Category Archives: Lookalikes

Danica Kennedy: ‘I Was a Marilyn Lookalike’

In an interview for Cosmopolitan, TV presenter Danica Kennedy looks back on her stint as a Marilyn lookalike at Universal Studios.

“For wardrobe, all of the Marilyn impersonators always wore that classic white dress from The Seven Year Itch. That includes pantyhose, Spanx shorts for when the fan blew up our skirts, and this corset bustier that was totally crazy … I would step on a platform and a fan would blow my skirt up. Then I’d have to say, ‘Oops!’

When you play somebody for two years, sometimes their characteristics can blur into your personal life accidentally. If I’m out and drinking champagne, which was Marilyn’s favorite, I’ll accidentally slip into using my sexy baby voice. It’s so awkward, especially since I’m not trying to be Marilyn.

I don’t think playing Marilyn has affected my psyche, but that’s probably because I never took playing the character too seriously. But when people want to debate with me about how she died or what she was like, I find myself standing up for her … We have all been through tough times, and her story is so tragic yet relatable.”

Marilyn Impersonator Slams Unauthorised Stamps

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In one of this month’s more peculiar stories, Page Six reports that Marilyn impersonator Jimmy James has threatened legal action over a series of stamps issued in the Central African Republic, supposedly depicting Marilyn but using images of Jimmy, who impersonated her during the 1980s and 90s. James is much admired within the Monroe fan community, and was a guest speaker at the 2014 memorial service. Images of impersonators have been used before on unofficial Marilyn-themed merchandise, much to the frustration of fans – but Jimmy James is the first impersonator to respond publicly to this growing problem.

“The image on the stamp of James as Marilyn in a pair of glasses seems to be taken from a 1991 ad James did for the brand L.A. Eyeworks. (The cool 1980s and 1990s campaign included 200 others such as the actual Grace Jones, Frank Zappa, John Lydon, RuPaul, David Hockney and Bryan Ferry.)

As far as the image on the African stamp, James’ power attorney Mark Jay Heller told us: ‘Although the recognition and inclusion of a transgender model in this collection of [Monroe] stamps is appreciated . . . the publisher . . . has not only failed and omitted to secure’ James’ consent, ‘but has also failed to compensate him.’

Reps for Monroe’s estate, L.A. Eyeworks and the Central African Republic’s New York consulate did not get back to us. The image in question seems to have been taken down from a website for the country’s stamps.”

Here are some other examples of the stamps, featuring artwork of Marilyn. Another series shows her with Elvis Presley, though it is still unclear whether they ever met.

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Gretchen Mol: Starting Out With Marilyn

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Gretchen Mol, who starred in The Notorious Bettie Page and TV’s Boardwalk Empire, has talked about her early days as an aspiring actress in an interview with  Backstage.

“I remember when I took my résumé into William Morris Agency and they kind of snickered at my special skills section. Like, ‘We gotta get rid of this.’ The one that did get me my first summer stock job was I had ‘Marilyn Monroe impersonation,’ and a director said, ‘Can you sing your song as Marilyn Monroe?’ It was ‘Unusual Way,’ from Nine. I did it. I really did not have the impersonation down that well. [Laughs.] I didn’t expect to be called out on it! I remember when I walked out he said, ‘You aren’t afraid and that’s gonna really help you in this business.’ Along the way, you need people to believe in you or see something in you and then tell you, so you feel you’re on the right track. Those kinds of moments are so important when you’re starting out. And I remember that so well, walking out thinking, Whether I get that job or not, I feel like it couldn’t have gone better.”

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Gretchen was also (albeit inaccurately) compared to Marilyn after playing a woman involved with John F. Kennedy in An American Affair (2009.)

“Her first, semi-nude scene in An American Affair is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photo shoot with Bert Stern in 1962, taken shortly before her death, a year before this story begins. Monroe was also alleged to have been a lover of John F. Kennedy, and even played a similarly-named character, Claudia Caswell, in All About Eve (1950.)

Blonde, free-spirited and sexy, with a messy love life – it would be easy to assume that Catherine Caswell is a version of Monroe herself. However, the resemblance is only skin-deep. Monroe’s dalliance with Kennedy has long been the subject of gossip, but the truth of the matter is still uncertain.

