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Book Review: Marilyn Norma Jeane by Gloria Steinem

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Marilyn: Norma Jeane

By Gloria Steinem

Photographs by George Barris

1986 Henry Holt and Company

ISBN 0805000607


By this time you realize that there are literally countless books focused on the life, career, and physical beauty of Marilyn Monroe. There have been novels, coffee table picture books, memoirs with chapters devoted to the legendary movie star, conspiracy tomes, silly books, scholarly studies, scandal books and gossipy books, books written by friends, pseudo friends, maids, even one by her dog. So this month, looking back on all these choices, I wanted to talk about one that really stands out for me, now and when it was first published.

Not your average Marilyn biographer: Gloria Steinem receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

You have to be of a certain age to fully grasp the impact Gloria Steinem’s book had when it first came out, but then one of the perks of growing older is filling in those younger on things that happened in the past when you too were young. In 1986 Gloria Steinem was in her early fifties, the icon of the feminist movement, a women of considerable intelligence who had stood at the head of a movement that had literally been changing America’s perception of women for well over twenty years. For her to have written a book about Marilyn Monroe was nearly as surprising as say, Elizabeth Warren writing a book on Taylor Swift. The author and subject just didn’t seem to mesh, the differences between them so vast that one wasn’t sure if it was a joke, a put on or a put down. The bigger surprise was that with one book Gloria Steinem presented Marilyn Monroe with the respect she’d ached for all of her life. What’s more the book forced people to stop and consider that there might be more to Marilyn than anyone had ceded her during her lifetime let alone over the twenty-four years since her death. If Gloria Steinem, THE feminist intellectual of the day, was telling us to take another look at the wiggle-giggle gal of the 1950s, maybe we’d misjudged Monroe; maybe there really was something there of depth that had escaped all the countless newspaper reporters, movie critics, gossip columnists, and moviegoers.

Mailer’s Marilyn  was the first to try to explain this. But his book, filled with incredibly gorgeous photos one after another, was, after all, written by Norman Mailer, a great intellectual, granted, but whose prose, especially when writing about Marilyn, tended to be even a bit more purple than his usual output. Mailer, love him or not, made it clear that he was infatuated with Monroe and in between his drooling wolf observations of her life, made it even more clear that he’d wanted her as badly as every male of his generation and to heck with her mind or any other qualities. That he ended his book with a contrived conspiracy theory that he’d later admitted he’d made up only because scandal sells almost as well as sex and he’d needed the money, did him and his subject a disservice.

But Steinem doesn’t share Mailer’s testosterone infused perspective. Ms. Steinem, in 1986, stated flat out that Marilyn Monroe not only deserved our respect, she deserved a second look by all those who had pooh-poohed her impact not only on American film but American culture and history. Before Steinem’s book, it was a given that the majority of women both during Marilyn’s lifetime and after held a sort of resentment against her, considered her more of a joke than an actress. Marilyn Monroe was a male fantasy, a buxom blonde with a child’s innocence, someone men joked about and elbowed their pals over while women found her somewhat vulgar and rather embarrassing.

Steinem addresses this perception directly. She admits that as a young women she did find Marilyn Monroe, in her tight dresses and cooing voice an embarrassment. But when she admitted that there was something there, something that wasn’t allowed to come through in those early 50s films, she began to view Marilyn Monroe as an incredibly strong figure who had risen to the very top of her field in a heavily male dominated industry. Most readers in 1986 tended to forget what a powerful figure Marilyn Monroe truly has been. Sure Bette Davis and others had fought their studios and helped actors break out of the studio restraints, but when Marilyn risked everything to follow her own path by deserting Hollywood and heading off to New York, she proved that a woman could be a one hell of a powerful force to reckon with.

We, in 2017, know this but it took someone of Steinem’s stature to point the fact out to Middle America. If the online groups had been around in the 1980s, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a surprise that the majority of her fans are women, that it took a feminine perspective to see beyond the moistened and parted lips, the bleached hair and perfect proportions. And that is what Steinem brought to the table. There are drawbacks to the work; like most authors covering the Monroe story in the 1980s, she too sources a lot of her research to Robert Slatzer and there’s a lot of Kennedy finger pointing, a connection that was still a major shock even ten years after it had first reached the popular press. But beyond that, Steinem brought a near lyrical sense of Marilyn, aided greatly by illustrating the majority of the book with the wonderful George Barris sessions from the summer of 1962.

