Marilyn’s Estate Backs ‘Final Years’ Drama

Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing company who acquired Marilyn’s estate in 2012, have authorised an adaptation of Keith Badman’s book, The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe, Deadline reports. This project was first announced in 2019 (see here) as a serial drama for BBC television. It’s not stated whether the Beeb is still involved, but Final Years will be co-produced by 101 Studios and the UK’s Seven Seas Films, with a screenplay by Dan Sefton (whose credits include The Good Karma Hospital.) As usual with the film industry, it is likely to be a long process; and with a non-fiction source, it differs from the upcoming Netflix biopic based on Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, Blonde (due for release later this year.) Badman’s biography is worth reading, though not without its flaws – read my review here.

Marilyn’s Swiss Watch (and More) in Manhattan

Marilyn Monroe: Timeless Elegance, an exhibition featuring items of her personal property from the collections of Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner, plus photos by Lawrence Schiller, is now on display at the Blancpain boutique on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in association with the licensing wing of Marilyn’s estate, Authentic Brands Group (ABG) until November 23. The items on display include Marilyn’s diamond-ensconced 1930s Swiss Art Deco watch, purchased by Blancpain from Julien’s Auctions in 2016 for $225,000, and her costume from The Prince and the Showgirl, as Roberta Naas reports for Forbes.

Marilyn Puts ABG In the FT

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.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney

ABG’s Jamie Salter On Marketing Marilyn

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.”

Facing the Future With Marilyn

Marilyn in ‘Niagara’ (1953)

Any longtime  Marilyn fan will know the challenges we face in preserving her true legacy, and two recent news stories suggest our troubles are only beginning. Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI), believes that by 2050 – a century after she first found fame – Marilyn will be ‘starring in movies via an avatar program that talks and acts like her, with machines having learned her speech and mannerisms from her films,’ reports The Australian.

Even more alarming is an article in The Sun about the burgeoning popularity of sex robots. ‘Marilyn comes up quite often,’ says engineer Douglas Hines, of the public requests for celebrity lookalike dolls. ‘The caveat is we need the approval of the person or family. If you wanted a robot that looked like Marilyn Monroe, you would have to have her estate approve it.’ (The idea of a ‘Marilyn Monroebot‘ was first mooted – albeit in jest – on a 2001 episode of the animated series, Futurama.)

Fortunately, Marilyn’s estate has not granted permission for a robot MM, and hopefully they never will. But how long will it take until ‘bootleg’ sex dolls hit the market? And meanwhile, CGI ‘hologram‘ Marilyns have already been seen in TV ads, with her estate planning digitalised ‘live’ shows starring Marilyn and other dead icons. They can replicate her body, but not her soul, and Monroe fans of the future will have to be ever more vigilant against degrading misrepresentations.

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Lingerie Brand

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Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, is suing a clothing company for copyright infringement over a lingerie line, reports IP Watchdog. (This is not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe Envy, an officially approved franchise, which was launched by ABG in 2014.)

“Defendant Fashion Central is a New York City-based manufacturer and wholesaler of intimate apparel, which includes undergarments. In their undergarment packaging, tags, and other branding, defendant utilized Marilyn Monroe’s image alongside phrases that alluded to famous quotes by Ms. Monroe. The defendant does not have a license to use Marilyn Monroe’s likeness or to use the registered trademarks for marketing/branding purposes.

On August 8, 2016, plaintiff became aware of defendant’s unauthorized use of the Marilyn Monroe marks and likeness and sent a cease and desist letter. Defendant continued with their allegedly unauthorized activities, leading to the filing of the complaint that starts this legal dispute. It is worth noting, however, that the defendant did not use the name Marilyn Monroe in any of its marketing, packaging, or other branding. Any association to Marilyn Monroe is based solely on defendant’s use of her visual likeness.

The fact that the Marilyn Monroe name does not appear on any of defendant’s potentially infringing products does not mean there is not a viable trademark infringement case or theory … According to the plaintiff, the Marilyn Monroe trademarks are highly recognizable and distinctive due to her enduring fame. Therefore, both federal and state law dilution claims have also been brought against the defendant.”

Debbie Reynolds 1932-2016

Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.

In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)

Debbie Reynolds sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ to Carleton Carpenter in Three Little Words (1950)

After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)

In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.

Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after.  The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.

Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.

With Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964)

In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.

“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.

Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015

Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.

The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.

Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.

Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection

Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.

Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.

Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.

Multimedia Marilyn Exhibit Planned for 2017

A press release announcing an interactive, multi-media Marilyn Monroe exhibition has been published at Business Wire. The exhibition will be presented in 2017 by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, in partnership with POP Experience, a Las Vegas-based entertainment company. Interestingly, the article has been shared by the estate of Milton Greene on their Facebook page, Archives LLC.

“The POP Marilyn Experience is being curated for a broad audience – from the most avid fans to newcomers. The highly interactive experience will provide a brand new look into Marilyn Monroe’s life, telling the story of how she became one of the world’s most famous female celebrities and why she continues to resonate in the modern, digital age … blending digital, storytelling, and gameplay to create connected immersive experiences. This unique blend of creativity and technology that people use every day allows personalized access and agency into Marilyn’s life.

Audience participation is key to the POP Marilyn Experience, which will allow them to walk in Marilyn’s shoes through intimate experiential content and hands-on interactivity. Combining thought provoking art installations with spectacular design and 21st century light and sound, the exhibition will forge a groundbreaking and lasting impression, outside the scope of a traditional museum exhibit.

With a vast assemblage of rare and many never-before-seen large format photos, a cinema space showcasing films, excerpts and clips from live appearances, original works by famed artists, annotated scripts, movie props and set pieces, home furnishings and artwork from her estate, personal letters and much more, the POP Marilyn Experience will showcase both the public, personal and very private life of the glamorous film star.

More details about the POP Marilyn Experience, including the launch date, city and venue will be announced later in 2016.”

Marilyn’s Estate Targets Clydebank Salon

A Scottish hair salon, named after MM, has been forced to change its name after pressure from the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, reports the Clydebank Post.

As a fan, I’m always delighted to see tributes to Marilyn in shops, bars and cafes. I dislike this latest attempt to commodify her. In my opinion, Marilyn’s estate should leave fans alone.

“The salon named after the iconic American actress in Clyde Shopping Centre is being forced to change its name and kill off all connections with Marilyn.

This comes after owner Norah Yilmaz received a letter from the deceased film star’s estate, thousands of miles away in New York, threatening legal action.

The letter, from Authentic Brands Group warned Norah she faces a lawsuit if she failed to remove all traces of Marilyn from her salon.

Stunned Norah, 39, said: ‘They told me to take all social media, photos and the wallpaper of her down.’

‘I love the vintage era and Marilyn Monroe was a big part. So I’ve now decided to call the salon Vintage.’

The salon owner has been forced to shut down the Facebook business page she worked hard building up by giving away free spray-tans.

She said: ‘I had over 1400 people on my Marilyn Monroe page and I couldn’t get Facebook to let me change the name of it. I had to just start a whole new one.’

‘The really big issue was what were we going to call it. I wanted to call it ‘Glitz and Glam’ but the girls who work here all hated it. I knew I had to get the sign down as soon as possible but I couldn’t until I had a new name.’

Norah and the 11 beauticians are planning to give Marilyn her final send off on Hallowe’en.

She said: ‘The only thing I need to change is my card receipt machine because it still comes up Marilyn Monroe. On Hallowe’en we’re doing a theme that Marilyn Monroe has died in the salon. So all of our make-up will be half the face of Marilyn and the other half skeleton.’

‘She died in 1962 — and now she’s dying again in 2014 in Clydebank.’

Despite the legal threats, stress and the costly rebranding of the salon, Norah still has a soft spot for the 1950s icon.

‘I feel touched that the actual estate of Marilyn got in touch with me,’ said Norah. ‘Even though she’s died again here I still love her, I think she’s brilliant.’

Vintage salon in Clydebank Shopping Centre is now taking bookings for their Hallowe’en party this Friday, October 31.

For £20 you can have your scary special FX makeup done and enjoy a glass of wine. Contact Vintage on 0141 952 3777 to book.”

As Marilyn herself said, the people made her a star and it’s fans who keep her memory alive. Instead of persecuting them, her estate should pursue rogue journalists who propogate lies about her.

But as the estate’s official Facebook page routinely features fake quotes, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.