Tag Archives: norma jeane

Marilyn’s ‘Dougherty House’ Blitz Spurs Lawsuit

The former Dougherty home at Hermitage Avenue, before demolition
The former Dougherty home at Hermitage Avenue, before demolition

After the news that Marilyn’s former home with the Doughertys at Hermitage Avenue was demolished in June, local residents have filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, reports the L.A. Times.

The empty lot at the interesection of Hermitage Avenue and Weddington Street
The empty lot at the interesection of Hermitage Avenue and Weddington Street

“Los Angeles is facing a lawsuit over the demolition of a San Fernando Valley house that Marilyn Monroe once lived in, filed by residents who argue that the city trampled state and local laws when the City Council gave the green light for new condos to be built there.

But the court battle goes beyond the legacy of the blond bombshell. The suit accuses the City Council of illegally agreeing to routinely back any development project supported by the council member who represents a given area, including the condo project that led to razing the Valley Village home.

The council voted unanimously last month to allow developer Joe Salem to move ahead with plans for a five-unit condominium building on the site of the demolished home. Save Valley Village is seeking to reverse city approval of the project, revoke its permits and stop it from getting any more approvals.

The house at the heart of the latest dispute was torn down days before a Cultural Heritage Commission hearing on whether to consider making the silver screen star’s onetime home a historic monument. Monroe lived in the back unit at the Hermitage Avenue property with her in-laws while her first husband, Jim Dougherty, was serving overseas.

Building department officials said the demolition permit had been obtained before the historic monument application was filed. Even if the house had remained intact, city staffers did not recommend considering the house as a possible monument, arguing that Monroe didn’t break into the film industry until years later.

Monroe ‘only resided at the property for one year and did not live in the unit during the productive period of her career,’ a report by city planning officials said.

Save Valley Village counters that the home captured the essence of her life at a crucial stage. ‘While Norma Jean was born at County Hospital in Lincoln Heights, Marilyn Monroe’s career was born while living in this house,’ the lawsuit argues.

The group also contends that the city had ‘overwhelming evidence’ that it should have prepared an environmental impact report on the planned condos. That report would have considered possible alternatives to tearing down the Hermitage Avenue building, such as relocating it elsewhere, MacNaughton said.

The lawsuit also argues that Salem illegally demolished the home because the proper notices and inspections had not been done and that city officials knew it — or should have known.”

Marilyn Returns to the El Portal Theatre

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Marilyn: Forever Blonde, the acclaimed one-woman show starring Sunny Thompson,will return to North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre in October, after a sell-out run in 2012, reports Broadway World. The El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood sits next door to the Lankershim Elementary School that a young Norma Jeane attended from 1937-38, and the venue dedicated it’s Forum Theatre to Marilyn as ‘The Monroe Forum’.

‘Before Marilyn’ in Sunday’s Mirror

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A selection of photos from Michelle Morgan and Astrid Franse’s new book, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, is published on The Mirror‘s website today. (In an earlier version of this post, I said that it would also be in Sunday’s print edition. Rather confusingly, it was published in the People instead. Apologies to anyone who was caught out – and if it’s any consolation, so was I!)

FYI: the photos in this post were taken by Richard Whiteman in 1946. The intriguing story behind the mystery shoot is revealed in Before Marilyn – you can read my review here.

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Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years

The long-awaited new book by Michelle Morgan and Astrid Franse, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, will be published in the UK on July 6. It is also the subject of a six-page article in today’s Mail on Sunday, with Norma Jeane gracing the cover of its supplement magazine. The Mail Bookshop is also offering a pre-order of Before Marilyn at a reduced price of £18.75. A US edition will follow in November, but if you simply can’t wait that long, the UK version of Before Marilyn can also be pre-ordered via The Book Depository.

“Twenty years ago, Astrid and Ben Franse, owners of a Fifties memorabilia store, were in a vintage shop in Los Angeles when the shopkeeper came over with a box, telling them: ‘It’s press clippings and pictures of Marilyn Monroe. I only got a quick look. It was take it or leave it.’ 

The couple bought the box and took it home to the Netherlands, where it was stored under a desk and promptly forgotten – until 2012 when a dealer telephoned from the U.S. about a client who was a big Marilyn fan. 

Ben remembered the box and went to check what it contained. He was stunned. It was the archive of Blue Book, the modelling agency that launched Marilyn’s career. 

There were negatives, letters, telegrams, photos and worksheets.

Using this treasure trove of unseen images, Astrid and Marilyn expert Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private And Undisclosed, have been able to tell the little-known story of Marilyn before she was famous…

Emmeline Snively appraised the girl in front of her in the office of her model agency.

