Marilyn and the Presidents Club Scandal

Images of Marilyn have been used to promote a controversial gala held last night at London’s Dorchester Hotel for the Presidents Club, a men-only organisation, as Martin Belam reports for The Guardian. Female staff at the most recent ball have complained of groping and sexual harassment, leading to calls for better protection of workers in the hospitality trade. It’s unclear whether the use of Marilyn’s image has been approved by her estate, but regardless, this is yet another example of corporate branding at its most crass.

However, Monroe impersonator Suzie Kennedy, who has performed at a past gala, takes a different view, as she told LBC Radio‘s Shelagh Fogarty today…

“It was three years ago. It’s rich men having a night out. They are usually very powerful in business and are very generous to the charities. The charities need these balls to happen.

Everybody at that job was told what the job is. It’s a businessman’s night out. Everyone’s going to drink, they are going to have cigars, they are going to have fun.

I didn’t see any of the girls thinking ‘Oh no, I have to wear this’. They were fine with wearing it. In nightclubs in London, girls are wearing a lot less.”

Trans Teen Inspired by Marilyn in ‘Freak Show’

Following the recent news of Laurie Simmons impersonating Marilyn in My Art, another movie referencing MM hits screens online and in limited theatrical release in the US today. Freak Show, a comedy about Billy, a trangender teen (played by Alex Lawther), is the directorial debut of Trudie Styler – who you may know better as the wife of rock star Sting.

“Encouraged in adolescence by his bosomy, vodka-swigging, self-indulgent mother (a small but rich performance by Bette Midler), Billy (Alex Lawther) quotes Oscar Wilde and drifts easily into the kind of swishy son for whom his disillusioned father slowly abandons hope. Delighted when his parents split, Billy and his mom become soul mates for seven glorious years, but when she disappears one day into rehab hell, the boy confiscates her gowns, shoes and gaudy makeup, and moves with his father (Larry Pine) from Darien to a fresh hell of his own in a hostile red state where he shows up on the first day of high school dressed like Marilyn Monroe.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer

Watch the trailer here

Greta Thyssen 1927-2018

The Danish-born actress turned artist Greta Thyssen – who made her Hollywood debut as a body double for Marilyn in Bus Stop, before finding fame in her own right, and dating Cary Grant – has died aged 90, as Rhett Bartlett writes in the Hollywood Reporter. Greta’s film credits include Accused of Murder (1956), Terror Is A Man (1959), Three Blondes In His Life (1961), and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), but she is perhaps best-known for a series of comedy shorts made with the Three Stooges.

“Born in Hareskovby, Denmark, Thyssen was named Miss Denmark in the early 1950s. She soon left Europe, via Paris, for Hollywood.

With measurements of 39-24-36 or 40-21-35 — depending on which men’s magazine one came across — Thyssen was just right as a body double for Monroe during the filming of the romantic comedy Bus Stop (1956).

Thyssen’s movie career ended in 1967 after she decided to raise a family with her third husband, Theodore Guenther, a mining engineer. He died in 2000.

In retirement, she became as an artist in New York, painting representational nude figures against surrealistic allegory backgrounds, at the Art Students League.”

Greta shared her memories of Marilyn in a 2010 interview with Mark Voger for NJ.com

“Q: You made your film debut in Bus Stop (1956), and you doubled for Marilyn Monroe. Did you get to know Marilyn a little?

A: Yes, I did. And that was a time when they were really hard on her. I felt so upset for her, because everybody was speaking behind her back.”

Dusty Mae Steps Into Marilyn’s Wardrobe

Drag artist Dusty Mae has posed for a tribute shoot with photographer Joseph Adivari, wearing Marilyn’s own clothes (courtesy of collector Greg Schreiner), reports Out magazine.

“I’ve always believed that she has endured because of her authenticity and personality. Beauty can make someone famous, but it can’t make them into a cultural icon who is still celebrated over 50 years after their death. She had almost no family, and she struggled with poverty, abuse, sexism, and much more, yet she never let it stop her, and she still became Marilyn Monroe. Everyone who knew her talks about how she always came from a true place of love and generosity. If someone said, ‘Oh I love your sweater!’ she would give it to them without a second thought. She wasn’t materialistic, even though people might assume she was. My friends and I love to imagine what Marilyn Monroe would have been like in the 70s and 80s. She had the ability to reinvent herself, which is why so many people see parts of themselves in her, or feel that they identify with her on a deeper level. I think the world really missed out on some amazing things because of her death, but it speaks to her talent as an actress, and charm as a person, the fact that she is still celebrated today, and will be remembered forever as a definitive icon of the silver screen.”

