Marilyn at the Coronado Museum

Sixty years ago, the ‘Florida’ scenes for Some Like It Hot were filmed on Coronado Island near San Diego, California.

From now until January at the Coronado Museum of Art & History, a new exhibition – Coronado’s Golden Age of Film – explores the resort’s movie connections, hosted by the Coronado Historical Association and with items from Scott Fortner’s Marilyn Monroe Collection as its centerpiece.

“The Marilyn Monroe Collection comprises a lifetime of memories, both Marilyn’s and the collector’s. On loan to the Coronado Historical Association are a selection of Coronado-centric pieces from the collection consisting of items from Marilyn’s personal wardrobe, including a dress she wore off the set during filming of Some Like it Hot, cosmetics, books from her personal library, numerous personal and professional documents, a Marilyn Monroe signed bank check made payable to her acting coach Paula Strasberg, and other items directly from her estate.

Coronado’s film history is rich and vast beginning with a short documentary filmed by the Edison Company, through the golden age of silent film, into Hollywood’s golden age, to today. Visit the Coronado Museum to view some of Coronado’s earliest films, explore Coronado’s Cinema Hall of Fame, and get to know Marilyn Monroe by viewing her clothes, photographs, and papers.”

When Marilyn Met Tab Hunter

Actor Tab Hunter, one of the great Hollywood heartthrobs of the 1950s, has died aged 86. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York, he moved to California with his mother as a child, and lied about his age to join the U.S. Coast Guard at fifteen. He began acting in 1950, winning his breakthrough role in wartime drama Battle Cry five years later. Rumours of his homosexuality were first reported in Confidential magazine, but didn’t dent his burgeoning career as a teen idol. Over the next four years he was Warner Brothers’ most popular male star, with roles in Damn Yankees (1958), and They Came to Cordura (1959.) He also enjoyed a No. 1 hit single with ‘Young Love’ in 1957, and was given his own TV show.

From the 1960s onward Hunter also acted onstage, and starred in spaghetti westerns before returning to Hollywood in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972.) He later became a favorite of independent filmmaker John Waters, and made two films with legendary drag queen Divine. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, he spoke openly about the challenges he faced as a gay actor under the Hollywood studio system. The book inspired a documentary of the same name, and a biopic is currently in development.

Cover to Cover: Tab Hunter and Marilyn in the Chilean magazine, ‘Ecran’ (1957))

Just five years younger than Marilyn, Tab Hunter was also judged by his striking good looks during his early career and had to struggle to prove his talent ( a 2016 article on The Wow Report website even describes him as ‘the male Marilyn Monroe’.) In  2011, Tab spoke to Monroe expert Scott Fortner about (among other things) an encounter with Hollywood’s other favourite blonde, as recalled on the MM Collection Blog:

“I of course asked Mr. Hunter if he’d ever met Marilyn Monroe, and their paths did cross in the early 1950s at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both were there for a Hollywood event, and upon meeting, Mr. Hunter told Marilyn, ‘I loved you in Clash By Night. No one wears a pair of Levis like you,’ to which Marilyn replied, (spoken in Mr. Hunter’s best Marilyn impersonation) ‘Thank you, Tab.'”

Marilyn Fans Respond to Celebrity Deaths

This last week has seen at least three suicides among people in the public eye, including fashion designer Kate Spade, chef Anthony Bourdain, and Inés Zorreguieta, younger sister of the Dutch Queen. Perhaps inevitably, this tragic news has led to some rather irresponsible headlines about an alleged epidemic, with some journalists citing the reported spike in suicides among young American women shortly after Marilyn’s death.

Marilyn’s death was ruled a ‘probable suicide’, although wild rumours and conspiracy theories have abounded ever since. While I personally would never rule out any possibility, having studied the evidence over many years I consider it highly unlikely that Marilyn was murdered. (This is my own opinion, and I don’t presume to speak for the membership of Everlasting Star.)