Steinem could have, like Mailer, used any of the hundreds of talented photographers who had worked with Marilyn, each with their own unique perception of the ultimate star. But by using the Barris photos taken shortly before Marilyn’s passing, Steinem was able to illustrate that there was a stronger connection with the everyday woman than anyone had noticed before. Sure, Marilyn looks beautiful and desirable but she also looks like a woman in her thirties with windblown hair on a cold day at the beach. And when she and Barris got together for a second session in the Hollywood Hills, Marilyn doesn’t come across so much as the va-va-voom sex symbol of the day as an easily accessible woman of her era in her Jax slacks and Pucci jerseys.

Steinem presents a Marilyn most often overlooked– the Marilyn of 1962 rather than say 1954 or 1957. Even in 1986 the Barris photos show a woman who could easily be contemporary and that brings Steinem’s point across even stronger; there is very little difference between the hurdles and obstacles a woman alone in Hollywood faced in Marilyn’s day and the untold crap a woman has to put up with in the workplace of 1986, let alone 2017.

There’s another reason why I want to point this book out and encourage anyone who hasn’t found it yet to make an effort to do so: Steinem is a great writer. The talent she has shown in her essays for Ms. Magazine, the periodic pieces that appear in the New Yorker, or in the several collections of her work and her recent autobiography, is possibly even more evident here. The book has the feeling that Steinem  has allowed herself the sheer space to fully explore her own feelings rather than restrict herself to a single column. Let me give just one example:

“In the 1930s, when English critic Cyril Connolly proposed a definition of posterity to measure whether a writer’s work had stood the test of time, he suggested that posterity should be limited to ten years. The form and content of popular culture were changing too fast, he explained, to make any artist accountable for more than a decade.

“Since then , the pace of change had been accelerated even more. Everything from the communications revolution to multinational entertainment has altered the form of culture. Its content has been transformed by civil rights, feminism, an end to film censorship, and much more. Nonetheless, Monroe’s personal and intimate ability to inhabit our fantasies has gone right on. As I write this, she is still better known than most living movie stars, most world leaders, and most television personalities. The surprise is that she rarely has been taken seriously enough to ask why that is so.”


– David Marshall

Review: Artists in Love: Marilyn and Arthur Miller

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Artists in Love is a ten-part documentary series, produced in Italy for the satellite channel Sky Arts, and first broadcast in 2016. Among the famous couples profiled are the Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; opera singer Maria Callas’s tortured relationship with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis; plus singers Johnny Cash and June Carter, and filmmaker Federico Fellini and his actress wife, Giulietta Masina.

The eighth episode features Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Like the rest of the series, it is presented by the English actress Samantha Morton, who played a Monroe impersonator in the 2009 film, Mister Lonely. “Marilyn, like me, was brought up in foster care,” she said at the time, “so I knew what it was like not to feel safe and secure.” The eloquent guest speakers include two of Monroe’s biographers, Carl Rollyson and Michelle Morgan, and Stephen Marino, founder of the Arthur Miller Society.

Happy times early in the Monroe-Miller marriage.

When Arthur and Marilyn married in 1956, they were dubbed ‘the egghead and the hourglass’ by the press. However, a closer examination of their backgrounds shows they were not as different as it might appear. Both grew up during the Great Depression, and were late developers. Neither was an exceptional student: Arthur was athletic but showed no literary ability until he studied Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov for a high-school book report. He would recommend this novel to Marilyn, then on the cusp of stardom, when they first met in 1951.

Although there was an instant attraction, Arthur was already married with two young children. They corresponded for a while after he returned to New York. “I didn’t see him for about four years,” Marilyn recalled. “I used to think he might see me in a movie and I wanted to do my best because he had said he thought I ought to act on the stage. People who were around and who heard him, laughed, but he said, ‘No, I’m very sincere.’”

Arthur’s respect for Marilyn, and his refusal to exploit her sexually, were a contrast to the rampant misogyny in Hollywood and a mainstay of her regard for him. After she moved to New York in 1955, their romance began in earnest. Arthur, a Pulitzer-winning playwright and the toast of Broadway, was nonetheless unprepared for Marilyn’s immense fame. When he impulsively announced their engagement to the press, it came as a surprise even to her.

