Marilyn and Arthur in Philadelphia

In an article for the Jewish Press, Saul Jay Singer explores the Judaism of Marilyn and Arthur Miller, including their 1959 appearance at an American Friends of the Hebrew University dinner at Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

“Invited along with her husband to address a United Jewish Appeal (UJA) conference in Miami, Monroe wrote a speech about why she believed that Jewish institutions, especially Israel, deserve broad public support, but she ultimately declined to deliver the address when the UJA rescinded its invitation to Miller after his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC ) indictment. She did, however, later attend a dinner held on September 27, 1959 in Philadelphia by a chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University where Miller was awarded an honorary degree to commemorate his ‘distinguished achievement in the Dramatic Arts.’

Shown here is a unique and rare item from my collection, a program from that historic event on which Monroe has signed and inscribed ‘To Stevie – Happy Bar Mitzvah! Marilyn Monroe.'”

‘Marilyn Lives’ on the Coronado Shore

The memory of Sugar Kane is alive and well on Coronado Island, where scenes from Some Like it Hot were filmed, Jackie Burrell writes in The Reporter.

“Surf surges against this pristine shore, the white sand dotted picturesquely with red-striped cabanas. A paved footpath leads up to the iconic grand hotel. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see Marilyn Monroe on this beach, sun-kissed and wind-swept in her short white beach robe.

In fact, it takes no imagination at all. All over Coronado Island you’ll see photographs taken during the filming of Some Like It Hot, the 1959 comedy starring a ukulele-playing Monroe, and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as fellow members of her, ahem, girl band bound for Florida.

Much to the consternation of Miami’s then-mayor, the role of Florida beach was played by this stretch of strand, which is crowned by the 19th-century Hotel Del Coronado. Legend has it that Coronado’s mayor told his much-aggrieved Floridian counterpart, ‘Some like it hot, but not as hot as Miami in September.’

Coronado actually is the bulbous end of a skinny peninsula that connects the ‘island’ to the mainland in Imperial Beach, seven miles south. But it’s easy to forget such topographic technicalities as you cross the sweeping bridge or arrive by ferry from San Diego.”

Fantasy Love Triangle: Marilyn, Reagan and Darwin Porter

Marilyn with Ronald Reagan at Charles Coburn’s birthday party, 1953

Darwin Porter – author of Marilyn at Rainbow’s End (2012) – has published a new book, Love Triangle: Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman And Nancy Davis, in which he claims Marilyn had an affair with Reagan.

Born in 1937, Darwin Porter began his career as an entertainment writer at the Miami Herald in 1958. He wrote the first of many Frommer travel guidebooks in 1969. With his associate Danforth Prince, Porter has also written a large number of salacious celebrity biographies, published by Blood Moon Productions with the dubious tagline, ‘all the gossip that’s unfit to print.’

Marilyn’s mostly peripheral association with Reagan dates back to her first job at the Radioplane munitions plant, owned by Reagan’s actor friend Reginald Denny. During World War II, Reagan was a captain in an army unit that made training propaganda films. At Reagan’s request, photographer David Conover was sent to Radioplane in 1945, to shoot pretty girls at work for a morale-boosting publicity campaign. Conover’s pictures of 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty led to a modelling contract, and the rest is history – although as Les Harding, author of They Knew Marilyn Monroe, admits – ‘It is not certain if Reagan ever knew about his role in the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s career.’

Fred Karger and Jane Wyman

In 1948, Marilyn had a brief, turbulent relationship with bandleader Fred Karger, who went on to marry actress Jane Wyman – Reagan’s former wife – some four years later, in 1952. By then, Marilyn was dating future husband Joe DiMaggio. It has been rumoured that Marilyn was jealous of Wyman, but this remains unconfirmed. Porter argues that Marilyn’s alleged affair with Reagan was her revenge – but this, too, seems far-fetched, and uncharacteristic of Marilyn.

The final connection between MM and Reagan is a series of photos taken at a birthday party for her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Charles Coburn, in 1953. She is pictured in happy conversation with Reagan and his new wife, Nancy.

Marilyn chats with Reagan and wife Nancy, 1953

However, until now no sexual affair between Marilyn and Reagan has been claimed – and other than hearsay, Porter offers no conclusive evidence. Cynically, one might wonder if these circumstantial links have been manipulated to suggest a relationship that, more than sixty years later, cannot be proved or disproved.

