Peter Max Exhibit in New Orleans

Pop artist Peter Max, dubbed ‘the zen master of colour’, has teamed up with the estate of Milton Greene to create a series of images of Marilyn, on display in an exhibition titled ‘Homage to Colour’, now at the Angela King Gallery in New Orleans until June 23.

As Max told David Lee Simmons of, his fascination with Marilyn began with a personal encounter in New York, sixty years ago. (He thinks it occurred around 1953, though it may actually have been a year or two later, after Marilyn moved to the city permanently – and, coincidentally, when many of Greene’s photos of Marilyn were shot. Monroe’s visits to Carnegie Hall, close to where Max saw her, have been noted here.)

“‘I was at the 57th Street school,’ he said, referring to the now-iconic Art Students League of New York, incubator of countless artists. ‘It was across from Carnegie Hall, and I was sitting on the steps of our building. I was kind of on the side, sitting with friends of mine, and this woman, beyond gorgeous, walks by in high heels. And I just couldn’t take my eyes off her!

‘After she passed by, she turned around and told me, Hey, I love your colorful pants! Actually, I had on regular pants, khaki pants, really, but from the knees down there was paint splatter all over them. She was remarking on the splatter of all those colors. Then I said to my friend, Ronnie, that’s Marilyn Monroe.

‘I’m looking at a Marilyn Monroe I just painted. I can’t tell you why. I mean, she had the most stunning features — an absolute miracle from God. And she had this beauty and charisma in her face that was just beyond belief. The nose, cheeks, eyes, everything was perfectly in  balance.

‘Years ago, I just decided to paint the [photographs]. I used to paint her a little bit before that. I had these paintings of her in my studio, and a dealer said, We’ve got to show those in the gallery. So I started painting some more.'”


Marilyn and the Other John Kennedy

Butterfly in the Typewriter is Cory McLauchlin‘s new biography of John Kennedy Toole, the New Orleans-based novelist whose comic masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces, was unpublished until long after his suicide in 1969, aged 31.

Fans of the author may not have known that he – like many of Louisiana’s young men – was a passionate admirer of Marilyn Monroe. In 1955, he wrote to New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, praising his favourable review of The Seven Year Itch.

An enthusiastic comic book artist during his college years, Toole later created The Hullabaloo, a three-part series partly inspired by Marilyn’s performance in Bus Stop. ‘He depicts a voluptuous Monroe leaning in ecstasy against a bus stop post,’ McLauchlin writes. ‘Two students observe her and whisper, “I don’t know who she is, but she’s been here for two days.” The next week the same frame was republished with the caption, “What? She still here?” Two weeks later, the image appears with the caption, ‘”NOoooo!” The homely ladies appear threatened by the beauty that simply will not leave.’

Toole was shocked by the news of Marilyn’s death in 1962, which he learned while teaching English as part of his military service in Puerto Rico. Toole commented, ‘Her life and death are both very sobering and even frightening. In my own way I loved Marilyn Monroe very much. Isn’t it a shame she never knew this…’

Toole, who lived with his mother, experienced great difficulties in forming relationships with women. He was devastated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and his depressive tendencies were certainly aggravated by repeated rejections from publishers.

A Confederacy of Dunces was finally published in 1980, and a year later, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (an honour that Marilyn’s third husband, Arthur Miller, had previously been awarded for his 1949 play, Death of a Salesman.)

‘Heavenly’ Marilyn in New Orleans

Marilyn by Cecil Beaton, 1956

New Play Bacchanal is a 3-day series of tryouts at the Southern Repertory Theatre in New Orleans. Today at 6pm, actress Rebecca Elizabeth Hollingsworth reads from the intriguingly titled Marilyn/God: Will Marilyn Get Into Heaven?  by dramatist Rosary O’Neill. Read excerpt here

“In this play, Marilyn confronts voices in her head to validate her life as an actress. She finds in the afterlife that she must audition and interview to get into heaven and that her judges are her enemies and aborted children. Along the way she is confused and intrigued by the signs she must follow to climb her way into heaven. The play explores the multi-levels of complexity of cult goddess Marilyn Monroe–her vulnerability, anger, and loneliness and the ways that American culture and the worship of beauty and fame shaped, aborted and forwarded her rise to stardom. In the afterlife she relives three painful scenes from her life and a life review and strains to justify her choices to male unsympathetic judges as well as shocking people from her past.

Marilyn Monroe, 36
two or more voices representing various people in Marilyn’s life.
Setting: The action takes place in the mind of Marilyn on an empty stage with a chair.”