Kirkland’s Marilyn Inspires Lana Del Rey

Douglas Kirkland’s 1961 photos of Marilyn ‘between the sheets’ have become a staple of glamour photography, so much that its influence is often taken for granted. In September 2014, one of Kirkland’s images was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair in Italy.

Now singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey – who recreated Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ performance in her ‘National Anthem’ video, and referenced MM in another song, ‘Gods and Monsters’, represented by impersonator Jodi Fleisher in the short film, Tropico – has imitated the Kirkland session with photographer Neil Krug for the latest issue of US men’s magazine, Maxim.

Verdict Reached in ‘Letter of Despair’ Trial

The ‘Letter of Despair‘ trial – concerning a draft note (later typed) from a distraught Marilyn to Lee Strasberg during filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958 – reached its verdict on November 19, with a ruling against the plaintiff, Anna Strasberg, reports the Pasadena Star-News.

“A judge ruled on Wednesday that a handwritten letter by Marilyn Monroe in which she talked about the difficulties of performing before the camera belongs to a buyer who purchased it at auction at $130,000.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin handed down his ruling in favor of Calabasas-based auction house Profiles in History and against 75-year-old Anna Strasberg, the widow of Lee Strasberg, who served for many years as Monroe’s mentor in her acting career.

‘Plaintiff has not proved by the civil standard that the letter was in the possession or owned by Ms. Strasberg,’ the judge said.

Strasberg, who was married to Lee Strasberg from 1968 until his death in 1982, once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a large collection of the actress’ memorabilia. She sued Profiles in May 2013, saying she learned the month before, after a New York Post article about it was published, that the letter was missing from her collection. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband and alleged it was stolen.

Profiles attorney Robert Enders maintained the letter was actually a draft version that was found by a housekeeper at the Hotel Bel-Air and it was never sent to Lee Strasberg.

‘I’m very pleased,’ Enders said outside the courtroom. ‘The judge made the right ruling.’

Fruin made multiple findings against Strasberg, including that she did not provide any inventory of Monroe items that included the letter and that there was no envelope showing the writing was sent to the acting pioneer husband.

Had the letter been stolen from Strasberg as she alleged, he noted, it seems likely other items would have been taken as well. Although Strasberg claimed her husband showed her the letter in the late 1960s and that she saw it again in the period of 1988-92 when discussing it with her son, David Strasberg, her account was undercut by the fact her offspring testified he never saw the letter.

Trial testimony showed that after the letter was found by the housekeeper, a series of transactions occurred in which it ended up being bought by a private party in 1996. That same person then used the services of Profiles last year to auction the writing to the current owner, who lives in another state. He and the 1996 buyer were never identified during trial.”

Marilyn and the Art of the Pin-Up

Marilyn on Tobey Beach, NY, 1949. Photo by Andre de Dienes

Legendary fashion writer Suzy Menkes reports on Christie’s current online sale, ‘The Art of the Pin-Up‘ (including images of Marilyn by Andre de Dienes and Bruno Bernard) for Vogue, noting that the perky innocence of that era is now a thing of the past…

“I can imagine that in the wartime period of hard times, advertising posters with sex appeal brightened the dim streets … Marilyn Monroe in her early days was a curvy young thing on the beach, using her parasol as a support for her pose – bottoms up!

But suddenly, my smile was wiped out by this thought: the cheeky and cheerful images, from an era of playful innocence, looked alarmingly like Miley Cyrus doing her twerking, Beyoncé performing in barely-there outfits of sexual titillation, Kim Kardashian revealing her ever-famous posterior, and Britney Spears sexing up her once teen-girl appearance.

Would I ever buy a pin-up picture? Marilyn in 1949, snapped by Andre de Dienes, might be a cute purchase to enliven my study wall. Although bids can start at £300, Christie’s is putting a starting bid of £1,400 on Marilyn Monroe.

