“‘She’s someone I think of when I think I can’t handle things,’ said Kasperowicz, who admires how Monroe rose above the hand dealt to her. ‘I see her as someone who overcame a lot and achieved things that were almost impossible for someone that came from her background.’
Kasperowicz’s obsession began when she was eight and received a hand-me-down T-shirt with Monroe’s face on the front. It was her favourite shirt, and when she read her first book about Monroe a few years later, she was hooked and has spent the past 25 years studying Monroe’s life and dispelling conspiracy theories about her death.
Kasperowicz, originally from Winnipeg, now lives in Minnesota. She just happened to be visiting relatives in Lac du Bonnet when she heard the dress would be here.
‘This was like the grand finale surprise to my vacation,’ she said.
Kasperowicz thinks of Monroe as a feminist and activist, something people often overlook, she said.
More than 10,000 people have been to see the dress over its first four stops in Saskatchewan. Winnipeg will be the dress’s last public showing before it returns to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. The dress will visit Save-On-Foods’ Bridgewater location Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the St. James location Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The owner of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Jim Pattison, also owns Save-On-Foods, making it possible for the stores to display the dress.”
Aleshia Brevard, the pioneering transgender actress, model and writer, has died aged 79, reports the Telegraph. She was born Alfred Brevard Crenshaw to Southern fundamentalist parents and grew up in abject poverty on a farm in the Appalachian Mountains. From an early age, Alfred dreamed of movie stars – and at 15 he took a Greyhound to California. So far, so Cherie in Bus Stop – but by the late 1950s, inspired by George Jorgensen aka Christine, America’s first transsexual, Alfred was working as a female impersonator at San Francisco nightclub Finocchio’s, and had begun the surgical transition process.
In 1960, during a break from filming The Misfits, Marilyn saw Aleshia impersonate her onstage at Finocchio’s. One of Monroe’s early biographers, Fred Lawrence Guiles, first told the story in Norma Jean (1969.)
“Finocchio’s in San Francisco is one of the few tourist attractions of that city of special interest to show folk. It features some of the best female impersonators in the business. Marilyn had expressed an interest in seeing the show when others of The Misfits company came back talking about the place. Now it had been rumoured that one of the boys was impersonating her. She had seen and laughed at Edie Adams, a good friend, in her celebrated parody of Marilyn, but the Finocchio act was something special she would go out of her way to see.
Everyone in her party was a little tense as they took their ringside table at the club. [Allan ‘Whitey’] Snyder was frankly apprehensive and kept reminding Marilyn that she should keep in mind it was all in fun. And then the breathless moment arrived. The man was gusseted in a skin-tight sequinned gown, a wind-blown platinum wig on his head. The resemblance was uncanny. [Ralph] Roberts observed Marilyn’s eyes widening in recognition, and then she grinned. Her mimic was undulating his lips in the familiar insecure smile and cupping his breasts, taking little steps around the floor, wiggling his rear.
‘You’re all terribly sweet,’ the mimic said in a little-girl voice. Marilyn put her hand to her mouth. ‘I love you all!’ the man was saying as he began to point at the men in the audience in turn. ‘You … and you …’
While Marilyn might have worn her black wig and tried to control the fits of girlish laughter that would give her away, this night she had not wanted anonymity. She had told the others she might leave them later on and wander down to Fisherman’s Wharf to visit DiMaggio’s Restaurant and then perhaps Lefty O’Doul’s. Neither establishment would find a Marilyn incognito especially amusing.
The mimic, discovering his model, could not avoid playing to her. There was a rising buzz of whispers around them as the audience saw the rapt and smiling original. Regretfully, Marilyn suggested they leave. The impersonator rushed to finish his turn. It was a short one anyway. No one could sustain such a parody for very long. As Marilyn and her friends were leaving, the man, blowing kisses to the audience and then to Marilyn removed his silvery wig.”
