Remembering Marilyn at the Waldorf

Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered
Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered

This clipping from the UK’s Sunday Times, posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered, marks the closure of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. One of the city’s landmarks, it is being converted into private apartments after more than a century in business. The article incorrectly states that Marilyn lived there with Arthur Miller. However, her 1955 residency coincided with the beginning of their romance.

She also met FBI head J. Edgar Hoover at the Banshee Luncheon in the hotel that year. Ironically, Hoover closely monitored her relationship with Miller. Many of Marilyn’s personal writings, later published in Fragments, were written on the Waldorf’s headed notepaper.

After her marriage in 1956, she used the suite as an office for her production company. She continued to make public appearances at the Waldorf, including a rare radio interview following the premiere of Baby Doll in December 1956, and a turn on the catwalk at a fundraiser for the March of Dimes in January 1957. The photo above shows Marilyn dining with Miller and financier Winthrop Aldrich at the April In Paris Ball, also held at the Waldorf in 1957.

Marilyn at Julien’s: The Lois Weber Collection

1131DD7C-BC49-46C0-A63C-11B090E06855-8035-000005A453120A91_tmp

Lois Smith, publicist to Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and others, died in 2012, aged 84. “In a tough business known for steel-sharp elbows,” her New York Times obituary read, “Ms. Smith stood out for being nurturing. She was at the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s kittens...”

Born Lois Eileen Wollenweber of Brooklyn in 1928, she began working for publicist Ted Saucier in the 1950s. His most famous client was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he and Lois recruited celebrities who had come there to escape Hollywood’s crumbling studio system. One of them was Marilyn, who lived there for several months after moving to New York in 1955.

Lois later married journalist Gene Smith, and formed Pickwick Public Relations with Pat Newcomb – Marilyn’s publicist at the time of her death – in 1969. A number of items in the current Julien’s sale, ending today, come from her estate (under the name of Lois Weber.)

913DA5EE-5308-48CC-B70B-64D601DE8A3C-18750-00000AA7FECF4021_tmp

This photo was taken by Hans Knopf on February 22, 1956, when Marilyn was walking to Cecil Beaton’s studio for their famous session. Lois, who accompanied her that morning, is generally cropped out of the picture.

D8EA3D74-252E-4B54-BFF9-DDAF04360D36-18750-00000AB1F169D8A2_tmp

Two other photos taken by Knopf that day show Marilyn and Lois getting into a taxi cab en route to lunch at the Ambassador Hotel with society columnist Elsa Maxwell.

37C9B364-2749-4AB4-8748-779129E13593-18750-00000AB1C96B7B73_tmp

Interestingly, some copies of the candid photos taken by Frieda Hull and other members of the ‘Monroe Six’ were also in Lois’ possession. The young fans gave each other copies of their photos, so perhaps they shared a few with her as well.

A 32-page transcript of Marilyn’s 1960 interview with George Belmont, submitted by Lois to Look magazine, is also on offer. Perhaps the most significant items from her estate, however, are the many beautiful photos, negatives and colour transparencies from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. Marilyn exercised a strict  approval process over all images, and relegated these to a ‘Kill’ folder.

D62503BE-D751-4465-92E3-D0B4866E9A6B-1016-000000CC8868F25A_tmp

‘Precognition’: Pareno’s Marilyn in Paris

Philippe Parreno - Marilyn

Artist Philippe Pareno‘s 2012 video installation,, set in Marilyn’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel suite is now on display as part of an exhibition, ‘Anywhere, Anywhere Out of the World’, at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, reports The Guardian‘s Adrian Searle:

“Why the tears? My own moment came when watching Parreno’s 2012 film Marilyn. Monroe’s voice, recreated by computer, takes us on a tour of the hotel suite where she lived in the late 1950s. What Marilyn sees, the camera sees. We watch through her eyes. Sunlight falls into the room. Rain beats at the window. Sometimes the camera swerves along with Marilyn’s frantic glances, her growing sense of hysteria and entrapment. Her eyes snag on the corners of things, the light glancing cruelly on polished surfaces. The studied normality of the room becomes a prison. The cushions, too perfectly arranged at either end of a sofa, look like a dumb rebuke. Her solitude seems terrible. The telephone rings but goes unanswered.

Towards the end, the camera retreats from the window, gliding between the occasional tables, the slipper chairs, the lilies in the vase. The camera’s tracks appear, then some bulky electronic equipment, as we back off, revealing the room as a movie set with no one in it. As the film ends, lights go up on the other side of the screen where the film has been projected, to reveal a huge snowdrift beyond. The temperature plummets. The sound of the rain we heard in the film is unabated.

