Category Archives: Memories & Anecdotes

Alice Denham Remembers Marilyn

Alice Denham, who died last year aged 89, was armed with a master’s degree in literature when she came to New York in 1953, hoping to be a writer and supporting herself by nude modelling. Within three years, she was a Playboy centrefold – the magazine also published her short story, ‘The Deal’, in the same issue. Like other independent women of her era, however, Alice’s promising career stalled while her male peers triumphed.

Forty years later she published a sensational memoir, Sleeping With Bad Boys: A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York. In it, she wrote of her encounters with James Dean, Marlon Brando, Sam Spiegel, Norman Mailer and Hugh Hefner, among others. She also spoke admiringly of Marilyn, and described a brief sighting of her at the El Morocco nightclub in Manhattan.

Marilyn at El Morocco, 1954

“We table-hopped and Harry introduced me to Cary Grant and Esther Williams, Jack Benny, and both Gabors. Out on the floor again, I danced past Marilyn Monroe in a plain black short gown with spaghetti straps. Marilyn looked incredibly beautiful and bored, as she danced with a fat short producer, then returned to her table where there were three other short fat producers in tux. Marilyn was far more gorgeous than her photos.”

Marilyn and ‘Ella, Queen of Jazz’

Ella Queen of Jazz is a new children’s book by Helen Hancocks, recounting the famous story of Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald. Although its historical accuracy has been questioned and some of the details may be embellished, the anecdote came from Ella’s own lips. What we can be sure of is that Marilyn helped Ella to secure a nightclub engagement in Hollywood, and that she attended her show on at least one occasion. Marilyn considered Ella her own greatest musical influence, and the women remained friendly until her death. A Christmas card sent by Ella to Marilyn was auctioned at Julien’s last year, and they would both perform at President Kennedy’s birthday gala in 1962. Although we may quibble over the details, it’s an empowering tale of female friendship overcoming social barriers and is rendered colourfully in this charming book.

Hollywood Reporter’s Rave for Sugar

This week marks the 58th anniversary of Some Like It Hot‘s release. The Hollywood Reporter has reprinted their original review, first published on March 29, 1929. Here’s what they had to say about Marilyn’s memorable performance as Sugar Kane.

“The vocalist and ukelele player with this outfit is a lush (in every sense of the word), Marilyn Monroe, who has been betrayed by many saxophone players and is going to Florida in the hope of landing a millionaire. Curtis, while posing as her girl confidante, falls in love with her. Meanwhile, an uproarious dormitory party, with a hot-water bottle full of bourbon, has the rest of the band personnel jammed and giggling, into the upper berth of the squealing spurious blonde, Lemmon.

In a Florida resort (represented with fine period accuracy by the Coronado Beach Hotel) Curtis keeps switching from female guise to that of a millionaire yachtsman in order to woo Marilyn, who appears in a wardrobe designed by Orry Kelly that displays an embarrassment of riches. Whatever the part requires — and that includes talent — Marilyn has in abundance.”

Tippi Hedren Remembers Marilyn

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Actress Tippi Hedren is best-known for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and The Birds. In her new autobiography, Tippi: A Memoir, she recalls an ‘almost meeting’ with a rather subdued Marilyn at Milton Greene’s home in the mid-1950s. (Immortal Marilyn member Kylie Christine has also written an article about Tippi for the Marilyn’s Contemporaries series.)

“They invited me to their home in Connecticut for several weekend gatherings, and on one particular weekend Marilyn Monroe happened to be staying with them. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I can say I met her.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and hours passed before Marilyn emerged from her suite on the second floor. I looked up to see her descending the stairs, presumably to come down and join the group.

Instead, she stopped on the landing, where she sat down in the corner and stayed there.

End of story.

Seriously, she never said a word, she just sat there on that landing with a rather blank, unwelcoming look on her face. I never saw anyone approach her, and I kind of lost track of her. Later I noticed she’d just disappeared, perhaps back to her room or who knows where.

I have no idea what was going on with her. I wrote it off to terrible shyness or insecurity and left it at that. Milton and Amy didn’t seem to think a thing about it, and I wasn’t about to ask them. It was none of my business, and frankly, I wasn’t that interested.

