Say Goodbye to Norma Jean’s Bistro

After 36 years in business, a Marilyn-themed restaurant in Ontario, Canada is taking its final bow, as the Owen Sound Sun Times reports.

“Owner Julia Gendron said she had been considering an exit strategy from the restaurant industry for the past few years, but those plans were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gendron’s late husband Rene and his business partner Gerry Gnaedig opened Norma Jean’s Bistro at 243 8th St. E. on a cold Jan. 6, 1984.

Gendron, who most people know as Julie, started working at the restaurant that same year and became a partner around 1990.

It was a last-minute decision to name the restaurant Norma Jean’s – the given name of Marilyn Monroe – and was chosen because Gnaedig’s wife was a fan of the iconic actress.
The restaurant was decorated with photographs of Monroe and its menu also featured images of the actress, with sections on the bill of fare like Opening Acts and Red Carpet Favourites.

Gendron, in a letter to patrons that announces the restaurant’s closing, said some of the best times at Norma Jean’s included the rowdy New Year’s Eve parties, intimate family get-togethers and music nights ‘that would shake the windows.'”


Birthday Tributes to Marilyn

Marilyn by Milton Greene, 1954

June 1st, 2020 marks what would be Marilyn Monroe’s 94th birthday. On a personal note, it has also been ten years since I started this blog.

Artists Pegasus and Alejandro Mogollo both paid tribute, while superfan Megan Monroes has written a well-researched blog post listing 94 facts about MM, and a special edition of e-zine Crazy for You features a pictorial from Marilyn’s 34th birthday party on the Let’s Make Love set, 60 years ago.

Flowers were left at Marilyn’s graveside in Westwood Memorial Park by Scott Fortner (owner of the MM Collection) and the Los Angeles-based fan club, Marilyn Remembered.

Justice (At Last) for ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

As Jake Dee reports for Screen Rant, the top-ranking Marilyn movie on user-led review site Rotten Tomatoes is not one of the more famous comedies, but her early dramatic role in Don’t Bother to Knock, reviewed here by film blogger Wess Haubrich.

“One huge reason Marilyn rocked my world as a lover of film, is that I myself have struggled with depression … I identify with her struggle with mental illness (read a heart-breaking letter she wrote about her time in a psychiatric ward here) — the seed of which was likely planted long before her stardom: her mother was not in her life as she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent much time in and out of hospitals, and virtually none with her daughter — because I too have been there, in that deep, dark, blacker-than-the-deepest-black hole.

1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock (based upon the 1951 novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong) hits on those fronts and is also, in my view, Marilyn at her most visibly delicate, at least early on in the film. The film is 66 years old this August.

We see Marilyn Monroe in the role of the fragile Nell Forbes, new to Manhattan and recruited by her uncle Eddie, who is an elevator operator in a ritzy hotel in the city, to babysit for an affluent couple … [the] tension in Nell Forbes’ unfolding psychosis is made all the more palpable because Marilyn Monroe’s performance feels like it reaches into the pit of her soul and her struggle with mental illness.

In the screen test for her role, Monroe stayed up for 48 hours straight training hard with her acting coach Natasha Lytess (much in the way of rumor circles the two women), even disobeying direct orders not to sneak Lytess on to the soundstage during her screen test, despite Monroe’s notoriously insecure nature at this point in her career. This gamble she took to get her first starring role in feature film paid off with a successful test, and Zanuck himself sent her a note of congratulations

Don’t Bother to Knock was unjustly lampooned by the critics when it was released. Marilyn Monroe’s performance is truly something to behold, despite the low budget B-Picture trappings surrounding the film itself. It is a fine contribution to the canon of both film noir and B-Movie history.”

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Scots Bombshell Moves Into Marilyn’s Hideaway

Jasmine Chiswell, a Scottish film producer and vintage style influencer, is living the dream of many a Monroe fan – she has moved into the Castilian Drive address in Los Angeles which Marilyn rented for six months in 1952 as a hideaway for herself and Joe DiMaggio. As the Daily Record reports, Jasmine frequently posts video tours from home. Although she’s described in the article as a Monroe impersonator, Jasmine is also inspired by other bombshells (like Betty Grable, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire.) You can read more about the house here, and follow Jasmine here.

French Fanzine Goes Crazy for Marilyn

Crazy For You is a free online fanzine in French, devoted to eye-catching pictorials of Marilyn (and Madonna, who inspired its name.) The latest issue covers Marilyn’s appearance at the Golden Globes in 1960, where she won the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical award for Some Like It Hot. Previous issues have covered the press party for Let’s Make Love; Marilyn’s notorious red dress by Oleg Cassini; and a glamorous shoot with John Florea. For updates, subscribe to the Paradise Hunter blog or follow on Instagram.