The Telegraph reports that Marilyn wrote in her diary that evening that the experience was ‘like seeing herself on film.’ However, Marilyn did not keep a regular diary and this remark doesn’t appear in her private notes, so it’s more likely that she said this to one of her friends. Aleshia would share her own account in her 2001 memoir, The Woman I Was Not Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey.
“Newspaper columnists touted me as Marilyn’s double. That was flattering, but it was only good publicity. Mr Finocchio paid for such fanfare. I was young, professionally blonde, and sang, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ in a red knit sweater, but that does not a legend make. I knew the difference. Marilyn was the epitome of everything I wanted to become.
The nation’s favourite sex symbol came to Finocchio’s to catch my act. She must have read the publicity.
‘Marilyn left after your number,’ I muttered to myself.
That was true. I might be reacting to the pre-op medication, but I wasn’t hallucinating. Miss Monroe had watched me perform her song from Let’s Make Love – and fled.
‘Well, I wouldn’t be sittin’ my famous ass in some nightclub watching a drag queen sing my number,’ I mused. ‘Not if I was Marilyn Monroe! No way, darlin’, I’d have better things to do with my life.”
When Marilyn died, Aleshia was recovering from her long-awaited operation and would recall, ‘I felt as though I’d lost a close, personal friend.’ She later became a Playboy Bunny, and appeared in a film produced by Robert Slatzer, a man notorious for his exaggerated stories about Marilyn, claiming they were secretly married and linking her death to the Kennedys.
“Most of my audition time had been wasted by Slatzer’s bragging about his marriage to Marilyn Monroe,” she wrote. “‘Joe DiMaggio maybe; Bob Slatzer, never,’ I thought. My Marilyn, I believed, would never have married the man I personally regarded as a blustering, rotund, B-grade movie maker. I didn’t believe a word he said.'”
Nonetheless, Slatzer gave Aleshia a part in his 1970 film, Bigfoot – as a seven-foot mother ape! “A munchkin from The Wizard of Oz would play my Sasquatch child,” Aleshia cringed. “There would be no Academy Award for this acting stint. In film history, no Sasquatch has ever received the coveted statuette. The only appeal to the potboiler was its cast. John and Chris Mitchum, brother and son of screen luminary Robert Mitchum, were in the debacle … John Carradine taught me to play poker – and I paid dearly for the privilege.” After enduring long days in full gorilla makeup without filming a scene, Aleshia contacted her agent and, much to Slatzer’s chagrin, the Screen Actors’ Guild intervened.
Aleshia went on to work in television, and after earning a master’s degree, she taught film and theatre studies to supplement her income. She was married four times, and followed her successful autobiography with a novel and further memoir. After her death on July 1, author Gary Vitacco-Robles, who interviewed Aleshia for his 2014 biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, paid tribute on Facebook: “She was a brave and lovely woman. May Aleshia’s memory be eternal.”
In addition to the Marilyn Remembered itinerary for this year’s memorial week, sister group Immortal Marilyn is also organising a programme of events to commemorate the 55th anniversary of her death, including a pool party on August 2 at the Avalon Hotel (where Marilyn shot her famous Life magazine cover with Philippe Halsman back in 1952), and on August 4, a sunset dinner and toast at the Santa Monica Pier, a favourite haunt from childhood to one of her photo shoot with George Barris in 1962. There is also a tour of Marilyn’s Hollywood from LA Woman Tours on August 1, and of course, the annual service at Westwood Memorial Park on August 5 – more details here.
David Gainsborough Roberts, owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Marilyn’s film costumes, memorabilia and personal effects, has died in Jersey aged 73 after a short illness, BBC News reports. A true admirer, he wore clothing emblazoned with Marilyn’s image to public events and shared his treasures with fellow enthusiasts in numerous exhibitions across the UK and beyond. In 2005, I visited a show at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire (the enchanting family home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) It was a very touching experience, and like many other fans, I will always be indebted to David for his generosity. In November 2016, his collection was sold for £1.5 million at Julien’s Auctions.
You can read a selection of posts about David here.
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.'”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.)
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.
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.
“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.
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.