So that was the perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon in Connecticut when I either did or didn’t meet Marilyn Monroe.

Your call.”

Patricia Bosworth Remembers Marilyn

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Patricia Bosworth has written acclaimed biographies of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda. A lifelong member of the Actors Studio, she also wrote ‘The Mentor and the Movie Star‘, a 2003 article about Marilyn and the Strasbergs for Vanity Fair, and appeared in the 2006 PBS documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.

In her new memoir, The Men In My Life: Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, Bosworth recalls her acting days. In an extract published by Lithub, she describes an encounter with Marilyn.

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“I slid into the backseat, where I found Marilyn Monroe huddled in a corner dreamily puffing on a cigarette. Her bleached blond hair was tousled; she seemed to be wearing no makeup. I noticed there was dirt under her fingernails, but I couldn’t stop looking at her. We were about to pull away from the curb when a voice cried out, ‘Hey Lee, goin’ my way?’ and Harry Belafonte hopped in beside me. We drove uptown in silence.

I knew Marilyn was aware I was looking at her. She was used to being looked at, and she wasn’t self-conscious. She had a mysterious indefinable quality that made her a star and separated her from everyone else. At the moment she appeared to be floating in another world as she puffed delicately on her cigarette and blew the smoke softly out of her mouth. The newspapers were full of stories about her—how she’d left Hollywood and come to New York to be a ‘serious actress,’ how Lee was coaching her at his apartment and letting her observe sessions at the Studio.”

Elsewhere, Bosworth confirms that Tennessee Williams had wanted Marilyn to star in Baby Doll (but Gore Vidal thought she was too old.) Bosworth knew many key figures in Marilyn’s life, including Elia Kazan, Lee and Susan Strasberg – who found her father’s ‘obsession’ with Marilyn disturbing.

As Bosworth admits, Marilyn was part of Lee’s inner circle from which she felt excluded. She was also intimidated by Marilyn’s fame, which nonetheless kept the Actors Studio in the headlines. Lee Strasberg often seemed cold and domineering, but Bosworth considered him ‘a great teacher.’

Bosworth, unlike Marilyn, was born into a life of privilege, and forged a stage career as well as starring alongside Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story. However, her impeccable connections couldn’t save her from family tragedy (her brother and father both committed suicide), and an abusive marriage.

The 1950s, as Bosworth observes, was a staid, even repressive decade – but the creativity and rebellion of the 60s was already fermenting. She talks about the impact of the anti-communist witch-hunts, both on the artistic community and her own family, and the rampant sexism she constantly endured.

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Elizabeth Winder will focus on Marilyn’s New York period directly in her forthcoming book, Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, but Patricia Bosworth’s account comes from her own experience. For anyone interested in learning more about the bohemian world that women like Bosworth – and Marilyn – helped to define, The Men In My Life is essential reading.

Marilyn and Judy Garland

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Marilyn chats with Judy Garland at a concert, 1962

Showbiz impresario Sid Luft was married to Judy Garland from 1952-1965. He died in 2005, leaving behind an unfinished memoir, which is now being published as Judy and Me. As Liz McNeil reveals in an article for People, the book also mentions Judy’s friendship with Marilyn.

Marilyn and Judy arrive at a Hollywood luncheon for President Khrushchev of Russia, 1959
Marilyn and Judy arrive at a Hollywood luncheon for President Khrushchev of Russia, 1959

“According to Luft, Monroe’s death was ‘especially troubling to Judy since Marilyn had been one of Judy’s telephone pals during her years of insomnia.’

The book also includes an excerpt from an article written by Garland about Monroe for Ladies Home Journal in 1967, in which she revealed a haunting conversation she’d once had with the star.

In the article, Garland described a Hollywood party one evening in which Monroe followed her ‘from room to room.’

‘I don’t want to get too far away from you,’ she said. ‘I’m scared!’

I told her, ‘We’re all scared. I’m scared, too!’

“If we could just talk,” she said, “I know you’d understand.”

I said, “Maybe I would. If you’re scared, call me and come on over. We’ll talk about it.”

They never did.