Marilyn Fan’s Rare Snapshot Revealed

A fan’s candid snapshot of Marilyn, plus her autograph, was sold for $2,250 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions yesterday. (It’s unclear if the man in the photo is the lucky fan, as his face is cut off. But his clothing reminds me of Joe DiMaggio when he joined Marilyn in Canada during the filming of River Of No Return in the summer of 1953.)

“Marilyn Monroe signed address book, with Marilyn writing ”Love & Kisses / Marilyn Monroe” on the ‘M’ page. Autograph was obtained at a chance encounter in Los Angeles, circa 1954, as Marilyn was leaving the studio lot, and is accompanied by a glossy 3.75” square photo capturing the encounter. Address book measures 2.75” x 4.25”, with various pages filled in. Marilyn’s page has some mild browning and wear but no writing other than hers. Overall very good condition.”

A previously published photo of Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio in Canada, 1953

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Gene London 1931-2020

Gene London, the television personality turned fashion designer who owned one of the world’s largest Hollywood costume collections, has died aged 88. Born Eugene Yulish in Cleveland, Ohio, he presented a children’s television programme on WCAU Channel 10 in Philadelphia from 1959-77.

When the show was cancelled, Gene moved to New York and started a second career as a dress designer, opening a retro boutique, ‘Gene London: The Fan Club’ on West 19th Street in Manhattan. He also worked as a fashion consultant in film, television and theatre, and as a spokesman for Mikimoto jewellery.

After closing his store in 2001, Gene unveiled over fifty costumes from classic movies which he had collected as a hobby and would showcase in exhibitions over the coming years.

In 2011, Gene appeared on Four Rooms, a UK television show about auctions and collectibles, presenting ‘Myself, Exercising’, an original watercolour by Marilyn Monroe. He was offered £150,000 for the painting, but turned it down.

Gene also owned this photo-booth image of a 13-year-old Norma Jeane, which she had sent with a letter to her older half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle.

A year later, Gene attended a screening of the biopic My Week With Marilyn, showing filmgoers the original dress worn by Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl (one of four copies.)

“‘You can see by this dress that Marilyn’s figure was ample,’ said London pointing to the white gown. ‘She’s very curvy which was the style then, no longer the style now.’

London said he had his eye on this dress when he was buying other costumes from a man in Wisconsin.

‘The one thing he wouldn’t give me was this dress,’ said London, ‘I wanted it the most of all of them.  He said nope, that’s going to my children.’

But London said the grandchild called 25 years later.

‘I adored the way she acted,’ said London about Monroe. ‘I adore the way she sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”  I just love her.  It’s hard to explain why. I just do.'”

ES Updates

The green blouse and black pencil skirt worn by Marilyn in Bus Stop were featured in Designing Hollywood, an exhibition at the Allentown Museum of Art in 2019.

Among the other items in Gene’s collection were an orange camisole worn by Marilyn in a 1953 glamour shoot.

Gene London died suddenly after a fall at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania on January 19, 2020. He is survived by husband John Thomas, and will be buried alongside his parents in Cleveland.

Marilyn’s ‘Mirror’ Review Goes to Print

My review of Amanda Konkle’s excellent book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, is featured in the latest issue (#38) of UK fanzine Mad About Marilyn, alongside articles about Marilyn’s arduous promotional tour for the final Marx Brothers movie, Love Happy (1949); ‘A New Marilyn Comes Back’, first published by Movie Spotlight in 1956; and a profile of photographer Bruno Bernard, aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’.

If you’d like to subscribe to Mad About Marilyn, please email Emma: emmadowning@blueyonder.co.uk

Ellen Burstyn Inspired by Marilyn

Ellen Burstyn is one of America’s most respected actresses. Now 87, she won Oscars for her work in The Last Picture Show and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and also enjoyed a distinguished stage career, winning the Sarah Siddons Award. She joined the Actors Studio in 1967, and is now a co-president. Ellen has long been an admirer of Marilyn, praising Carl Rollyson’s biography, A Life of the Actress, and appearing in documentaries like The Mortal Goddess and Love, Marilyn. As a new interview with Vulture‘s Matt Zoller Seitz reveals, Ellen still holds a torch for Marilyn today.

All around us are pictures commemorating her experiences as an actress, a mother, a grandmother, an arts administrator, a producer, and a performer. Burstyn’s face is instantly recognizable, and she has been one of our finest actors for decades, but despite her eventful life and career, she has managed to avoid the kind of notoriety that might have limited her freedom, talent, and generosity. Among the pictures in her apartment is a black-and-white close-up of Marilyn Monroe from the early 1960s [not shown]. ‘I didn’t know her, but I adored her,’ she explains. ‘And she was so troubled and vulnerable because she had what I call scary fame, the kind that jumps out like this,’ she says, snarling like a predator and clawing at the air. ‘I never had that kind of fame.'”