She was ‘in a simple white dress and armed with her portfolio, which offered no more than a few snaps. You wouldn’t necessarily wear a white dress on a modelling job, and it was as clean and white and ironed and shining as she was.’

It was August 2, 1945 and this was the first meeting between Norma Jeane Dougherty – later known as Marilyn Monroe – and the mentor who launched her career.

Many in modelling believed Blue Book was essentially an escort agency, providing girls for lonely businessmen staying at the hotel to take to dinner.

‘The LAPD kept a close watch,’ said a source who knew the agency at the time.

Snively admitted: ‘Many of my girls whose husbands were overseas dated on several nights of the week. But not Norma Jeane. She was interested only in legitimate assignments.’

The reception walls were covered in glossy photos of clients past and present, as was Snively’s office. There was a statue of the ancient Eygptian princess Nefertiti on her desk – ‘the most beautiful woman of her era,’ Snively believed.

The boss spoke in an English accent, though she was American. And she was picky about who she took on.

Snively later recalled, ‘She had a white dress which looked terrific on her, although models usually shy away from white. It accentuated her bust and called attention to her figure. It was extremely tight across the front.’

The only other things she seemed to own were a bathing suit and a blue suit ‘that didn’t do a thing for her’, according to Snively.

‘She had a girl next door look. All right, you never saw a girl next door who looked like Marilyn but that’s how she looked the day she came in. For me that’s how she always looked.’

Norma Jeane’s looks, enthusiasm and naivity won over the agency owner. She signed her up and set about training her in grooming, presentation and coordination. There was ‘good solid work on my part to analyse and develop her best points (no pun intended)’.

She determined that Norma Jeane could do two types of modelling. She couldn’t enter beauty contests – a useful way of raising a model’s profile – because she was married, which disqualified her.

Nor could she do catwalk modelling. As Snively observed: ‘She did have a pleasant personality; an all-American girl personality – cute, wholesome and respectable.

‘There was no sultry sexiness about her. That came much later, although I did realise immediately that Marilyn would never do as a fashion model. Most fashion models are tall, sophisticated-looking and slim-chested. Marilyn was none of these.’

And there was another problem – her walk. Her famous ‘wiggle walk’ went against everything a catwalk model was ever trained to do.

It has been claimed that she used to cut part of the heel from one shoe, causing her bottom to rock from side to side. Another suggestion was she had suffered from an illness as a child, resulting in a slight limp. Snively had a different theory.

‘She’s double-jointed in the knees, so she can’t relax and that is why her hips seem to sway.

‘She couldn’t stand with a relaxed knee like most models, because her knees would lock in a stiff-legged position. Her walk is a result of that locking action… This she turned into an asset.’

While Norma Jeane was eager to soak up any advice about her smile, she was less happy with what Snively suggested for her hair: bleach and straightening. There was no way the young model could afford the upkeep of such a style, and she had no wish to be made into a glamour girl.

‘She was a believer in naturalness,’ wrote Snively. ‘Any suggestions about lightening her hair or even styling it met with defeat.’

‘Look darling,’ Snively told her. ‘If you intend to go places in this business, you’ve got to bleach and straighten your hair; your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it. Don’t worry about money, I’ll keep you working.’

She was hired for a shampoo ad on the understanding that she would sort out her hair. When the photographer offered to pay for the process, Norma Jeane finally agreed to go to the Frank and Joseph salon in Hollywood.

Snively loved it. ‘It was bleached to take it out of the obscurity of dishwater blonde,’ she wrote.

‘Marilyn emerged a truly golden girl… She went into her bathing-suit stage, and the demand for her was terrific.

‘She averaged $150 a week, and men began talking to her about going into motion pictures.’

It was the beginning of Norma Jeane’s transformation into Marilyn Monroe and from modelling to movies. Around this time Marilyn was walking down the street one day when a man pulled his Cadillac up next to her. He rolled down the window and told the young woman that she was so beautiful she should be in movies.

The man said he worked for the Goldwyn Studio and she should come for an audition.

Unfortunately, his studio turned out to be a rented suite, where the ‘executive’ persuaded her to pose in a variety of inappropriate positions, while reading a script.

‘All the poses were reclining, although the words I was reading didn’t seem to call for that position,’ Marilyn recalled.

‘Naive as I was, I soon figured this wasn’t the way to get a job in the movies. I manoeuvred toward the door and made a hasty exit.’

But magazine covers led to items in gossip columns which in turn led to a screen test at Twentieth Century Fox.

Snively later recalled a chat with Marilyn, now married to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, the actress confessed that she felt inadequate in her career.

