In an article for ValueWalk, Mark Tobak applies superinvestor Charlie Munger’s ‘Lollapalooza’ concept to explain Marilyn’s enduring popularity.
“How has this remarkable woman and icon of the 1950s cast a worldwide spell that is still undiminished more than fifty years after her tragic death? Her image and persona earned a reported $27 million in 2011 (according to Forbes), just behind Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. While Elvis and Michael primarily market lucrative recordings, Marilyn earns millions with nothing but an image, a voice and a singular human presence in a small ouevre of movies, newsreels and television appearances.
Could she be a Lollapalooza? Yes! Witness six of Charlie’s cognitive distorting powers that combine to help Marilyn cast her delightful spell:
- 1)The Power of Incentive: Marilyn offers the untroubled love of a spectacular beauty to all who behold her, young or old, never rejects and never hurts.
- 2)The Power of Social Proof: Who would not be swept up in the adoring crowds, both male and female, who flocked to Marilyn’s film and public appearances?
- 3)The Power of Availability: In the 1950s Marilyn was everywhere: film, ads, photos, books, magazines, public, radio and TV appearances, and her famous USO tour.
- 4)The Power of Liking/Loving and Reciprocation Tendency: Most professional beauties seem elite and untouchable. But Marilyn seemed more like a deity who loves us all. Who would not love her back?
- 5)The Power of Pavlovian Association: Marilyn is pictured with all things good: beaches and pools, Coca-Cola, public events and celebrations, jewelry, gowns, new cars, vacations, and other celebrities basking in her glow.
- 6)The Power of Excessive Self-Regard: Marilyn appeals to the narcissism of every man who thinks he could win her, and inflates his ego with an illusory near-miss. Still he does not envy the high status males who did win her; they are his proxies. Women have often admired her without envy, devoted fans who may even see a bit of themselves in her, and her in them. Indeed a new book by Michelle Morgan, The Girl, notes that Marilyn was a businesswoman, and ‘an unlikely feminist.’
- Each of these six of Charlie’s powers, together with Marilyn’s extraordinary beauty, talent, intelligence, courage, fierce ambition and hard work, combined to make her a singular superstar, and to remain one to this day. And despite Hollywood’s formidable ability to concoct stars using plastic surgery, artifice, dress and makeup, lighting, writing, directing and cutting, there have never been any that reach the iconic status of Marilyn Monroe. Even those the studios promoted as ‘the next Marilyn Monroe.’
- As Charlie Munger has noted, unmasking these cognitive distorting powers does not diminish their efficacy. No one can halt a Lollapalooza. Take a look for yourself at Marilyn in her glory: romancing the hopelessly unlovable pennypincher, Jack Benny (see powers 1, 4 & 6 above) in a dream sequence on his 1953 TV program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWdtCYWkwKM. Or entertaining spellbound and delighted US troops in Korea in 1954 (see powers 1,2,4 and 6 above) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDA0084gZWc. Certainly Charlie’s right: in this case, the whole has proven far greater than the parts — and longer-lasting as well.”