The recent unfortunate events have led to some soul-searching within the Marilyn fan community, and a serious examination of the mental health problems she faced. At the same time, an excellent article in the latest issue of American History explores her addiction to prescribed drugs, now the leading cause of death in Americans aged under 50 (see here.)

Psychotherapist Gary Vitacco Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, discusses these issues in a new blog post, ‘Myth-Busting Suicide.’

“I hear the public reactions to a publicized suicide such as, ‘He seemed happy’ and ‘She was planning for the future.’ The suicide seems incongruent with a recent, apparently positive mood state. However, people are at higher risk when they appear to being doing well and planning for the future. They now have the energy to complete the suicide which they didn’t have when they were experiencing major depressive symptoms.”

Scott Fortner addresses Marilyn’s death specifically on his MM Collection Blog today:

“In spite of the evidence that proves she died of an overdose of prescription drugs consumed orally, conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death are plentiful … Sadly though, these conspiracy theories, in a way, help keep her legend alive. Fans simply can’t accept the fact it was either intentional or accidental, and I am regularly surprised at the frequency in which people I talk to bring up, and believe, the outrageous theories.”

Over at Immortal Marilyn, Leslie Kasperowicz believes that fans need to confront these issues openly to support those at risk and end the stigma of suicide.

“Marilyn’s death could have – should have – been one of the biggest blows to that stigma.  But instead, by choosing to look for conspiracies and murder, we took away her impact.  An impact that may have helped the people named above and so, so many others, had we let the blow fall.  Who were we protecting?  Not Marilyn. She is already beyond protection.”

Marilyn Remembered at Hollygrove

The water tower on the former RKO lot, as seen by a young Marilyn at Hollygrove

Hollygrove, the family service centre offering help to Los Angeles children suffering from trauma – and formerly the orphanage where Marilyn stayed as a child – hosted its annual Norma Jean Gala this weekend, raised over $400,000.00 for Uplift Family Services at Camp Hollygrove programs for at-risk youth. The gala was attended by celebrities including Busy Philips and Colin Hanks, and items of Marilyn’s wardrobe from the collections of Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner were also on display. You can read more about the event at the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group.

Korea Veteran Takes the Cake With Marilyn

A veteran army cook has spotted himself in a photo with Marilyn in Korea during her 1954 tour, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Jerry Karthauser at top left, plus other photos taken during Marilyn’s visit to Seoul, South Korea

“If an Army cook meets Marilyn Monroe and doesn’t have a photo to prove it, did it really happen?

For 63 years now, Jerry Karthauser has been insisting it’s true. He fed lunch to the stunning starlet when she showed up in Korea to entertain the troops.

His wife, Mary, has heard the tale plenty of times. ‘He had a kiss from her, he cooked for her, and for all these 60-plus years, people were just sort of yeah, yeah, yeah,’ she said.

Well, now the 85-year-old Thiensville man finally has photographic evidence of their meeting, and it came in dramatic style during a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to the war memorials in Washington, D.C., last Friday.

Jerry’s son, Brad of Kansas City, tracked down the photo on the internet where it was hiding in plain sight. He had it framed and placed in the mailbag that each veteran on the Honor Flight receives on the ride home.

Turns out Jerry was embellishing a bit. ‘I always claim I got a kiss on my right cheek, but I think that’s a fable,’ the retired wholesale florist now admits.

Knowing the Honor Flight was coming up, Brad widened his search and found the photo of Jerry, Marilyn and another soldier. They’re all eating cake in the black-and-white pic.

‘She’s looking at me directly, and I’m looking at her,’ Jerry told me.

‘She’s actually flirting with him. It’s really quite a picture,’ Mary said.

Jerry was single at the time, February of 1954, and assigned to headquarters company 2nd Infantry Division near Seoul, South Korea. The mess hall denizens had sent Marilyn a hand-drawn invitation to lunch.

