‘Waiting For Miss Monroe’ on CD

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Robin De Raaff’s opera, Waiting For Miss Monroe, was staged at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam in 2012, starring Laura Aikin as Marilyn. A CD recording is now available, with a 4-star review from The Guardian‘s Andrew Clements.

“In Waiting for Miss Monroe, De Raaff and his librettist Janine Brogt concentrate on the last few months of the star’s life in 1962, including her famous appearance at President Kennedy’s birthday party, the problems surrounding her final film, and her lonely death, when she is confronted by memories of her former self, Norma Jean, and rejected by all the men who formerly worshipped her. De Raaff and Brogt are emphatic that what they devised is not a biopic but a fictionalised work that attempts to explore Monroe’s inner world, as revealed in her conversations with a young woman, Eve, who arrives to take photographs of her, which are intercut with the film studio confrontations and the Kennedy party.

It all works convincingly enough up to a point. The text is sung in English and some of Raaff’s vocal writing, wide-ranging but fundamentally tonal, curiously echoes passages in the later work of Michael Tippett, The Ice Break especially, though Raaff’s orchestral writing is much more unbuttoned and eclectic. Yet the passages of melodrama, when the characters resort to spoken dialogue, somehow breaks the operatic spell; it’s as if the music is abdicating its expressive responsibilities in a work that otherwise doesn’t flinch from the having the most commonplace exchanges sung. The score is haunted by the ghosts of songs associated with Monroe, especially I Wanna Be Loved By You, though the references are never too explicit. It is an intelligent if not entirely successful attempt on a tempting but, perhaps in the end, a dramatically intractable subject.”

Marilyn and the Bennington Boys

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In May 1954, the USS Bennington exploded while cruising near Rhode Island, killing 103 crewmen and injuring 201 others. It was rebuilt in New York, and on May 31, 1955, Marilyn attended a party celebrating its return in the Grand Ballroom of the Astor Hotel. In a 2013 article for Reminisce magazine, Paul Lazzaro recalled his stint as the ship’s PR man.

“Because of the recent tragedy and the publicity surrounding the Bennington’s party, Marilyn accepted our 8 p.m. invitation. But due to her busy schedule, she didn’t show up at the event until around 11 p.m., when the party was in full swing and thousands of sailors were celebrating.

The ballroom nearly turned into a riot zone when Marilyn walked out onstage wearing a clingy black satin dress with a white ermine cape draped over her shoulders. As sailors rushed the stage, Marilyn’s press agent said, ‘We’re getting out of here!’

Backstage, I realized that I had my first real public relations crisis on my hands. Here was the world’s hottest new movie star, and she was going to pop in and right out again. I knew I had to save the night.

‘Can we get a picture of you kissing a sailor good night?’ I asked Marilyn.

She looked at me and with that breathy voice and those luscious lips said, ‘Why, certainly!’

‘OK, I need a sailor for a picture!’ I shouted. Nobody moved. They were all too in awe of this beautiful blonde to say a word.

A Marine stepped up right next to Marilyn and asked, ‘How about a Marine?’

‘Well, OK,’ I said, ‘but I want a sailor, too.’ Again, nobody in the room moved.

‘How about you?’ Marilyn whispered to me.

‘Oh, OK!’ I responded in my most professional manner, my voice cracking a bit. The three of us huddled together as the newspaper and military photographers’ flashbulbs popped. When Marilyn departed, she planted a full-fledged movie star kiss on the Marine’s cheek and on mine.

The next day, our picture appeared on page 3 of the New York Mirror with the headline ‘It’s a Sailor’s Life and It Ain’t Bad.’ Full credits were given to both the USS Bennington and the U.S Navy. I was quickly promoted to journalist second class and have been doing public relations ever since.”

You can read more about Marilyn’s Bennington encounters here.

Thanks to Johann

L.A. Artists on Death, JFK … and Marilyn

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In Los Angeles, artists are exploring the death of John F. Kennedy and the women in his life, reports VICE. Perhaps inevitably, Marilyn is a featured subject, although in truth her connection to JFK may be more mythical than real – and after all, she died more than a year before him.

“Painter Rosson Crow’s first foray into filmmaking, for example, is Madame Psychosis Holds a Séance, now on view at LA’s Honor Fraser Gallery through December 19 … Starring Kelly Lynch as a slightly worse-for-the-wear 60s-era singer whose fragile, careworn platinum blonde, red-lipsticked beauty deliberately evokes latter-day Marilyn Monroe, the film shows the existential meltdown of Madame Psychosis upon hearing the news of the death through TV and newspaper. She moves with an awkward, dream-logic elegance through the stages of grief, chain-smoking at Ouija boards, the phonecalls to prove he loved her in real life not only her imagination, the gorgeous, taunting mountain of roses delivered to his widow rather than her own lonely bungalow, that bury her in a nightmare, the creeping in of self-doubt, the descent into madness.”

