Marilyn makes the front page of today’s Financial Times with news about ABG, the licensor for her estate.
“BlackRock has sealed its first major buyout deal, scooping up Authentic Brands, the celebrity and clothing licensing group, as the world’s largest asset manager tries to muscle in on the private equity boom. The asset manager will pay $870m for a controlling stake in New York-based Authentic Brands, which holds the brand rights to Marilyn Monroe … Authentic Brands, which is led by its founder and chief executive Jamie Salter, licenses 50 brands that together generate $9.3bn in annual retail sales, according to the company. Following the deal, BlackRock will be its largest shareholder.”
Susan Bernard, the actress and archivist for her photographer father Bruno Bernard (or ‘Bernard of Hollywood’), has died aged 71, the New York Times reports.
Her father was a German Jew who fled to America in 1937 to escape Nazi persecution; while her mother Ruth Bernard [née Brandman] was an actress and television director. Susan also had a sister, Celeste, who survives her.
Bruno Bernard would take his first photos of model Norma Jeane Dougherty in 1946, several months before she changed her name. Susan had one hazy memory of seeing Marilyn in her father’s car when she was three or four years old. “It’s almost like a mirage,’ Susan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “An apparition. I remember she had blond hair, and she was called Marilyn. She was very sweet. She giggled a lot.”
In 1965, Susan played ‘Linda’, a teenager kidnapped by a trio of go-go dancers, in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! That December, Susan became Playboy’s Playmate of the Month after visiting Hugh Hefner’s Chicago office with her father; she was later named among the magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful Women of the 20th century. In That Tender Touch (1969) she played a lesbian, and the film has been preserved as part of Outfest’s Legacy Project. Closing out a wild decade, Susan appeared in two seasons of TV’s General Hospital.
In 1974, Susan married playwright Jason Miller (who also played Father Damian Karras in The Exorcist.) The couple divorced nine years later; their son, Joshua John Miller, is a screenwriter. Susan was also married to publishing guru Stanley J. Corwin, and she wrote and developed TV docudramas about Anais Nin, Ernie Davis and Nellie Bly.
Bruno Bernard died in 1987, the same year his Requiem for Marilyn was published. Susan became his chief archivist, publishing two further Monroe books, Bernard of Hollywood’s Marilyn (1993) and Marilyn: Intimate Exposures (2011.) She also edited a full retrospective, Bernard of Hollywood Pin-Ups (1999), and wrote two books on parenting. She turned ‘Bernard of Hollywood’ into an international brand, entering a partnership with ABG after the licensing company purchased Marilyn’s estate.
“I wanted to not just show photos, but show the back of the photos to show the process of the photographer,” Susan told the Examiner‘s Elisa Jordan in 2011. “I thought that was really interesting where they would literally type a story on a typewriter and they’d cut it out and paste it with tape on the back of a photo. Life was different then! He always wanted to tell the back story. The process of what it was like to be a photographer at that time was very interesting to me and I thought it would be very interesting to other people. And I wanted actually show the negatives. I wanted to show that there is a negative of the flying skirt [from The Seven Year Itch] in existence, and that the original proof sheets do exist. That was one of my goals. In picking the pictures, I just wanted to select the pictures that showed not the obvious glamour pictures, but showed her pensive or thinking—pictures that told a story.”
Marilyn: Intimate Exposures also contained rare photographs of Robert F. Kennedy and his family at the remote ranch home of his friend John Bates in Gilroy, California on the same weekend in 1962 when Marilyn died – in a forceful rebuttal of persistent rumours that the Attorney General visited her at home in Los Angeles on her last day alive (Saturday, August 4th.) As Susan explained, “It gives the reader a glimpse into the private files of a renowned photographer who poured out his soul to set the record straight and defend those who were no longer here to defend themselves.”
Susan made regular public appearances across the USA and Europe to promote her father’s work, and his images of Marilyn. She was a guest speaker at the 2018 memorial service for Marilyn in Westwood Memorial Park. She was also interviewed by filmmaker Ian Ayres for his long-awaited documentary, The Birth of Marilyn.
“Marilyn has been my guardian angel,” Susan told the Huffington Post in 2012. “She picks me up when I am down and gives me strength. She empowered women way before Women’s Lib. Marilyn, the writer Anais Nin, and my mother are my inspirations.”
H&M are currently stocking a women’s T-Shirt licensed by Marilyn’s estate – in dark grey, with a classic Milton Greene image – for just £8.99. The UK webstore currently stocks it in sizes XS, Small and Medium – but if you’re looking for a large or XL, try visiting your local branch.
A new pink gin named after Marilyn will be launched in the UK, as Nicola Carruthers reports for The Spirits Business.
“The gin will be launched as part of a five-year partnership with Authentic Brands Group (ABG), owner of the Marilyn Monroe Estate.
