Category Archives: Fans

Collecting Marilyn’s Medical Mysteries

Over at Atlas Obscura, Eve Kahn explores the darker side of celebrity memorabilia, and the market for medical items such as pillboxes, prescriptions and X-Rays of stars like Marilyn who died in unusual circumstances.

“Scott Fortner, a major buyer and scholar of Marilyn Monroe’s former possessions who loans widely to museums, owns bottles for her prescription eye drops and anti-allergy pills. He has bought related paperwork, too … Because of his focus on objects that she owned, he says, he is not much interested in medical records such as her chest x-rays that hospital staff may have taken home. And he would firmly draw the line against acquiring anything invasive, prurient and morbid …

Fortner points out that there is plenty of other illuminating and emotionally powerful material to collect instead, which she would have wanted her fans to know about. Throughout her tumultuous career, while shedding husbands and movie personas again and again, she somehow remembered to preserve her own memorabilia down to the drugstore receipts and eyedroppers. ‘She saved everything,’ Fortner says. ‘She didn’t throw anything away.'”

The ‘Gangsterisation’ of Marilyn

‘Marilyn Monroe Bandana’: Art by Loyal

In an interesting article for Broadly, Mitchell Sunderland explores the bizarre phenomenon of #ThugMarilyn – the images of a tattooed, gun-toting MM which adorn unofficial t-shirts, phone covers and social media pages, yet are the antithesis of the real Marilyn’s sweetly sexy persona and her gentle, introspective private self. While some fans clearly feel this makes her more relatable, to me #ThugMarilyn is as mythical as the ‘dumb blonde’ character she  sometimes played in movies. Furthermore, I’m not sure Marilyn  would have wanted to be associated with violence and crime.

“Marilyn Monroe has lost her edge. Her sexual roles and nude Playboy pictorial made her one of the most controversial women of the 20th century, but the masses turned her once forbidden image into a backdrop for inspirational quotes posted on Pinterest and Instagram.

#ThugMarilyn posts cover Monroe in a 20th century aesthetic that opposes the sanitized version of her that appears on dorm room posters and alongside inspirational quotes, but it’s questionable how the hashtag associates tattoos and basketball jerseys with a dangerous coolness.

But the images of Monroe and Los Angeles have always been open to interpretation: Monroe played comedic roles while suffering from depression in her off time, and the underground has always lurked under the surface and around the corner from movie studio lots … Despite the dull quotes that millennials now attribute to her name, the underworld and hustling has always defined Monroe as much as her movie stardom—just like Los Angeles itself.

As much as #ThugMarilyn drawings rely on glaring stereotypes, their creators believe they’re bringing authenticity to Monroe’s life and legacy, which contain multitudes and contradictions. Monroe never flashed guns or paid for a tattoo sleeve, but her public persona consisted of playing dumb blonde comedic roles while navigating a tragic personal life and a sexuality the public deemed controversial.”

Anna Nicole: Death of a Famous Fan

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Ten years after Anna Nicole Smith’s fatal overdose, Sarah Marshall looks back at the reality TV star’s often scandalous and finally tragic life in an article for Buzzfeed. Anna was a huge fan of Marilyn, and even rented her idol’s final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles for a while. Although she frequently emulated Marilyn’s voluptuous blonde image – most notably in her retro-style ad campaign for Guess – Smith was less an icon of Hollywood than a modern-day tabloid phenomenon. Nonetheless, the parallels between their Cinderella stories are both striking and sad – and if nothing else, Anna Nicole’s untimely demise highlights the emptiness of celebrity worship.

“For the Hollywood origin stories we know to be satisfying, the heroine in question must have no idea she is worthy of such attention until she is suddenly rescued from obscurity. Especially if she is to be remade as America’s next great sex symbol — as Anna Nicole Smith was in 1993, when she suddenly saturated American media, appearing on magazine covers, billboards, and screens of all kinds, and found herself touted as her decade’s Marilyn Monroe.

She also had not just one dream home, but as many as she wanted — though she was never clear on how she was able to afford them, or why her rise to fame had been so lucrative. She moved into a new house in Houston, but city life was still an adjustment (‘When she could not sleep,’ Dan P. Lee wrote in New York magazine, ‘she’d have her favorite sheep brought there from the ranch to cuddle with’). And when Anna went to Los Angeles to meet with all the photographers and directors who suddenly wanted to work with her, she rented a house that Marilyn Monroe had once lived in.

From 1992, when she made her first appearance in Playboy, to her death on Feb. 8, 2007, Anna Nicole Smith occupied the story of the beautiful girl lifted up from the dust, and then the story of the beautiful woman destroyed, and sometimes both. ‘From the moment Anna Nicole got famous,’ reporter Mimi Swartz later wrote in Texas Monthly, ‘she told the world that her role model was Marilyn Monroe. It was a shrewd move, as it linked her image with one of the greatest American icons of all time, and it had a neat logic: one platinum-haired sex symbol taking after another, one poor, deprived child latching onto the success of another.’