Many photos of that tour exist. Jerry, who grew up in Thiensville, was told the one taken of him would be sent to his hometown newspaper, but he doesn’t think it ever ran around here. Jerry captured a few snapshots of Marilyn during the visit, but he’s not in them because selfies were not a thing yet.

Jerry remembers Marilyn as friendly, accommodating and ‘really beautiful.’

‘She stood outside on a Jeep and signed autographs for a long, long time. It was a cold day. I remember that. She had a flight jacket on,’ he said.

Stunned by receiving the elusive photo on the Honor Flight, Jerry passed it around for others to see. Now, it will have a place of honor at home, and Mary denies she’s the slightest bit jealous when she looks at her husband and Marilyn Monroe making eyes.

‘It’s a nice story because it’s 60-plus years in the making,’ she said.”

UPDATE: In 2016, MM expert Scott Fortner purchased the hand-drawn invitation to Marilyn from the 2nd Infantry Division mentioned in the article. More info here.

Another day, another cake!

Bill Pursel 1925-2017

Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn during the early years of her career, has died aged 91, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“William Albert Lloyd Pursel was born July 24, 1925, in Marshalltown, Iowa. His family moved to Las Vegas in 1939. After graduating from Las Vegas High School, class of 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in The European Theatre during World War II. He became a sales manager for KLAS Radio and covered several atomic bomb explosions at the Nevada Test Site. He was a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant with The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company. He was president of The Life Underwriters Association of Nevada. He was active in The Las Vegas Jr. Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of The Sports Car Club of America in So Nevada, a charter member of Trinity United Methodist Church, and belonged to both the Masonic Lodge and the Elks Lodge. He served two-four year terms as a trustee at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital (UMC).”

Snapshots given to Bill Pursel by Marilyn in 1947

Bill’s memories of Marilyn – they dated on and off for several years – were unknown to to the public until he spoke with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. They met in 1946, when 19 year-old Norma Jeane was staying with a family friend in Las Vegas while waiting her divorce from Jim Dougherty. Bill later visited her in Los Angeles, and was waiting at the house she shared with Ana Lower when she returned from a meeting at Twentieth Century Fox with a contract and a new name.

She was dropped by the studio a year later, but pursued her craft at the Actors Lab, even once asking college student Bill to enroll. They remained close after she began a romance with Fred Karger in 1948, and she later asked Bill to protect her from a ‘beach wolf’ – none other than actor Peter Lawford, who would play a significant role in her final days. Bill saw her as both dedicated and vulnerable in Hollywood, recalling a distressing phonecall during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949. And then, just as their relationship seemed likely to turn serious, Marilyn called it off – leaving Bill with nothing but a couple of signed photos (now owned by collector Scott Fortner.)

Marilyn’s parting gift to Bill

Bill heard from Marilyn just once more, shortly after she began dating Joe DiMaggio. By then, Bill was happily married. He later recalled seeing her singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy on television, just months before her death in 1962. He felt no bitterness, and knowing her sensitive nature, he was saddened but not surprised by her tragic demise.

Mr Pursel died last Thursday, June 1st – on what would have been Marilyn’s 91st birthday. He is survived by his wife of more than sixty years, Mabel ‘Mac’ Salisbury Pursel; and his children, William ‘Bill’, Kristie, and Kim (‘Bill’) Toffelmire, her stepchildren and their children, and several nieces and nephews.

Michelle Morgan has written an emotional tribute to Bill Pursel:

“He has been a constant presence in my life since 2005, when I first contacted him during the writing of my Marilyn book. What started out as an interview, turned into a friendship between Bill, his beautiful wife Mac, his family and my own … My work has been deeply enriched because of Bill’s stories, and my life has been changed because of his friendship. He was a huge supporter of my career, and gave me lots of advice in recent years … Good night, Bill. Thank you for your wonderful friendship. You were one of the best friends I ever had.”

You can pay your respects to Bill here.

Collecting Marilyn’s Medical Mysteries

Over at Atlas Obscura, Eve Kahn explores the darker side of celebrity memorabilia, and the market for medical items such as pillboxes, prescriptions and X-Rays of stars like Marilyn who died in unusual circumstances.

