‘Forever Marilyn’ in Reading, PA

One of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculptures is currently greeting visitors to Reading Public Museum in Pennsylvania. (As reported last month, another of these statues is now in the foyer of the R.W. Norton Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana.) And it’s not the first time an iconic Monroe image has come to Reading. Back in 2012, a screening of My Week With Marilyn at the Goggleworks cinema was accompanied by a guest appearance from Monroe collector Gene London, who brought along Marilyn’s dress from The Prince and the Showgirl (one of several copies made, as she wore the same dress for most of the movie.)

Thanks to Eiji Aoki

‘Forever Marilyn’ in Stamford, Connecticut

The world’s media has been eager to report on the alleged controversy caused by the summer-long installation of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn‘ at Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut. The sculpture, inspired by the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, shows Marilyn’s dress blowing in the wind – and its placement has her rear end facing a local church.

Although the headlines would have us believe that the church’s response has been one of puritanical outrage, the reality is more nuanced – with even the harshest critics stating that it wasn’t Marilyn herself that they found distasteful, but the overtly sexual way in which she is depicted.

“I just find the position to be offensive,” local resident Lorri Tamburro told the Stamford Advocate. “I looked at it and it was, in my eyes, very disrespectful. I think because with what I saw with all the little kids looking up, the height is ruining it. It’s ruining beautiful Marilyn.”

Parishioner Jean Meyer, however, felt differently. “You’re going to have different opinions on it, but you have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “There are bigger issues to worry about,” said another church member, Maureen Matthews. “But I’ll be interested to see how people talk about it on Sunday.”

“It is art and we don’t believe it’s offensive,” said Sandy Goldstein, who helped to organise this year’s ‘Art in Public Spaces’ exhibit. Pointing out that many nude female statues can be seen in Europe (including near churches), she added, “We absolutely mean no disrespect to the church.”

“The issue is, why that statue?” Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman of the First Congregational Church wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “Marilyn Monroe was an artist deserving our respect. Why appropriate her image in this way. Is this the best we can do?”

In a report for HuffPost, Carol Kuruvilla spoke with Yonkman:

“He said he understands the statue is a ‘piece of art’ that is ‘designed to make the viewer uncomfortable … It makes me uncomfortable,’ Yonkman told HuffPost in an email. ‘The question for each one of us is, What will you do with your discomfort? I am choosing grace.’.

Yonkman said he and his congregation, which is part of the progressive mainline Protestant denomination the United Church of Christ, don’t plan on taking any action about the placement of the statue. Instead, they want to use it as an opportunity to connect with their community.

The church has been planning to host a Pride event in Latham Park to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. ‘Marilyn is a gay icon, so it turns out that this may be a fortuitous coincidence,’ Yonkman wrote.”

‘Forever Marilyn’ Heads to Connecticut

‘Forever Marilyn’ assembled for a previous stay in Bendigo Park, Australia (2016)

Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, Forever Marilyn, is coming to Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut this summer, as part of an outdoor art exhibition, Seward Johnson: Timeless, as Annette Einhorn reports for Hamlet Hub. You can read more about the exhibit and other events (including a screening of The Seven Year Itch at the Avon Film Centre on June 7) here.

“The installation will begin on Monday, June 4 when a crane will lift the 26-foot, 30,000 pound Marilyn, in various parts, high into the air before she is assembled in place in Latham Park in Stamford Downtown. The opportunity to capture photos of the flying sculpture parts; legs, torso, skirt, will be from 10:30am to 2pm.

The monumental Forever Marilyn, sponsored by Avon Theatre Film Center, from the Icons Revisited Collection, is just one of 36 sculptures that will be on display in Stamford Downtown. 35 life-size, realistic sculptures from Seward Johnson’s Celebrating the Familiar series will also be on display as part of UC Funds presents Timeless – The Works of Seward Johnson for the Summer of 2018. Installation of the life-size works begins May 30.

The exhibition will kick off with an opening night celebration on Wednesday, June 6, hosted by Stamford Downtown. The event will be held at the Palace Theatre at 61 Atlantic Street from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Trolley tours are set to run throughout the evening, offering guests a chance to view many of the sculptures.”

Marilyn Inspires Female Filmmakers

Sophia Sebiskveradze in ‘The Confession’

Marilyn’s iconic role in Some Like It Hot is referenced in Georgian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s The Confession, which has just premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, as Daniel Hensel reports for Michigan Daily.

The Confession follows a preacher, Giorgi, and his assistant, Valiko,  as they fill in at a church in a town after the local preacher dies. They bring with them American DVDs and a projector to show in the church, believing that if the townspeople come for the movies, they’ll come to church.

