Pepitone Estate Criticises Marilyn Play

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Following the recent premiere of Marilee and Baby Lamb Mark Medoff’s play about Marilyn’s relationship with her maid, Lena Pepitone – the Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Pepitone’s estate (who are planning a separate movie) have claimed that the play was staged without their approval.

“The play, which ran at the Rio Grande Theatre Oct. 13 through 18, was produced by Mark Medoff and Dennis D’Amico. It is based on videotaped interviews that D’Amico conducted with Pepitone.

Denis Bieber, president of Bieber Entertainment Enterprises in Los Angeles, is currently producing a film, titled Marilyn and Lena, which tells the story of the last six years of Monroe’s life through Pepitone’s eyes.

‘It’s really the story of a diva who wanted to be loved, and a friend who wanted to be a diva,’ Bieber told the Sun-News last week. ‘It was written by Frank Yandolino. In order to get the rights properly cleared, I contacted Joey and John Pepitone, Lena’s sons and heirs, and acquired the exclusive rights to Lena’s story. We entered into a legally binding agreement, and I felt very comfortable.’

‘Everything was set, and all of a sudden I received a copy of the script of Marilee and Baby Lamb, which had been shopped around in New York for investors. I nearly fell off my chair,’ Bieber said.

Bieber said he contacted his attorney, and requested a cease and desist letter be sent to Medoff and D’Amico.

According to Bieber, an investor for the film project began to get cold feet after learning about the production of Marilee and Baby Lamb.

Bieber said he will meet with the screenwriters guild in November to determine his next steps and will continue to explore his options.

‘In 2007, Dennis D’Amico approached my mom and interviewed her on video, pertaining to her life with Marilyn,’ Joe Pepitone told the Sun-News last week. ‘With her permission at the time, he interviewed her several times. Upon her death, whatever agreement they had at the time ceased to exist.’

Pepitone said D’Amico announced at his mother’s wake that he was going to make a movie to tell Lena Pepitone’s story.

‘My brother and I told him then that he didn’t have an agreement in place, and asked him not to,’ Pepitone said. ‘To our surprise, he later announced publicly on the internet his intentions to go forward with the project. My brother and I have an agreement in place with Denis Bieber.’

‘We are denying all accusations, allegations and implications,’ D’Amico said. ‘Our play honors Lena Pepitone, who I knew and interviewed. Marilee and Baby Lamb is based on my interviews with Lena, which I retain the rights to. We’ve conferred with counsel, and future statements and actions are forthcoming.'”

This is not the first time a Pepitone project has faced controversy. Her 1980 memoir, Marilyn Monroe Confidential – ghost-written by William Stadiem – has been criticised by fans. ‘The biggest reason to doubt Pepitone’s account is the fact that her English is very poor,’ the well-known collector Melinda Mason wrote on her website. ‘I doubt very much that communication between herself and Marilyn is the way is appears in the book. I met Lena in 2005 and I could barely understand anything she said.’

After Pepitone died in 2011, her nephew, Stephen Cateneo, told the New York Daily News that he believed his aunt’s recollections of Monroe were distorted to sell books.

2014: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

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In January, Newsweek published a special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook. Photographer Larry Schiller claimed to own a scrapbook given to Sam Shaw by Marilyn, though expert readers noted the handwriting was dissimilar to her usual style.

Also this month, Unclaimed Baggage – a documentary about ‘the unclaimed trunk of MM‘ – was screened on European television, and George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, died aged 87.

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In February, Life published The Loves of Marilyn, another magazine special with text by J.I. Baker (author of a conspiracy novel, The Empty Glass.) Many fans were surprised to see the widely discredited Robert Slatzer listed among Marilyn’s alleged paramours. It has since been republished in hardback.

Also this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired an archive of 58,000 pictures by press photographer Nat Dallinger. His photos of Marilyn at the Let’s Make Love press conference were featured in the Hollywood Reporter. And archive footage of Marilyn was featured in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler ad, screened during America’s Superbowl.

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In March, Icon: the Life Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – Volume I, 1926-1956 was publishedMarilyn also graced the cover of Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction catalogue, and was the subject of another magazine special, part of the ‘Etoiles du Cinema‘ series in France.