This moment is somehow intensely moving. We are in a set too, just as Marilyn was. What is this subterranean drift of real snow in the Palais de Tokyo’s basement? Ice in the soul? Death? Are we in Marilyn’s mind or is she in ours? I begin to notice other piles of snow around the auditorium, like the shovelled-up slush you see on winter New York sidewalks.

When you buy a ticket for the show you get given a DVD of Marilyn. It can only be played once, because the dvd erases itself as you watch it, leaving you with a memory of something seen that can’t be recaptured. The DVD is called Precognition.”

Marilyn: A Lady of Letters

With Norman Rosten, 1955

A letter written by Marilyn to her poet friend, Norman Rosten, while living at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel circa 1955, is on display until December 9 at the Douglas Elliman Gallery on Madison Avenue, alongside notes penned by Joe DiMaggio, Emily Dickinson and others, reports DNAInfo. It will be auctioned by California’s Profiles in History on December 18.

A full transcript is available at Booktryst:

“Dear Norman, 

It feels a little funny to be writing the name Norman since my own name is Norma and it feels like I’m writing my own name almost, However— 

First, thanks for letting Sam [photographer and MM confidant Sam Shaw] and me visit you and Hedda last Saturday. It was nice. I enjoyed meeting your wife – she seemed so warm to me. Thanks the most for your book of poetry—with which I spent all Sunday morning in bed with. It touched me – I use to think if I had ever had a child I would have wanted only a son, but after reading –Songs for Patricia [Simon and Schuster, 1951] – I know I would have loved a little girl just as much but maybe the former feeling was only Freudian for something…anyway Frued [sic]

I use to write poetry sometimes but usually I was very depressed at those times and the few (about two) people said that it depressed them, in fact one cried but it was an old friend I’d known for years. So anyway thanks. And my best to Hedda & Patricia and you— 

Marilyn M.”

Parreno’s Marilyn Unveiled

Philippe Parreno has talked about his new video installation, now on display at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland.

“Why did you choose to make a film about Marilyn? 

Philippe Parreno: It started with a little book that a friend sent me of fragments from her notebooks—and what I liked was her handwriting.

So you were attracted by her words and her writing, and not her face or her image. 

The book was published because this year people are celebrating her death, and in my work I am interested in celebration. I was interested in the idea of celebrating a dead person, of trying to portray a ghost. Why are ghosts interesting? Because they are unfinished, heterogenous. Marilyn Monroe represents the first time that the unconscious killed the person—her image killed her. So we had to use an image to bring her back. The film is the portrait of a phantom incarnated in an image. Or, to use a neologism, an attempt to produce a “carnated” image.

The film is almost the opposite of your Zidane film, in which one person is scrutinised for 90 minutes. Marilyn is shot from her point of view, but you never see her: you see her writing and hear her voice, but these are generated by machines. 

Yes, there is an uncanniness to the whole mise-en-scène…the camera becomes her eyes looking around the room.

Your fictitious evocation of Marilyn’s room at the Waldorf Astoria is also very cinematic. 

The idea of cinema as exhibition is another aspect. The room at the Astoria that I have recreated is basically an exhibition space, so when you enter the room at the Beyeler, you will have the feeling that you are entering two exhibition spaces, one containing the other.”

Read interview in full at The Art Newspaper

Wallis Simpson, Elsa Maxwell and Marilyn

Marilyn and Elsa Maxwell, 1957

According to That Woman: A Life of Wallis Simpson – Duchess of Windsor, a new biography by Anne Sebba, the American socialite whose affair with Edward VIII, England’s king, led to his abdication in 1936, was peeved when, in the 1950s, her fame was eclipsed by Marilyn Monroe.

An extract published in the New York Times reveals that Monroe and the Duchess – two of the last century’s most famous women – shared a mutual acquaintance in the writer and society hostess, Elsa Maxwell.