But there is something dispiriting about the idea of Miley and co continuing to distort their bodies as sexual titillation 80 years after Marilyn stepped out on that sandy beach. A century, a millennium and a feminist revolution have happened since then.”

Marilyn’s Still Top of the Polls

Great Americans: Marilyn holding her lithograph of Abraham Lincoln. Photo by Milton Greene, 1954

While Marilyn is regularly cited in lists of the world’s greatest sex symbols, her historical and cultural impact is sometimes overlooked. Not so this week, as The Smithsonian magazine includes her in a special dedicated to the 100 Most Significant Americans, alongside Madonna, Bette Davis, Mary Pickford and Oprah Winfrey (on newsstands today for $9.99); meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that she is ranked 17th in a Sky Arts poll of 40 Women Who Changed the World.


‘Secret Life of Marilyn’ Finds Its Joe

Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan – best-known for his role as Denny Duquette in the popular TV medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy – will play Joe DiMaggio in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography, the biopic’s current line-up includes Kelli Garner (as Marilyn), Susan Sarandon (as her mother, Gladys), and Emily Watson (as her legal guardian, Grace McKee.)

Marilyn ‘Caught Cold’ From Joe

The New York Daily News has republished a number of archive articles relating to Joe DiMaggio, born a century ago this week. One of the sadder stories reports on his and Marilyn’s divorce hearing at the Santa Monica Court on October 27, 1954. Their marriage was short and turbulent, but they remained the best of friends – and no one was more loyal to her memory than Joe.

‘Marilyn Is Free: Love Caught Cold From Joe’

(Originally published by the Daily news on Thursday, Oct. 28, 1954; written by Florabel Muir)

Hollywood, Oct. 27. – Marilyn Monroe won an uncontested divorce from Joe DiMaggio today after sobbing that Joe was ‘cold.’

He was ‘indifferent’ and terribly ‘moody’ too, Marilyn testified, when all she wanted was love.

Once he wouldn’t talk with her for 10 long days, she said, and “when I tried to find out what was the matter with him he would say: Leave me alone! and Stop nagging me!’

A man sitting next to me said out loud: ‘That guy must be nuts.’ A woman on the other side remarked:

‘She isn’t telling the whole story.’

Lots of Emotion

Marilyn’s five-minute testimony was packed with emotion. She sighed. Her voice broke twice. Once it was in a sob. She brought a handkerchief toward her face, but there weren’t any tears to wipe away.

She tilted her head slightly forward and directed her little words to Judge Orlando H. Rhodes. The judge seemed quite interested when Marilyn said Joe was indifferent to her.

Dressed in somber black – a two-piece black silk faille suit with half-plunging shawl collar, black straw hat tilted back on her head, and white gloves – she was asked right off what her name was.

‘You Mean Norma Jean?’

‘Marilyn DiMaggio,’ she told her attorney, Jerry Giesler.

‘You mean Norma Jean, don’t you?’

‘Oh, yes,’ she said.

Then she plunged into her story of how Joe had spurned her charms during their eight and a half months of marriage.

‘I expected to find love, warmth, affection and understanding in my marriage,’ she said. ‘Instead I found complete indifference and coldness.’

Marilyn said she even offered to give up her acting career, ‘but he was indifferent to that offer too.’

Not once did she refer to Joe by name.

‘My husband,’ she went on, ‘would get into moods where he wouldn’t talk to me for seven or eight – one time it was 10 days. When I tried to find out what was the matter with him he would say Leave me alone and Stop nagging me.’

‘I was not permitted to have any visitors in the house without an argument. I don’t think we had visitors more than three times during our marriage.’

Once, Marilyn said, Joe permitted someone to come into their big house ‘when I was sick, but all during the visit there was great strain.’ She didn’t say who the visitor was.

Marilyn said Joe’s coldness and indifference affected her health and ‘I was under the care of my doctor quite a bit of the time.’

