Although he hung up his blond wig back in 1997, Jimmy James remains one of the most beloved Marilyn impersonators. He talks about his plans for a documentary about ‘the Marilyn years,’ and more, in an interview for Instinct magazine.
“I did an L.A. Eyeworks ad (it was banished under threats of lawsuits from ever being seen for twenty two years until the internet set it free around 2012. Now I can sell the Limited Edition prints with mine and Greg Gorman’s signatures). It has become the most mis-identified photo of Marilyn Monroe in the world. It was actually even made into an African stamp by mistake, and juxtaposed with real images of Marilyn Monroe!”
Country singer Willie Nelson and British actress Charlotte Rampling are an unlikely couple, and having Ms Rampling play a Marilyn impersonator is even more surprising. But that’s exactly what you’ll see in their offbeat new movie, Waiting For the Miracle to Come, as Joe Leydon reports for Variety. (It’s available in the US from today on DVD and streaming.)
“Waiting for the Miracle to Come is the first dramatic feature written and directed by Lian Lunson, previously best known for such musical documentaries as Willie Nelson: Down Home … With help and encouragement from mentors and former collaborators — including Bono and Wim Wenders, who are credited among the executive producers, and Leonard Cohen, whose song provides the movie with its title — she mounted this small-budget labor of love with the obvious intent of telling a simple yet resonant story unbound by specifics of time and continuity, but infused with strains of melancholy, regret, and unreasonable hope. Call it a dream play, and you won’t be far off the mark.
Supernatural undercurrents sporadically reach flood level as Adeline Winter (Sophie Lowe), a young woman who dreams of performing as trapeze artist and tightrope walker, takes heed of a letter left by her recently deceased father (Todd Terry), and follows his directive to visit a ranch in Ransom, Calif., where she might find a goldmine. What she finds instead are the aforementioned ex-vaudevillians, Jimmy (Nelson) and Dixie Riggs (Rampling), owners and operators of ‘The Beautiful Place’ — hardly a gold mine, but rather a haven for abandoned horses, a home for two trailer park residents, and a place where Dixie occasionally dolls herself up like her idol, Marilyn Monroe, and sings for locals in a small theater near their memento-stuffed, Christmas-light-bedecked house.”
Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…
“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.
Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.
That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”
Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.
And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.
If you’re in Tucson and looking for a St. Valentine’s Day treat, With Love, Marilyn – the touring one-woman show starring actress and singer Erin Sullivan – is playing at the Temple of Music and Art through to Sunday, February 17.
Blonde wigs were sold out across the state as the annual Marilyn Jetty Swim was held at Brighton Beach in Adelaide, Australia this weekend, as Lauren Ferri reports for the Daily Mail, with men participating for the first time among 270 swimmers breaking the Guinness World Record for most MM impersonators gathered in one place, raising $65,000 so far for cancer research (it’s expected to reach $100,000.)
Britain’s greatest arthouse filmmaker, Nicolas Roeg, has died aged 90. Born in London in 1928, he began his career in 1947 as a humble tea-boy at Marylebone Studios. By the 1960s, he was cinematographer for Lawrence of Arabia, Fahrenheit 451 and Far From the Madding Crowd.
In 1970, Roeg made his directorial debut with Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and has become a cult classic. Roeg followed it with Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth (starring David Bowie), Bad Timing, Eureka, Castaway, Track 29, The Witches, and Cold Heaven. His final film was released in 2007.
Roeg is also known to Monroe fans for Insignificance, the surreal comic fantasy based on Terry Johnson’s play, and starring Roeg’s then-wife, Theresa Russell, as ‘The Actress’, a character based on Marilyn. It is one of the more successful films to feature Marilyn as a character. The story is set on the fateful night in September 1954 when Marilyn filmed her famous ‘skirt-blowing scene’ on a New York subway grate. Other characters included ‘The Professor’ (Albert Einstein), ‘The Ballplayer’ (Marilyn’s soon-to-be ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, played by Gary Busey.) In an ironic twist, ‘The Senator’, based on Joseph McCarthy, was played by Tony Curtis, Marilyn’s co-star in Some Like It Hot.
Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum reviewed Insignificance for the Chicago Reader:
“Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 film adaptation of Terry Johnson’s fanciful, satirical play has many detractors, but approached with the proper spirit, you may find it delightful and thought-provoking. The lead actors are all wonderful, but the key to the conceit involves not what the characters were actually like but their cliched media images, which the film essentially honors and builds upon … But the film is less interested in literal history than in the various fantasies that these figures stimulate in our minds, and Roeg’s scattershot technique mixes the various elements into a very volatile cocktail—sexy, outrageous, and compulsively watchable. It’s a very English view of pop Americana, but an endearing one.”
