Marilyn, Drew, JFK Jr. and a Notorious Cover Story

Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…

“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.

Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.

That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”

Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Madonna as Marilyn, 1993

And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.

White House Scandals Spoofed on ‘SNL’

The scandal involving President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star has been parodied in a skit for TV’s Saturday Night Live, in which First Lady Melania Trump is comforted by some of her predecessors. This inevitably leads to a discussion of Marilyn’s alleged (but still unproven) fling with John F. Kennedy, but at least she’s more highly regarded than Stormy Daniels, as The Daily Dot reports…

“And in this Saturday Night Live sketch, [Melania] meets former first lady Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) and other wives of former presidents. At one point, Kennedy tries to sympathize with her about being the wife of a president who has alleged extramarital affairs, like John F. Kennedy with Marilyn Monroe.

Said Melania, ‘Oh please, she was in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Donald’s girl was in Guys Like It Shaved!'”

Pharrell Inspired by Marilyn

Music’s perennial over-achiever, Pharrell Williams – singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, rapper, producer – performed tracks from his second solo album, GIRL, on Saturday Night Live this weekend, backed by an all-female orchestra.

‘Marilyn Monroe’ is the opening song on the album, and has been confirmed as the second single. It features backing vocals by self-confessed Monroe fan and reality TV star, Kelly Osborne. The chorus goes like this:

“Not even Marilyn Monroe
Queen Cleopatra please
Not even Joan of Arc
That don’t mean nothin’ to me
I just want a different girl…”

I think Norma Jeane would have appreciated these lyrics, as she was also a ‘different girl.’ You can watch Pharrell’s performance here.

Lohan’s MM Sketch Cut From SNL

Those among you who were surprised that Lindsay Lohan’s recent stint presenting Saturday Night Live didn’t feature yet another MM impersonation may be interested to hear about this sketch that was cut at the last minute. (I’m somewhat relieved to hear this, as SNL has a long history of tasteless Monroe parodies.)

‘According to our sources, the sketch was to feature Lindsay as Marilyn and Jon Hamm (‘Mad Men’) as JFK appearing to conservative hopeful Rick Santorum…

During the sketch, Marilyn and JFK explain Marilyn was on birth control provided to her by Medicare, which causes Santorum to vomit uncontrollably. Santorum (the real one) recently said that JFK’s speech from 1960 about keeping religion out of politics “makes [him] want to throw up.

In the end, we’re told the sketch made it all the way to rehearsals, and was even performed in front of a live audience, but was ultimately cut because of time constraints.’ TMZ

Lady Gaga’s Birthday Serenade

Lady Gaga helped celebrate the ten-year anniversary of former president Bill Clinton’s Foundation and his 65th birthday at the ‘Decade of Difference’ concert last night at the Hollywood Bowl. The singer took the stage for three songs, plus a Marilyn Monroe-esque ‘Happy Birthday’.

Clinton admitted, “I got nervous when Gaga said she was planning to have a Marilyn moment. I thought, my God, I get Lady Gaga and I will have a heart attack celebrating my 65th birthday.” Rather gracelessly, Gaga quipped,”I’m having my first real Marilyn moment. I always wanted to have one, and I was hoping that it didn’t involve pills and a strand of pearls.”

But Gaga is only the latest in a long line of Monroe impersonators – Madonna, to whom Gaga is often compared, sang ‘Happy Inauguration’ to Clinton, MM-style, via Saturday Night Live in 1993.

‘The Kennedys’ Spoofed on SNL

Dame Helen Mirren hosted the latest episode of the US comedy show, Saturday Night Live, yesterday. In one skit, the SNL team parody the controversial mini-series,The Kennedys (which has been criticised by some as historically inaccurate), with ‘The Roosevelts’, in which Mirren, as Eleanor Roosevelt, locks lips with Marilyn Monroe (Abby Elliott.)

Of course, this is a dig at the gossips rather than Marilyn or Mrs Roosevelt. At the time of their fictitious fling, Monroe was only five years old. Nonetheless, some critics were underwhelmed:

“Other easy targets included the widely-panned Kennedys mini-series. Here, SNL offered  The Roosevelts, in which it was revealed that Eleanor Roosevelt (Mirren) was a lesbian who enjoyed kissing Marilyn Monroe (Abby Elliott). I believe this is what’s called a cheap, if nicely ahistorical, laugh.”

Entertainment Weekly

Monroe has been spoofed on Saturday Night Live before, by the likes of Madonna and Charlize Theron. If nothing else, these caricatures reflect her enduring presence in the public imagination.

In real life, Marilyn did know Eleanor Roosevelt a little (although they probably never kissed!) According to friends of the actress, they frequented the same New York beauty salon during 1955 and would talk at length while their hair was styled.

Lois Banner’s MM – Personal includes a letter written in  reply to the Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation, regretting that Marilyn was unable to appear at a charity event as she was preparing for a new film role.

In one of her last interviews, included in Fragments, Marilyn named Mrs Roosevelt among the people she most admired. They both died in 1962 – and almost half a century later, the two women rank among the most celebrated Americans in history.

In an interesting comparison, Harvard Square Library recalls a poignant quote from Marilyn: ‘Nobody ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.’

While Marilyn blossomed into a swan, Eleanor Roosevelt was often mocked for her ‘ugly duckling’ looks. But those who knew her best recognised her inner beauty, just as those who loved Marilyn understood that her beauty was more than skin-deep.