It’s certainly hard to believe that a liaison between a future US president and one of the most famous stars of all time could have gone unnoticed for so long. Perhaps because Marilyn has already been romantically linked to one president – John F. Kennedy – Porter has decided to complete the set. So who’s next – Eisenhower? Nixon?

In a bizarre 2012 interview with Female First, Porter claimed to have personally met Marilyn at the Helen Mar Hotel in Miami in 1950, when he was just 13 years old. He also stated that her affair with Reagan was ongoing at this time, and that she was filming Don’t Bother to Knock – which was actually produced in Hollywood in late 1951. (Similarly, Marilyn spent most of 1950 making movies in Los Angeles, and was in a steady relationship with agent Johnny Hyde. There is no evidence of her visiting Miami in 1950 or ’51.)

Porter also claimed to have interviewed Marilyn as a student during a promotional tour of Miami in 1957. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t remember him. But once again, Marilyn didn’t visit Miami that year – she was living in New York with husband Arthur Miller.

He describes MM as ‘self-delusional, and therefore not reliable’ – a judgment which some less charitable critics might apply to his own books!

From the Daily Mail:

According to Phil Karlson, a director who introduced them [Karlson directed Marilyn in Ladies of the Chorus, a 1948 musical – she began dating Fred Karger during its production], Reagan described her as ‘sensational’, to which she replied: ‘I’m even more sensational when you get to know me.'”

From the Daily Mail‘s review:

“Two of Reagan’s actor friends, William Holden and Eddie Bracken, are quoted as saying that Monroe would regularly visit Reagan in hospital after he broke his thigh bone playing baseball, and attend to his sexual needs as he lay immobilised in bed.

According to Holden, Monroe — going through an emotional rough patch — even asked Ronnie to marry her. It’s an astonishing, never-reported story that sounds too salacious to be true. But, as everyone involved is dead, challenging it — like so much in Reagan’s private life — is virtually impossible.”

Another of Porter’s stories about Reagan’s alleged affair with MM was published on the Boomer Times website in 2007:

“At this same time yet another starlet was about to enter Reagan’s life. In 1948 Marilyn Monroe had met Fred Karger, a musician, who was also working as a vocal coach at Columbia. Almost within days she’d fallen in love with him, even though he was bitter about women. ‘No female is capable of genuine love,’ he told her. At the time, he’d just been dumped by Rita Hayworth. In spite of what he said, Marilyn wanted to marry him. But he did not think she would make a proper stepmother for his young daughter from an earlier marriage. Marilyn was bitterly disappointed.

Unknown to Marilyn at the time, another woman had also fallen for Karger. At the peak of her star power in Hollywood, Jane Wyman, the ex-Mrs. Ronald Reagan, also wanted to marry Karger. He ended up proposing to Jane. Marilyn was furious and wanted to get even.

In one of those coincidences that often occur in life, a drunken Marilyn encountered Jane in the women’s room of Chasen’s Restaurant in Los Angeles. In an altercation, Marilyn lunged for Jane, accidentally ripping her wig off. Jane was wearing a wig that night to conceal a scalp irritation. When novelist Jacqueline Susann heard of that catfight, it inspired the most dramatic scene in her Valley of the Dolls, one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Marilyn couldn’t have Karger, but she went after Jane’s ‘discard’, hoping that would make her rival jealous even though she’d divorced him. Marilyn called Reagan, ostensibly to discuss problems with her membership in the Guild. This led to a dinner date and a subsequent affair.

Later when Reagan had business in Miami Beach, he invited Marilyn to fly down to join him. He bought her a ticket on a separate plane. He even insisted on booking her a suite in a different hotel from his own on Miami Beach, stashing her secretly at the Helen Mar.

Why the secrecy? Reagan was between marriages and could date whomever he chose. But he did not want either Doris [Day, another rumoured paramour] or Nancy [Davis, whom Reagan would marry in 1952] to know he was seeing yet another starlet. The only time they were seen together was at Sophie Tucker’s show on the beach. As a fading star, he attracted no attention, and Marilyn was yet to become a household word.