2017: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

In January, amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch was uncovered, and Twentieth Century Fox launched a perfume range inspired by Marilyn’s movies. Buddy Greco – the jazz pianist and singer believed to have taken the last snapshots of Marilyn – passed away aged 90.

In February, Marilyn appeared in a TV ad for Cadillac, first aired during the 2017 Oscar ceremony. A new memoir by Patricia Bosworth, including reminiscences of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, was published. And New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Marilyn lived in 1955, finally closed its doors.

In March, Marilyn in Manhattan, Elizabeth Winder’s book about Marilyn’s first year in New York, was published. The All About Marilyn fan club launched a new weekly podcast, while film historian Karina Longworth presented a three-part special on Marilyn for her popular series, You Must Remember This. Marilyn’s infamous spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan. Julien’s Auctions held an online photo sale, ‘Marilyn Through the Lens.’ Supermodel Karlie Kloss recreated ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for a Swarovski commercial, while Kendall Jenner posed Marilyn-style for Love magazine. James Rosenquist, one of the first artists to make Marilyn his muse, and Lola Albright, the first choice for Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, both passed away.

In April, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime – a documentary about the Julien’s sale of 2016 – was broadcast in the UK. Ella Queen of Jazz, a children’s book by Helen Hancocks about Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn, was published, marking the singer’s centenary. And Cecil Beaton’s 1956 portrait of Marilyn (her own favourite) was projected onto the Empire State Building, celebrating 150 years of Harper’s Bazaar.

In May, Marilyn made the cover of Yours Retro magazine, with an article inside by Michelle Morgan about her time in England. Actress Gillian Anderson appeared as Marilyn in TV’s American Gods. Unmissable Marilyn, an exhibition curated by collector Ted Stampfer, opened in Rome. Dinner With DiMaggio, a memoir of the baseball legend by Dr Rock Positano, was published; and James Spada, author of Monroe: A Life in Pictures, and Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams both passed away.

On June 1st, fans celebrated Marilyn’s 91st birthday. Also this month, her final home in Los Angeles was sold for $7.25 million. Some Like It Hot returned to theatres across the USA as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, and Marilyn graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post special on the golden age of Hollywood. Her final days at Twentieth Century Fox were examined in a new book by French film historian Olivier Rajchman, while in Finland, a new fiction anthology, Marilyn, Marilyn, was published. And Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, reporter Gabe Pressman, and British collector David Gainsborough Roberts all passed away.

In July, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy – purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment in 2016 – started a world tour in Canada. Marilyn’s address books were published on Kindle. And actor Martin Landau, who befriended Marilyn in New York, plus Aleshia Brevard – the transgender impersonator who once performed for Marilyn herself – and film critic Barry Norman, who wrote and presented a 1979 documentary about Marilyn as part of his Hollywood Greats series, all passed away.

August marked the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. In Los Angeles, Marilyn Remembered – the fan club which organises her annual memorial service at Westwood – celebrated its own 35th birthday with a series of events including a charity gala at Hollygrove, and a special screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theatre. The Immortal Marilyn fan club was also present, hosting a pool party for fans at the Avalon Hotel, and a toast to MM on Santa Monica Beach.

Also in August, original photographs of Marilyn by George Barris and others went under the hammer at dedicated auctions in New York and Los Angeles. Some Like It Hot topped a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films, and The Misfits was re-released in France. Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, a mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio was published, and she also made the cover of Reminisce magazine. And comedian Jerry Lewis, who befriended Marilyn when she appeared on his radio show in 1953, passed away.

In September, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, a new retrospective of her work with photographer Milton Greene, was published. Another weighty tome, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z by David Alan Williams, was also released. Prism, Terry Johnson’s new play about cinematographer Jack Cardiff, opened in London, and Marilyn also featured in a new documentary, Magnum Through the Camera Eye. Wolf Alice singer Ellie Roswell paid homage to Marilyn in the ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ video. Versace reinvented the iconic ‘Marilyn dress’; and Montblanc launched a range of Monroe-inspired pens. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91, and was buried in the crypt next to Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.

