Remembering ‘Marilyn! The Musical’

Must Close Saturday: The Decline and Fall Of The British Musical Flop, a new book by Adrian Wright, covers the short-lived 1983 show, Marilyn!  The Musical. It failed to win over critics and closed after 156 performances, but its talented star, Stephanie Lawrence, won critical acclaim and that year’s Best Actress award from the Variety Club of Great Britain, as well as a nomination for the Society of West End Theatre awards (now known as the Laurence Olivier awards.)

“The show was intended as a tribute to another popular icon who died young, but it failed to capture the public imagination,” Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian. “The one person who emerged with credit was Stephanie Lawrence. She not only captured the externals of Marilyn Monroe – the wiggle, the walk, the passionate pout, the vocal breathiness – but conveyed the carmined innocence and soft vulnerability within. It should have been her passport to fame but the show failed to live up to its star.”

Her performance is fondly remembered by Monroe fans, and in 1995, she released an album, Marilyn: The Legend, featuring songs from the musical as well as covers of Monroe tracks. Stephanie, who also starred in more successful musicals including Evita, Starlight Express and Blood Brothers and acted on film and television, died suddenly in 2000. Michael Billington described her as “an actress of rare glamour” and “a pillar of British musical theatre”, who nonetheless “never fully achieved the 40-carat stardom that came to her no-more talented peers.”

Katy Perry References Marilyn in ‘Hey Hey Hey’

Singer Katy Perry has referenced Marilyn in ‘Hey Hey Hey‘, the latest single from her Witness album. ‘I’m feminine and soft, but I’m still a boss, yeah/ Red lipstick but still so raw, yeah/ Marilyn Monroe in a monster truck’ she sings on the track, described by Contact Music as ‘an empowering, feminist number’, while Stereogum judges the lyrics as ‘clunky if well-intentioned.’  In the tongue-in-cheek video, Katy appears as Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc. Marilyn is not represented, although Perry previously imitated her style in a German TV ad back in 2010 (prompting the now disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to suggest she would be perfect for a Broadway musical adaptation of My Week With Marilyn, but the project never got off the ground.)

Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

“Marilyn flew East for Christmas with the Greenes. She was, in fact, escaping from Hollywood and Twentieth Century-Fox, with a bafford press in pursuit. ‘That put us into a little cadre of sort of road-company secret service agents,’ recalls [Judy] Quine, ‘because the whole thing was so hush-hush – where she was, how she was.’ Aware of Milton’s involvement, the press staked out his Lexington Avenue studio, his pied-a-terre on Sutton Place South and the Weston house on Fanton Hill Road. The Greenes outmanoeuvred them by meeting Marilyn’s flight and heading straight for Connecticut. They stopped outside the village of Weston, deposited their precious cargo in the trunk and smuggled her past the paparazzi crowding their driveway.”

From Milton’s Marilyn (1994)


Dusty Mae Steps Into Marilyn’s Wardrobe

Drag artist Dusty Mae has posed for a tribute shoot with photographer Joseph Adivari, wearing Marilyn’s own clothes (courtesy of collector Greg Schreiner), reports Out magazine.

“I’ve always believed that she has endured because of her authenticity and personality. Beauty can make someone famous, but it can’t make them into a cultural icon who is still celebrated over 50 years after their death. She had almost no family, and she struggled with poverty, abuse, sexism, and much more, yet she never let it stop her, and she still became Marilyn Monroe. Everyone who knew her talks about how she always came from a true place of love and generosity. If someone said, ‘Oh I love your sweater!’ she would give it to them without a second thought. She wasn’t materialistic, even though people might assume she was. My friends and I love to imagine what Marilyn Monroe would have been like in the 70s and 80s. She had the ability to reinvent herself, which is why so many people see parts of themselves in her, or feel that they identify with her on a deeper level. I think the world really missed out on some amazing things because of her death, but it speaks to her talent as an actress, and charm as a person, the fact that she is still celebrated today, and will be remembered forever as a definitive icon of the silver screen.”

Switched On: Marilyn in the Sixties

This photo of Marilyn boarding a Pan-Am flight to Mexico City at Miami International Airport on February 21, 1962 is published in a new book, Switched On: Women Who Revolutionised Style in the 60s, by David Wills, author of MM: Metamorphosis and Marilyn in the Flash.

“MM’s personal style loosened up in the last months of her life, as she played a wife and mother for the first time in the aborted Something’s Got to Give. Now paler, blonder and more refined – her features and body transformed by an extreme weight loss – she resembled a beautiful ghost. Marilyn indulged her fondness for Pucci prints, Jax slacks, and Ferragamo high-heel mules, perhaps sensing in her new home life – in the first home she ever owned – a saner existence within reach. This was not to be: a Hollywood legendary was made tragically eternal instead.”

Here are some more photos from the same day, including one of Marilyn kissing goodbye to Joe DiMaggio.