The film series begins with Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder classic with Marilyn Monroe, leading a number of the villagers to note that one of the women in the village, a music teacher named Lili (Sophia Sebiskveradze, My Dad’s Girlfriend), looks an awful lot like the blonde bombshell herself. And sure enough, though she is far from identical, Lili’s styled platinum blonde hair makes a compelling case. Lili and Father Giorgi become friendly, with the preacher encouraging her to come to a confession, where she notes not her sins but rather her place in the village: since her husband’s death, many men lust after her, but she’s not interested in loveless sex.”

Meanwhile, Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, is featured in Angels Wear White, a new film from Chinese director Vivian Qu, the Straits Times reports.

“The sexual assault of two 12-year-old girls sets off a harrowing chain of events in the film Angels Wear White (2017). Despite the premise, there is nothing lurid or sensationalistic in Chinese film-maker Vivian Qu’s second directorial feature.

In the film, contemporary society is fraught with dangers and temptations for the young given the corrupting force of money. Qu says: ‘When everything is up for sale, how can a young girl find the right answer for herself and move forward? This has all gotten a lot more complicated.’ She was calling from London where the film was being screened at the BFI London Film Festival.

Qu notes that there are seven female characters in her film, including a giant statue of screen legend Marilyn Monroe. Though they are at different stages of life and have different attitudes towards it, she is essentially writing about women.

But it is not a reductive portrayal along the lines of ‘men are bad and women are to be pitied’. Qu says: ‘We are already in the 21st century, and yet the value of women is something that has not been been really thought about.'”

Marilyn Sculpture in Cairo Controversy

A large sculpture of Marilyn, currently on display outside the Cairo Opera House, has stirred up controversy, reports Egypt Independent. Recreating the famous ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, Ehab al-Asyuti’s sculpture seems derivative of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’, and some observers have deemed her likeness less than flattering. But while she probably won’t be replacing the Sphinx anytime soon, Marilyn has made quite the comeback – her films were banned in Egypt after she married Arthur Miller and converted to Judaism in 1956.

‘Forever Marilyn’ Set For Palm Springs Return

Photo by Klaus Tuehaus

In August, it was rumoured that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, would be making a permanent return to Palm Springs. This was recently confirmed by the Desert Sun: however, plans for a temporary home at the Spa Casino as soon as November have been scrapped, and the statue will now take up residence at a new downtown park, close to the city’s art museum and due for completion sometime next year.

Fact Check: Marilyn in Palm Springs

Marilyn in Palm Springs, 1949 (Photo by Bruno Bernard)

Following the recent news that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn‘, may soon make a permanent return to Palm Springs, another more spurious story has emerged. Last week, it was widely reported that Marilyn’s former home in Palm Springs had been burgled. However, while Marilyn visited the resort many times, there is no evidence of her ever living there. Bruce Fessier has investigated the rumour for the Desert Sun.

“Aftab Dada, a hotelier and head of the P.S. Resorts organization charged with finding ways to attract tourists to Palm Springs, says [the statue] may be placed in front of the Spa Resort Casino before hopefully landing in the downtown park being developed near Desert Fashion Plaza, where it attracted voyeurs with cameras for 22 months before going on the road again.

Dada, who also runs the Palm Springs Hilton Hotel, is now trying to raise money to ‘bring Forever Marilyn back to Palm Springs where she belongs.’ City spokeswoman Amy Blaisdell says it belongs here because ‘Marilyn Monroe has a rich history in Palm Springs.’

‘She once owned a home in the city’s Movie Colony neighborhood,’ Blaisdell said in a news release, ‘and she was first discovered by her Hollywood agent at the historic Racquet Club.’

Frankly, I don’t think she ever owned a home in Palm Springs. Blaisdell told me Marilyn and her second husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, owned a place on Rose Avenue. That’s actually in the Las Palmas district, but, besides that, my sources say it’s not true. I asked Blaisdell where she got her information and she said Dada — the guy in charge of drawing tourists to Palm Springs.

Dada says he learned about Monroe and DiMaggio’s Palm Springs’ roots from the heads of the private equity firm KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts). Founding partners Henry Kravis and George Roberts used to stay at the Hilton …They hung out with DiMaggio and his granddaughter, Paula Hamra, in the Hilton hospitality lounge when the Yankee Clipper used to play in the Dinah, Dada said, and DiMaggio told them he and Marilyn once owned a Palm Springs home.

I looked up Hamra on Facebook. She’s one of two daughters of the late son DiMaggio had with his first wife, Dorothy Arnold, who ran Charcoal Charlie’s restaurant in Cathedral City in the late 1960s and ‘70s. She also led Cathedral City’s incorporation efforts as president of their chamber of commerce from 1973 to 1975.

