This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most influential pop albums ever made. The cover – a collage by artist Peter Blake – features the Fab Four lining up alongside more than sixty of the last century’s most iconic figures. Marilyn is there, as photographed by Ben Ross in 1953. BBC Music have compiled a mini-documentary for each one: Marilyn’s includes newsreel footage from her arrival in England to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. You can watch the clip here.
Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn’s friend and greatest musical influence, was born 100 years ago today. You can read my tribute here.
In the final instalment of Love Magazine‘s Advent series, supermodel Kate Upton – whose blonde hair and voluptuous curves have been compared to Marilyn’s – sips champagne and frolics in lingerie to the soundtrack of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’. However, the short video, directed by Doug Inglish, owes more to the cheeky aesthetic of The Benny Hill Show than the glamour of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Judge for yourself here.
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.
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.
I Wanna Be Loved By You is a new vinyl compilation from the French label, Wagram (perhaps inspired by this year’s exhibition of the same name in Provence.) Among the twelve tracks are lesser-known gems like ‘Incurably Romantic’, Marilyn’s duet with Yves Montand. Now on sale at Amazon stores worldwide, the album is also available as an MP3 download.
Thanks to Fraser Penney
In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.
In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.
Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie Reynolds, Scott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.
In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.
In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.
June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.
In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.
August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.
In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.
In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.
In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.
Finally, in December the EYE Film Institute began a Marilyn movie season in Amsterdam. The Asphalt Jungle was released on Blu-Ray by Criterion. And actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor and Debbie Reynolds both passed away.
Leon Russell, the revered Oklahoma-born musician and singer-songwriter whose career spanned more than fifty years, died earlier this month aged 74. Best known for hits like ‘Delta Lady’ and ‘A Song For You’, he worked with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, and more recently made an album with Elton John.
His 1978 solo album, Americana, includes a track called ‘Elvis and Marilyn’, which was also a single. You can listen to it on Spotify.
Comedienne Rachel Bloom has spoofed a classic Marilyn moment from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in an episode of her musical sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (in which she plays Rebecca, a woman in the thrall of romantic delusions), reports the Los Angeles Times. You can watch the scene (from Season 2, Episode 3) in full here.
“‘There was kind of a self-indulgent hubris, where she truly thinks she has two men in love with her,’ said Bloom of her quest to capture the sound of that romantic delusion musically. ‘She thinks she is the center of everything. That’s Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. That’s Marilyn Monroe. That’s a ’40s song where you’re surrounded by boys.’
So when inspiration struck, she did what any good songwriter on a deadline would do: She reached for her laptop that sat on her bamboo bath caddy and started jotting down lyrics.
It wasn’t long before the show’s music producer, Adam Schlesinger, received a voicemail with Bloom’s bare-bones rendition of this week’s big musical number, ‘The Math of Love Triangles’, which finds Rebecca cooing in a baby-doll voice — a la Monroe in ‘Diamonds’ — about what a hardship it is to have two guys in love with her.
‘The hardest part of writing these songs is landing on the specific idea,’ Bloom said. ‘Once we’ve landed on it, then stuff starts rolling. And there’s editing and there’s tweaking and there’s rewriting. But there’s a kind of rolling down the hill that you feel once you hit on the right comedy premise.’
And a bit of creativity is sometimes needed when trying to get certain aspects of those premises to pass Broadcast Standards and Practices. For example, with The Math of Love Triangles, the line, ‘Are you erect?’ could only pass muster if Bloom’s Rebecca was physically adjusting the posture of a dancer.
On the day of production of The Math of Love Triangles, Bloom was concerned that she might be revealing too much side boob because of her blue strapless gown or that the male dancers should be more expressive with their facial reactions.
After a take was complete, she slipped out of her character’s strappy heels and into some slippers to watch a playback.
‘I think it’s great,’ Bloom said. ‘It all came together!'”
Marilyn’s RCA Victor award for ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim‘ after it was released as a single to promote River of No Return and sold 50,000 copies in 1954, as well as promotional materials, are among the items in the upcoming Julien’s sale.
An unedited, 30-minute audio recording of Marilyn performing multiple takes of ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (from Some Like It Hot) on a reel of acetate tape, from the estate of Studio 7612 owner Myron Blackler, is also on offer.
Marilyn’s personal songbook – containing more than 369 indexed pages of song standards, such as Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ – is up for bids. Receipts show that in February 1960, Marilyn purchased three albums by Frank Sinatra; and in April 1962, she bought a live double-album by Judy Garland.
Finally, a set of vinyl compilations featuring Marilyn herself are on sale, as collected by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull.
Singer Ariana Grande, who has shown her love for Marilyn on Twitter and wore a Travilla-inspired dress to this year’s MTV Awards, performed a soulful cover of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in Beverly Hills last week at a party for diamond manufacturer Tiffany’s (who are, of course, name-checked in the song), reports Harper’s Bazaar.