Created at the brand’s 45 West Distillery in Leicestershire, Marilyn Monroe Pink Gin is ‘floral and delicate’, made with cherry blossom, hibiscus, rose and pink grapefruit. The bottle design features the iconic image of Monroe in a white dress.
Burleighs recently restructured its management and sales team, allowing the firm to establish a number of routes to market. The brand has also secured listings in Waitrose, Co-op, the UK’s largest wholesaler Tennent’s and Star Pubs.
The brand expects bottle sales to double again after last year with the introduction of the new pink gin. Marilyn Monroe Pink Gin will be available to the UK trade from July. Burleighs is currently in discussions to release the gin in Asia and the US.”
One of the world’s greatest fashion designers, Yohji Yamamoto, has teamed up with Marilyn’s estate, creating a special tribute for his capsule collection, Project Y, based on two of Monroe’s most memorable photo shoots – her 1949 nude calendar, and the 1956 ‘Black Sitting’, as Jake Silbert reports for Hypebeast.
“The opportunity to work with the estates of Tom Kelley and Milton Greene, two photographers famous for their intimate imagery of Monroe, reads like a match made in heaven.
Drawing from Kelley’s ‘Red Velvet Series’ and Greene’s photographic archive, the collection emblazons a blouson jacket, cloak, gown, shirt and cut-and-sew with lush prints of ‘the world’s most photographed woman.’ Nude snapshots of Monroe take center stage, printed at the chest of the shirt and jacket and rear of the gown and mantle cloak. With Yamamoto’s preferred all-black palette at the core of the designs, the imagery is granted extra emphasis, ensuring that each image is unforgettably bold.
“It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature and it won’t hurt your feelings.” – Marilyn talks to Richard Meryman of LIFEMagazine, 1962
As first reported here, ABG – the licensor of Marilyn’s estate – has commissioned a range of canvas wall art through the Los Angeles-based company IKONICK. Proclaiming Marilyn as “one of the truest Woman Hustlers out there,” the images feature quotes commonly attributed to her, but only one of them (shown above) is genuine. Once again, it seems that very little thought has been put into this product which boasts official endorsement. In their cringeworthy efforts to ‘modernise’ Marilyn, fake quotes like “You can try baby but you’ll never do it like me” distort who she really was.
Marilyn’s estate has been given the green light to pursue trademark infringement claims against merchandiser A.V.E.L.A. Inc. by the Southern District of New York, as Bloomberg Law reports. This legal battle has been brewing for several years, with A.V.E.L.A recently contending that Marilyn’s brand was ‘too generic’ for copyright protection.
“The court rejected A.V.E.L.A. Inc.’s contention that persona rights of deceased celebrities are limited to family, direct heirs, or ‘the actual estate.’ Although the estate purchased the rights, an ‘unbroken chain of title’ extends from Monroe to the estate, the court said.
The court also shot down A.V.E.L.A.’s defenses based on the First Amendment, fair use and the estate’s alleged failure to take timely action.
But the court declined to award Monroe’s estate summary judgment on trademark infringement or trademark dilution claims since material facts are still in dispute. The court also denied judgment on unfair competition despite ‘bad-faith behavior of the A.V.E.L.A. is clear’ since doing otherwise required an infringement finding.
Both sides submitted surveys reaching opposing conclusions on consumer confusion. A.V.E.L.A. moved to toss the estate’s report, but the court said its methodology objections ‘are better addressed through cross-examination’ before a jury.”
Jamie Salter, CEO of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), has talked about how Marilyn helped to build his business empire, in an interview with Forbes magazine.
“For Marilyn Monroe, Salter purchased 80% of the Monroe estate in 2012 for a reported $20 million to $30 million before slashing its 300 licensing deals—from T-shirts to refrigerator magnets—down to 80. Then he built the business back up, purchasing the other 20% of the estate and increasing the number of licenses to the sweet spot of 100, focusing on venerable brands that Monroe actually used in life—like Chanel No. 5.
‘You can sell X amount of Marilyn Monroe fragrance at a mass-market retailer, or you can do a deal with Chanel No. 5,’ Salter says. ‘A No. 5 deal doesn’t pay as well, but I think that’s important for the brand because it gives a halo effect. And the truth of the matter is, she wore Chanel No. 5.’
He [initially] went after the Marilyn Monroe business and received a no. But eventually Anna Strasberg, the widow of Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg (to whom she’d left her estate), came back and agreed to a deal to sell 80%. (And three years after Salter bought into Monroe, Strasberg sold him the rest of the business.)
Monroe’s business became so successful in the years following Salter’s arrival that he ended up paying the same amount for the last 20% than he had for the first 80%. He wouldn’t reveal precise numbers, but industry insiders were nevertheless impressed.”