Stanley Rubin, producer of River of No Return, died aged 96, and William Carroll, one of the first photographers to work with Marilyn, also passed away. Bob Thomas, the veteran Hollywood columnist who reported Joan Crawford’s verbal attack on Marilyn back in 1953, died aged 92.

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Playboy re-released its very first issue – with Marilyn as its cover girl and centrefold – in April, as part of an ongoing celebration of the magazine’s 60th anniversary. And a collection of Elia Kazan’s private correspondence – including a 1955 letter to his wife, Molly, regarding his prior relationship with Marilyn – was also published.

Also in April, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (Marilyn’s co-star in The Fireball) died aged 93. And Pharrell Williams released his hit single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

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In May, make-up artist Marie Irvine shared her memories of Marilyn with readers of the Daily Mail. AmfAR, the world’s leading charity for AIDS research, held a ‘Red Marilyn’-themed fundraising ball during the Cannes Film Festival.

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June 1st marked what would have been Marilyn’s 88th birthday. Also in June, actor Eli Wallach, Marilyn’s friend and co-star, died aged 98. An archive of ‘lost’ Milton Greene photos was auctioned in Poland, and a revised, updated edition of Carl Rollyson’s MM: A Life of the Actress was published.

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In July, Some Like it Hot was re-released in UK cinemas, winning a 5-star review in The Guardian. Sadly, several people with connections to Marilyn passed away in July, including psychic Kenny Kingston, journalist Robert Stein, and actors James Garner and Elaine Stritch. Meanwhile one of Marilyn’s old haunts – the Racquet Club in Palm Springs – was engulfed by fire.

August marked the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a live stream of the annual memorial service in Los Angeles. Also this month,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire, died aged 89; and Tom Tierney, ‘Marilyn’s paper doll artist’, also passed away.

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In September, Newsweek published a cover feature exposing the many inaccuracies in C. David Heymann’s posthumously-released Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love. And TV Guide released a special issue dedicated to Marilyn, part of their ‘American Icons’ series.

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Several rare photos of Marilyn were featured in Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 65 catalogue, while Britain’s Daily Express published a special supplement about Marilyn’s tragic death, as part of a ‘Historic Front Pages’ series.

Also this month, self-confessed ‘Marilyn Geek’ Melinda Mason launched a new exhibition at the Wellington County Museum in Ontario, Canada; and the chameleon-like actor John Malkovich posed as Marilyn for photographer Sandro Miller.

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In October,  A retrospective of photographer Nickolas Muray opened in Genoa, Italy. Carl Rollyson’s latest book, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day, was published.

A rather sensationalised documentary about Marilyn’s mysterious death – Marilyn: Missing Evidence – was broadcast in the UK. Her death was also the subject of a cover feature in the US magazine, Closer.

Also this month, Kelli Garner was cast as Marilyn in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of MM.

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In November, Gary Vitacco-Robles’ Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM – Volume II, 1956-1962 and Beyond was published, earning a rave review from columnist Liz Smith. Fansite Immortal Marilyn published a series of myth-busting articles at Buzzfeed. And Anna Strasberg, current owner of Marilyn’s estate, lost a lawsuit against Profiles in History, regarding a so-called ‘letter of despair‘ from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg.

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In December, items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe‘ sold for high prices at Julien’s Auctions. Marilyn graced the cover of Esquire‘s Colombian edition, and a new CD boxset, Diamonds, was released. Finally, photographer Phil Stern died aged 95.

‘Victim’ Revisited

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British author Matthew Smith’s Victim: The Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe (2003) was an update of his 1996 book, The Men Who Murdered Marilyn. After a further US release, Marilyn’s Last Words (2005), Victim remains in print and on Kindle – proof, if nothing else, that scandal will always find an audience. (Smith has also written books about the assassination of President Kennedy.)

Victim, like Smith’s other Monroe books, is based on the alleged tapes she made for Dr Ralph Greenson. However, the tapes have never been found, and Smith (along with other authors) relied on the memories of John Miner, an assistant to the prosecuting attorney during the original investigation into Marilyn’s death, who claimed that Greenson had played him the tapes. Miner created the ‘transcript’ decades later.