When Insignificance got the Criterion Collection treatment in 2011, Rosenbaum revisited the movie in an essay, which he has now posted to his blog:
“Insignificance pointedly doesn’t sort out the differences between fact and fancy; it’s more interested in playfully turning all four of its celebrities into metaphysicians of one kind or another … All this sport, to be sure, has specifically English inflections. These crazed American icons are being viewed from an amused and bemused distance, and much of the talk qualifies as fancy mimicry.
‘I didn’t write Insignificancebecause I was interested in Marilyn Monroe,’ [Terry] Johnson avowed in a 1985 interview with Richard Combs for the Monthly Film Bulletin (August 1985). This film occasioned an extensive rewrite and expansion of the original by Johnson, but even then he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d ever seen The Seven Year Itch … One perk of his lack of interest in Monroe is complicating and confounding the popular notion of her as a dumb blonde — a stereotype that she’d helped to create herself — in order to shape and justify his outlandish plot.
The play stays glued over its two acts to Einstein’s hotel room. The film adds crosscutting and incidental characters … The new locations include not only the Trans-Lux Theater, but also a bar where McCarthy and DiMaggio nurse their separate grudges, and the shop where Monroe buys her demonstration toys. Perhaps the most significant additions are the brief, telegraphic, and sometimes cryptic flashbacks pertaining to the respective youths of Monroe, Einstein, and DiMaggio, and last but not least, the Elephant in the Room, the H-Bomb itself — which one might say puts in a crucial, last-minute appearance as the celebrity to end all celebrities, dwarfing and making irrelevant all of the others.”
Actress Sofia Vergara dressed up as Marilyn in her ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the latest Halloween episode of US sitcom Modern Family – while screen husband Ed O’Neill played Joe DiMaggio,as PopSugar reports.
Actress Sarah Paulson – best-known for her roles in American Horror Story, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, and Ocean’s 8 – appears in a new short film advertising Prada’s Fall and Winter Collection. Neon Dream follows a mysterious woman (Amanda Murphy) driving into Las Vegas, where a rather sinister troop of Marilyn Monroe clones led by RuPaul’s Drag Race diva Violet Chachki are waiting. She catches the eye of a parking valet (Paulson) who follows her, morphing into Marilyn a la Seven Year Itch, and a rollerskating waitress.
Los Angeles-based photographer Emily Berl has been working with Marilyn lookalikes in Tinseltown and far beyond for several years (see here.) Her portraits are now collected in a stunning monograph, and Monroe fans will notice many familiar faces striking classic poses in new settings, and a selection of images posted today on The Cut shows that there was a great deal more variety to Marilyn’s style than is generally acknowledged. Marilyn is quite an expensive book ($98) but the quality is well worth the price, for collectors and art-lovers alike.
“One of the things I have had to come to terms with this project is that it kind of dances with a lot of clichés, like the Hollywood dream, but I’ve realized I’m into that. I think even though they’re clichés, they’re kind of important. They’re not necessarily a bad thing.”
“Why is Marilyn still fascinating more than 55 years after her death?
I think it has a lot to do with her softness. You can see it in her eyes in all of her photos … I have met young girls who came to the play and said they were big Marilyn fans and yet they had never seen a movie with Marilyn in it. Only her photos! They had fallen in love with an image.
After 10 years, what did you learn that was most interesting about her?
Maybe how absolutely terrified she was facing the press and yet how charming and witty she was at answering their questions, like coming up with something engagingly clever.
Have you learned to turn the Marilyn character on and off the way Marilyn did?
Funny you mention that because I think I might have an inkling as to how Marilyn must have felt around people. She couldn’t really just be herself … People come up to me and say ‘You play Marilyn Monroe?’ And if I just say yes, they are disappointed. But if I light up and sparkle a bit, and give them a little Marilyn look, then they go away happy.
How would you describe Marilyn’s state of mind on the last day of her life?
I lived that day on stage hundreds of times and I always felt Marilyn was feeling unloved and disillusioned. I play her reliving her life before an audience and deathly afraid that when her looks go and her body goes she will be nothing! I want to believe she didn’t purposely take her own life.”