What She Said: Marilyn and Chanel No. 5

Marilyn by Bob Beerman, 1953

Over at Garage Magazine, Tatum Dooley traces the origins of Marilyn’s famous quote regarding her favourite perfume…

“When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously replied, ‘I only wear Chanel No. 5.’

The quote originates from a retelling by Monroe to Life Magazine in April 1952. The question wasn’t posed by Life; instead Monroe offered it up as a anecdote: “Once this fellow says, “Marilyn, what do you wear to bed?’ So I said I only wear Chanel No. 5.”‘

A bastardized version often tidily conflates Monroe as both speakers: ‘What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.’

Monroe is the subject of the second advertisement in a multi-part campaign, titled ‘Inside Chanel,’ levied by the brand. The ad, at just over two minutes, makes Monroe a posthumous face of the venerable perfume. ‘We may never know when she said the phrase for the first time,’ the video states about Monroe’s famous reference to the perfume, going on to cite all the times they have proof it happened: April 7th, 1952, in Life Magazine. October 1953, at a photoshoot for Modern Screen. April 1970, Marie Claire.

‘°5, because it’s the truth… and yet, I don’t want to say nude. But it’s the truth!’

But…it’s the truth lingers on the screen.”

The True Story of Marilyn’s Nude Calendar Scandal

The story behind Marilyn’s nude calendar scandal is retold by Pierre Vulag, owner of the Limited Runs poster company, in an interview with Alec Banks for High Snobiety. It’s a good read, with a couple of minor corrections: firstly, Marilyn was shooting Clash By Night when the news broke in early 1952 (not Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which came later); and secondly, while Marilyn told reporters she had posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley because she was behind on her rent, it was actually to get her car out of hock. (Her friend Sidney Skolsky had advised her that the rent story would play better with the public, and it worked!)

“Every press person I talk to ends their questions with ‘why do you still think people are fascinated by Marilyn Monroe?’ It’s exactly that. When the studio insisted that she deny it, she said ‘I will not, and it is me. I have nothing to be ashamed of.’ It was that honesty that the public could relate to … You think of all the Hollywood actors that people still relate to today – James Dean, Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart. Those people bled on the screen. They were honest and their personality was like ‘this is who I am, take me or leave me.’ And it’s that thing that she had and people loved.”

Marilyn Slept Here: Sinatra, Crosby Homes for Sale

Unlike her celebrity peers, Marilyn preferred to live modestly. Nonetheless, you may recall that a Los Angeles home she shared with Joe DiMaggio was recently put on the market (see here) – and it has now been joined by two luxury estates with connections to Marilyn. As reported in Architectural Digest, Frank Sinatra’s former Los Angeles home is on sale for $12.5 million.  (It was last put up for sale in 2012, as reported here.)

Marilyn stayed in Sinatra’s guesthouse (shown at top) in 1961. They were having an on-off relationship, and Frank was abroad on tour. She later spent a few months renting an apartment in the Doheny Drive complex he owned, as a neighbour to his secretary, Gloria Lovell.

“Old Blue Eyes himself lived in the sprawling home in the 1950s and 60s and frequently hosted his famous friends … the home seems preordained to shelter celebrities from the Hollywood hullabaloo, as it rests at the end of a near mile-long driveway atop a private promontory that overlooks the vast 1,325-acre Chatsworth Reservoir nature preserve.

Constructed in 1949 by William Pereira, Byrdview is only one of four homes the famed architect designed. Sitting on seven acres, the midcentury-modern house comprises three structures: the main house, a guest house (with its own pool), and a cabana … Outdoors, beyond the pool, there’s a parking space for 100 cars and enough agricultural-zoned acreage that, should the new owners like their wines, a vineyard could be built.”

Secondly, the Rancho Mirage estate of Bing Crosby (near Palm Springs), where Marilyn and John F. Kennedy were among the weekend guests during the March 1962 Democratic Convention, is on sale for $5 million ( although the property has been available for some time, as reported here.) This is the only verified occasion when Marilyn and the president spent a night at the same address, and rather predictably, it’s being promoted as ‘the tryst house’, according to Bloomberg. (Incidentally, Sinatra had hoped to host Kennedy and was reportedly furious that he chose Crosby, a Republican, instead!)

“The 6,700-square-foot estate, spread across more than an acre, was built for the crooner and his second wife, Kathryn, in 1957. The single-story home, with a 1,400-square-foot master suite along with four other en-suite bedrooms, has been on and off the market since 2010, when it was first listed for $3.4 million. It’s also been available for rent through Airbnb for $3,400 a night.”