‘Charles Pick, the publisher, had several meetings with the duchess, whom he described as “a rather brittle, hard and vain person.” Having been warned in advance by the Foreign Office not to refer to her as Her Royal Highness, he was on his guard when they first met. She was, he recalled, lying on a chaise longue, with a large box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates within reach. “As she rose to greet me, her opening remark was: ‘Can you tell me who Marilyn Monroe’s publicity agent is? I have all the newspapers each day, and I was generally on the front page. But now I see that Marilyn Monroe is. . . . Well, somebody has pushed me off.’ ”

Elsa Maxwell, the gossip columnist and party hostess who got to know Wallis after the war, had a very public falling out with her partly in connection with jealousy over Marilyn Monroe stealing headlines. They eventually reconciled, but not before Maxwell previewed “The Heart Has Its Reasons,” pointing out that the duchess “seeks to compensate for all she hoped for and lost with an almost feverish pursuit of pleasure. . . . Many of the things she has done in this search, largely because of the high-handed, selfish way in which she has done them, have contributed to her final frustration — the fact that the Windsors’ prestige is not what it used to be and the Windsors’ romantic aura is sadly diminished.”’

Maxwell interviews Marilyn, 1956

Marilyn lunched with Maxwell at the Waldorf-Astoria in February 1956. Though Maxwell had followed Monroe’s earlier career with enthusiasm, she was highly critical of the star’s decision to walk out on her studio in 1955.

The formidable Maxwell also disapproved of the skimpy black cocktail dress worn by Monroe on their lunch date. Nonetheless, their interview was published in Modern Screen in July, with a headline quote from MM: ‘I’ll Never Be the Same’.

Maxwell at the launch of Monroe's production company, 1955

St Vincent Inspired by Marilyn’s Writing

 

St Vincent – aka musician Annie Erin Clark – performed ‘Surgeon’, a song inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s writings, now available as a free download from her forthcoming album, Strange Mercy, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday, reports the Times:

‘St. Vincent ended her concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday night with an emotionally complicated plea. “Best, finest surgeon,” she sang coolly, fingers skittering along the neck of her guitar. “Come cut me open.”

The song was “Surgeon,” with lyrics inspired by an entry in Marilyn Monroe’s diary, and St. Vincent made its queasy hunger feel palpable, even, somehow, during the mounting vulgarity of the synth-guitar solo that she used as a coda.

Surgery isn’t a bad metaphor for the process by which St. Vincent, a k a Annie Clark, creates her music. But she’s rarely if ever the one being operated on. What she does is traumatic but controlled, unsentimental but not uncaring. She can seem clinical, but she knows what she’s doing in there.’

The song is based on a piece published in Fragments, the 2010 collection of Marilyn’s writing. It was written on Waldorf-Astoria stationary (MM lived at the hotel in 1955.)

This may be an account of a dream. It is filled with characters from Marilyn’s life at the time – Lee Strasberg, Arthur Miller, Milton Greene, Dr Hohenberg, the Rostens – and suggests Marilyn’s intense fear of not living up to their expectations.

Like many of Marilyn’s undefined pieces, it has the quality of a prose poem. The bolded parts denote spelling anomalies, while the crossings-out are her own.

Best finest surgeon – Strasberg

waits to cut me open which I don’t mind since Dr H

has prepared me – given me anesthetic

and has also diagnosed the case and

agrees with what has to be done –

an operation – to bring myself back to

life and to cure me of this terrible dis-ease

whatever the hell it is –

Arthur is the only one waiting in the outer

room – worrying and hoping operation successful

for many reasons – for myself – for his play and

for himself indirectly

Hedda – concerned – keeps calling on phone during

operation – Norman – keeps stopping by hospital to

see if I’m okay but mostly to comfort Art

who is so worried –

Milton calls from office with lots of room

and everything in good taste – and is conducting

business in a new way with style – and music

is playing and he is relaxed and enjoying himself even if he

is very worried at the same time – there’s a camera

on his desk but he doesn’t take pictures anymore except

of great paintings.

Strasberg cuts me open after Dr. H gives me

anesthesia and tries in a medical way to comfort

me – everything in the room is white in fact but I

can’t even see anyone just white objects –

they cut me open – Strasberg with Hohenberg’s ass.

and there is absolutely nothing there – Strasberg is

deeply disappointed but more even – academically amazed

that he had made such a mistake. He thought there was going

to be so much – more than he had dreamed possible in

almost anyone but

instead there was absolutely nothing – devoid of

every human living feeling thing – the only thing

that came out was so finely cut sawdust – like

out of a raggedy ann doll – and the sawdust spills

all over the floor & table and Dr. H is puzzled

because suddenly she realizes that this is a

new type case of puple. The patient (pupil – or student – I started to write) existing of complete emptiness

Strasberg’s hopes & dreams for theater are fallen.

Dr H’s dreams and hopes for a permanent psychiatric cure

is given up – Arthur is disappointed – let down +