The Village Voice is no longer in print, but much of its illustrious archive remains online – including ‘Blond Lust‘, a piece by Teresa Podlesney from 1993, questioning whether blondness still signified the white feminine ideal, or an increasing freedom of choice.
“Like every other choice we have in the supposedly ‘color-blind’ United States, the choice to be blond should be made so as to prove that one can make it, to prove that one is American. Today’s more effective hair coloring, and the continued mainstreaming of wigs, enable blondness to be achieved by those with even the most resistant hair. Yet the democratization of blondness is not simply the story of perfected cosmetic technology. Blondness is where our changing notions of race and gender come together.
The blondness that attracts media attention today is a blondness that blatantly conjures up images of the 1950s. Madonna and Linda Evangelista, the Kikit and Guess models, are/were all one-tone bleached blonds, their attraction lying precisely in their display of the obviously artificial. This is the key: bottle blonds are not simply women with fair hair. Bleached blonds are a complete and excessively visible package of a femininity considered ‘conventional’ since the height of its expression on the movie screens of the 1950s: dramatic makeup, usually with dark lashes and red lips; large or prominently displayed breasts; highly coded fetish-sexy attire; and, just as taken for granted but ostensibly lying outside of the realm of constructed characteristics, white skin.
The feminine woman was once opposed to the sexual woman, sexuality in this context rendered too savage, too animal-like, the realm of those nonwhite races that had yet to assimilate Christian cultural values. In the ’50s, however, fascination with female sexual behavior — driven by the popularization of Freudian psychoanalysis, the Kinsey report, and the secularization of society — allowed a conflation of femininity with sexuality. For an increasingly image-organized culture, femininity was defined in terms of what was visible, and visibly sexual. Blonds were assured their prominence in this visual reinvention of femininity in 1953, when Marilyn Monroe graced the pages of the first issue of Playboy.“
The results are in for this year’s Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions. A number of photos from the Manfred ‘Linus’ Kreiner archive (see above) were sold, with the Marilyn-related lots fetching up to $3,800. These photos were recently featured in Parade magazine (see here.)
Within the fan community, biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles won a telegram from Lauren Bacall congratulating Marilyn after her wedding to Joe DiMaggio, for $1,582.50. The biggest Marilyn-related sales, however, were her costume from A Ticket to Tomahawk (sold for $22,400), and her bathrobe from How to Marry a Millionaire (which fetched $28,800.) Here are some more highlights:
A rare ‘Page 3’ copy of Playboy‘s first issue, signed by Hugh Hefner ($16,00)
A cast of Marilyn’s hands and feet from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre ($25,600)
A black chiffon overblouse ($19, 200)
A six-strand, iridiscent crystal necklace in purple and green ($11,250)
A pair of rhinestone clip earrings ($28,125)
Marilyn’s script for Something’s Got to Give, dated August 30, 1961 ($12,800)
And finally, I’ve added the maximum bids for each item featured in my previous posts – learn more about this fascinating auction here.
In another look at the upcoming Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions on June 13-14 (see previous posts here), Marilyn rubs shoulders with her fellow stars.
UPDATE: I have added the final bids to each item.