Marilyn, Hefner and the Sex Tape That Never Was

Marilyn is the victim of yet another ‘fake news’ story today, as it’s been reported that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dumped a sealed casket containing his vast collection of sex tapes into the sea before he died.  ‘Marilyn [Monroe] was definitely in them as well as many superstars who graced the pages of his magazine,’ an unnamed source told UK tabloid The Sun. While Hefner’s admiration for Marilyn is well-known, there’s a big hole in this story: by his own admission they never met.

Fake News: Marilyn in the ‘Examiner’

The US scandal sheet, National Examiner, has a typically ludicrous front page story this week. Inside, it is claimed that Marilyn killed her Misfits co-star Clark Gable with pills and sex. Needless to say, there was no affair between Marilyn and Gable, who was happily married and expecting his first child when he tragically died shortly after filming wrapped in 1960.

This is just one of many headlines over the years which has sought to blame Marilyn for Gable’s death. While her chronic lateness certainly tested his patience, Gable’s own poor health, his heavy drinking and smoking habits combined with his insistence on doing his own stunts, all contributed to his fatal heart attack.

The source for this story, the Examiner claims, is actor Charlton Heston, who supposedly told all on his deathbed in 2008. However, Heston never worked with Marilyn and was only seen with her once, at the Golden Globes in 1962. Why the legendary actor would have been talking about a woman he barely knew in his dying breath is never explained.

Thanks to All About Marilyn

‘Norma Jean and Marilyn’ in the Age of #MeToo

As first reported here, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino – who starred in the 1996 mini-series, Norma Jean and Marilyn – have both become leading voices in the #MeToo movement following last year’s Harvey Weinstein scandal. In an article for the Austin Chronicle, Britt Hayes admits that recent events have led her to view Norma Jean and Marilyn in a different light.

“Norma Jean & Marilyn premiered on HBO in 1996, when I was just 11 years old. My father was, like most baby boomers, quite smitten with Monroe – the Hollywood bombshell whose life was cut short following a drug overdose in 1962. Posters featuring the platinum-haired, sleepy-eyed icon adorned my father’s workspace. Naturally, I was curious about the only woman ever permitted to take up permanent residence in a space that was usually off-limits. And so my own infatuation with this breathtaking Hollywood tragedy began, and by 1996 I was well-versed in the woman, the myth, the legend that was Marilyn.

The HBO film admittedly hasn’t aged that well (the acting in particular is quite soapy), but its more ambitious elements – such as daydream sequences in which Norma Jean/Marilyn recalls and reimagines her traumatic upbringing – evoke the waking-nightmare surrealism of David Lynch. It feels more voyeuristic than conventional biopics, due in large part to the bold visual choice of having Judd’s Norma Jean interact with Sorvino’s Marilyn during the latter’s most crushing personal moments, as when she doubts her talent or makes choices that might stifle her career (like marrying Joe DiMaggio).

Judd’s Norma Jean is tenacious and resilient, having endured – as told via recurring flashback – repeated physical and emotional trauma at the hands of various men throughout her life. From predatory father figures to former lovers who underestimated and devalued her, Norma Jean learned early on that her body was both a tool and a weapon, capable of making her dreams a reality just as easily as it could destroy them. Sorvino’s Marilyn fights to repress this past, changing her name to ‘kill’ Norma Jean and, when that doesn’t work, using an assortment of prescription drugs to finish the job.”

While this perspective may be valid in general terms, Norma Jean and Marilyn is flawed in many ways – not least because it is based on Norma Jean: My Secret Life With Marilyn Monroe, the 1991 memoir by her self-proclaimed lover, Ted Jordan. There is no evidence of a relationship between Marilyn and Jordan, whose book is so riddled with factual errors and salacious fantasy that even the most ardent conspiracy theorists now agree that it should be treated as hokum.

Additionally, it’s something of a tired old trope to depict Marilyn as a split personality just because she changed her name. Many other actors did the same and still do, but I’ve yet to see the biopic, Marion and the Duke! On a more serious note, while Marilyn, like other actresses, experienced sexism in Hollywood, she was never simply a victim. And frankly, she deserves a lot better than Norma Jean and Marilyn.

LA Coroner Craig Harvey On Marilyn’s Death

As recently announced here, the retired Los Angeles County coroner, Craig Harvey, spoke at length about Marilyn’s death during an LA Woman Tours/Dearly Departed event in October. Elisa Jordan has posted a full report on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group.

