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Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor 1929-2016

Marilyn leaving the New York Polyclinic with Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor after gallbladder surgery in 1961. (Photo collage by Fraser Penney)
Marilyn besieged by fans as she leaves hospital  with Dr Pastor in 1961. (Photo collage by Fraser Penney)

Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor, a surgeon who treated patients including Marilyn during a long, distinguished career, has died aged 86, as Edmund Silvestre reports for the Philippine Star.

“MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Ramon Acosta Pastor, one of the surgeons who operated on Marilyn Monroe at a New York City hospital in 1961, passed away on Oct. 5 in his native Batangas City in the Philippines. He was 86.

He became closely acquainted with the late Hollywood icon when she underwent cholecystectomy (gallbladder surgery) on June 29, 1961 at the defunct Polyclinic Hospital in Manhattan and which was widely covered by the media. It was Dr. John Hammet, one of New York’s top surgeons, who led the surgical team.

Dr. Pastor’s photo beside Monroe appeared in several news publications, including the front page of The New York Times, wherein he is seen shielding Monroe from a mob of fans and members of the press while leaving the hospital after she was discharged on July 11, 1961.

That chaotic moment, the star of Some Like It Hot said in an interview, was the time she most feared for her safety.

‘It was scary. I felt for a few minutes as if they were just going to take pieces out of me. Actually, it made me feel a little sick. I mean I appreciated the concern and their affection and all that, but — I don’t know — it was a little like a nightmare. I wasn’t sure I was going to get into the car safely and get away.’

Dr. Pastor managed to walk Monroe into her limo unscathed. He hopped with her into the car and stayed by her side until she reached home.

The famed actress and sex symbol was reportedly complaining of pain from an intestinal disorder when she was rushed to the hospital from her apartment at 444 East 57th Street in Manhattan.

According to a New York Mirror story, Monroe awoke in distress in the morning of June 28, 1961, prompting her secretary, May Reis, to call her primary physician at Polyclinic. After diagnosis, the doctor decided her condition warranted immediate hospitalization. She was carried to the ambulance on a stretcher, with [ex] husband Joe DiMaggio joining her in the ambulance.

Dr. Pastor’s elder brother, Antonio, who was staying with him in New York City at the time, related that Dr. Pastor told him he took care of Monroe for two weeks after the surgery, personally attending to all her medical needs.

‘Marilyn Monroe instructed him not to accept any visitors while she’s recuperating, except Joe DiMaggio,’ said Antonio, recalling a conversation he had with his younger brother.

Still in the hospital on the Fourth of July, Monroe complained of the noise coming from fireworks, Antonio said, adding, ‘Dr. Pastor said he gave her the best possible solution — putting cotton in her ears.’

It was the fifth time that Monroe was hospitalized in just 10 months, according to reports.

The three-inch horizontal scar in the upper quadrant of Monroe’s abdomen as a result of the surgery was visible in the photos taken by lensman Bert Stern for the book The Last Sitting, commissioned by Vogue magazine in late June 1962, just six weeks before Monroe died.

‘Ramon was a very gifted doctor and he was very proud of having the honor of operating on Marilyn Monroe,’ said an old-time friend, Dr. Rebecca Magbag, a New York geriatrician, who is also a native of the Philippines. ‘But he was also very humble that he really didn’t talk much about it.’

‘He’s a very nice and warm guy, very handsome, very charming, compassionate with his patients and treated everyone equally,’ Dr. Magbag also said. ‘As an eligible bachelor at the time, a lot of women were swooning over him.’

Born on Nov. 23, 1929 in Batangas City to Dr. Juan Pastor and Concha Acosta Pastor, Dr. Ramon was a 1955 medical graduate of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He took his internship at Yonkers General Hospital in New York and finished his training in general surgery at New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital, in which he served as chief resident during his last year of training.

He became a diplomate of the American Board of Surgery, but decided to turn his back on a lucrative medical career in the United States and returned home a year later to better serve the underprivileged in his small town in Batangas City.”

Marilyn Raises Millions in Bendigo


Australia’s unofficial ‘year of Marilyn’ has been a resounding success, as the Bendigo Advertiser reports.

“Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition brought more than $13 million into the region, Victorian government modelling has shown.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday $13.2 million in economic impact for Bendigo was derived from the four-month exhibition, exceeding the $11.2 million benefit forecast before the show opened.

‘We knew Marilyn Monroe would be a showstopper and it was,’ she said. ‘It demonstrates [the gallery] is a facility that brings many jobs, a significant amount of funds flowing into the Bendigo community.’

More than 140,000 visitors attended the ticketed exhibition in Bendigo between March and July this year. Almost half of those people were from Melbourne, travelling to central Victoria specifically to see the Hollywood-themed show.

The total cost of showing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is unclear.

Ms Allan also said the strength of Bendigo’s gallery could inspire young people to choose an artistic career path, citing ‘strong’ art and design programs at La Trobe University as yet more evidence of the region’s creative strength.

But it was not only the Bendigo economy that benefitted from the blockbuster exhibition; the gallery’s curatorial manager Tansy Curtin said Marilyn challenged her institution artistically.