Over the next few years, Marilyn came closer to enjoying a settled domestic life than she had ever known. But there were tensions from the beginning, with Arthur facing creative stasis while Marilyn supported him financially. Only weeks after the wedding, Arthur is said to have expressed his frustration in a journal, which Marilyn found laid open on his desk. The gulf between his idealised love for Marilyn and the complicated reality of her struggles within the star system was difficult to bear.

On the set of The Misfits

For her part, Marilyn was desperate to have children – a lack she felt deeply – and still scarred by her own past trauma. Arthur tried to cope with his wife’s emotional distress but was disturbed by her growing addictions. By the time they worked together on one of her finest films, The Misfits, their marriage was nearly over. There is a lingering sense that both were ultimately disenchanted with each other.

Miller has been criticised for not attending Marilyn’s funeral in 1962, but he can hardly be blamed for wanting to put this unhappy experience behind him. Perhaps a more interesting quandary is how Marilyn might have responded to his portrait of the doomed Maggie in his 1964 play, After the Fall, which he had conceived during their marriage. The ghost of Marilyn would loom over his later plays, and he wrote searingly about her in his autobiography, Timebends. Public interest in this bittersweet love story shows no sign of abating, and his daughter Rebecca Miller (born after Marilyn died, to his third wife, Inge Morath) has recently completed a feature-length documentary, Arthur Miller: Writer.

Artists in Love is certainly one of the better documentaries about Marilyn’s life, although there are a few misunderstandings along the way. Some Like It Hot (1959)  is chronologically misplaced before The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for example. A famous quote from Rita Hayworth (‘Every man I have ever known has fallen in love with Gilda, and awakened with me’) is wrongly attributed to Marilyn. More seriously, her drinking problem is exaggerated, and it is even suggested that this may have caused her to lose a baby. In fact, the primary cause of her miscarriages was endometriosis. The dangers of drinking in pregnancy were not widely known at the time, and while Marilyn did sometimes drink to excess, her greatest dependency was on the drugs prescribed by her trusted doctors.

Nonetheless, Samantha Morton’s parting words are affecting. “Did Marilyn give up on herself before age could make her wiser?” she asks. “Did Miller give up on her without giving her a chance to change? Or did they both fear the inevitable ruin of the glimmering and enchanting image she presented to the world?”

Review: Dead Blondes: You Must Remember Marilyn

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“Marilyn, that icon of über-femininity, is most often compared to other dead women. Or rather, other dead women are compared to her … Whenever a glamorous young woman dies, she is compared to Marilyn Monroe, whether she was a blonde – or dumb – or not.” – Sarah Churchwell

“Like many women, I’ve been studying Marilyn Monroe my entire life,” Karina Longworth writes in the notes for her podcast, You Must Remember This. After making her name in the blogosphere, Longworth has published studies of contemporary movie icons including Meryl Streep.

No less than three classic Monroe films (Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits) are featured in Hollywood Frame by Frame, a book of contact sheets for which Longworth supplied the text. Since 2014, she has been exploring Hollywood history in her popular and influential podcast. A trilogy of episodes about Marilyn’s life and death is the centrepiece of a dedicated series, ‘Dead Blondes’, and her marriage to Arthur Miller was profiled in an earlier season, ‘The Blacklist.’

In this pantheon of dead blondes, Marilyn is preceded by Peg Entwhistle, Thelma Todd, Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake and Carole Landis; and her successors include Jayne Mansfield, Barbara Payton, Grace Kelly, Barbara Loden and Dorothy Stratten. “The title is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also incredibly literal,” Longworth told Entertainment Weekly. “There does seem to be this fascination in the wider culture with these quote-unquote ‘perfect victims,’ the beautiful woman who is taken too soon.”