‘I can just relate to her,’ Anna said of Marilyn Monroe. ‘Especially after I got my body — then I really could relate to her.’ She seemed to be following in Marilyn’s footsteps less by recreating her famous body than by realizing that a body could be created: that your physical self could be both the tool that rescued you from the world you knew and the shield that protected you from it.

The body that had been too much for the men of Houston was, in the pages of a magazine, suddenly just right. The Guess campaign also marked the moment when her new identity snapped into place, as it was Paul Marciano, Guess president, who rechristened her Anna Nicole. By emulating Marilyn Monroe, who herself seemed to embody her period’s idealized essence of feminine sexuality, Anna Nicole Smith had become, in the words of psychologist James Hollis, ‘an imitation of an imitation,’ unburdened by any troubling specificity.”

Publishing News: Marilyn’s Lost Photos, and More

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Limited Runs have produced a book based on their touring exhibit, Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, featuring 21 images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder. Only 125 copies have been made, priced at $95. Hopefully it will be a high-quality product, but it still seems rather expensive for such a slim volume.

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One of Marilyn’s best biographers and a friend of this blog, Michelle Morgan has recently published two new books via Lulu. The Marilyn Journal is the first in an anthology series, compiling newsletters of the UK Marilyn Lives Society, founded by Michelle in 1991. A Girl Called Pearl is a charming children’s novel – not about Marilyn as such, but it is set in the Los Angeles of her childhood, so it does have some interesting parallels, and would be a great Christmas gift for readers young and old (also available via Kindle.)

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Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, an 82-page catalogue (in French) accompanying the current exhibition at Aix-en-Provence, is available from Amazon UK for £8.44.

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Photo by Fraser Penney

In the November 19 issue of Scotland’s Weekly News (with Donny Osmond on the cover), Craig Campbell picks his Top 10 MM movies. Click the photo above to read the article in full.

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Finally, Marilyn’s love of Chanel No. 5 is featured in an article about favourite perfumes in Issue 3 of UK nostalgia mag Yours Retro.

Marilyn at Julien’s: A Candid Feast

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“As far as Hollywood stories go, Marilyn Monroe‘s is generally seen as a tragic one,” Time magazine observes. “Knowing what would come later, it’s easy for her fans today to look at images of the actress and add their own overlay of sadness to the pictures.”

However, the article continues, candid photos from the Frieda Hull estate – up for bids at Julien’s Auctions this weekend – show a “lighter side” of Marilyn, suggesting that “the tragedy of her story does not mean that she lacked for moments of happiness—or at least moments when she appeared to be happy.”

The Frieda Hull collection ranges from approximately Lots 605-788 of the Julien’s sale, and is well worth a closer look. Time have featured some of the most striking images on offer, and I’ve posted a few more below.

Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of 'The Prince and the Showgirl', 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, 1957
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Attending Josephine Baker's revue in Los Angeles, 1960
Attending Josephine Baker’s revue in Los Angeles, 1960

Frieda Hull also collected original memorabilia, including movie stills, studio portraits and lobby cards. She compiled scrapbooks and home movies, and even owned a scarf of Marilyn’s, and a Gladstone Hotel menu signed by MM and Arthur Miller – not to mention a Monroe Six badge!

This archive is so unique that it could easily fill a book. Although some images have been seen before, many have never been published, and some are extremely rare. Whatever her mood, Marilyn could always spare a smile for her fans. So let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of these lovely pictures.

David Thomson on Marilyn, JFK and THAT Dress

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Film critic David Thomson is not Marilyn’s biggest fan. “Monroe wasn’t a serious actress,” he once wrote. “I don’t think she could really carry more than a line or two at a time.” Nonetheless, he seems drawn to her image, having penned a snarky introduction to Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures (2007.) In anticipation of the November 16 auction at Julien’s, Thomson has written another gossipy article for The Guardian about the Jean Louis dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (You can see a gallery of fans posing with the dress over at Immortal Marilyn.)

“You can say that only demonstrates her victimhood and makes her wishing more wistful. But then you have to see the plain delight with which she did these preposterous things, these moments, as if she could not resist or do without the comfort that came with the gasps and the whistles at Madison Square Garden when she came into the platinum light, shrugged off her wrap and stood there, with her massed blonde waves jutting off to one side, like the control on tower an aircraft carrier, in a dress that could have been painted on her. And she did not seem like the hesitant neurotic of fame and constant lateness when she broke into the birthday song. Just take a look. She seems happy, and an actress is hired to give us some sort of good feeling. This is maybe her greatest moment – the most reckless – and she knows it, even if the summer of 1962 is her hell.”

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

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.”

Ariana Grande’s Diamond Tribute to Marilyn

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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.

Immortal Marilyn in October

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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.