Richard Anthony Monsour was born in Boston, of Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian descent. His family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts when he was a child, and he had learned to play several musical instruments before buying a guitar from a friend (paying back the $8 cost in instalments.) In 1954, his father began working for the Hughes Aircraft Company and the family moved to El Segundo, California. At 17, the aspiring musician began playing at country bars, where TV presenter ‘Texas Tiny’ suggested he adopt the name Dick Dale.
Born left-handed, Dale played the guitar upside-down, and later partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment. His love for Arabic music inspired him to use Middle-Eastern scales in his compositions, and his experiments with reverberation would make him a pioneer of surf rock.
But in 1956, Dick Dale was just like every other teenage boy who wanted to be the next Elvis Presley; and that year, he won an Elvis Sound-A-Like Contest in Los Angeles.
This led to an uncredited bit part in Let’s Make Love (1960.) In a short scene just after Marilyn sings ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, a group of Elvis impersonators audition for a part in a revue. Dick Dale, wearing a red jacket, is the first to perform and by far the best. (You can watch the clip here.)
But the role is won by another impersonator, played by 16 year-old John Gatti Jr., who dons the red jacket for his cameo in Marilyn and Frankie Vaughan’s duet, ‘Specialization.’
In 1961, Dale began playing surf guitar with his new band, the Del-Tones, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. His first hit single was ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’. They appeared on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show, and in two of the popular Beach Party movies, and released two seminal albums. Among his many fans was a young Jimi Hendrix. As the British Invasion put an end to the surf craze, Dale battled cancer for the first time. He later returned to music and became an environmental activist.
Dale’s career enjoyed a resurgence when his early hit, ‘Misirlou’, was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. A teetotaller and vegetarian, Dale also practiced karate. In later years, he continued touring to pay his medical bills. Dick Dale died in Lorna Linda, California, on March 16, aged 81.
Goodbye Norma Jeane, the new play about ‘dance director’ Jack Cole and the movie goddesses he coached – set in the aftermath of Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 – has opened at the Above The Stag studio theatre in Vauxhall, South London, and will be playing there until April 7.
“When Marilyn Monroe died, not just Hollywood but the whole world cried the loss of a bright star and famously seductive beauty. For some, though, down with the blonde bombshell went an entire career and a lifelong source of inspiration … It’s particularly interesting how the script manages to reproduce a nostalgic, yet not too sentimental, aura of the ‘baby doll’ culture, through the dialogues and profiles of other notable females in show business.” – Cristiana Ferrauti, The Upcoming
“Marilyn Monroe has been endlessly mythologised and it’s difficult to approach her story afresh without it feeling cliched. The linking metaphor – Cole can’t own his dance steps just as Monroe’s image ceased to be her own – is affecting, though. But it could have been integrated into a more detailed exploration of Cole’s own life and his place in the history of dance.” – Julia Rank, The Stage
“Liam Burke’s play is about authority over women’s bodies, yet the story is told from the perspective of a man claiming a woman’s glory. Referred to throughout by her birth name, Norma Jeane, or – patronisingly – as ‘babydoll’, Monroe is a peripheral figure, put down and shoved aside for Cole to remind us repeatedly that she would be nothing without him … His monologue is interrupted by visits from former muses, with Rachel Stanley kept busy multi-rolling them all. These women are brightly painted in clothes rather than character; each silly, frilly, posturing visitor is quickly shooed behind a curtain, simply a catalyst for Cole’s next anecdote.” – Kate Wyver, The Guardian
“Rachel Stanley is an absolute wonder playing seven Hollywood icons – Lana Turner, Norma Jeane Mortenson, Ann Miller, Gwen Verdon, Jane Russell, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth – and bringing each back to life in looks and mannerisms is fine style. And here, please raise your glasses in salute to Giada Speranza and Ryan Walklett for the amazing costumes and wigs that helped Rachel create each character so well.” – Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1
A piece of cardstock inscribed “To Joe/Love & Kisses/Marilyn Monroe” in blue ballpoint pen was sold for $1,875 yesterday during the Entertainment & Music Memorabilia sale at Heritage Auctions. (There is no indication, however, that the card was inscribed to ex-husband Joe DiMaggio – and the wording suggests a casual acquaintance or fan.)
Photos of Marilyn by Andre de Dienes, a Some Like It Hot publicity shot with a clipped signature from Tony Curtis, and a Hugh Hefner-signed 1997 edition of Playboy magazine (with Marilyn on the cover) were also sold; and two individual photos of Marilyn and President John F. Kennedy, taken by Yale Joel at Madison Square Garden in 1962, fetched a total $1,062.50.