‘We went from working with fine art to working with contemporary culture.’

These new strings in her institution’s bow meant it was ‘re-defining’ what it meant to be a regional art gallery, no longer catering solely to a local audience but to national and international art-lovers as well.

Conservation work carried out during the exhibition also meant the gallery was ensure the longevity of Marilyn Monroe artifacts.

Because many of the items exhibited in the gallery were not normally showcased in a curated setting – many were kept inside the houses of their collectors before coming to Bendigo – Ms Curtin said many were returned to their owners in a better condition than when they arrived, having undergone conservation while housed in central Victoria.”

Marilyn Statue Missing in Auckland


A statue of Marilyn has been stolen in New Zealand, as Meghan Lawrence reports for Auckland Now. (Marilyn-related art thefts are not uncommon: an English  statue was stolen in 2011, while a Canadian mural vanished in 2014, and was found in a dumpster two weeks later. Sadly, it was stolen again in 2015.)

“Farm Cove’s iconic mascot has gone walkabout.

A six-foot tall (1.82m) statue of Marilyn Monroe was taken from a Fisher Parade residence in East Auckland on the night of October 13.

Maria Ross says the statue is part of a collection of rock n’ roll and pop-culture memorabilia that decorates her home. Ross purchased the statue of Marilyn Monroe a year ago, after she had been looking to add the American actress to her collection for a number of years.

She has stood in the front garden ever since, for passersby to bask in her glory.

‘She was loved and admired by all. Some more than others,’ she says. ‘People who drive past will stop and take photos with her. It’s so cool because you get to know the neighbourhood. She is just famous in Farm Cove.’

Ross says she’s ‘really gutted’ that the statue was stolen, but there would be no questions asked if she was returned.

‘I do believe someone is going to see her. There is not a lot of them in New Zealand. I think there is only one other, so it will stand out like a sore thumb.’

‘It would just be so awesome if she was returned.'”

John Gilmore 1935-2016


John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe, has died aged 81. Like Marilyn, he was born in the charity ward of Los Angeles County General Hospital, and spent time in Hollygrove, the orphan’s home where she had stayed a few years earlier.  After serving an apprenticeship as a child actor, Gilmore became a contract player at Twentieth Century Fox. In 1953, he was introduced to Marilyn by actor John Hodiak, who lived nearby her apartment complex.

Eight years later, Gilmore was up for a part in Marilyn’s next movie, an adaptation of William Inge’s play, A Loss of Roses (renamed as Celebration.) The project was shelved, and would finally be made after Marilyn’s death, starring Joanne Woodward as The Stripper.

After penning a series of pulp novels, Gilmore turned his hand to true crime, publishing books about Elizabeth Short (aka The Black Dahlia) and the Manson Family. He also wrote memoirs, detailing his encounters with James Dean and many others.


Inside Marilyn Monroe (2007) grew from the story of his acquaintanceship with Marilyn to a full-scale biography. Gilmore interviewed many Hollywood insiders who had not spoken about Marilyn before, and created a nuanced psychological portrait, while debunking some of the fantasists who have profited from her legacy.

Gilmore was a member of Marilyn Remembered, and spoke fondly of her at the annual memorial services at Westwood. His final book was On the Run With Bonnie and Clyde (2013.)


Ariana Grande’s Diamond Tribute to Marilyn


Singer Ariana Grande, who has shown her love for Marilyn on Twitter and wore a Travilla-inspired dress to this year’s MTV Awards, performed a soulful cover of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in Beverly Hills last week at a party for diamond manufacturer Tiffany’s (who are, of course, name-checked in the song), reports Harper’s Bazaar.

Marilyn Calendars and Diaries for 2017

IMG_0070As another year draws to an end, there is a wide range of Marilyn calendars on the market. Known for high quality, Hugo Image has produced another large-scale calendar with 25 photos inside.


Now in its fifth year, Fox Presents the Films of Marilyn have released another great calendar for movie fans, with quotes from characters she played (though they do tend to favour her pre-Seven Year Itch era.)




If you’re interested in other stars from Marilyn’s heyday, why not try this new Hollywood Actresses calendar, which includes a free poster…



And finally – if you keep a diary, this spiral-bound planner, illustrated with photos by Milton Greene, may be for you.


Marilyn also graces the cover of a Life ‘Iconic Women’ diary.


More Marilyn Book News


First published in 2013 (and reviewed here), Marilyn: Her Life in  Pictures, edited by Martin Howard and Oliver Northcliffe, is now available in French.

Two academic studies make significant references to Marilyn this autumn. From Reverence to Rape, Molly Haskell’s feminist critique of Hollywood, is now in its third edition. Haskell writes well about how typecasting hindered Marilyn’s career. In Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre, Cynthia Baron considers the influence of the Method on her performances. Adrienne L. McLean also mentions Marilyn at the peak of her glamour in Costume, Makeup and Hair, the latest in Rutgers’ Behind the Silver Screen series.