Marilyn will also feature in Wills’ next book, Hollywood Beach Beauties: Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style 1930-1970, due for release in June 2018.

Hollywood Beach Beauties highlights the sexy, carefree attitude of the summer, the elegant seaside couture, and the enchanting and alluring beauty of the female form. Included here are candid and stylish photographs featuring stars of yesterday such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch, Sophia Loren, Dorothy Dandridge, and Nancy Sinatra.”

Amy and Joshua Greene Remember Marilyn

In a new interview for the Hello Giggles website, Joshua and Amy Greene talk about Marilyn and their spectacular book, 50 Sessions: The Essential MM By Milton Greene.

“On meeting Marilyn for the first time at Gene Kelly’s house:

AG: So, I also have to tell you that very few people in Hollywood had ever seen Marilyn because she was almost a recluse. She got up, she went to work, and she came back. So Milton said, ‘I’m gonna get Marilyn’ and come back to Gene’s house, [and] that’s where I met her. She came walking in. She was wearing a big Polo coat and no makeup. Her hair looked good. I sort of waved at her and she waved at me. The first break, I went over to her and she threw her arms around me and said, I’m delighted to meet you, and I kissed her. It was lovely because we became girlfriends.

On finding out about Marilyn’s death:

AG: We were in France, in Paris. Milton was doing the collections for Life magazine, and there was a radio. I kept saying, ‘Well let’s try to get some music or something.’ All we got was news, news, news, and neither one of us could understand French that well. All of a sudden, the words Marilyn Monroe came on. We didn’t know what it was. So, we went to [Château de] Fontainebleau, had a wonderful picnic lunch, drove back to Paris, and the first thing we heard—the telephone was ringing off the wall. It was Arthur Jacobs, who was her publicist trying to get us all day. And he said Marilyn’s dead. […] I collapsed. Milton was staggering. That was the last thing we expected.

On the subconscious feminism of Marilyn and Marilyn Monroe Productions:

JG: When you look at the history of what she was up against, what she did—she knew exactly what she was doing with men, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do for herself. With the right help [and] the right people, she was able to change and break the chain, break the glass ceiling, for someone with essentially no power and no money in the ‘50s as a woman. You gotta look at it through those rose-colored glasses. There’s movements that were created based on her life path—things that she wasn’t necessarily doing for that reason—she was just fighting for her freedom.”

Bad Faith: Marilyn and the Mormons

Marilyn’s name has all too often been exploited for profit, but a recent incident involving a posthumous ‘proxy baptism’ by the Church of Latter Day Saints is downright creepy, as revealed in an Associated Press report for The Guardian. Despite having no living connection to the Mormon faith, Marilyn is one of several dead celebrities to be appropriated in this manner.

“Mormons have recently posthumously baptised at least 20 Holocaust victims, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and the Queen Mother, according to a researcher who has spent two decades monitoring the church’s massive genealogical database.

The researcher, Helen Radkey, is a former Mormon who left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1970s and was excommunicated after publicly criticising it. She was blocked from the baptisms section of the massive collection of genealogical records the Utah-based church makes available to the public through its website,, until she was given a login by a friend.

Printouts and screenshots show that in the past five years, proxy baptisms were performed on at least 20 Holocaust victims. Radkey said she found no evidence of ancestral ties to Mormons in those baptisms or in those linked to famous people.

Her discoveries will bring new scrutiny to a practice that has become a sensitive issue for the church. In a statement, the church acknowledged the ceremonies violated its policy and said they would be invalidated.”

2017: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

In January, amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch was uncovered, and Twentieth Century Fox launched a perfume range inspired by Marilyn’s movies. Buddy Greco – the jazz pianist and singer believed to have taken the last snapshots of Marilyn – passed away aged 90.

In February, Marilyn appeared in a TV ad for Cadillac, first aired during the 2017 Oscar ceremony. A new memoir by Patricia Bosworth, including reminiscences of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, was published. And New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Marilyn lived in 1955, finally closed its doors.

In March, Marilyn in Manhattan, Elizabeth Winder’s book about Marilyn’s first year in New York, was published. The All About Marilyn fan club launched a new weekly podcast, while film historian Karina Longworth presented a three-part special on Marilyn for her popular series, You Must Remember This. Marilyn’s infamous spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan. Julien’s Auctions held an online photo sale, ‘Marilyn Through the Lens.’ Supermodel Karlie Kloss recreated ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for a Swarovski commercial, while Kendall Jenner posed Marilyn-style for Love magazine. James Rosenquist, one of the first artists to make Marilyn his muse, and Lola Albright, the first choice for Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, both passed away.

In April, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime – a documentary about the Julien’s sale of 2016 – was broadcast in the UK. Ella Queen of Jazz, a children’s book by Helen Hancocks about Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn, was published, marking the singer’s centenary. And Cecil Beaton’s 1956 portrait of Marilyn (her own favourite) was projected onto the Empire State Building, celebrating 150 years of Harper’s Bazaar.