‘She didn’t feel she was a qualified actress [but] how could she? She’d signed her first contract before she had her first acting lesson.

‘God, I wanted to cry for her then. This can be the loneliest town in the world and it’s even lonelier for you if you’re on top of the heap.’

By summer 1962 Marilyn was not in regular contact with Snively. But, having been fired from her last film, Something’s Got To Give, after missing numerous days through illness and through travelling to New York to sing for President Kennedy, she did a shoot for Blue Book, posing for amateur photographers. These photos have never come to light.

Then, on August 5, the actress was found dead, victim of an overdose. She was just 36.

Snively reflected on her untimely death. ‘We should have known that a person who works that hard and puts everything else aside for a career, is looking for love – not just a job.’”

Marilyn’s ‘Dougherty House’ Demolished

Marilyn's former home at Hermitage Avenue, photographed before demolition
Marilyn’s former home at Hermitage Avenue, photographed before demolition

Marilyn’s former home at 5258 Hermitage Street (now Avenue), North Hollywood (or Valley Village), has been demolished by property developers while awaiting a decision on landmark status, reports the L.A. Daily News. Marilyn lived there from 1944-45 with her husband Jim’s family, while he served in the Merchant Marine. During this period, the teenage Norma Jeane took a job alongside her mother-in-law, Ethel Dougherty, at the Radioplane munitions plant, where she was ‘discovered’ by army photographer David Conover.

Norma Jeane with Ethel Dougherty
Norma Jeane with Ethel Dougherty

“A backyard home where Marilyn Monroe lived when she was first discovered as a bombshell pin-up was slated this week to be considered for landmark status.

But three days before the hearing, a developer bulldozed the Valley Village home.

‘I can’t even breathe. My neighbors and I are in mourning,’ said Jennifer Getz, of Valley Village, who had nominated the so-called Dougherty House for designation as a city Historic-Cultural Monument. ‘It’s one of the biggest losses in the San Fernando Valley.

‘I’m beyond outrage.’

A case for preserving a plain pair of single-story houses — the front one built during World War II, the rear thought to have been an early-century gabled farm house where Monroe then lived — was to have been heard Thursday by the Cultural Heritage Commission.

But then neighbors discovered a heavy backhoe Monday ripping down both houses at 5258 Hermitage Ave. The owner, Joe Salem of Hermitage Enterprises LLC, could not be reached for comment. City officials said he’d sought a demolition permit last year to build condos.

It was there that 17-year-old housewife Norma Jean Dougherty moved in with her in-laws in April 1944 while her sailor husband James was far away at sea.

She moved out of the North Hollywood area house in the summer of 1945, would soon divorce Dougherty and went on to become the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

While at her wartime job inspecting parachutes, Dougherty was picked to model for morale-boosting military magazines by a photographer sent by U.S. Army Capt. Ronald Reagan. Her career took off, and she became an actress.

Photographed by David Conover, 1945
Photographed by David Conover, 1945

City officials said the house wasn’t significant enough to be named an official landmark. Not only did the house not have any distinguishing characteristics, according to city planners, but the actress didn’t become a movie star until long after she moved.

Critics of the demolition blame Councilman Paul Krekorian, whose office would not support the landmark request or step in to help save the house.

They also accuse the developer of tearing down the house just after the landmark hearing was posted, and before the commission could put the brakes on demolition, a common practice across the city. They also accuse him of violating a law requiring a 30-day public notice to demolish buildings older than 45 years.

‘It was never posted,’ said Los Angeles historian Charles J. Fisher, who penned the Dougherty House nomination. ‘The problem is that the city failed to adhere to the law. We’ve lost a portion of Marilyn Monroe’s life, a very significant portion.'”

Richard Anderson Remembers Marilyn

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Although best-known for his role as Lee Majors’ boss in The Six Million Dollar Man, Richard Anderson’s career dates back to the golden age of Hollywood. Born in 1926, he made his movie debut in 1947 – just like Marilyn Monroe. Anderson would later appear in Bus Stop, a TV series based on Marilyn’s 1956 movie. But as he reveals in a new book, Richard Anderson – At Last…, their first encounter occurred long before she appeared before a camera.

“Part of my job as Commissioner of Safety at University High was to sit at the east gate to make sure that the students had a pass to come to school and leave.

One day, I was eating a 15-cent lunch of egg salad sandwich and my favourite dessert – sherbet.

Sitting there eating raspberry sherbet, the east gate door opens and in walks this lady. Blonde with everything else that counts. She gave me a big smile, and I stopped eating.

‘How are you?’ she murmured.

