This rare and charming photo of Marilyn getting her make-up done by an unnamed woman while a baby looks on from inside a basket, was posted to the Avedon Foundation’s Instagram account yesterday. It was taken in New York 61 years ago, on July 2, 1958 – five days before Marilyn flew to Los Angeles to begin shooting Some Like It Hot.
In 2010, artist Yury Toroptsov photographed fans across the world posing with a blue-and-white gingham summer dress from Marilyn’s private collection, for an exhibition and accompanying book, Marilyn & I. However, no images of Marilyn herself wearing the dress were found – until this week, when Eric Patry posted this newspaper clipping on the Facebook group, MM Fanclub Belgium.
Although the publication and date have not been established, the photo is thought to have been taken in the summer of 1960, while Marilyn was en route to Reno, Nevada to shoot The Misfits. With her face and hair partly covered, it’s hard to identify her as Monroe – except by that radiant smile. (The belt worn with the dress is not her usual style, so perhaps she removed it.)
The estate of fashion designer Oleg Cassini went under the hammer at Doyle’s Auctioneers in New York today, with all 755 lots sold for a total $1.3 million. Cassini, who died in 2006, was recently described as a ‘notable rogue’ in the New York Times. He was married to actress Gene Tierney, engaged to Grace Kelly, and worked extensively with Jacqueline Kennedy during her time as First Lady. He also designed two gowns worn by Marilyn, and would claim in his 1987 memoir, In My Own Fashion, that they were lovers.
“Ever concerned with his image, Cassini only wanted to be seen with what he called, ‘top top girls.’ Wholesome and glamorous, Grace Kelly was a ‘top girl,’ so was Jacqueline Kennedy who he said had ‘a hieroglyphic figure.’ However Marilyn Monroe, one of Cassini’s many conquests, did not make the cut. In his book he described her as ‘the world’s most marvelous marshmallow.’ According to [Maureen] Orth, he told journalist Joe Klein, that she was just ‘a little show pony.'”Tate Delloye, Mail Online
Interestingly, there were no Marilyn-related lots in today’s auction; and there is no corroborating evidence of Cassini’s claim. At the very least, his disparaging remarks suggest the great lothario was also a snob. (At worst, one might wonder if he ever really slept with Marilyn at all!)
Whatever the truth about their relationship, Marilyn loved Cassini’s gowns, praising their “taste and imagination” in an article for Modern Screen.
According to the Syncopated Times, the jazz radio DJ Chuck Cecil – who has died aged 97 – was a contemporary of Norma Jeane Baker. He was a student at Van Nuys High School, where his fellow alumni included Norma Jeane (who attended from September 1941 – February 1942, before moving on to University Senior High.) Marilyn’s future co-star, Jane Russell, and her first husband, Jim Dougherty, were also students. Five years older than Norma Jeane, they once appeared together in a school play.
Moreover, the article states that Chuck Cecil attended Jim’s wedding to Norma Jeane in June 1942. Although he’s not usually mentioned among the guests at the intimate ceremony, it’s possible that Chuck may have joined them for their reception at the Florentine Gardens Restaurant. As Chuck was around the same age as Jim, he may have known the groom better than the bride.
On the cusp of stardom, Marilyn revisited her ‘alma mater’ (in reality, one of many) and was photographed chatting with students in 1951.
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.
On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?
Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.
Thanks to Fraser and Johan
In this week’s Valley Chronicle, Mark Lentine looks at Marilyn’s connection to the California town of Hemet. Although she was named Norma Jeane Mortensen at birth (after her mother Gladys’ estranged husband, Edward Mortensen) it is widely believed that her real father was C. Stanley Gifford. He and Gladys had a relationship while working at Consolidated Film Industries in Los Angeles.
Over the years, Marilyn made many attempts to contact Gifford, without success. Gifford had remarried and managed the Red Rock Dairy in Hemet. It is believed he did not want to upset his wife and children by letting Marilyn into his life.
Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece Miracle has claimed that they finally met in the year before Marilyn passed, and it has been reported that in 1965, a dying Gifford confessed to his pastor, Reverend Don Liden of the First Presbyterian Church, that he was indeed Marilyn’s father. Gifford was buried in the San Jacinto Valley Cemetery.
“Monroe was seen many times in the Hemet area, most times staying at the Soboba Hot Springs. She was seen making clandestine calls or stopping at bars (most frequently mentioned in the reminiscences of locals is Chappies Bar) and asking for a Charles Stanley Gifford.
‘My dad and mom were out at the Soboba Hot Springs for dinner, a very upscale dining spot in town. My dad started to get out of the car but was stopped by someone who looked familiar. The gentleman had gone to dad’s side of the car to let a woman out of the car. When the woman stepped out of the car, dad realised why the man had looked familiar; it was Joe DiMaggio, and he was holding the door open for his wife, Marilyn Monroe …’, said a smiling former Hemet mayor, Robert Lindquist.
I asked Lindquist if he believed that Gifford was indeed Monroe’s father. ‘Oh yes, it was quite well-known here in town. I delivered newspapers and was a child at the time, but I clearly remember Mr. Gifford very well; he was always very neat and had a small mustache; very debonair …'”
Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.
Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)
Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)
Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.
Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.
Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.
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 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.”