Lady Gaga’s Birthday Serenade

Lady Gaga helped celebrate the ten-year anniversary of former president Bill Clinton’s Foundation and his 65th birthday at the ‘Decade of Difference’ concert last night at the Hollywood Bowl. The singer took the stage for three songs, plus a Marilyn Monroe-esque ‘Happy Birthday’.

Clinton admitted, “I got nervous when Gaga said she was planning to have a Marilyn moment. I thought, my God, I get Lady Gaga and I will have a heart attack celebrating my 65th birthday.” Rather gracelessly, Gaga quipped,”I’m having my first real Marilyn moment. I always wanted to have one, and I was hoping that it didn’t involve pills and a strand of pearls.”

But Gaga is only the latest in a long line of Monroe impersonators – Madonna, to whom Gaga is often compared, sang ‘Happy Inauguration’ to Clinton, MM-style, via Saturday Night Live in 1993.

‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’

Over at Flavorwire, a look back at past depictions of Marilyn in popular culture, in anticipation of Michelle Williams’ upcoming movie role. Pictured above is Catherine Hicks in the TV movie, Marilyn: An Untold Story (1980.)

I would also nominate Theresa Russell’s portrayal of ‘The Actress’ in the 1985 movie, Insignificance; Madonna in her ‘Material Girl’ video and ‘Homage to Norma Jean’ photo shoot; Drew Barrymore’s George magazine cover shot from 1996; and Angelina Jolie’s recreation of Monroe’s 1961 session with Douglas Kirkland.

In your opinion, what are the best – and worst – portrayals of Marilyn around? Or can nobody match the sublime MM?

Phil Stern Opens LA Gallery

Phil Stern, who took this striking photo of Marilyn in 1953, will open a personal gallery in Los Angeles today. Stern has also photographed many other famous names, including Frank Sinatra, and his portrait of a tired couple from Oklahoma, trying to cross the border into California in 1939 in their battered Ford truck – a photo that became synonymous with the Great Depression – headed an exhibition of Life magazine’s best work.

“Stern has been sporadically selling prints of his photographs for years out of his modest Hollywood home. But only the most persistent usually succeeded, and one of those was Madonna, who showed up at his doorstep to buy a photo of Marilyn Monroe.

When told that many admirers of his work think he is a great artist on the camera, he replied,’Matisse I ain’t.'”

NBC Los Angeles

Vachon’s Marilyn, Reviewed

By Bob Duggan at Big Think

“Wallis remarks on Monroe’s ‘stagy performance of threatened innocence’ that Cindy Sherman and Madonna, most notably, mimicked years later. In fact, many of Vachon’s photos seem like precursors of Sherman’s famous ‘film noir’ stills, yet Sherman, like the rest of us, couldn’t have possibly seen them until now. In Vachon’s photographs, Monroe the collaborator in her own image-making emerges…

…Yet, even when she posed with a stuffed grizzly bear (shown above), Monroe managed to achieve that ‘threatened innocence’ Wallis praises and makes even the stagiest photo seem interesting. Marilyn becomes a grown-up Goldilocks in this photo sensing Papa Bear’s hot breath on her nape. In the fairy tale world of Hollywood glamour, Monroe knew both the dangers and rewards first hand, yet still could mock the system with a single look as much as with a sprained ankle…

…In a later shot taken by someone else on that same day, Vachon and Monroe posed together, but with Vachon using the crutches. The two artists both understood the game they had to play, and both enjoyed the joke they were playing on the game itself.

Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos by John Vachon, Brian Wallis

Marilyn-Inspired Photo Shoots

Madonna recreates the Monroe/Halsman 'Jump', 1990

Ever since Madonna and Stephen Meisel’s 1990 ‘Homage to Norma Jean’ spread in Vanity Fair, celebrities have been imitating Marilyn Monroe’s style – with mixed results.

“This trend of infinite iterations starts and ends with Marilyn Monroe, the dead starlet that every living starlet wants to imitate. As Lynn Hirschberg notes in a profile of Megan Fox (who has a Marilyn tattoo on her forearm), “Monroe was her own brand before branding existed.” What better way to send a career-branding message, then, than to channel the original tortured personal branding bombshell? Or so the logic goes.

But the Marilyn kabuki act rarely works as intended. Every time I see Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn, I question the troubled starlet’s mental health. Every time I see Megan Fox as Marilyn, I wonder if she’s not just an Angelina imitator, but a LiLo imitator, too. When Nicole Kidman did Marilyn, she looked old. When Scarlett did Marilyn—well, that was actually pretty good. But when Jessica Simpson did Marilyn (via famed Marilyn lookalike Virna Lisi, making hers an imitation of an imitation) it was an unmitigated disaster, lifeless and awkward.

This is what the future will look like if we don’t kill the starlets-imitating-starlets trend now. Starlets, stylists, editors: Start cultivating your own iconic looks. Do something original! Surprise us! Otherwise we’ll all be spinning in tutus in the rain for the decades to come, and between the Monroe imitators flipping their skirts up on the sidewalk, and the Mary Tyler Moore imitators spinning with shopping bags, the streets are crowded enough with pantomimes, already.” – Gawker

Fans in the Everlasting Star community have been monitoring this trend for some time now, and you can look back at the many celebrity homages to MM – the good, the bad, and the downright bizarre – in the member’s forum.

Douglas Kirkland recreated his classic Monroe session with Angelina Jolie