“A group of eight telephone messages from April, May and June 1961 while Marilyn was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Messages from those instantly recognized in Marilyn’s inner-circle include Frank McCarthy of Twentieth Century-Fox, comedian Ernie Kovacs, and director George Cukor. Interestingly, Marilyn received a message from a “Dr. Goddard” on May 28. Dr. Goddard is presumably the husband of Grace Goddard, who fostered Marilyn as a young child.” (SOLD for $1,600)
“A typed form letter from Dorothy Frooks, publisher of The Murray Hills News, inviting Marilyn to the annual Pro-American Rally on September 25, 1959, which would take place ‘between 37th and 38th Streets.’ Included is a handwritten letter from Cowboy Tex Weinstein asking Marilyn to attend. ” (SOLD for $375)
“A telegram to Marilyn from Lauren Bacall, dated January 18, 1954, congratulating Marilyn on her marriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. The telegram reads, ‘All the best luck always. Couldn’t be more delighted for you. Now you’ll really know how wonderful life can be. Love, Schatze Bogart.’ Interestingly, Bacall signed the telegram using the first name of her character in How to Marry a Millionaire, the film she had starred in with Marilyn the year prior to the Monroe/DiMaggio wedding, and the last name of her movie star husband, Humphrey Bogart. The telegram is addressed to ‘Mrs. Joe DiMaggio’ at Marilyn’s apartment on North Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills.” (SOLD to Gary Vitaccco-Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, for $1,562.50)
“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from television personality Jack Benny, dated July 13, 1961. The letter reads in part, ‘This little note is merely to say that I do hope you will be feeling much better and that I miss seeing you – even though it is on rare occasions.’ The letter is signed, “Love – Jack,” in his own handwriting. Also, a holiday card from Mary and Jack Benny from 1954. Marilyn’s first-ever television appearance was on The Jack Benny Show on September 13, 1953. They remained friends throughout her entire life.” (SOLD for $750)
“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn, dated June 17, 1958, in regards to the release of SNOOPY, the new book by famed cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the comic strip Peanuts. The letter reads, ‘Dear Miss Monroe, As I promised some weeks ago I am having sent to you under separate cover a few copies of Charles Schulz’s new “Peanuts” book, SNOOPY, which just came in from the bindery. I hope you like SNOOPY as much as we like publishing him.’ The letter is signed, ‘Sincerely yours, Theodore S. Amussen, Vice President.'” (SOLD for $576)
“A collection of approximately 30 vintage magazines, books, and other publications, from the collection of actress Morgan Fairchild: including Movieland magazine (October 1952); Silver Screen magazine (October 1953); Song Fan magazine (July 1954); LIFE magazine (November 1959); TV and Movie Screen magazine (September 1960); LOOK magazine (January 1961); LIFE magazine (August 1964); the cover of Show magazine (September 1972, framed); Parade magazine (framed); and the August 6, 1962, edition of the Los Angeles Times with the headline ‘Marilyn Monroe Found Dead.’ Together with six books on the life of Monroe, several greeting cards with Monroe’s image, and a poster produced from a photo by Philippe Halsman showing Monroe at the gym.” (SOLD for $768)
A new Irish exhibition exploring sex symbols and the Playboy empire features two key artefacts related to Andre de Dienes’ iconic images of Marilyn, as Catherine Sanz reports for The Times.
“Supermodels and Playboy: The Evolution of Sex Symbols, which opened yesterday at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware, Co Kildare, features some of the most famous women of the second half of the 20th century — clothed and unclothed.
The exhibition is a collection of items in the museum’s archive, placed together to take the visitor on a journey from Monroe, the ‘original pin-up girl’, to catwalk supermodels of the 1990s, including Christy Turlington, Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford.
The showcase begins with the camera used by Andre de Dienes, a Hungarian photographer, to capture Monroe on a Long Island beach in 1949. Images displayed next to the camera show the actress in a bathing suit and posing with a red polka dot umbrella. The umbrella has been on permanent display at the museum.
De Dienes’s camera was discovered in storage by Simone Hassett, the museum’s curator. She said finding it was the genesis for the exhibition.
‘Occasionally while we are rummaging around in the archive room we unearth some gems,’ she said. ‘We came across the camera belonging to Andre de Dienes which photographed one of Marilyn’s most famous risqué shoots in 1949 and this started the ball rolling.’
Aileen O’Brien, publicist for the exhibition, said that the idea was to showcase how being provocative had changed. She said the images of Monroe contrasted against the more blatantly sexy 1980s and 1990s models.
‘Despite appearing innocent and almost childlike at times, Marilyn’s confidence in the photographs was striking and she commanded the viewer to look,’ she said. ‘Her bathing suit appears quite demure but it was would have been very risqué at the time.'”
There are several Marilyn-related items in the Property From the Collection of Hugh M. Hefner sale, set for auction at Julien’s this Friday (November 30.) A personal copy of Playboy‘s first issue – featuring Marilyn as cover girl and centrefold – is estimated at $3,000 – $5,000. Other lots include the 1974 calendar seen above, a tie-in with Norman Mailer’s Marilyn; several photographic books about Marilyn (by Janice Anderson, George Barris, Bert Stern, Susan Bernard and Anne Verlhac); a box decorated with a painting of Marilyn by Tony Curtis; a Marilyn-themed bowling shirt and tie; prints by Bruno Bernard, Milton Greene and Jack Cardiff; and a rather silly ‘trick photo’ appearing to show Hef checking out Marilyn’s cleavage (though in reality, of course, they never met.)