After further investigation into Kennedy’s many extra-marital affairs, it becomes clear that Catherine Caswell is more closely modelled on another of his mistresses, Mary Pinchot Meyer …. Meyer was smart, liberal and probably one of the few women whom Kennedy treated as an intellectual equal. They met at least thirty times, and their relationship is generally considered to be one of the most significant in Kennedy’s fast-paced life.”

Frank Ocean Meets Marilyn in Calvin Klein Ad

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Rapper Frank Ocean stars in a mysterious new commercial for Calvin Klein mens’ underwear – with a brief appearance by a Marilyn lookalike, as Dee Lockett reports for Vulture. (Interestingly, Frank recorded an unreleased demo, ‘Marilyn Monroe‘, back in 2014.)

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“Ocean starts off dressed casually in an all-black tee and pants while appearing as the ‘special guest’ on Talk Calvin. But in the room, he watches himself on TV while wearing a black-and-white suit and no shoes.

Suddenly, he’s escaped! To the hallway! With … a Marilyn Monroe impersonator? We must be in Vegas:

‘You sort of, like, romanticize something that’s in the past, which is fantasy because it’s not exactly how it went down. Fantasy plays, like, the role of, uh, almost like a supplement. Draw on fantasy to make things hyperreal, I guess … saturate the colors.’

We see Ocean end up with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike, waxing poetic about romanticizing the past. In a flashback, he’s all alone in that TV studio. Flash forward and he sees Monroe on the blue couch where he once sat. A separate ad reads: ‘I feel loved in #mycalvins’ underneath a still of Ocean and Monroe.”

Immortal Marilyn in March

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This month’s updates on the Immortal Marilyn website include ‘Why I Love My Highbrow Husband‘, a 1959 cover story for Liberty magazine, in which Marilyn spoke about her life with Arthur Miller. And in ‘An Intimate Portrait of Linda Kerridge‘, Fraser Penney interviews one of the first, and most striking Marilyn lookalikes, who found fame as a teenager in the 1970s.

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Linda Kerridge

Vintage Life: The Myths of Marilyn

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Burlesque model October Divine poses as Marilyn on the cover of Vintage Life‘s March issue, out now in the UK. Inside there’s an interesting article by Haili Hughes, debunking some of the myths about Marilyn – such as her weight, and the ‘dumb blonde’ image.

Unfortunately, Haili does fall prey to one myth – that Marilyn had a genius IQ of 169. While her intelligence is not in question, there is no evidence that she was ever tested!

The spread also includes photographs of pin-up models Peggy Soo and Dolly Divine in classic Marilyn poses, shot at the My Boudoir studio.

Loni Venti’s Week With Marilyn

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In a fun article for Cosmopolitan, beauty editor Loni Venti describes her efforts to ‘live as Marilyn’ for a week – adopting her hair, make-up and fitness regime, and recreating some of her most iconic images.

“When the weekend came, I was definitely glad to go back to being Loni. It felt so good wearing my own clothes and makeup, eating less ‘bizarre’ foods, and working out in normal gym gear. But I will be taking some parts of this Marilyn experience with me. I’ll definitely be adding some more body-hugging silhouettes to my wardrobe. I’m totally stealing her amazing makeup tricks (although probably just for special occasions). But most of all, this project showed me how liberating it is to be fearless. If I, as Marilyn, could ditch my self-consciousness to experiment with new looks, pose for a (sometimes revealing) photo shoot, and burst into song in public among strangers, why couldn’t I do it as Loni? I can and I will.”

Marilyn Jetty Swim in Adelaide

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More news from Australia: a group of Marilyn lookalikes have swum around the Brighton jetty, near Adelaide, raising over $50,000 for Cancer Council SA, reports ABC News. (The event was initially planned as a mass ukulele strum.)

“The event, now in its third year, a little less than The Seven Year Itch, attracted 107 participants, and is part of the larger Brighton Jetty Classic ocean swimming events.

Marilyn Jetty Swim founder Sarah Tinney, an American, said water conditions were perfect for the event.

‘It was easy, much easier than last year, the conditions weren’t so favourable but that’s a great metaphor for life,’ Ms Tinney said.

‘Sometimes you have smooth seas and sometimes you don’t.’

A lot of preparation goes into playing the part of the Hollywood icon, who was born Norma Jeane Mortensen in 1926.

‘Over the years I think we have perfected it. But the basic plan is women come with their foundation on,’ she said.