The first episode, ‘Marilyn Monroe: The Beginning’, is also a repeat, from the ‘Star Wars’ season. Longworth retells the story of Norma Jeane’s unhappy childhood and rise to fame. While she certainly grew up in the shadows of Hollywood, Longworth’s deterministic view is probably overstated. Reframing old gossip from a postmodern perspective, she takes Marilyn’s rumoured promiscuity at face value, as a symptom of endemic sexual harassment. Her early films are barely mentioned, as Longworth believes that cheesecake photos (which suggested to men that Marilyn was “easily pleased,” although she actually found the whole process rather amusing), plus her deft handling of the nude calendar scandal, and a headline-grabbing romance with Joe DiMaggio played a greater part in her ascent to stardom. Mastering her own publicity, she became a “sex goddess for the people,” and by openly discussing her experiences of abuse, she projected a type of “female damage” that women understood all too well. But the guileless vulnerability which solidified her image soon became a prison.

In a decade characterised by material pleasures and sexual repression, curvaceous Marilyn represented ‘a feminine icon of plenty’, but in private, she was plagued by miscarriages and endometriosis. Ezra Goodman, in his The Fifty Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, described her, and the blonde bombshells who followed in her wake, as ‘lost souls’ whose malleable personae mirrored post-war America’s identity crisis. In ‘Marilyn Monroe: The Persona’, Longworth focuses on her initial starring roles. She gave an affecting performance in Don’t Bother to Knock, an overlooked drama which Longworth judges “both terrifying and sympathetic in its sexualised portrait of female hysteria.”

This was followed by “a trilogy of parodies of consumerism”, starting with Niagara (1953), in which she plays the libidinous Rose, her only character to die onscreen. Although Rose is herself an accessory to murder, Longworth finds her death “legitimately sad – but sadness doesn’t sell.” After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn would be more often  identified with comedic parts. Lorelei Lee, Longworth argues, was “the smartest of [Monroe’s] dumb blondes”, justifying her lust for diamonds and manipulation of men as essential self-protection. Blondes was also her first major musical, in which, alongside co-star Jane Russell, she mastered “acting in song.” How to Marry a Millionaire took a more critical view of the selfish society, but is also less cynical as the gold-diggers finally choose love.

Media coverage of her career was often blatantly sexist, such as the 1953 Confidential article, ‘Why Joe DiMaggio Is Striking Out With Marilyn Monroe’, which alleged that movie mogul Joe Schenck was her ‘sugar daddy’. Some of her movies were also regressive in their gender politics, such as River of No Return (1954), in which her character falls for Robert Mitchum after an attempted rape. Even Bus Stop (1956), her first film under a new contract – in which, influenced by the Method, she gave one of her best performances – veers between “garish comedy” and a more sensitive exploration “a woman trying to direct her own life.”

Longworth believes that incidents like the broken strap at Marilyn’s 1956 press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier were “highly calculated”, and by the time she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl in England, Olivier apparently shared that view. Newly married to Arthur Miller, and under the spell of the Strasbergs and psychoanalysis, Marilyn was also dependent on sleeping pills, and the doctors who prescribed them.

After their relationship went public, Arthur Miller was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC.) He had attended a few Communist Party meetings in the 1930s, but by 1956, he was no longer interested in party politics. He later claimed that the chairman of HUAC had offered to drop the charges if Marilyn would pose for a photograph with him. She was also being monitored by the FBI at this time, and during filming of Bus Stop, they believed she was living at the Chateau Marmont. This was incorrect – her drama coach, Paula Strasberg, was staying at the hotel, although Marilyn may have used the suite for ‘trysts’ with Miller. As Longworth notes in ‘The Blacklist: After the Fall’, Paula had previously been named by Miller’s former associate, Elia Kazan, in his testimony before HUAC.

Miller famously did not ‘name names’, and was estranged from Kazan. By the time of his acquittal in 1958, Marilyn was filming Some Like It Hot. Her problems on the set are well-documented, but it would become her most enduringly popular movie. Playing the “dumbest of blondes”, Longworth remarks that she “had nothing ‘mental’ to work with.” Her next film, Let’s Make Love, was notable mainly for her affair with co-star Yves Montand. After hearing the gossip, Kazan approached Miller and they began working on After the Fall, a play which draw heavily on his troubled marriage, and would open at the Lincoln Center, which the two men co-founded, in 1964.

