Carol Channing, who first played Lorelei Lee in the Broadway musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, paid tribute to Marilyn’s big-screen portrayal in a rededication ceremony for MM in Palm Springs yesterday, reports Broadway World.
“Miss Channing recalled seeing Miss Monroe for the first time from the stage, ‘second row center,’ sent by the studios to watch Carol in the role she created for the Great White Way as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Channing recalled, ‘The audience and the cast found it hard to focus on anything but Marilyn, with the possible exception of our piano player … he only asked if she had a brother.’ When asked about the role that propelled her to international acclaim going to Miss Monroe on film, Carol said ‘She created her own brilliant and unique take on Lorelei, a completely different version of this girl who brought virginity to every man she met.'”
“The city just assembled a 26-foot-tall statue of Monroe last week and, for the June 1 star rededication, Manhattan in the Desert deli and bakery will provide a birthday cake big enough to serve 250-300 people, walk organizers said.
The ‘Forever Marilyn’ statue — it depicts the star trying to hold her dress down as it is blown up by a rush of wind from a subway vent in ‘The Seven Year Itch’ — will be unveiled Thursday at Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way.”
Susan Bernard will be talking about her new book, Marilyn: Intimate Exposures, afterward. She has also selected 40 of her father’s photographs to exhibit in stores on both sides of North Palm Canyon Drive in the Uptown Design District north of Alejo Road as part of a Marilyn Walk (on display all week.)
Joani Waldor Hannan, the drummer of Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators in Some Like it Hot, spoke to MyDesert recently:
‘Her nonspeaking role appears early on in a scene of the band rehearsing on a train. She passionately plays the drums directly behind Monroe, who sings and shimmies with abandon.
Hannan’s most memorable encounter with Monroe happened off-screen.
Monroe was standing beside her drum set as a scene was set up, Hannan said, and remarked in her famously breathy voice: “I just love the drums. I wish you’d teach me to play.”
Hannan was speechless. In that moment, she was as starstruck as Monroe seemed nervous.
“She was a sweet, sweet person,” Hannan said about the star. “She was not dumb at all. Always late? Yes.”
Hannan counts the film among her career highlights. But it was not without challenges.
Getting the part required acting in a way that made her uncomfortable. She knew from prior experience performing with bands on USO tours that an “extremely feminine” drummer was wanted.
“I was forced to be a hetero woman,” said Hannan, who is a lesbian. “I had to constantly flirt.”
Though she got dressed up and “swung my hips for the interview,” Hannan said her confident drumming got her the part. The producers wanted band members who were attractive but they didn’t want dainty performers, she said.’
It should be noted, however, that Barbara’s relationship with Sinatra began in 1971, so her stories of Marilyn, the Kennedys must date from many years before she became involved with Frank.
Interestingly, Barbara claims that in later years, Frank would ‘sink into deep periods of solitary mourning following the deaths of people such as his parents, Marilyn Monroe and JFK.’
Barbara was born in 1926 (the same year as MM.) A model and showgirl, she married Zeppo Marx in 1959. They divorced in 1973. Barbara married Frank Sinatra in 1976, and they stayed together until his death in 1998 (although, reportedly, Frank’s children from his first marriage never warmed to her.)
‘Palm Springs was a celebrity circus where Clark Gable would pop his head over her hedge for a chat. She befriended Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. She played doubles matches with Bobby Kennedy and met Marilyn Monroe, who visited Sinatra and reportedly liked to walk around his house naked.
Once when Monroe was staying at the Compound, Barbara’s son Bobby, “who had the worst crush on Marilyn”, insisted Barbara secure an invitation so he could meet the star. “So I called Dorothy, Frank’s secretary, and told her my problem and Frank called and said ‘have him come over’. Bobby met her and he was totally in love.”
On another occasion Barbara met the “beautiful and funny” Monroe, then married to Arthur Miller, at the Palm Springs Racquet Club. “I could see why she’d attract the likes of Mr Sinatra, among others. But her dependence on drugs and alcohol left her vulnerable. We had a casual conversation and she seemed sweet, but we were never going to be close. A few years later she was dead.” ‘
Sue Glover’s Marilyn, currently showing at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, is described as ‘a witty take on celebrity and feminism in the 1960s’ in The List. Others, including The Scotsmanand STV, praise Frances Thorburn‘s performance as MM, but consider the play itself rather disappointing.
‘In act one we are given brief insights into the more interesting aspects of Monroe’s personality (such as her defence of her husband, Arthur Miller, against McCarthyism), as well as her burgeoning self-doubt and increasing reliance on drugs and alcohol,’ writes Mark Brown in Herald Scotland. ‘In act two, however, the play really comes apart, descending into a stereotypical “catfight” between Signoret and Monroe (caused by the latter’s affair with Montand) which is so blunt and badly written as to be almost an affront to feminism.’
These comments echo our own ES Updates Fan Review by Lorraine. It would seem that the more you know about Marilyn’s real story, the more problematic this play will be. But it all adds to the continuing public interest in Marilyn, and Frances Thorburn deserves our respect for taking on such a challenging role.
By far the most popular MM-related play among fans is Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show, Marilyn: Forever Blonde, which has toured the world to considerable acclaim. Sunny will appear at the Annenberg Theatre, Palm Springs, from March 3-22.