‘They do their own blush and we do the vintage flicks on the eyes … and we also do the beauty spots you cannot forget or you are not a Marilyn … and we have a lipstick bar.’

‘We try not to [get wet]. We’re Marilyns. We are here for the glamour and we are here for the fundraising.’

Ms Tinney said her mother died after an eight-month battle with cancer in 2007 and she made a promise to raise money to find a cure.

‘My husband actually used to call my mother Marilyn and my dad John Wayne because he’s Australian and they were sort of the only American icons he knew … so I thought that was pretty weird and I saw it as a sign ...'”

‘The Poster People’: David Bowie and Marilyn

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One of the few modern stars to achieve mythological status on a par with MM, David Bowie died this week. The above photo was taken in 1975, when Bowie was living in Hollywood, by Tom Kelley – most famous as the photographer of Marilyn’s ‘red velvet’ nude calendar.

Back in November 1972, Bowie released ‘The Jean Genie‘, which includes the line ‘Talkin’ ’bout Monroe and walking on Snow White’. The single reached No 2 in the UK, and also features on Bowie’s 1973 album, Aladdin Sane. A film clip was also released, portraying Bowie as his Ziggy Stardust persona, and model Cyrinda Foxe (in whose apartment the song was written) as a ‘consort of the Marilyn brand.’

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Dean Martin’s former wife and a friend of Marilyn, Jeanne Martin, compared her with Bowie in an interview with Anthony Summers for his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Jeanne captures the chimeric nature of our most beloved stars, but as Summers admitted, Marilyn ‘was much more than a Poster Person’ – and so, of course, was David Bowie.

“I call them the Poster People. They’re the most durably famous, yet in many cases they have nothing to them. You find them only through the roles they play in their films. I am not an uncompassionate person, but look at the way they were. The Montgomery Clifts, and the Marilyn Monroes, Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie. In life they attract each other. They meet socially, they rush straight at each other, but they have nothing that means anything to mortals. History jettisons them forward into time, and I find their portraits on my son’s bedroom wall, pale and beautiful, but lost to reality.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Paula Lane 1926-2015

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The actress and Marilyn impersonator Paula Lane passed away in August this year, reports the Telegraph. Born in the same year as her idol, she played a bit part in What a Way to Go! (1964), in which Shirley MacLaine replaced MM. Some 25 years later, Lane starred in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989), a sequel to the 1976 exploitation movie, Goodbye, Norma Jean – alongside another lookalike, Misty Rowe, who reprised her role as the younger Marilyn.

With a low rating of 2.9 on IMDB, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn is (perhaps too generously) described by one user as ‘offbeat, absorbing, but ultimately redundant.’

“In 1989 she appeared in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, a film which the director Larry Buchanan claimed would show what really happened on August 5 1962, when the star was found dead in her Bel-Air home of an overdose. ‘I play Marilyn at 36,’ said the by then 53 year-old lookalike. ‘It took a little doing, but I think I pulled it off.’

The critics were not so sure, one describing the film as ‘maybe the sleaziest movie of 1989, a perfect 100 on the Sleaze Meter’. Paula Lane, however, he suggested, should be given a ‘Drive-In Academy Award nomination’ for saying, ‘Do they have cameras in heaven?’

One Hollywood columnist described Paula Lane as ‘the girl most men would like to be stranded on a desert island with’. But by the 1970s acting and modelling work was proving irregular, so on the advice of an agent who suggested that she exploit her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, she put together a song-and-dance act and took off on a three-week gig in Tokyo.

She had met the star on three occasions and as she recalled, ‘studied her every move, every gesture, every notion’. When she heard the news of her death on the radio, ‘I went to church to visit my priest. I needed answers. When my grief subsided and a couple of days later I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and felt this incredible force as if Marilyn was looking back at me. It was as if she had moulded herself in to my body! I started to cry. I hadn’t realised before just how much I looked like Marilyn. I was her.’

From the 1970s onwards Paula Lane performed as Marilyn Monroe in clubs from California to Las Vegas. Calling her act ‘The Super Star Award Show,’ she sang songs which Marilyn Monroe had made famous, including Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and Heat Wave, and recreated the classic shot from The Seven Year Itch of Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing up around her legs as she stands over a subway grating. To ‘do’ Marilyn, Paula Lane claimed, was ‘like a fix. To go out for a Marilyn job is an upper.'”