UPDATE: Hefner’s copy of the first Playboy issue was sold for $31,250.
This original photo of Marilyn facing the paparazzi with Milton Greene at Madison Square Garden in March 1955 (on the night she rode a pink elephant for charity at the Ringling Brothers circus) is going up for sale on November 3rd, as part of Heritage Auctions‘ Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signatures event. The verso is marked ‘MM-56’, and dated September ’55; stamped twice, with the magazine title TV and Movie Screen, and a credit for the Neal Peters Collection, plus a caption: ‘Love ‘n’ Desire?’
Also on offer is a set of documents related to Some Like It Hot, including legal permission for real machine guns to be used in the movie; and the December 2005 issue of Playboy, featuring Marilyn on the cover, and signed by founder Hugh Hefner.
UPDATE: The Hefner-signed Playboy reached a final bid of $3,500; the photo of Marilyn at the circus sold for $209; and the Some Like It Hot papers raised $79.
Marilyn and Vincent Van Gogh are referenced together in ‘Bye Bye Caroline‘, the new single by Swiss heavy rockers Gotthard (and featuring Status Quo’s Francis Rossi), as Polly Glass reports for Louder Sound.
“We can’t decide if ‘It ain’t nothing like Van Gogh/Or even Marilyn Monroe’ is one of the best or worst lyrics we’ve heard all year (actually it probably is one of the worst, but we say that with love…), but either way we can’t help tapping our toes along to this Quo-tastic new song from ‘the most successful band from Switzerland’. Lyrically inspired by Rossi’s 1973 Caroline, it’s a bouncy romp of piano, guitars, harmonicas and unpretentious fun. Check out more on upcoming compilation Defrosted 2.”
In 1962, Marilyn was set to become the first American actress to appear nude in a mainstream movie since Pre-Code days – but following her untimely death, that honour went to another blonde star, Jayne Mansfield, in a film released just a year later, produced independently with Tommy Noonan (who had played Marilyn’s love interest a decade earlier in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) And as with Marilyn’s shelved nude scene, Jayne’s big moment would make the cover of Playboy.
Although Jayne would reveal more than Marilyn did, both scenes showed the stars bathing (Marilyn in a pool, Jayne in a tub), and discovered by a shy, bespectacled man (Phil Silvers and Noonan respectively.) Kristin Hunt reports on the story behind aHollywood watershed for Vulture – and if you’d like to learn more about Jayne, read Puffblicity, an illustrated biography by April VeVea, author of MM: A Day in the Life.
“Monroe filmed two nude scenes — one for 1961’s The Misfits and one for 1962’s Something’s Got to Give — but neither made it into theaters in one piece. The first scene was cut and the second was a mere fragment of an unfinished movie … The Something’s Got to Give scene was a little more intentional. Monroe’s character Ellen is supposed to swim nude, as a means to entice her estranged husband Nick from his hotel room. The footage of Monroe skinny-dipping in a pool is now available in multiple YouTube clips, but the movie never screened for era audiences, since Monroe was fired and then died before filming wrapped.
Either scene would’ve made Monroe the first American star to go nude in a Hollywood movie in decades. But in Monroe’s absence, it was Jayne Mansfield who shattered the long-standing tradition. Like Monroe, Mansfield was a buxom blonde with a complicated reputation — but unlike Monroe, she craved the industry’s constant spotlight, and frequently used her body to get it.
While onscreen nudity certainly existed before 1962, it had been outlawed in the U.S. for decades under the Production Code … It was against that backdrop that Mansfield made her topless debut in the 1963 swingers cruise-ship comedy Promises! Promises! The actress was in a bit of a career slump at the time … Mansfield had always been famous for her crass publicity stunts, which often involved her ‘accidentally’ losing her clothing … Those blatant headline grabs had launched Mansfield’s career, landing her a star-making role in the 1956 comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, and they also made her distinct from her blonde-bombshell rival Monroe, who generated tabloid fodder without really trying.
Shortly after Monroe’s 1962 death, The New York Timesran an article explaining why each ‘successor’ to Monroe was an inadequate replacement: Ava Gardner was too reclusive, Kim Novak too serious, Natalie Wood too slight. But the newspaper reserved some of its meanest comments for Mansfield. ‘Jayne Mansfield, whom 20th Century Fox was building as a Love Goddess nominee, suffers from too much publicity and too few roles,’ The New York Times wrote. ‘She has become rather a caricature — like Mae West — and alienates the segment which takes sex seriously.’