Marilyn’s business manager, Mrs. Inez Melson, corroborated her story. She said when Marilyn tried to give Joe warmth he would push her away and said ‘Don’t bother me.’ She swore that before Joe and Marilyn broke up in late September – they lived under the same roof for a week, he downstairs and she upstairs – Joe told her: ‘I know I am wrong in my approach to coldness and indifference. I regret it but I cannot help it.’

100 Years of Joe DiMaggio

Photo by Carl Mydans, 1939

Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born 100 years ago this week, on November 25, 1914. Many have paid tribute to the sporting legend, including

“For countless people, he’s a symbol of an era in American sports when baseball, boxing and horse racing — but especially baseball — reigned. He was so good at what he did, and he made even the most difficult aspects of a notoriously difficult game look so effortless, that even fans who hated the Yankees could appreciate how singular a ballplayer he really was.

Long before he married Marilyn; long before he was a pitchman for Mr. Coffee; long before he was so much a part of the cultural landscape that entertainers from Woody Guthrie and Simon & Garfunkel to Madonna and Demi Lovato name-checked him in songs, DiMaggio was turning heads with his skills.

Happy 100th, Yankee Clipper. We won’t see your like again.”

Marilyn Spotted on Kansas Roundabout

The town of Hutchinson, Kansas received a surprise visitor on Saturday, November 22, when a mystery graffiti artist (or, for some, a mere vandal) spray-painted four stencil images of Marilyn’s face – two red and two blue, perhaps denoting the colours of the American flag – on a limestone column built on a roundabout a few years ago, marking the foundation of the Hyde Park neighbourhood in 1915, reports

‘Letter of Despair’ Trial Begins

The latest developments in an ongoing legal battle over the ownership of Marilyn’s alleged ‘letter of despair’ to Lee Strasberg are reported at My News LA today.

“Testifying in a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe, the widow of the actress’ former mentor told a judge Monday she never sold the correspondence or consented to it being auctioned.

Anna Strasberg, who was married to one-time Monroe acting coach Lee Strasberg until his death in 1982, said the correspondence — dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article — belongs to her. She said she wants it back from the buyer who paid $130,000 last year as the highest bidder through Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History.

‘I am telling you, somebody took it and sold it,’ Strasberg said during occasionally testy cross-examination by Profiles attorney Robert Enders.

However, the future of the case became uncertain late in the day when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin, who is hearing the trial without a jury, said he may have no basis for finding liability on the part of Profiles. He said he was unaware until today’s testimony that Profiles never owned the letter and that the auctioneer instead acted as the selling agent for yet another private individual who bought the letter in 1996.

‘I’m completely surprised by this,’ Fruin said.

Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, told Fruin he explained during a previous hearing that Profiles attorneys have refused to identify either the 1996 or the 2013 buyer, and that he had no choice but to proceed with the case against the auction house. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the current owner lives in another state and the person cannot be sued in California.

Fruin ordered the attorneys back to court Wednesday to discuss a future course of action.

Strasberg, who once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the letter was missing from her collection after the New York Post article was published. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband.

According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the handwritten letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Asked by Enders if she can corroborate her claims to ownership of the letter, Strasberg acknowledged she never made a police report, filed an insurance claim or listed it in an inventory of former Monroe belongings. But she said the fact it is missing is sufficient.

‘If I don’t have it, that’s documentation enough,’ she said.

Strasberg said she donated some of Monroe’s property over the years for auction, but that it usually consisted of shoes and other items that people in need could use.

Strasberg downplayed Monroe’s tone in the letter, saying it is common for people to say they are ‘going crazy’ without meaning it. She also said her late husband told her it was not unusual for actors to complain about concentration problems.

Strasberg said she took great care after Monroe’s death to protect her image, including stopping commercial uses of her likeness on toilet paper and condoms.

Strasberg said she met Monroe a few times, including once during the actress’ visit to the United Nations, where the plaintiff worked at the time as an assistant to the agency’s cultural director.

Strasberg, a former actress who had roles in two films with Sophia Loren, is the godmother of Drew Barrymore.”