Another Elvis: Dick Dale in ‘Let’s Make Love’

Richard Anthony Monsour was born in Boston, of Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian descent. His family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts when he was a child, and he had learned to play several musical instruments before buying a guitar from a friend (paying back the $8 cost in instalments.) In 1954, his father began working for the Hughes Aircraft Company and the family moved to El Segundo, California. At 17, the aspiring musician began playing at country bars, where TV presenter ‘Texas Tiny’ suggested he adopt the name Dick Dale.

Born left-handed, Dale played the guitar upside-down, and later partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment. His love for Arabic music inspired him to use Middle-Eastern scales in his compositions, and his experiments with reverberation would make him a pioneer of surf rock.

But in 1956, Dick Dale was just like every other teenage boy who wanted to be the next Elvis Presley; and that year, he won an Elvis Sound-A-Like Contest in Los Angeles.

This led to an uncredited bit part in Let’s Make Love (1960.) In a short scene just after Marilyn sings ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, a group of Elvis impersonators audition for a part in a revue. Dick Dale, wearing a red jacket, is the first to perform and by far the best. (You can watch the clip here.)

But the role is won by another impersonator, played by 16 year-old John Gatti Jr., who dons the red jacket for his cameo in Marilyn and Frankie Vaughan’s duet, ‘Specialization.’

John Gatti Jr. as another Elvis Presley lookalike

In 1961, Dale began playing surf guitar with his new band, the Del-Tones, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. His first hit single was ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’. They appeared on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show, and in two of the popular Beach Party movies, and released two seminal albums. Among his many fans was a young Jimi Hendrix. As the British Invasion put an end to the surf craze, Dale battled cancer for the first time. He later returned to music and became an environmental activist.

Dale’s career enjoyed a resurgence when his early hit, ‘Misirlou’, was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. A teetotaller and vegetarian, Dale also practiced karate. In later years, he continued touring to pay his medical bills. Dick Dale died in Lorna Linda, California,  on March 16, aged 81.

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Haley Reinhart References Marilyn in ‘Honey, There’s the Door’

Haley Reinhart, who first found fame on American Idol and has worked with retro covers band Postmodern Jukebox, references Marilyn in her jazzy new single, ‘Honey, There’s the Door,’ with the lyrics  “You better tell me that I sparkle/That my eyes are diamonds/Tell me I remind you of Marilyn Monroe/Treat me like the star of your show/If you don’t well honey, there’s the door.” The accompanying video clip also pays homage to vintage glamour.

John Steinbeck’s Fan Letter to Marilyn

A letter sent by author John Steinbeck to Marilyn in April 1955 (kept in her personal archive, and sold for $3,250 at Julien’s in 2016) has resurfaced on social media in recent days, and is the subject of an article by Karen Strike on the Flashbak photo blog today.

Steinbeck narrated O. Henry’s Full House, the anthology film in which Marilyn appeared in 1952. In March 1955, a month before Steinbeck wrote to Marilyn, she was a ‘celebrity usherette’ at the premiere of East of Eden, the big-screen adaptation of his novel, directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean. It was at the after-party where Marilyn’s romance with Arthur Miller began.

Steinbeck wrote to her on behalf of his nephew, Jon Atkinson, an ardent fan. Whether Marilyn granted his request for an autographed photo is unknown, but she clearly appreciated the letter enough to keep it until her dying day. Incidentally, three of Steinbeck’s books were part of her extensive personal library: The Short Reign of Pippin IV, Once There Was a War, and Tortilla Flat, set in Monterey where she had filmed Clash By Night in 1952. (Steinbeck was only one of many eminent figures who corresponded with Marilyn; to learn more, I recommend Lois Banner’s MM – Personal.)

“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. …  I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Gianni Russo Claims Affair With Marilyn

Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.

Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)

Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)

Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.

Gianni Russo in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.

Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.

Marilyn, Valens Tipped for Van Nuys Honours

Congressman Tony Cardenas has confirmed his proposal to name a Van Nuys post office after Marilyn (first mentioned here in 2015), and another for Pacoima-born musician Ritchie Valens, the Los Angeles Post-Examiner reports. (Only last year, the neighbourhood council suggested here that a statue of Marilyn be built at Van Nuys City Hall.)

“During this awards season, I am proud to introduce two bills renaming post offices on Van Nuys Boulevard after two of the San Fernando Valley’s most famous and celebrated artists, Ritchie Valens and Marilyn Monroe. Forty-six of my colleagues from California joined me in honoring these amazing talents from our great state.

Marilyn Monroe was and remains one of the most famous models and actresses in American culture. She attended Van Nuys High School and was discovered by an army photographer while she was working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory during World War II. Her films grossed the equivalent of $2 billion, before like Valens she passed away way too soon.”

Angie Dickinson Talks Hollywood, Marilyn and Men

Angie Dickinson began her career in television before making her movie breakthrough opposite John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959.) Early in her career, she dyed her hair honey blonde instead of platinum to avoid the comparisons to Marilyn Monroe which dogged many of her peers.

In his memoir, baseball player Yogi Berra recalled taking Angie out to dinner one night, and she was the centre of attention – until Marilyn arrived. After roles in classic films like Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and Point Blank (1967), she found further success in the 1970s TV series Police Woman, and made a big-screen comeback in Dressed to Kill (1980). She also appeared in Captain Newman, M.D., the 1963 movie based on the wartime experiences of Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. Her most recent screen role was in a 2009 TV movie, Mending Fences.

Angie was a friend of the Rat Pack and later married songwriter Burt Bacharach; but while her name was linked with some of the same men as Marilyn, she has lived to tell her side of the story. Now 87, Angie has shared her memories of Hollywood’s Golden Age in a new interview for CBS.