Meanwhile, cult performance artist Karen Finley has referenced Marilyn in her new show, Love Field (named after the Dallas airport where Kennedy touched down on the day of his murder.) Finley was inspired by Bert Stern’s 1962 photos of Marilyn in a black wig. The images have since been interpreted as a cheeky impersonation of the first lady, Jackie Kennedy – however, there is no evidence that Marilyn intended it as such.

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“Visual, performance, and literary icon of punk-wave feminism Karen Finley was also in LA around the anniversary of the assassination, for both the opening of her painting and drawing show Love Field at Coagula Curatorial, as well as the coinciding inauguration of the Broad Museum’s performance art programs with her seminal work, The Jackie Look … In the Love Field show, Finley brings together paintings and drawings from diverse but interrelated series examining the public rituals Jackie was forced to endure during what ought to have been a time of private grieving … and always, somewhere, the equally haunting phantom of Marilyn Monroe.”

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962
Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

Ferragamo Launches Marilyn-Inspired Shoe

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Edgardo Osorio has launched a capsule collection for Salvatore Ferragamo, recalling the legendary Italian designer’s reputation in Hollywood as ‘shoemaker to the stars’, reports AccessWDUN. The range includes a Marilyn-inspired pump with sheer netted panels.

Ferragamo’s grandson James claims that Marilyn bought a pair of Ferragamo shoes from a shop in Madison Avenue, NYC, for $45 in the late 1940s. Marilyn didn’t live in New York permanently until 1955, but James says he has the receipt to prove it. He also repeats the rumour that Marilyn had one heel cut several milimeters lower than the other to achieve the famous Monroe wiggle. Marilyn’s masseur, Ralph Roberts, also mentioned this, although this alleged anomaly has not generally been noted by auctioneers.

Perhaps Marilyn should have the last word: “I learned to walk when I was nine months old, and haven’t had a lesson since.”

Nicole Rodenburg Inspired by Marilyn

Nicole Rodenburg as Cherie in 'Bus Stop', 2010
Nicole Rodenburg as Cherie in ‘Bus Stop’, 2010

Actress Nicole Rodenburg, currently starring in The Flick at the Barrow Street Theatre in NYC, named Marilyn as the greatest movie star of all time in a recent interview for Broadway.com.

“She’s now a mythic legend, but I’m always blown away by her deep well of talent and undeniable ‘it’ factor onscreen. And she was a box office champion!”

Nicole previously played Cherie in Bus Stop – a role immortalised by MM – in a 2010 revival of William Inge’s American classic at the Huntington Theatre, Boston.

Party With Marilyn at the Formosa Cafe

If you’re in Los Angeles today, why not get into the Christmas spirit – and help a child in need? The Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard (where Marilyn dined while filming Some Like it Hot) is hosting ‘Hollywood’s Hurrah for Hollygrove’, in aid of Hollygrove EMQ Familes First, a non-profit agency named after the Los Angeles Orphan’s Home, where Marilyn herself stayed as a child. Entry is $10, or else bring a new unwrapped toy for a Hollygrove child – more details here.

Liz and Marilyn in Toronto

'Let's Make Love' (1960)
‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.

“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”

You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.

A Night in With Marilyn

Holiday Night With Marilyn
Photo by Fraser Penney

If you’re a chick lit fan, you may be interested in Lucy Holiday’s new novel, A Night In With Marilyn Monroe. Just published, it is currently available from Tesco stores – combined with the previous book in the series, A Night In With Audrey Hepburn – for just £3.85. A third novel, A Night In With Grace Kelly, will be published next year.

“The hilarious follow-up to A Night in With Audrey Hepburn from your favourite new author. Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Sophie Kinsella.

After dating the hottest man on the planet, Dillon O’Hara, Libby Lomax has come back down to earth with a bump. Now she’s throwing herself into a new relationship and is determined to be a better friend to best pal, Ollie, as he launches his new restaurant.

Despite good intentions, Libby is hugely distracted when a newly reformed Dillon arrives back on the scene, more irresistible than ever. And when another unwelcome guest turns up on her battered sofa in the form of Marilyn Monroe, Libby would willingly bite her own arm off for a return to normality.”