‘I’m fine now,’ I said…

From the east gate to the main building is a long, long walk. She smiled her beautiful smile and then slowly moved away – very slowly – I watched the way she moved until she was out of sight. What a walk. I was transfixed. I also wasn’t hungry anymore…

Moreover, I forgot to ask for her pass!

I would later learn that her name was Norma Jeane Mortenson. But she will be forever be known to all as…Marilyn Monroe.”

Anderson was also a student at University High School, volunteering for the Commissioner of Safety post in 1941. Norma Jeane’s first boyfriend, Chuck Moran – whom she dated that year – was a University High student, although at the time of their relationship, Norma Jeane attended Emerson Junior High.

In September 1941, while living with Grace Goddard and her family, Norma Jeane enrolled at Van Nuys High. But in February 1942, after Grace’s husband was promoted to a post in his native West Virginia, fifteen year-old Norma Jeane returned to live with Ana Lower, and transferred to University High. By June, she had left school to marry Jim Dougherty.

Norma Jeane's University High School Yearbook photo, 1942
Norma Jeane’s University High School Yearbook photo, 1942

Norma Jeane was not yet a blonde at this time, although she could be described as ‘California blonde’ (because her hair lightened in the sun.) But Anderson’s story rings true. By the late 1940s, he was a member of the Actors Lab in Los Angeles, recalling that Marilyn and John Garfield were also regulars.

He also recalls seeing Marilyn, now a major star, in the Fox Commissary with her Monkey Business co-star Cary Grant and director Howard Hawks. Grant went to the trouble of introducing her to Anderson. However, she recognised him instantly.

This story is also believable, as Marilyn never took even the smallest kindness for granted. Anderson writes that he was on loan to Fox for A Life of Her Own (starring Lana Turner), but that film was made at MGM in 1950, two years before Monkey Business.

Revisiting Rockhaven

Southern California-based readers may be interested to know that one of the least-known, and most poignant Marilyn-related sites will be opened to the public on Saturday, April 26, at 10 am. Rockhaven Sanitarium in Glendale was in its time one of the region’s most progressive, humane clinics for women, and Marilyn’s mentally ill mother, Gladys, lived in its beautiful surroundings for fifteen years.

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“Founded in 1923, Rockhaven was one of many sanitariums in the Crescenta Valley. What made this business unique was Agnes Richards’ approach to treatment of mental issues by giving the patients dignified individualized care in a home-like setting. It was also run by women for women for 78 years. It began with 6 women and as the numbers grew she bought neighboring homes. Soon she built new buildings.”

Gladys Baker Eley (right) with her legal guardian, Inez Melson, at Rockhaven in 1963
Gladys Baker Eley (right) with her legal guardian, Inez Melson, at Rockhaven in 1963

This free tour has been organised by the Crescenta Valley Historical Society. Writing for Crescenta Valley Weekly in 2012, Robin Goldsworthy traced the history of Rockhaven, which closed its doors in 2001. Some of the buildings have since been sold off, but local residents have formed Friends of Rockhaven in the hope that this former sanctuary will be restored as a library or community centre.

“By far the most famous Rockhaven resident was Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys Baker Eley. Gladys’ relationship with her daughter was tumultuous, and undoubtedly had much to do with the instability of Monroe’s troubled life. Most likely insane, Baker put Monroe in various foster care situations, while she herself went in and out of young Marilyn’s life, spending much of her time in state mental hospitals. When the actress achieved fame, she finally faced the confusing relationship she had with her mother, and in 1952 she had her transferred from the cold Norwalk State Hospital to the more personal care of Rockhaven. Monroe’s death in 1962 rendered her mother even more unstable and several suicide attempts took place, along with several very well publicized escapes.

Gladys was a tiny woman and once managed to squeeze out of an 18-inch closet window in her room, climb the fence, and walk 15 miles to a church in Shadow Hills. Her room and that tiny closet window are still there. Monroe’s estate after her death was entirely eaten up by unpaid taxes and creditors, leaving nothing for the care of Gladys Baker. Rockhaven, to its credit, kept Baker on gratis until 1967, when her other daughter took her in.”

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If you would like to participate, please email in advance: friendsofrockhaven@gmail.com

Marilyn Remembered: Blue Book Days

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Several months ago, ES Updates reported on ‘Marilyn’s Blue Book Days‘, a new book and documentary project. Filmmaker Suzanne van Leendert and Astrid Franse, owner of the Blue Book Modeling Agency archive, are visiting Los Angeles to shoot footage and will also be appearing at the next meeting of the L.A.-based Marilyn Remembered Fan Club tomorrow, March 8 at 7.30 pm, where they will share rare photos from Emmeline Sniveley’s files. More details here.

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