“She admitted to correspondent Mo Rocca that she enjoyed being a sex symbol very much but ‘I wouldn’t want to be known only as a sex symbol. I wanted to be known as an actress, equally or, even more so. Like Marilyn Monroe. She was known as the greatest – rightly rightly so – sex symbol of all time, Boy, try to do Shakespeare after that!’

Dickinson was always more down to Earth, rough-and-tumble than Marilyn, willing to go mano-a-mano with a tough guy like Lee Marvin in Point Blank.

Rocca asked, ‘Do you consider yourself more of a broad, a dame, or a gal?’

‘Oh, all of the above!’

In 1960, she co-starred with the Rat Pack in Ocean’s 11. She ended up dating Frank Sinatra. ‘We got very close to getting married in 1964,’ she said.

But Sinatra’s late-night lifestyle wasn’t for her. ‘And he said, “You know, I’m not going to marry an actress.” And I said, “Well, I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”‘

‘And I actually didn’t want to marry him. So, I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him. ‘Cause I didn’t wanna say no to Frank Sinatra!’

There have long been rumors that Dickinson and President John F. Kennedy had an affair, rumors she’s consistently denied. ‘There was no reason or no grounds for thinking that I was seeing him, and I wasn’t,’ she said.

‘Then can I just ask: did he ever put the moves on you?’

‘No!'”

Beverley Owen 1937-2019

Beverley Owen, the first actress to play Marilyn Munster in TV’s The Munsters, has died aged 81. Born in Iowa, Beverley studied with the prestigious acting teacher Sanford Meisner and completed a degree at the University of Michigan before landing a role in the classic sitcom in 1964.

Named after Marilyn Monroe (who had died two years before), Marilyn Munster was a cousin to the ghoulish Munster clan. Although a beauty by conventional standards (Beverley donned a blonde wig for the part), she is an object of pity among her oddball relatives, who consider her hopelessly plain. Nonetheless, Marilyn adores them and seems unaware of their strangeness.

Unfortunately, the show was not a happy experience for Beverley, who was pushed into it as part of her studio contract. She also desperately missed her fiance in New York. She was let go after fourteen episodes and replaced by Pat Priest. Later that year, Beverley married the writer and producer Jon Stone, and they had two daughters before divorcing in 1974.

Beverley gained a master’s degree in Early American Studies in 1989. She remained close to actor Fred Gwynne (who played Herman Munster) and attended a 25th anniversary celebration of the show.

Marilyn, Kate and the Rocket Man

The celebrated English singer Kate Bush has just shared the unreleased video for her 1991 single, ‘Rocket Man’, with fans, the NME reports ( a bootleg version was previously available.) A cover of Elton John’s 1972 hit, she chose to cover his tribute to Marilyn, ‘Candle in the Wind’, for the B-side. Both tracks were recorded by Kate for the all-star album, Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. They will now be reissued as part of her new compilation, The Other Sides, due for release in March.

What’s doubly interesting about the ‘Rocket Man’ video is that during the chorus, it appears to reference Marilyn’s performance of ‘Running Wild’ in Some Like It Hot (complete with black dress, backing band and even a ukulele!)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

 

When Ivanka Trump Was Just Another Marilyn Fan

A poster of Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch (the image is usually attributed to Sam Shaw) can be glimpsed in this deceptively casual photo of Ivanka Trump’s dorm room at a Connecticut girl’s boarding school, as Ashley Alese Edwards reports for Refinery 29. The eldest daughter of real-estate tycoon and future president Donald Trump, Ivanka now contentiously serves as his personal advisor.

“A January 1998 piece, first reposted by the Instagram account @thankyouatoosa, run by Casey Lewis, profiles a 16-year-old Ivanka in her dorm room at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, which she shared with two other girls. ‘Some people might be surprised I’m a normal teenager,’ Ivanka, who is pictured striking a very ’90s cool-girl pose on a small wooden chair, told the magazine. The 15-by-11 feet room is normal: Her wall is adorned with string lights, photographs of friends and family, and a poster of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic skirt-flying-up photo. ‘There’s a lot of random themes from movies,’ she said.

Although the room seems no different than that of any American teenage girl at the time, one can glean some insights into future Ivanka. Ivanka’s image, much like a magazine spread, is perfectly curated. She grew up with unimaginable wealth, but her public persona (like her dorm) is that of a person who is almost implausibly down-to-earth. She wears immaculate designer clothes, but is never gaudy. She speaks with authority, but maintains a soft tone. She’s an adviser to one of the most powerful men in the world, but still wants to be seen as relatable and approachable by posting smiling selfies, videos of herself playing with her kids, and engaging in PDA with her husband Jared Kushner (who is also an adviser to the president). Much of what Ivanka portrays herself to be is paradoxical; how could a woman who has always been privileged — and by extension, powerful — really be just ‘one of us’?

Ivanka, who grew up shuttling between multiple luxury residences, told Seventeen her unassuming dorm, with its austere furniture and plain, white walls, ‘probably expresses me best.’

She added: ‘It’s an atmosphere I created.’

Remembering Lee Radziwill, and Marilyn

Lee Radziwill, the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died last week aged 85. A socialite and interior decorator, she began a project in 1972 about her family, the Bouviers, which while shelved laid the groundwork for an award-winning documentary, Grey Gardens. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar before her death, Lee mentioned Bert Stern, and Marilyn.

“Which photograph best captures who you are?

The pictures Bert Stern took of me are sensational—he was the best for me, and for Marilyn Monroe.

Why?

For their sense of laughter and freedom.”