In 2005, Melinda Mason wrote ‘Songs Marilyn Never Sang‘, an article disputing the credibility of the Miner transcripts, for her MM and the Camera website.

Now a thoughtful review of Victim has been published on the Literary Lollipop website…

“Published in 2003, Victim is already more than ten years old, but the content could’ve been from the 1970s or 1980s…I’m skeptical of the legitimacy of Monroe’s words because of a point Smith makes himself throughout this book, on more than one occasion. He admits and argues how easy it is to splice tapes together, to form sentences and thoughts that weren’t originally intended. There were a few moments when Monroe’s statements felt orchestrated, conveniently sexualized or titillating. I could be completely wrong, but that is my interpretation – forever the pessimist.”

Marilyn and Joe’s Honeymoon in Japan

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In the same week that new photos of Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s post-wedding trip to Japan have emerged via Ebay, Melinda Mason – who purchased their airplane tickets at auction a few years ago – has published a well-researched article on her website MM and the Camera, which is sure to become an invaluable reference tool.

Marilyn in the Blogosphere

 

Early fan reviews of MM-related books and film have been posted online. Artist Elizabeth Grammaticas attended last week’s premiere of My Week With Marilyn at the New York Film Festival:

” ‘My Week with Marilyn’ is the most heartfelt attempt to understand Marilyn Monroe that I’ve seen in a motion picture, despite at times the questionable credibility of the initial text. Michelle Williams doesn’t physically look all that much like Marilyn.  Marilyn is hard to physically capture,  and there are others with a greater likeness…but personality wise…Michelle finds Marilyn.  I agree with other critics that Michelle falls short of…performing Marilyn performing Marilyn (ie…in her scenes recreating ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’), but at times if you blur your eyes, catch a profile, angle, a walk or an expression you see moments of candour or pain where you feel like you are actually seeing something more real than a publicity shot of the real Marilyn Monroe with a her white dress blowing up over her head. One of my favorite parts of the film is when Michelle as Marilyn says ‘shall I be her?’ and turns the Marilyn persona on.  This is seen in the trailer of the film, but like the trailer of the original ‘Prince and the Showgirl’…this trailer doesn’t remotely depict what ‘My Week with Marilyn’ is about. The films are about basic interaction between very different people on a much more subtle level.’

Over at The Mmm Blog, Melinda Mason reviews Susan Bernard’s new book, Marilyn: Intimate Exposures:

“Intimacy (as the title suggests) is what Susan Bernard must have been striving for in this edition of her book.  As Marilyn book collectors will be aware, Susan also published a book based on her father’s photos and journal entries called ‘Bernard of Hollywood’s Marilyn’ in 1993.  While some photos are the same and many journal entries are identical, that is where the similarities end.  ‘Marilyn: Intimate Exposures’ is a far superior book.  It even includes a beautiful photographic print from ‘The Seven Year Itch’ in an envelope at the back so you can frame it.”

And on Goodreads, David Marshall (author of The DD Group and Life Among the Cannibals) reviews Bye Bye, Baby, a novel about Marilyn’s death by crime writer Max Allan Collins.

‘But when a historical figure is suddenly no more, (and make no mistake about it, Marilyn Monroe is a historical figure), attention should be paid. All angles concerning their passing should be looked at carefully. All research should be scrutinized. All opinions should be considered. And that should not be restricted to non-fiction attempts at understanding the incomprehensible. Fiction can be a powerful tool and this includes the fun reads. Future generations may come across Bye Bye, Baby and even if they understand the work is “just” a novel, there’s plenty here to get you thinking and rethinking, and, hopefully, that will lead them on to other books on the subject. That, as far as I am concerned, is one of the greatest services of fiction—it makes you think. And Collins more than does his share in that regard.’

Meeting George Zimbel

Melinda Mason’s account of meeting George Zimbel – one of the photographers who covered the famous ‘subway scene’ shoot from The Seven Year Itch – last week at the ongoing Marilyn exhibit at the McMichael, Ontario, is posted at The MMM Blog.