I was one of them.

I remember the main topic of the conversation. It was her new boyfriend who later became her husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

Marilyn was in a good mood. She laughed and she made us laugh. I asked her: ‘What do you see in this guy?’ And she trilled in a dreamy, soft voice: ‘Have you seen him?’ She rolled out the seen word in a mischievous way.

And she made us all laugh. She was charming and made us all part of the fun.”

Gabe Pressman (left) with Marilyn at Rockefeller Centre, 1957

Marilyn Sculpture in Cairo Controversy

A large sculpture of Marilyn, currently on display outside the Cairo Opera House, has stirred up controversy, reports Egypt Independent. Recreating the famous ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, Ehab al-Asyuti’s sculpture seems derivative of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’, and some observers have deemed her likeness less than flattering. But while she probably won’t be replacing the Sphinx anytime soon, Marilyn has made quite the comeback – her films were banned in Egypt after she married Arthur Miller and converted to Judaism in 1956.

Villa Nova Owner Dies

Charlotte Dale, former owner of the Villa Nova restaurant on the Sunset Strip, has died aged 93, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Born on June 24, 1924, in Duluth, Minn., Charlotte Dale’s family moved to Beverly Hills in the 1930s. Graduating from UCLA in 1946, Dale worked for a time at the William Morris Talent Agency and was a personal assistant to ‘F Troop’ star Forrest Tucker..

In 1948 she married Allen Dale, who had changed his name from Carlo Alfredo Di-Lisio when he came from Italy to Hollywood in the 1920s, finding work as an actor and stuntman. He opened the Villa Nova Trattoria on Hollywood and Vine in 1933 with financial backers Charlie Chaplin and Vincente Minnelli.

According to Alison Martino’s Vintage Los Angeles website, that’s where the couple met. After marrying, they ran the restaurant together, which moved several times before settling on the Sunset Strip in 1944. The site is now the location of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, a rock star hangout. The site has an interesting article about Dale’s visit to the Rainbow when she was 90.

Villa Nova was frequented by Hollywood’s elite on the Sunset Strip. Legend has it, it’s where Marilyn Monroe had her first date with Joe DiMaggio and Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland.”

Netflix and Chill With Marilyn (and Jane)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes tops a list of movies to watch before they leave Netflix in July, over at Bustle.

“Yes, there are many other great reasons to see this movie. If you don’t believe my swooning, here are some more facts: It’s got a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Important film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder cited it as one of his 10 favorite films. Plus, the technicolor in this movie is so intense and over the top gorgeous that watching it is like rolling around in a rainbow for one hour 31 minutes. And, of course, decades before Thelma And Louise or Bridesmaids or Set It Off, this is a film that’s ostensibly about two women hunting rich men that actually puts female friendship at the heart of the tale.”

Marilyn Flies High With United Airlines

This exuberant press shot of Marilyn arriving in Vancouver in July 1953 (en route to film scenes for River of No Return – more info herefeatures in a new display at the remodelled Global Services reception area for United Airlines’ elite customers at Los Angeles International Airport (L.A.X.), as Lewis Lazare reports for Chicago Business Insider. (She also flew from New York to Chicago with United Airlines when she visited Bement, Illinois to honour Abraham Lincoln in 1955.)

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Korea Veteran Takes the Cake With Marilyn

A veteran army cook has spotted himself in a photo with Marilyn in Korea during her 1954 tour, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Jerry Karthauser at top left, plus other photos taken during Marilyn’s visit to Seoul, South Korea

“If an Army cook meets Marilyn Monroe and doesn’t have a photo to prove it, did it really happen?

For 63 years now, Jerry Karthauser has been insisting it’s true. He fed lunch to the stunning starlet when she showed up in Korea to entertain the troops.

His wife, Mary, has heard the tale plenty of times. ‘He had a kiss from her, he cooked for her, and for all these 60-plus years, people were just sort of yeah, yeah, yeah,’ she said.

Well, now the 85-year-old Thiensville man finally has photographic evidence of their meeting, and it came in dramatic style during a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to the war memorials in Washington, D.C., last Friday.

Jerry’s son, Brad of Kansas City, tracked down the photo on the internet where it was hiding in plain sight. He had it framed and placed in the mailbag that each veteran on the Honor Flight receives on the ride home.

Turns out Jerry was embellishing a bit. ‘I always claim I got a kiss on my right cheek, but I think that’s a fable,’ the retired wholesale florist now admits.

Knowing the Honor Flight was coming up, Brad widened his search and found the photo of Jerry, Marilyn and another soldier. They’re all eating cake in the black-and-white pic.

‘She’s looking at me directly, and I’m looking at her,’ Jerry told me.

‘She’s actually flirting with him. It’s really quite a picture,’ Mary said.

Jerry was single at the time, February of 1954, and assigned to headquarters company 2nd Infantry Division near Seoul, South Korea. The mess hall denizens had sent Marilyn a hand-drawn invitation to lunch.

Many photos of that tour exist. Jerry, who grew up in Thiensville, was told the one taken of him would be sent to his hometown newspaper, but he doesn’t think it ever ran around here. Jerry captured a few snapshots of Marilyn during the visit, but he’s not in them because selfies were not a thing yet.

Jerry remembers Marilyn as friendly, accommodating and ‘really beautiful.’

‘She stood outside on a Jeep and signed autographs for a long, long time. It was a cold day. I remember that. She had a flight jacket on,’ he said.

Stunned by receiving the elusive photo on the Honor Flight, Jerry passed it around for others to see. Now, it will have a place of honor at home, and Mary denies she’s the slightest bit jealous when she looks at her husband and Marilyn Monroe making eyes.

‘It’s a nice story because it’s 60-plus years in the making,’ she said.”

UPDATE: In 2016, MM expert Scott Fortner purchased the hand-drawn invitation to Marilyn from the 2nd Infantry Division mentioned in the article. More info here.

Another day, another cake!

Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962

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