In October, Marilyn (as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot) graced one of 100 covers of UK magazine Total Film, and her favourite red taffeta and black lace gown went on display at the French Embassy in New York. Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, was revived in London, and lookalike Suzie Kennedy made a cameo appearance in Blade Runner 2049.

In November, a pair of gold-plated earrings worn by Marilyn in promotional shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $112,500. Marilyn: Her Untold Story, a magazine special, was published in the US. And gossip columnist Liz Smith, a longtime champion of Marilyn, died aged 94.

And in December, 21st Century Fox Entertainment – including Marilyn’s cache of classic films – was purchased by Disney for $52.4 billion.  Photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, Bert Stern and others went on display at the Galerie De L’Instant in Paris. A brief guide to one of Marilyn’s earliest movies, Love Happy, was published; and Richard Havers, author of Marilyn: A Life in Words, Pictures and Music, passed away.

With Love, Dorothy (and Marilyn)

Erin Sullivan as Marilyn (photo by Jason Woodruff)

Actress Erin Sullivan – currently touring the US in her one-woman show, With Love, Marilyn – will also play a supporting role as MM in an industry presentation of a new musical, Dorothy Dandridge: Hollywood’s Sepia Goddess, at New York’s Off-Broadway Theatre on November 13, BWW reports.

Marilyn first met Dorothy at the Actors’ Lab in Los Angeles during the late 1940s. They were neighbours on Hilldale Avenue in 1952, and Marilyn’s vocal coach, Phil Moore, was also Dorothy’s musical arranger. In 1953, as Marilyn filmed River of No Return, Dorothy began a tumultuous relationship with director Otto Preminger. Sadly, Dorothy’s career was ultimately stymied by racism, and in an eerie echo of Marilyn’s fate, she would also die of a drug overdose.

‘Red Dwarf’: Marilyn in the Pop Future

Pauline Bailey as Marilyn in ‘Red Dwarf’

Over at Den of Geek, Andrew Moir takes a closer look at the many pop culture references to be found in long-running UK sci-fi sitcom, Red Dwarf – including several appearances from Marilyn (as played by impersonator Pauline Bailey, who recalls the experience here.)

“Marilyn Monroe’s star continues to shine, appearing in three different episodes in series II, III and IV. She first pops up in series 2 opener Kryten as a poster on Lister’s locker, showing she’s a recognisable part of the world. She then makes an appearance later in the series as a computer sprite in the game Better Than Life. She’d be back the next year in the form of an unconvincing kit droid for The Last Day, and again in series IV as one of the rebellious droids on Wax World.”

Marilyn Impersonator Reveals Sexual Harassment

Riely Saville, an Australian-born entertainer and Marilyn impersonator, has become the latest woman to speak out about sexual harassment at the hands of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as two unnamed US rappers, in an interview with Megan Palin for News.com. Marilyn herself experienced sexual harassment and assault (as explained here,) and on behalf of ES Updates, I am now extending my support to all women (and men) who have been exploited and victimised in this way.

Miranda Hart, Sophie Monk Inspired by Marilyn

Marilyn in London, 1956

British comedienne Miranda Hart has named Colin Clark’s The Prince, the Showgirl and Me among her six favourite books in the Express today. Although its sequel, My Week With Marilyn (after which the 2011 biopic was named), is believed by many fans to be bogus, the first book is quite a good read.

“I was always fascinated by fame. Not the desire to become famous, although I was intrigued by what it might be like, but by the unique quality and lifestyles of true icons. They don’t get more iconic than Marilyn Monroe so I found this diary of a young man becoming her assistant riveting.”

Meanwhile in other celebrity news, Sophie Monk – who played Marilyn in a 2004 TV movie, The Mystery of Natalie Wood, and is currently starring in The Bachelorette in Australia – tells the Brisbane Courier & Mail of an earlier turn as MM :

“My first job was … at Movie World (Gold Coast) as Marilyn Monroe. I got it when I was 17 after I left school and started when I was 18.”