As Garland wrote: ‘That beautiful girl was frightened of aloneness — the same thing I’d been been afraid of. Like me, she was just trying to do her job — garnish some delightful whipped cream onto some people’s lives, but Marilyn and I never got a chance to talk. I had to leave for England and I never saw that sweet, dear girl again. I wish I had been able to talk to her the night she died.’

‘I don’t think Marilyn really meant to harm herself,’ Garland continued, in an eerie foreshadowing of her own death from an accidental drug overdose in 1969.

‘It was partly because she had too many pills available, then was deserted by her friends. You shouldn’t be told you’re completely irresponsible and be left alone with too much medication. It’s too easy to forget. You take a couple of sleeping pills and you wake up in 20 minutes and forget you’ve taken them. So you take a couple more, and the next thing you know you’ve taken too many.’

Luft’s memoir also describes how Monroe would visit their home and play with their young children, Lorna and Joey Luft.

‘She’d sit by the fire, not talking much, a quiet presence,’ Luft writes. ‘Marilyn was sweet and very unhappy. She’d chat with Judy and play with the children, hang out. She was separated from one of her husbands [whom Luft doesn’t name] whom she complained was a nice person but said didn’t know how to make love to a woman. She’d hoped this pattern would change when they married. She was frustrated and disappointed.’

Now 61, their son Joey Luft, has sweet memories of Monroe, whom he remembers would sport jeans and eyeglasses for her casual visits.

‘She kind of looked like a really pretty schoolteacher,’ Joey recalls to PEOPLE. ‘That’s what I was thinking to myself. This can’t be like one of the huge sex symbols! My sister had just explained to me who she was before she walked in. My dad and mom were talking to her about movies and things and directors and people. I couldn’t figure it out. She came over the second time and she did the same thing and she only stayed for about 20 to 25 minutes. The next day or following day, I turn on the TV and I see Marilyn Monroe singing to President Kennedy, Happy Birthday. I put it together. I thought, Oh, that’s right! Now I get it.'”

Marilyn and Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer, the accomplished character actor whose many screen credits include Robocop and Twin Peaks, died last week aged 61, The Guardian reports.

He was born on February 7, 1955 to singer Rosemary Clooney and her husband, actor Jose Ferrer. Among his impeccable Hollywood connections (his cousin is George Clooney), Miguel enjoyed an early  encounter with Marilyn Monroe which reveals a great deal about her love of children.

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In her 1999 autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary recalled throwing a party at her New York home in the winter of 1955, shortly after Miguel was born. Film director John Huston came with Marilyn, who had recently moved to the city. Rosemary had only met her once before, but Marilyn immediately asked if she could see the baby. Without even brushing the snow off her fur coat, Marilyn headed upstairs to the nursery. About an hour later, Huston asked Rosemary, ‘What the hell’s she doing up there?’ She replied that Marilyn was ‘playing with the baby.’

Before his death, Miguel reprised his role as the gruff FBI forensic pathologist, Albert Rosenfeld, in the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks. He is not the only cast member with a connection to Marilyn, as her Bus Stop co-star Don Murray will also be making a cameo appearance.

Marilyn’s Lost ‘Itch’ Footage

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Amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch has resurfaced, as Helene Stapinski reports for the New York Times. Shot by Jules Schulback, a furrier and home movie enthusiast, in September 1954, the missing reel – in pristine condition, and lasting for three minutes and seventeen seconds in total – was found by his granddaughter Bonnie Siegler and her husband Jeff Scher almost sixty years later.

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“The film starts with a spliced-in intertitle that reads ‘World Premiere,’ Mr. Schulback’s little inside joke.

And then there is Marilyn Monroe, in a white terry robe, coming down the stoop of a white-shuttered building at 164 East 61st Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues. It was the earlier scene — before the subway grate footage — that Mr. Schulback had shot. Cameramen and press photographers are gathered outside as the actress smiles and waves.

Cut to Ms. Monroe in a second-floor window wearing a slip and blow-drying her hair. Mr. Ewell walks down the street and into the building. The film cuts inexplicably to 30 seconds of what must be a Shriners parade in Manhattan, then jumps to another intertitle, which reads ‘Our Baby.’

And suddenly, there is Ms. Monroe again, this time on the subway grate in that famously fluttering white dress, holding a matching white clutch in her right hand and a red-and-white-striped scarf in her left.