“Scott Fortner, a major buyer and scholar of Marilyn Monroe’s former possessions who loans widely to museums, owns bottles for her prescription eye drops and anti-allergy pills. He has bought related paperwork, too … Because of his focus on objects that she owned, he says, he is not much interested in medical records such as her chest x-rays that hospital staff may have taken home. And he would firmly draw the line against acquiring anything invasive, prurient and morbid …

Fortner points out that there is plenty of other illuminating and emotionally powerful material to collect instead, which she would have wanted her fans to know about. Throughout her tumultuous career, while shedding husbands and movie personas again and again, she somehow remembered to preserve her own memorabilia down to the drugstore receipts and eyedroppers. ‘She saved everything,’ Fortner says. ‘She didn’t throw anything away.'”

Fake News: Marilyn, Yves and a ‘Secret Pregnancy’

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A series of gorgeous colour photos taken by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, whose incredible archive of candid snapshots were auctioned at Julien’s in November 2016, were published in yesterday’s Daily Mail. The images show Marilyn arriving for test shots for The Misfits in New York in July 1960.

Unfortunately – and all too predictably – the pictures are accompanied by a salacious and frankly unbelievable story. Marilyn’s belly is rather prominent in the photos, and Tony Michaels – a Las Vegas casino croupier who befriended the late Frieda Hull, and purchased the images at auction – claims that Marilyn was secretly pregnant at the time, by her Let’s Make Love co-star Yves Montand.

That Marilyn and Yves had an affair is not in doubt, and of course they were both married to other people. However, a pregnancy at this time has never been mentioned, and Marilyn’s daily routine is extremely well-documented. To casual observers her protruding tummy may look like a baby bump, but seasoned fans have noticed many similar images of her over the years.

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Furthermore, Marilyn was a very private person and it would be out of character for her to have confided in a teenage fan. Frieda Hull never sought publicity and it seems all too convenient that such a story would emerge only after her death. It has also been debunked by Scott Fortner, who helped to catalogue the recent Julien’s sale in which these photos were featured, on his MM Collection blog; and by Immortal Marilyn.

Could this be an early frontrunner for the most ridiculous Marilyn headline of 2017? It is interesting to note that the Daily Mail was recently blacklisted by Wikipedia for ‘poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication.’

Marilyn at Julien’s: Style and Beauty

Marilyn in costume for 'The Prince and the Showgirl'
Marilyn in costume for ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.

4B0C4B67-95B1-4697-9B6F-7F99625E3A20-16590-000008CBD9507BCC_tmpSeveral other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.

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Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.

Green lace blouse, from 'Bus Stop'
Green lace blouse, from ‘Bus Stop’

Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.

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These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.

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John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.

Marilyn’s personal diet plan and skincare regime are available in full.

“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.

Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”

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These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)

In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.

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That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.

04CE929F-E2C5-4041-B63B-5942E77CBE29-16590-000008F3381F1DE9_tmpFinally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.

Marilyn at Julien’s in November

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The full catalogue for the upcoming Marilyn-only event at Julien’s Auctions is now online. Among the 1,015 items on offer are movie costumes from the collection of David Gainsborough Roberts; rare candid photos formerly owned by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull; and personal property from the Lee Strasberg estate.

Some items were previously sold at Christie’s in 1999, while various  writings, drawings and correspondence have been published in books like Fragments, MM Personal and GirlWaiting. However, there is still a great deal of unseen material, yielding fresh insight into Marilyn’s life and times.

In advance of the auction in Beverly Hills on November 17 the Happy Birthday dress will be on display for one week only from tomorrow at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware in County Kildare, Ireland.

ES Updates will be covering all aspects of the sale, including a series of detailed posts about what’s on offer. You can also read an article about it on Immortal Marilyn now, while Scott Fortner will be interviewing Anna Strasberg at his MM Collection blog on November 1.