The Misfits, which Miller wrote for Marilyn, is one of Longworth’s favourite movies – although she criticises him for “lazily and cruelly” incorporating scenes from their marriage into the script. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s training in the Method suited the introspective material. From Some Like It Hot onwards, Longworth argues, Marilyn’s screen persona was becoming more natural and poignant. After divorcing Miller, she depended increasingly on her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson. Longworth sees this as a controlling relationship, and observes in ‘Marilyn Monroe: The End’ that he failed in weaning her off prescribed drugs. Concluding that there is little agreement between scholars and investigators on Marilyn’s rumoured affairs with the Kennedy Brothers, Longworth believes that her “sad, but not dramatic” demise was probably accidental, and to those who knew the scale of her addiction, even inevitable.

Karina Longworth is an accomplished storyteller and perceptive critic, but her research is not impeccable. Her main sources are biographies by Donald Spoto, Gloria Steinem and Lois Banner.  Although she takes a mostly sympathetic, even feminist view, she is not immune to sensationalism and once posted – but later deleted – Marilyn’s autopsy photo on Twitter to promote the show (it was first published, amid much disquiet, in Anthony Summers’ Goddess.) She occasionally misattributes quotations, or conflates different events, which can give a misleading impression. For example, while the young Norma Jeane may have fantasised that her father was Clark Gable, there is no evidence that she actually believed this, or told it to others. And the 113-ft ‘longest walk in history’ in Niagara was not Marilyn’s death scene. If Longworth’s aim is to demythologise the Monroe legend, she doesn’t fully succeed. Although You Must Remember This offers a lively analysis of the star system, it shouldn’t be taken too literally but rather as a starting point for further exploration.


Tara Hanks for Immortal Marilyn

Book Review: Music For Chameleons

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Music for Chameleons

By Truman Capote

1980 Random House


Is it a “Marilyn book”? Not really, but there is a short piece on her. Is that any good? Depends whether you like Truman Capote or not. A lot of folks do. But an equal number can’t stand the guy.

If there were a list created that named one hundred of the most memorable characters of the 20th century, Truman Capote would likely be in the top ten. If you are not old enough to remember his appearances on the Tonight Show or his famous/infamous masked ball, then you missed out on quite a lot. Without Capote the character, the man who either grated on people’s nerves, (and made them plenty nervous), or could boast of fans as devoted as Marilyn’s, all that is left are his words. And that perhaps is not a bad thing. I have a friend who to this day refuses to read Capote simply because he can’t stand the guy who used to show up on Johnny Carson fully equipped with all of the stereotypical mincing moves and that high pitched voice that sounded like a homophobic comic trying to imitate a gay man.

But the thing with Capote was he was SO outlandish, that voice so falsetto and his attitude one big “I don’t give a sh**”, that you couldn’t help but love him. He wasn’t PC, but he thrived on being a celebrity and when his words dried up and all that was left was the celebrity, he played it for all it was worth and more power to him. Maybe now that he is dead and the memory of that voice, (seriously– you think Evelyn Moriarty has a funny way of talking?), has faded away, more people will turn to the work he left behind and realize what an incredible artist the guy was. The funny thing about Capote is that he is remembered primarily for “In Cold Blood”, the one book of his that was a huge bestseller. I say funny because that book, which I admit is phenomenal, is so different than anything else the man wrote. “Other Voices, Other Rooms”, “The Gras Harp”, even “A Christmas Memory” are works that are closer to poetry than standard fiction.

But what does this have to do with Marilyn? Simple. A collection of his essays issued in 1980 includes a piece called “A Beautiful Child”, a small memory work that focuses on the afternoon he and Marilyn spent together following Constance Collier’s funeral in April 1955. April 28, 1955 to be exact, as he informs the reader in the very first line.

Capote might be a great writer but you really wouldn’t know it from this short piece. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable but after the first few pages, the rest is written up as if it were dialog from a play–

TC: You want to go home?

MARILYN: Everything’s ruined.

TC: I’ll take you home.


And for the diehard MM fan, Capote proves he hasn’t done his research when in the third paragraph he states that Asphalt Jungle was Marilyn’s “first speaking part”. But who cares, right? What I want in a MM memory, (and I assume you too), is that it provide me with a glimpse into Marilyn’s life and I’d like to learn something new. On those counts, “A Beautiful Child” does not disappoint. I had never heard of Marilyn having studied with Constance Collier, let alone that she had attended her funeral.