In May, Marilyn made the cover of Yours Retro magazine, with an article inside by Michelle Morgan about her time in England. Actress Gillian Anderson appeared as Marilyn in TV’s American Gods. Unmissable Marilyn, an exhibition curated by collector Ted Stampfer, opened in Rome. Dinner With DiMaggio, a memoir of the baseball legend by Dr Rock Positano, was published; and James Spada, author of Monroe: A Life in Pictures, and Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams both passed away.

On June 1st, fans celebrated Marilyn’s 91st birthday. Also this month, her final home in Los Angeles was sold for $7.25 million. Some Like It Hot returned to theatres across the USA as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, and Marilyn graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post special on the golden age of Hollywood. Her final days at Twentieth Century Fox were examined in a new book by French film historian Olivier Rajchman, while in Finland, a new fiction anthology, Marilyn, Marilyn, was published. And Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, reporter Gabe Pressman, and British collector David Gainsborough Roberts all passed away.

In July, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy – purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment in 2016 – started a world tour in Canada. Marilyn’s address books were published on Kindle. And actor Martin Landau, who befriended Marilyn in New York, plus Aleshia Brevard – the transgender impersonator who once performed for Marilyn herself – and film critic Barry Norman, who wrote and presented a 1979 documentary about Marilyn as part of his Hollywood Greats series, all passed away.

August marked the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. In Los Angeles, Marilyn Remembered – the fan club which organises her annual memorial service at Westwood – celebrated its own 35th birthday with a series of events including a charity gala at Hollygrove, and a special screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theatre. The Immortal Marilyn fan club was also present, hosting a pool party for fans at the Avalon Hotel, and a toast to MM on Santa Monica Beach.

Also in August, original photographs of Marilyn by George Barris and others went under the hammer at dedicated auctions in New York and Los Angeles. Some Like It Hot topped a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films, and The Misfits was re-released in France. Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, a mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio was published, and she also made the cover of Reminisce magazine. And comedian Jerry Lewis, who befriended Marilyn when she appeared on his radio show in 1953, passed away.

In September, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, a new retrospective of her work with photographer Milton Greene, was published. Another weighty tome, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z by David Alan Williams, was also released. Prism, Terry Johnson’s new play about cinematographer Jack Cardiff, opened in London, and Marilyn also featured in a new documentary, Magnum Through the Camera Eye. Wolf Alice singer Ellie Roswell paid homage to Marilyn in the ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ video. Versace reinvented the iconic ‘Marilyn dress’; and Montblanc launched a range of Monroe-inspired pens. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91, and was buried in the crypt next to Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.

In October, Marilyn (as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot) graced one of 100 covers of UK magazine Total Film, and her favourite red taffeta and black lace gown went on display at the French Embassy in New York. Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, was revived in London, and lookalike Suzie Kennedy made a cameo appearance in Blade Runner 2049.

In November, a pair of gold-plated earrings worn by Marilyn in promotional shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $112,500. Marilyn: Her Untold Story, a magazine special, was published in the US. And gossip columnist Liz Smith, a longtime champion of Marilyn, died aged 94.

And in December, 21st Century Fox Entertainment – including Marilyn’s cache of classic films – was purchased by Disney for $52.4 billion.  Photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, Bert Stern and others went on display at the Galerie De L’Instant in Paris. A brief guide to one of Marilyn’s earliest movies, Love Happy, was published; and Richard Havers, author of Marilyn: A Life in Words, Pictures and Music, passed away.

Country Star Recalls Marilyn in Korea

Country singer Leroy Van Dyke, whose career spans six decades, has recalled being Marilyn’s opening act during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with Maine Edge.

“During the Korean War, Van Dyke was a special agent in U.S. Army Counterintelligence – a member of the 40th CIC, attached to the 40th infantry division. Assigned at Regimental level on the DMZ on the 38th parallel, Van Dyke says he had a squad tent to himself, and on occasion, he would head in to detachment for meetings accompanied by his guitar.

‘My commanding officer was a major from Kansas City and we got along real well,’ Van Dyke said. ‘He’d say Van, go get your guitar and let’s have a little music. The first time anyone heard The Auctioneer was at one of those meetings. Word quickly began to spread among the troops about the singing special agent.’

‘Later on, the Asst. Regimental Commander – a Lt. Colonel – came into my tent and asked if I would perform for 15 minutes to open up a USO show that was coming through,’ Van Dyke recalled. “’ asked him who else was going to perform on this show and he told me. It was Marilyn Monroe.’

More than a little nervous at the prospect of trying to appease impatient troops awaiting the hottest female star in the world at that moment, Van Dyke recalled his response: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ before adding ‘It worked out very well and I guess I’m the only country act to ever open a show for Marilyn Monroe.'”