Mr. Schulback was incredibly close, filming right behind Mr. Wilder’s shoulder, stopping to wind his hand-held camera every 25 seconds. Now and then, a silhouette of the director’s arm intrudes into Mr. Schulback’s crystal-clear shot. At one point Mr. Wilder, in a fedora, passes across the frame. Ms. Monroe gets into position and yawns, while the cinematographer sets up the camera. Through a gap in the film crew, Mr. Schulback captures just her face, looking off to the left, serious and unsmiling.

Then Mr. Ewell is there, chatting with Ms. Monroe, who pushes him into position. The dress flutters again, Ms. Monroe holds it down, bending slightly, smiling and talking to Mr. Ewell, but it flutters up some more and she laughs, her head thrown back. It blows up again, but she doesn’t push it down this time, and it flies up over her head, clearly revealing two pairs of underwear that, because of the bright lights, do not protect Ms. Monroe’s modesty quite as much as she might have liked.

Then, as suddenly as she appeared, Marilyn is gone, and the film reverts to home-movie mode: Edith Schulback walking on the grass at a family outing in the country. It’s like being shaken from some crazy dream, back to reality.”

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Elsewhere in the Times, Alexandra S. Levine retraced Marilyn’s steps in today’s New York.

“We started outside 164 East 61st Street, the townhouse shown in the film.

The house is still standing, and this week, it appeared to be the only one on the block still adorned with Christmas decorations.

(It’s also now directly across from Trump Plaza, which was certainly not part of the movie’s quaint side-street landscape.)

We then walked to Lexington to visit Gino, a restaurant where Ms. Monroe would often eat with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, and later with her third, Arthur Miller.

We regret to inform you that the eatery is long gone. It’s now Sprinkles, a cupcake shop, and the outside of the building has an A.T.M. that dispenses cupcakes. (How far we’ve come in 63 years!)

We headed south, to 52nd Street, the site of the celebrated subway grate.

There was no Marilyn Monroe plaque or street sign to be seen; the block is designated Lew Rudin Way. And the Trans-Lux Theater, which stood behind Ms. Monroe as she filmed the scene, is no longer there.

So we stopped above what we imagined was the same grate, now in front of the bistro Le Relais de Venise l’Entrecôte, to see if it might elicit an out-of-body experience.

Not quite.

The long, narrow subway grate was sandwiched on one end by a garbage can, and on the other by a large, thirsty-looking potted plant.

When we stood over the grate, we didn’t feel the swoosh of the subway swiftly blowing at our heels. When we looked down, all we could see was our own reflection in some murky water. And we certainly didn’t look like we were having an exceptional hair day.

What we’d suggest, to better recreate that unforgettable New York (but made in Hollywood) moment, is to ask a friend to come along with a giant fan and an iPhone. Ask that kind soul to turn on the fan, encourage passers-by to cheer your name, and let the photo shoot begin.”

Buddy Greco 1926-2017

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Marilyn with Buddy Greco, 1962

Buddy Greco, the jazz pianist and lounge singer, died in Las Vegas last week aged ninety.

Armando Greco was born into a musical family in Philadelphia in August 1926, and began piano lessons at four years old. He turned professional in his teens, and had his first hit single in 1948. He was hired by Benny Goodman, and accompanied a young Marilyn Monroe during an audition for the band (she didn’t get the job.)

In 1951, Greco launched a solo career as a nightclub artist. He also released albums and appeared on television. His 1960 version of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ sold over a million copies. He regularly performed alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and other Rat Pack luminaries at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

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On the weekend of July 29, 1962, Greco was playing with Sinatra at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. One of Sinatra’s guests was Marilyn Monroe. Buddy reminded her of their earlier meeting, and took a series of snapshots featuring himself with Marilyn, Sinatra, and Peter Lawford. These photos are believed to be the last ever taken of Marilyn, who died just a week afterward.

Greco enjoyed his British tours so much that he bought a house at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, while also maintaining a home in Palm Springs, California. He is survived by his seven children and his fifth wife, Lezlie Anders, whom he married in 1995.

You can read Buddy Greco’s account of the Cal-Neva weekend here.