So then there’s the question– as Capote presents everything as dialog– does this “sound” like Marilyn? Up to you. As much as I like to think I know Marilyn, reading her words here, (or at least her words as Capote recalls them), it doesn’t sound like the Marilyn I thought I knew. Capote, when asked by Marilyn what Elizabeth Taylor is like, answers “Well, a little like you, she wears her heart on her sleeve and talks salty.” So maybe Marilyn did have a mouth on her. I never met the woman and have only heard her speak words written for her or talking with Richard Meryman. But be forewarned– if you don’t like your Marilyn “salty”, don’t read “Music for Chameleons“.

What is worth the price of the book is the one page where Capote has Constance Collier speaking about Marilyn. That’s where the description “a beautiful child” comes in. She likens Marilyn to Greta Garbo and makes a very convincing case. The admiration of the aging Shakespearean actress for Monroe is evident, especially when you read that she had been working with Marilyn on doing Ophelia. The things we missed being born when we were and not traveling in the right circles, eh?.

As for the book and as for “A Beautiful Child”, I think this is one that is going to be up to you if you want to seek it out or not. Me, I love Capote, so the question was a no-brainer. But if you want to read only about Marilyn, I don’t know if you’d like it or not. Capote was a character. But the character he presents here as Marilyn, I’m not sure it is one we would recognize.

If you would prefer another Capote work to get a true feel for Marilyn as well as Capote’s thoughts about her, find a copy of the short novel, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, written with Marilyn in mind. It’s odd but Holy Golightly feels much more like the Marilyn I think I know than the Marilyn Monroe of “A Beautiful Child”.

One last thought–  If ever there was ever a doubt Marilyn’s popularity, (and ability to sell), “Music for Chameleons” provided proof a few years back when I was in Italy. The book had been reissued and the new paperback caught my eye immediately when I saw it in a bookshop window– not because it was Capote but because the entire cover of the book was a black and white photo of Marilyn. “A Beautiful Child” is only 19 pages long, yet the publisher was relying on MM to sell the whole book.


David Marshall for Immortal Marilyn

New Milton Greene Book Hits Shelves in Open and Limited Editions

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Fans have long awaited a new book featuring the photography of Milton Greene, and now we have it.

The Essential Marilyn Monroe – 50 Sessions features hundreds of Greene’s photographs of Marilyn across their prolific photographic and personal relationship.  The book, already released in Europe, has an official U.S. release date of October 6th, but you can enter to win one of five copies online at

In the market for something more rare and valuable?  The deluxe edition of the book, limited to 500 copies, is also available online.  This version comes with a letter of authenticity as well as your choice of one of two special run prints of Green’s photos of Marilyn.  Check it out here.

While this is a very pricey book, it’s also likely to join the ranks of other rare and limited edition books that are highly sought after by collectors.

Milton’s son, Joshua Greene, was involved in every aspect of the creation of this book, and it’s without a doubt the must-have for Marilyn fans this year.

Book Review Times 2: Hometown Girl and Marilyn’s Addresses

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Hometown Girl

By Eric Woodard

2004 HG Press


                               Marilyn’s Addresses


                               By Michelle Finn (Morgan)

                               1995 Smith Gryphon Limited


For those of you who weren’t able to go to this year’s annual MM Community gathering in Los Angeles, I’ve two books to tell you about that will allow you to see Marilyn’s hometown from wherever you are. Or maybe you are planning to head to LA at some point in the future and want to create your own tour of those spots where Marilyn Monroe once worked, played, lived and laughed. Used to be you either went ahead and booked a trip and once there just kind of winged it but with the aid of Michelle Finn and Eric Woodard you can sit down and map out every single place you want to see in person.


Eric Woodard took his time in researching everything from addresses, vintage phone numbers, gathering visuals be they matchbook covers or old postcards, and it paid off big time with Hometown Girl. The resulting book is a class act from the first page to the very last. The colors are vibrant. The paper is of the highest glossy quality. And again the research that went into this project is astounding. As Eric mentions in his introduction, “most people don’t understand when I try to explain what Hometown Girl is all about. But then again, this book isn’t for them. It is for those fans like myself who have an obsessive need to know the minutest tidbit of information about, to us at least, one of the few iconic symbols of the twentieth century and beyond.”


