‘Norma Jean‘ is one of six tracks on Flowers For Your Worst Days, the debut EP from Australian folk singer Georgie Currie, released today, as Augustus Welby reports for the Beat website.
“The lyrics in ‘Norma Jean’ are cleverly layered. Initially it seems like a love letter to the woman Norma Jean, who you could interpret as Marilyn Monroe or a metaphor for a media-approved beautiful woman. But the second line of the chorus is a watershed moment, as Currie sings: ‘Norma Jean, she’s so much easier to love than me.’
‘I think I used the story of Marilyn Monroe as a bit more of a channel of how I was feeling at the time, which was not feeling like you ever really measure up compared to what you perceive to be all these beautiful people around you.'”
According to the Syncopated Times, the jazz radio DJ Chuck Cecil – who has died aged 97 – was a contemporary of Norma Jeane Baker. He was a student at Van Nuys High School, where his fellow alumni included Norma Jeane (who attended from September 1941 – February 1942, before moving on to University Senior High.) Marilyn’s future co-star, Jane Russell, and her first husband, Jim Dougherty, were also students. Five years older than Norma Jeane, they once appeared together in a school play.
Moreover, the article states that Chuck Cecil attended Jim’s wedding to Norma Jeane in June 1942. Although he’s not usually mentioned among the guests at the intimate ceremony, it’s possible that Chuck may have joined them for their reception at the Florentine Gardens Restaurant. As Chuck was around the same age as Jim, he may have known the groom better than the bride.
On the cusp of stardom, Marilyn revisited her ‘alma mater’ (in reality, one of many) and was photographed chatting with students in 1951.
Over at Refinery 29, Daniela Morsini looks at the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype so unfairly applied to Marilyn, and still a staple of lame jokes today. While I strongly agree that it’s an outdated, sexist trope, I’d like to add that in her movies, Marilyn often parodied those assumptions. Her characters were usually wiser than the men who flocked to them, and in reality, Marilyn was sensitive and intelligent. (Unfortunately, not everyone was smart enough to get the joke – then, or now!)
“Being blonde is loaded. You can be an expensive blonde like Gwyneth Paltrow. You can be rock’n’roll blonde like Debbie Harry. You can be sexpot blonde like Marilyn Monroe. Hell, you can be any kind of blonde you want – as long as you’re a dumb one.
Of course, of all the stereotypes women face, the ‘dumb blonde’ is a mild one, especially considering how harmful and dangerous the hair stereotypes faced by women of colour can be. But it is curiously persistent … I’ve never forgotten a date in 2016, after having what I believed to be pleasant chatter with a man for an evening, him uttering the immortal words: ‘Well, you don’t look clever.’
Historians roundly agree that the notion of blondes being dumb dates back to a play performed some 250 years ago, titled Les Curiosités de la Foire, based on the misdemeanours of the legendary courtesan Rosalie Duthé, which established blondes as both stupid and sexually available. Duthé took long pauses before she spoke, leading people to believe she was literally dumb, as well as stupid. Fast forward to 1953, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes hit the box office with Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei, epitomised as the dumb blonde. Portrayed as absent minded, slightly scatty and interested in marrying solely for money, some of Lorelei’s most famous lines only serve to emphasise the stereotype: ‘I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.’
Over time, the dumb blonde trope has morphed into the ‘beauty and brains’ dichotomy, which at least allows a whole other crop of women to have their intelligence questioned. This is not a step forward, even if it does represent inching away from Western beauty ideals. Calling a blonde ‘dumb’ is a surprisingly effective way to curb someone’s appetite for life and confidence in their own abilities, effective enough to render them docile so they can’t unlock their powers.”
Marilyn will star in two ‘pop-up cinema’ screenings at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South London this summer. (The Rivoli Ballroom is one of the last remaining intact 1950s-style ballrooms left in London.) First up is Some Like It Hot on May 17; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 18. Screenings start at 8 pm, with admission from £10; check out the full schedule here.
Meanwhile in Sussex, There’s No Business Like Show Business will be screened at Lewes Depot on June 4 at 2 pm. (Tickets cost £4.) Lewes has a personal connection to Marilyn, as according to biographer Michelle Morgan, she visited the historic town in 1956, dining at The Shelleys Hotel with husband Arthur Miller. “She wore no makeup but looked really beautiful,” receptionist Peggy Heriot recalled. “They ate in the drawing room and when they left they thanked the chef and me profusely …”