Flying back to the West Coast again on a different plane from Marilyn, Reagan had a final dinner date with the star, telling her ‘it’s over between us.’ She burst into tears.”

Maria Stinger: ‘Miami’s Marilyn’

Maria Stinger, the Miami-based fifties pin-up model whose looks – and, tragically, her life – have been compared to Marilyn’s, is the subject of a new documentary,  Bombshell: The Life and Death of a Pin Up, to be directed by her grand-daughter, Christie Strong, interviewed by the Miami New Times about the project.

“‘Bombshell’ has been a name floating around her for some time. She was a hot, blonde lady. She was on the cover of a book about pin-up models in the ’50s called Bombshells: Glamour Girls of a Lifetime and was on MAC Cosmetics’ Bombshell campaign in the year 2000,” said Christie.

Maria Stinger was known as Miami’s Marilyn Monroe because she really, really resembled the troubled beauty. ‘There are a ton of parallels. They were both married young and dealt with depression and alcoholism,’ said Christie. A person so entangled in a life similar to Monroe’s was bound to follow in her footsteps.

‘For me it was about the layers of meaning that the word [bombshell] has. This idea that she was beautiful on the exterior, but inside she was harboring a secret that was dangerous and explosive. She had a beautiful life and family, but underneath the surface she did nude film, and underneath that there was the secret that she didn’t value herself or her life,’ said Strong.”

Dixie Evans and Marilyn

Burlesque queen Dixie Evans has died in Las Vegas, reports the Long Beach Press Telegram. She was 86.

Dubbed “The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” by Harold Minsky, Evans has performed throughout the USA, including a successful run at the Place Pigalle in Miami Beach from 1953-1968. She also appeared in the Academy Award winning movie The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952.

Evans helped care for burlesque pioneer Jennie Lee, and moved out to the desert to run the operations of the Exotic World museum. In 1991, as a way to draw publicity to the museum, Dixie created the Miss Exotic World pageant, now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.

Dixie’s ‘casting couch’ skit

An interview with No-Fi Magazine, where she cites Marilyn as an influence, was posted at Everlasting Star in 2006.

“C: What is your favorite movie of all time?

D: Uh, favorite movie of all time, um… oh boy. I guess I gotta go with… I used to like Casablanca, but that’s been kind of worn out. I did like Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. I’ve seen it a couple of times and it really was very clever. And another thing I’ve seen a couple times…Bus Stop.”

K: I know that one, but I haven’t seen it.

D: It’s adorable. Marilyn Monroe is beautiful in it and I love her, but I tell ya, Don Murray, that young cowboy, 20 years old…never seen a girl because he was raised on the farm. The dialogue is fabulous! He says, ‘Look at all the gals! There must be a hundred head of them!’ (Dixie laughs) The lines are so adorable. You gotta catch up with every line in that whole movie.

C: If you were a superhero, who would you be?

D: Madonna (we all laugh). Yeah, she is. I like any girl or fella that has started from the very bottom and worked her way up the hard way. I can see the tension there. People didn’t want to accept her in Hollywood. The same thing with Marilyn Monroe. And yet, there’s a girl that’ll never be forgotten. She deserves it. Marilyn Monroe is bigger than Hollywood or the studios.

C: Who has been the greatest influence on your life?

D: I would imagine Marilyn Monroe and maybe Jean Harlow before that. I idolized Jean Harlow. There was just something special about her.”

1957 skit, based on ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

On the Loving Marilyn website, Shar Daws describes Dixie’s MM routine, and how she caught the eye of Joe DiMaggio:

“Yet another of Joe’s ‘Marilyn’s’ was Dixie Evans who had a reputation as ‘The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque’. Her act was a casting couch skit. Dixie was the actress; she took her clothes off and got the part!

During the late 50’s Dixie was working Miami Beach, at the Place Pigalle. An aeroplane would fly over the beach hotels towing a banner that read ‘see the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque, Place Pigalle’ It would always fly past the Fontainebleau where all the celebs of the day stayed, those that went to see Dixie included Sinatra, Bogart, Walter Cronkite and Chris Schenkel who suggested that she should come to the Kentucky Derby. He announced her coming in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Marilyn Monroe! Oh, my mistake, it’s Dixie Evans! She’ll be playing at the Post and Paddock this evening.’ They all loved her act which involved Joe and his bat!