The text on the cover pretty much explains the concept of the book: “A chronological guide of Marilyn Monroe related Los Angeles area addresses from 1923 to 1962 with 250 listings illustrated with over 700 images.” What the cover doesn’t tell you is that the visual images leap off the page to grab the reader and pull them deep into a world that for the most part is no longer: the actual world Marilyn Monroe inhabited. Yet this is not a presentation of photo after photo but a nearly 200 page collage created by an incredible graphic artist. In the hands of any other author the information would be welcomed but in no way could it have been presented in such a dazzling manner.


Many authors can write about Marilyn’s life and I’m pretty sure you’ve read a good deal of them. But it is one thing to read a four hundred page biography, (even those with a sizable photo section), and quite another to enter Marilyn’s environment with Eric Woodard as your visual guide. You can see a picture of the young MM dining with her first husband and her mother, everyone at the table grinning for the likely souvenir photograph, but to see the restaurant in color, see a menu or a matchbook cover and know what now stands there—this is a totally different experience. Or how about trying to find where the famed Macambo nightclub once stood, the place where Marilyn Monroe used her growing stardom as leverage to break the color barrier and land Ella Fitzgerald a booking? Or maybe you’re halfway through Donald Spoto’s biography and would love to figure out the distance between Peter Lawford’s Santa Monica home and 12305 5th Helena? Curious to see what the exterior AND interior of the home Marilyn and Milton Greene rented during the filming of Bus Stop? You’ve read that Marilyn was looking for a place like Dr. Greenson’s house but have no idea what his home looked like? It’s all right here in this book.


From the very first page Hometown Girl guides you through Marilyn’s day to day life, seeing her world through her eyes, from the quiet of Grace Goddard’s backyard, to the skating rink Norma Jeanne and Bebe escaped to, from the Beverly Hilton where she accepted her last Golden Globe to poolside at the Lawford’s Santa Monica beach house.

And that’s’ the joy of this book: to see Los Angeles as it she saw it. Any book that can tell me on which corner to stand and then describe the famous Schwab’s Pharmacy to the point where I can actually see Sidney Skolsky rather than the Crunch Gym that stands there today, is more than okay with me. It is a treasure to hold onto and retreat into whenever the spirit moves me.


While Hometown Girl concentrates on the many places Marilyn lived, played and worked in and about Los Angeles and is presented in a chronological-biographical format, Marilyn’s Addresses also encompasses many of the locations Marilyn traveled to—from Los Angeles to New York, from Canada to Japan, from England to Mexico.


After she compiled Marilyn’s Addresses, Michelle Finn got married, became Michelle Morgan and went on to write Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed and The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd , among others. What you’ve got to remember though is Michelle is not a California native—she was simply a talented fan living in England when she put her self-published “The Marilyn Monroe Address Book” together in 1993. That bit of fan research turned into her first published book Marilyn’s Address in 1995. And although this may have started out as more of a fan’s hobby, thanks to her impeccable research it has led to Michelle’s standing as one of the foremost Hollywood historians.


What I found surprising, (although having now read her other books I realize I should never be surprised by Michelle Morgan), was the amount of information that I had been unaware of. Take Las Vegas for example. I knew that Marilyn had traveled to Vegas for the Dougherty divorce, knew that she had met up with Roy Rogers while there and even got to ride his horse Trigger, but I had no idea where she had stayed. Well, here in Marilyn’s Addresses you will discover that it was at The Last Frontier, (still in existence as The Frontier), one of the very first hotel casinos in what was then a sleepy little town out in the Nevada desert. Or take her entry on Paramount Studios. I knew that the last scenes for The Misfits were filmed there but had no idea which scenes or that it was during the two weeks of final filming that Marilyn posed for the Arnold sitting. And although you might already know where Marilyn and Joe went on their first date, not many MM fans know the exact location in New York where Marilyn scrawled “Marilyn Monroe Was Here” in a patch of wet cement. Michelle Finn, all the way over in England made it a point to find out and includes this information in her book.


If I haven’t made it clear yet, comparing Hometown Girl  and Marilyn’s Addresses is like apples and oranges- both are wonderful additions to any Marilyn collection. Look at it this way: even though two books might be similar, you really should own both. As is the case with The Marilyn Encyclopedia and Marilyn A to Z, both editions of Eve Arnold’s Appreciation, or The Complete Films of Marilyn Monroe and Blonde Heat, what you might find in one you won’t find in the other. And if you are as entranced with Marilyn as I am, you’ll want ALL the information you can get. You read both Donald Spoto and Barbara Leaming, why not both Hometown Girl and Marilyn’s Addresses?