On a lighter note, Marilyn is among the bevy of bombshells featured in Richard Koper’s Fifties Blondes, and the stories behind some of herfavourite Hollywood haunts are revealed in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, a coffee-table tome by George Gerry.


And finally… I Met Marilyn , a new collection of interviews with friends and associates by Neil Sean, is out in paperback and via Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:

“Having been a fan of the legend that is Marilyn Monroe since an early age, it seemed whoever I interviewed had either met / worked and known something about her during my journalistic career. As the years went on I noticed this even more, to the point I was lucky enough to meet and interview some very famous people whom have not had their ‘Marilyn’ stories told before. I started with a trusty cassette player, which along the way had me meeting the likes of Sir Lawrence Oliver, Charlton Heston and even Sir Norman Wisdom. What is fascinating when reviewing the tapes – along with never broadcast interviews with Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds to name just a few – is how revealing the whole conversations are. I urge everyone to take a look at the book if you’re a true Marilyn fan, as it will give you a rare insight into her final months: and as Ricci Martin (Son of Dean) who met Marilyn many times told me, ‘it’s the biggest story in the world of showbiz ever and yes I was party to it in many ways which is frightening.'”


Inge Morath on Miller, Huston and Marilyn


Inge Morath: On Style is a new book focusing on the late photographer’s work in fashion and film. Her images of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits are elegant and tender, and the knowledge that Morath would become Arthur Miller’s third wife adds a note of poignancy. Author Justine Picardie writes about Inge’s work with director John Huston, and her later encounter with Arthur which led to a long and happy marriage, in a blog post for the Magnum website.

“This was also the period when Morath first started working with the director John Huston; one of her earliest assignments was to photograph the stills for his film Moulin Rouge in London in 1952, which was to be the start of a lifelong friendship … Huston would later describe Morath as ‘a high priestess of photography,’ a woman with ‘the rare ability to penetrate beyond surfaces and reveal what makes her subject tick.’

Morath’s friendship with Huston was to play an important part in her personal life, as well as her career. In 1959, she travelled to Mexico to photograph the making of his film The Unforgiven … The following year, Morath visited the set of another of Huston’s films, The Misfits, accompanied by her Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

When Morath was subsequently asked by the New York Times about the experience of photo- graphing Monroe, she described the actress as ‘kind of shimmery. But there was also this sadness underneath. A poetry of unhappiness. That was what was so mesmerizing, the twofold thing you got, the unhappiness always underneath the joy and the glamour…that was the poetry.’ In the same interview, Morath added one more intriguing fragment to the story. ‘I once dreamt we both danced together, Marilyn and I. It was beautiful.'”

Immortal Marilyn in October

Marilyn leaving hospital in 1959

Recent updates to the Immortal Marilyn website include a sensitive piece about Marilyn’s endometriosis and miscarriages; profiles of her contemporaries, Anita Ekberg and James Dean; a vintage piece from Uncensored magazine, about Marilyn and Frank Sinatra; an interview with Marilyn collector Sirkku Aaltonen; and a new regular feature, the weekly news roundup.

Gretchen Mol: Starting Out With Marilyn


Gretchen Mol, who starred in The Notorious Bettie Page and TV’s Boardwalk Empire, has talked about her early days as an aspiring actress in an interview with  Backstage.

“I remember when I took my résumé into William Morris Agency and they kind of snickered at my special skills section. Like, ‘We gotta get rid of this.’ The one that did get me my first summer stock job was I had ‘Marilyn Monroe impersonation,’ and a director said, ‘Can you sing your song as Marilyn Monroe?’ It was ‘Unusual Way,’ from Nine. I did it. I really did not have the impersonation down that well. [Laughs.] I didn’t expect to be called out on it! I remember when I walked out he said, ‘You aren’t afraid and that’s gonna really help you in this business.’ Along the way, you need people to believe in you or see something in you and then tell you, so you feel you’re on the right track. Those kinds of moments are so important when you’re starting out. And I remember that so well, walking out thinking, Whether I get that job or not, I feel like it couldn’t have gone better.”


Gretchen was also (albeit inaccurately) compared to Marilyn after playing a woman involved with John F. Kennedy in An American Affair (2009.)

“Her first, semi-nude scene in An American Affair is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photo shoot with Bert Stern in 1962, taken shortly before her death, a year before this story begins. Monroe was also alleged to have been a lover of John F. Kennedy, and even played a similarly-named character, Claudia Caswell, in All About Eve (1950.)

Blonde, free-spirited and sexy, with a messy love life – it would be easy to assume that Catherine Caswell is a version of Monroe herself. However, the resemblance is only skin-deep. Monroe’s dalliance with Kennedy has long been the subject of gossip, but the truth of the matter is still uncertain.

After further investigation into Kennedy’s many extra-marital affairs, it becomes clear that Catherine Caswell is more closely modelled on another of his mistresses, Mary Pinchot Meyer …. Meyer was smart, liberal and probably one of the few women whom Kennedy treated as an intellectual equal. They met at least thirty times, and their relationship is generally considered to be one of the most significant in Kennedy’s fast-paced life.”