One night at the Pigalle the owner came over to Dixie’s table and told her Joe DiMaggio was in attendance, and wanted to talk to her. Dixie said Joe was a gentleman and suddenly as she sat there – she realised she would be performing in front of him and was worried about what Joe would make of her skit and confessed to him that she was concerned, to which he replied ‘why do you think I came here?’ with this Dixie got up and did her thing, which was:

She entered in a tight satin gown, a long scarf, and a Yankee cap, with a number 5 on it – and crying, boo-hooing, which mood she explained in song:

‘Joe, you walked off and left me flat – but I’m sure glad you left your bat…’

There were a few lines about baseball and spaghetti, and how he’d stopped in the middle of making love to say “what’s the score?”…

‘But I know…
You’ll still return my calls
Why? It’s simple – I’ve still got you
By your New Yankee base – (badaboomcha strike up the band)…’

Afterwards, when she came out from her dressing room, Joe stood up and motioned her over. She sat with him all night. He didn’t say much, he never mentioned the act, or talked about Marilyn. But he kept sneaking glances at Dixie, checking her out and he stayed until she’d done her last set at 4.45am then invited her to breakfast.

However, their relationship never got off of the ground and didn’t go past kissing. They apparently arranged a further date but unfortunately, Dixie was due in court for some misdemeanor that she had forgotten about and was unable to let Joe know and she never saw him again.”

Marilyn took a dim view of her imitators, and in 1958 she threatened Dixie with legal action, reports the Telegraph. However, the matter was settled out of court when Dixie agreed to restructure her act.

According to Steve Sullivan‘s Bombshells: Glamour Girls of a Lifetime, Marilyn and Dixie made amends:

“There is a touching anecdote from Dixie Evans, who so resembled Marilyn Monroe. This speaks volumes about both women. After one of Marilyn’s miscarriages, Dixie, extremely upset, sent Marilyn an emotional telegram. Two weeks later Dixie received a response: ‘My dear Dixie Evans, of my many friends and acquaintances throughout the world, your telegram was of the greatest comfort to me at this time. Marilyn Monroe Miller.’ (When Monroe died, Dixie became hysterical, ‘I was crying not only because my career was over, but because Marilyn was no longer in the world.’)”

’50 Years Later’ at Miami Beach

A selection of Marilyn’s best films are due to be screened at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (August 30), How to Marry a Millionaire (September 6), The Seven Year Itch (September 13), and Some Like it Hot (September 20), reports Florida IUSM.

This retrospective, entitled ‘Marilyn: 50 Years Later,’ is accompanied by an exhibition of vintage memorabilia from the MBC archive, including posters, programs and other promotional items; a complete portfolio of ten European portraits by Andy Warhol; and various items on loan from the World Erotic Art Museum.

Marilyn Art Exhibit in Miami

‘Marilyn Monroe: Tribute to an Icon’ is a new exhibition, featuring 21 artists, opening on August 22 and running through to October 10 at Miami’s Galleria Ca’d’Oro, reports Art Daily.

“The exhibition showcases a life-size sculpture of Marilyn wearing the iconic white dress immortalized by Seward Johnson in her most famous pose; an unusually lanky rendition by Valentina De Martini, a naked Marilyn immersed in color by Pablo Echaurren, a pop interpretation by Ludmilla Radchenko alongside the Marilyn series produced by Andy Warhol, a decollage by Mimmo Rotella, a witty composition by Leonardo Hidalgo, a painting with a real black diamond on the famous Marilyn beauty mark by Enrico di Nicolantonio and a live performance by Erika Calesini. The tribute to the American starlet comes to life in a 28-work exhibition that includes paintings, photographs, video, installations, and sculptures.

Pepsi Italy has created a Pepsi Light limited edition can to commemorate the myth and the 50th anniversary of the death of the timeless star. Among all the artists that made Marilyn immortal, Pepsi chose Sid Maurer; who’s many talents range from painting to music- to create an art can which captures the charisma, femininity, and sex appeal of the world famous style icon. The collectable Marilyn can will make it’s first U.S. appearance at the opening reception at Galleria Ca’ d’Oro.”