“Craig Harvey has researched Marilyn’s passing more than anyone (literally) because of the public’s interest and media requests. Here are some take-away moments from Craig’s lecture and Q&A:

* Expert conclusion: suicide
* No signs of foul play
* A coroner investigation team did not exist until 1967. The investigation was as thorough as possible for 1962. NOTE: Because of this, the coroner’s office never entered the scene.
* In 1962, bodies were routinely removed to local funeral homes. If it was deemed necessary to have an autopsy performed, the body then went to the coroner’s office. In Marilyn’s case, she was taken to Westwood and then to the coroner’s office. In other words, this was an extra thorough investigation. The officers at the scene had determined suicide so an autopsy shows how thorough they were trying to be.
* The paper work indicates that only Marilyn’s body was removed from the scene. No artifacts from her home were taken—this includes any sort of diary.
* Lionel Grandison, who said he saw a red diary, would not have had access to any physical evidence, such as a diary. All he did was process paper work.
* No puncture marks were found on Marilyn’s body (extra: puncture wounds take about 24 hours to heal)
* Dr. Thomas Noguchi does not recall John Miner being present at the autopsy, but made the distinction (per my question) that he doesn’t recall being alone either. He made that clear but in other words, there is no record of John Miner being present. Today everybody attending an autopsy must sign a log.
* He has never known of a case in which enemas had administered a fatal overdose.
* Marilyn lived for quite a while after taking pills. Her body slowly shut itself down. This explains her empty stomach and body chemistry.
* Marilyn took between 25-40 pills. Today there is better technology to get a more exact estimate.
* Someone asked about Marilyn not throwing up. Answer: some overdoses vomit and some do not. Marilyn did not, nor was there foam around her mouth. Same with expelling the contents of bladder and colon—some people expel and others do not. Marilyn did not.
* Dr. Noguchi did not request any pictures of Marilyn be taken during the autopsy. The postmortem photo that Anthony Summers published was taken by someone in the LAPD. It was not authorized. NOTE: In the state of California, coroner photos are not ‘confidential’ but they *are* protected by law. In theory, they are not made public. They are sometimes stolen or leaked during a court trial, which doesn’t apply to Marilyn. But it does explain how that particular photo got out—it was a rogue in the LAPD.
* With toxicology, it is relatively easy to find which drugs are in the system and how much (especially these days). The hard part that takes a while to figure out is determining how said drugs would affect an individual’s body. It’s different for every person.
* Technically, anyone can request that a case be reopened. This explains the 1982 investigation.”

Moon of Baroda Recasts Spell in Marilyn’s Hollywood

The legendary Moon of Baroda diamond – valued by its current owner at between $500,000 and $750,000 – is now on display at Christie’s in Los Angeles until October 20, and will be auctioned in Hong Kong on November 27 alongside a signed photo of Marilyn wearing it, as Jordan Riefe writes for the Hollywood Reporter.

“‘It’s gorgeous,’ said Marilyn Monroe when first gazing upon the Moon of Baroda; not a heavenly body to match her own, but a diamond, a rare 24.04-carat canary yellow gem pulled from the legendary Golconda mine, outside Hyderabad, in 16th-century India.

Monroe was on a publicity tour for her breakout 1953 comedy Gentleman Prefer Blondes with its unforgettable song, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ when the Moon of Baroda became her best friend, on loan from Meyer Jewelry Company in Detroit.

Meyer Rosenbaum loaned it to the legendary actor for publicity purposes surrounding Howard Hawks’ classic comedy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, co-starring Jane Russell, and photos of Monroe wearing it went viral.

What won’t add to its price is a rumored curse alleging that if the gem travels overseas, bad luck will come to its owner. Its 19th century stint in Austria ended with the death of Maria Theresa, and others claim that Monroe’s fortunes took a southward turn after wearing it in 1953, when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes launched her to stardom.”

UPDATE: The Moon of Baroda diamond has been sold at auction in China for $1.3 million – more than double its low estimate, as Christie’s reports.

Marilyn’s ‘Haunted Hollywood’ Parade

Marilyn is featured on the cover of Haunted Hollywood, a Halloween special edition from US magazine Parade. Presumably the oft-told tale of her haunting the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard will be mentioned. Contrary to rumour, she was never a permanent resident. However, Marilyn did pose for photos by the pool in 1952. Today, guests can check into the Marilyn Monroe Suite – but watch out for her ghost in the mirror!

UPDATE: You can now order Haunted Hollywood through UK website Newsstand.

Marilyn at the Roosevelt Hotel, 1952