Goodbye Norma Jeane, a new play opening in the Studio Theatre at Above the Stag in Vauxhall, South London tomorrow, is seemingly not about Marilyn per se (despite the title – well, at least her name’s spelt correctly), but a tribute to her favourite choreographer, Jack Cole – starring Tim English, with Rachel Stanley playing Monroe and other screen goddesses.
“Jack Cole taught Hollywood to dance.
Now he’s writing a weekly column for Dance Magazine. Or trying to. Young men splash and yell in his swimming pool outside, and as the afternoon wears on a parade of his former muses arrives at his front door – Betty Grable, Jane Russell and Rita Hayworth among them. And each is determined to have the last word.
Liam Burke’s fascinating and inventive play shines a spotlight on one of Hollywood and Broadway’s most influential gay heroes, and the actresses he helped transform into cinema’s brightest stars.”
30 year-old Cuban actress Ana de Armas, whose screen credits include Blade Runner 2049, may be cast as Marilyn in Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel loosely inspired by Marilyn’s tumultuous life, Collider reports – although Netflix have yet to confirm this. Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain are among the big names previously suggested for the role. Dominik first announced his intention to direct Blonde back in 2010, but his pet project has endured many setbacks. A television adaptation starring Poppy Montgomery aired in 2002, to mixed reviews. While Blonde was a major literary success, many Monroe fans (myself included) feel that it takes too many liberties with the facts.
In an article for Silent London, Pamela Hutchinson traces the career of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes author Anita Loos.
“In 1925, Loos published her masterpiece, first as short stories in Harper’s Weekly and then as a full-length novel. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a comic tour de force, and no less than Edith Wharton called it ‘The great American novel’. This breathless and ungrammatical text is presented as the no-holds-barred diary of one Lorelei Lee, a beautiful blonde gold-digger from Little Rock, Arkansas, and her adventures in pursuit of a diamond tiara with her friend Dorothy, a brunette with a one-track mind.
As Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a hit novel and play, of course it had to be filmed. The film was a hit too, but sadly it is now lost. The 1928 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had impeccable comic credentials, being directed by Keystone alumnus Mal St Clair, and starring two more former employees of Mack Sennett: Ruth Taylor and Ford Sterling.
When the talkies came in, Loos was hired by Irving Thalberg to work for MGM … Who better than Loos, for example to write a script for Jean Harlow, the 1930s ultimate Lorelei Lee type, breathless, blonde and babyishly naïve? Except she was adapting a book by Katharine Brush called Red-Headed Woman, which was a cue for plenty of promotional jollity.
After this, Loos went back to New York, and wrote for the stage – not without success. She wrote the book for a musical adaptation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was a little milder than the novel and starred Carol Channing and Yvonne Adair as Lorelei and Dorothy.
Then, of course, 20th Century-Fox and Howard Hawks came for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It remains a great joy to see two great comediennes, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, both of whom were exploited by Hollywood in their turn, enacting this superb comic revenge on stupid men. The 1953 film has some great moments, but it’s a little sluggish in between times. Never mind: the song Diamonds are Girl’s Best Friend is the best possible tribute to Loos’s satirical pen, and the staging of Isn’t There Anyone Here for Love? in which Russell cavorts among an entire male Olympic team, must surely have tickled her. But Loos had nothing to do with the production, having struggled with her writing partner on the stage version. She did, however, say that Monroe was sublime casting. And of course, she was 100% right.”
Comic book author Alan Moore (whose past creations include V for Vendetta and Watchmen) puts his own spin on Marilyn’s mysterious death in the final issue of his Cinema Purgatorio anthology – to be published on May 29, as Rich Johnson reports for the Bleeding Cool website.
“Cinema Purgatorio is the anthology that Alan Moore has been curating for the past two years for Bleeding Cool’s publisher, Avatar Press. Each perfect bound paperback volume begins with a comic by Moore and Kevin O’Neill that names the title, with someone trapped in a cinema in purgatory, watching classic films that have been twisted to reflect aspects of humanity of its history – especially that of movies. So we’ve had the tales of the Warner Brothers told using the Marx Brothers. Or corruption in cinema with the Keystone Kops.”
Marilyn was one of the first female stars to wear denim, both on and offscreen – and it’s a timeless look, as Elle India reports. (Before embracing double denim in The Misfits, Marilyn had sported jeans in Clash By Night and River Of No Return.)
“Denim might be the norm today but back in the 1950s, Hollywood’s favourite bad boy James Dean popularised it in Rebel Without A Cause (1955). He was a young, edgy star and his blue dip-dyed Lee 101 Riders became synonymous with the same characteristics. In some ways Marilyn Monroe was the female equivalent of this sexy, rebellious sentiment—donning a Storm Rider by Lee jacket (which until then had mainly been sported by male celebrities) and a pair of jeans while filming her last cinema outing, The Misfits (1961).”