Hamra didn’t respond to my Facebook message, but Dada said photographer Marc Glassman took a picture of him with the KKR boys and DiMaggio. So I called Glassman and told him I was trying to track down the mystery of whether or not Monroe and DiMaggio had ever owned a home in Palm Springs. I said Dada told me Glassman had taken a photograph of him with DiMaggio and the KKR heads at a Dinah Shore golf reception at the Hilton when DiMaggio mentioned he and Monroe had owned a  Palm Springs house. Glassman confirmed he had taken a picture of them at the Hilton.

‘Unfortunately,’ he deadpanned, ‘no one was wearing a picture on their lapel of DiMaggio and Marilyn in front of their Palm Springs home.’

So I started checking the rumors of Marilyn and DiMaggio owning a house on Rose Avenue. The Internet abounds with reports saying Marilyn lived there … Public records show the house was built in 1961 – one year before Marilyn died … and six years after she and DiMaggio divorced. The house was owned by Audrey Blanchard for more than 40 years until her death in May at age 94. On Dec. 12, 2008, her attorney, Philip S. Klatchko of the Palm Springs firm of Klatchko & Klatchko, contacted the owner of Locations Unlimited, Sylvia Schmitt, demanding she cease and desist spreading the erroneous information that Monroe once lived at Blanchard’s house.

‘In recent months, she has had numerous people come to her front door claiming that her home had been identified by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce or its representatives as having once been owned or occupied by Marilyn Monroe,’ Klatchko wrote to Schmitt (then Jenette) a day after talking to her. ‘This claim or assertion is absolutely false and the people coming to her door are an annoyance and a nuisance.’

Tour buses were regularly stopping in front of Blanchard’s home, Klatchko said, and erroneously calling it Monroe’s house. Postcard manufacturers and other businesses were doing the same.

‘After full discussions with those local business entities … they each agreed to stop their reference to Mrs. (sic) Monroe,’ Klatchko wrote. ‘The matter had been laid to rest because in fact there was no truth to the allegation. It has only been more recently that the unwanted visitors to the home have started reappearing.’

Schmitt, who books celebrity homes for movie shoots and rentals, took the reference to Monroe’s house out of her map of celebrity homes. But she probably wasn’t the source of the problem. She says she gained her information from the tour guides who trained her. She passed along one hilarious story of a man who just made up stories as he went along. But more conduits of misinformation simply convey stories that haven’t been thoroughly vetted…

Unfortunately, the city is still perpetuating these myths and now someone is paying for it. Last week, someone burglarized the Blanchard house. TMZ reported it was Monroe’s place and a local TV station repeated that error.”

Will Marilyn Return ‘Forever’ to Palm Springs?

Last seen in Bendigo Park, Australia, Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, may soon make a permanent return to Palm Springs, California, due to its immense popularity with local residents and tourists during a two-year stay from 2012-14, as Palm Springs Life reports.

“The sculpture, which is currently owned by the New Jersey-based Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., would potentially reside in the City’s proposed new downtown park currently under construction.

P.S. Resorts is currently negotiating a title sponsorship agreement with the RumChata Foundation to cover half the cost of bringing the sculpture back to Palm Springs and working on a plan to acquire the additional funds needed for the purchase through private donations.

Marilyn Monroe has a rich history in Palm Springs. She once owned a home in the city’s Movie Colony neighborhood and she was first discovered by her Hollywood agent at the historic Racquet Club.

‘Forever Marilyn was a wildly successful tourism booster for our destination,’ according to Mary Jo Ginther, Director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. ‘Marilyn has traveled to other cities, but no other city has embraced her with as much love and appreciation as Palm Springs. We are thrilled she may soon return again to forever become a part of the magic that makes our city like no place else.’

To donate, visit www.DonateForeverMarilyn.com to make a contribution.”

Marilyn at 90: Fans Pay Tribute

Westwood photos by Jackie Craig

Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.

Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…

And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)

The L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived.  Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity  has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.

Immortal Marilyn listed 90 Marvellous Marilyn Moments on their blog, and compiled a fan-focused tribute video. In Bendigo Park, Australia, staff member Marisa left a memento at the feet of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture,  ‘Forever Marilyn‘.

Many other fansites, like All About Marilyn and Marilyn Mexico, were also in celebratory mood.

Mexico loves Marilyn…

Snapchat users (including reality TV star Kim Kardashian) got busy with a special Marilyn Monroe filter…

The Milton Greene Archive shared this previously unpublished photo of Marilyn with a canine friend, originally taken for a Life magazine spread on Asian gowns in 1955.

The estate of Sam Shaw remembered a ‘dear friend.’

Two of Marilyn’s most respected biographers, Michelle Morgan and Gary Vitacco-Robles, paid their respects via social media.

 

Novelist Megan Abbott chose her favourite photo of Marilyn.

The estate of Humphrey Bogart also remembered her fondly…

Artists Alejandro Mogollo and Ileana Hunter shared Marilyn-inspired pieces.

Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt

And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.

“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”