If she was already a caricature, it made sense for Mansfield to seek out the absurdity of a sexploitation film. Promises! Promises! was a translation of Edna Sheklow’s 1960 play The Plant, about two couples on a cruise ship who swap partners in a drunken haze, and then have to figure out who fathered which pregnancy. Actor Tommy Noonan purchased the film rights after nearly starring in the stage show, planning to write, direct, produce, and act in the movie.
Noonan would’ve known as well as anyone the risks of including a nude scene, even within the context of this racy plot … But a code violation didn’t carry the weight it once did, because by 1963, the entire system of censorship was running on life support … Mansfield’s nude scene arrives fairly early into Promises! Promises!, soon after the couples have settled into their cabins. Her screen husband Jeff (Noonan) has just been to see the ship’s medic about his sperm. When he returns — in high spirits, after receiving a placebo from the doctor — he finds Sandy (Mansfield) stepping out of a bath, where she was just cooing the song I’m in Love under a blanket of bubbles. She appears in the doorway, patting down her torso with a towel that does nothing to obscure her chest. The shot lingers for a few seconds before she closes the bathroom door to dress.
As the crew filmed, a photographer for Playboy took extra shots to run in the magazine, pocketing them for the eventual publicity campaign. Despite Mansfield’s name, Promises! Promises! was a B-film to its core, shepherded by an actor-turned-auteur who was not quite a household name and who harbored no artistic pretensions. The movie entered markets without MPAA approval or studio backing, which meant it had to rely solely on advertising. You can guess what the publicity team focused on.
Playboy published its behind-the-scenes images in the June 1963 issue, promising ‘The Nudest Jayne Mansfield’ on the cover. Enterprising movie exhibitors were only too happy to join in the ogling … But in many cities, the exploitative advertising and lack of MPAA approval were a liability, with censorship boards in Maryland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other markets attempting to keep the film out. When the Playboy issues hit newsstands, Hugh Hefner was arrested and hauled into Chicago court for ‘publishing and distributing an obscene magazine.’ The city based its complaint on two ‘particularly obscene’ images showing Mansfield lying naked on a bed with a fully clothed man. The case ended in a mistrial, letting Hefner off the hook.
Though Promises! Promises! made money, it was too crass and too indie to recoup Mansfield’s struggling stardom — and her career never bounced back to its 1950s heights. Critics savaged the film, with Variety calling it unsuitable for ‘anyone whose mentality surpasses that of a 5-year-old.’ But the topless scene did indicate where films were heading in respect to the policy against nudity. The following year in 1964, The Pawnbroker challenged the Production Code with a much more artistic — and much more upsetting — use of nudity through a Holocaust flashback sequence. The film had a celebrated director in Sidney Lumet and a serious method star in Rod Steiger, and due to this pedigree, it had more of a lasting impact than Promises! Promises! could, setting a precedent that would make it easier for movies to include nude scenes.”
Art Paul, who designed the first Playboy cover as well as the iconic bunny logo, has died aged 93, the Washington Postreports. The cover featured a photo of Marilyn at the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, with her famous nude calendar pose making the centrefold.
“[Hugh] Hefner was developing his idea for a new men’s magazine in 1953 when he approached Mr. Paul, then working as a freelance illustrator and designer in Chicago. Hefner sought a clean, modern design for the magazine that he wanted to call Stag Party.
When another men’s publication, Stag, sent a cease-and-desist letter, Hefner was forced to come up with another name, and Playboy was born. Mr. Paul designed the first cover, a photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken during a parade as she waved to the crowd.
‘Art Paul managed to create a striking black-and-white cover design with a red logo,’ Hefner wrote in Playboy in 1994. ‘This was just the first example of how Art took ordinary pictures and, through inventive design and the addition of illustrative details, made the magazine and its covers innovative and interesting.'”
The late Hugh Hefner may have dubbed Pamela Anderson ‘this generation’s Marilyn Monroe’, but in a new interview with King Kong magazine, the former Playboy model turned actress and campaigner politely demurs: ‘Well, that’s an incredible compliment to me. Not sure about my generation.’