I Do Not Know This Marilyn Monroe

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On August 5th, 2017, IM’s Leslie Kasperowicz gave this speech at the 55th Memorial Service for Marilyn Monroe. 


I last stood at this podium fifteen years ago. A few years before that, I sat here, in this chapel, and I heard the words of Lee Strasberg’s eulogy for Marilyn Monroe for the first time. I don’t doubt that those words were as powerful for all of you the first time you heard them as they were for me – and if today is your first time in this chapel, I know you, too, will feel the power of that eulogy shortly.

What stood out to me from Lee’s words about Marilyn was his recognition that the real person behind the glamour girl image was very different. Marilyn Monroe was a movie star, an icon, a legend in her own time. But Lee did not know that Marilyn Monroe – he knew a woman, a human being, warm, funny, fragile, sweet. In recent years, those words have haunted me more powerfully than ever before.

When last I stood here, the internet was still young; the Marilyn community only a part of the online world for a few short years.

Much has changed since then, and when I look at the Marilyn Monroe known by the internet world today, I can only repeat Lee Strasberg’s words: I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Once upon a time, a false story about Marilyn could only be spread as fast as paper publications could disseminate; and tabloid stories were easily recognizable as fake news. Today, a fake news story about Marilyn spreads in seconds across the globe, and just as quickly becomes “fact” as the tabloid source is obfuscated in the anonymity of the internet share, reblog, ReTweet. The reputation of the source hardly matters anymore. Her true story is lost in the clickbait sensationalism, and I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

When last I stood here, Photoshopped photos of Marilyn were rare and easy to spot. Today, a new fan’s first image of Marilyn is as likely to be a fake photo as a real one; the fakes so widespread that even Google images has a photoshop in the number one spot for results. Marilyn’s head is seen on the bodies of others, she is shown with people and in situations that never happened in her lifetime; she is seen brandishing guns, throwing gang signs, covered in tattoos. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Fake quotes spread around the world so fast and so thoroughly that when searched, she is the only source to be found. Inane, vague, and utterly ridiculous statements are attributed to her, she is turned into a talking head for what a new generation thinks of as inspirational words she would never, in reality, have spoken. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

In spite of having more communication than ever before, the people who love and respect the real, warm, loving, flawed, vulnerable human being behind the blonde hair, red lips, and beauty mark have never found their voices more lost in the storm. They are here in this room, they are all of you, and you, like me, do not know the Marilyn Monroe of internet infamy.

As we gather here today to remember a woman who lit up not only the silver screen but also the hearts and minds of those who have discovered who she really was, we are the love she sought. We are the remaining faithful, the torchbearers for a woman who wanted only to be seen for who she really was, and not only for the image that brought her fame.

We are the ones who will quote her right, protect her image, uphold the truth about her life, and not allow her to be forgotten. We, who know in our hearts our Marilyn Monroe, the Marilyn Monroe who captured us and brought us here today.

Our Marilyn Monroe is more than an icon, more than a brand, more than a name, more than a character. Our Marilyn Monroe wanted only to find love, to be respected for her work, to be treated with dignity, to be an honest and realized human being – to be treated as such, and to work at being an actress. She was not a joke, no matter how hard some tried to make her one. And she was worth more as a human being to those who love her than her glamorous image ever earned after her death.

Thank you all for joining me in honouring Marilyn today in the manner she deserves, and remembering her for the person she really was. May the entire world someday come to discover our Marilyn Monroe, the Marilyn Monroe we know.   May she know we are here, and know she is loved.


Listen to Lee Strasberg’s eulogy for Marilyn Monroe on YouTube.

Immortal Marilyn 55th Memorial Flowers

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Westwood Flower Gardens once again outdid themselves on our astonishingly gorgeous floral arrangement for the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s passing.  Our beautiful flowers adorned the chapel during the memorial service before being brought out to Marilyn’s crypt.  We donated $400 to Animal Haven with the excess funds raised.

Thank you to all of our flower donors:

Andrée Felisatti

Christine McRae

Carolien Krijnen

Alberto Fernandez

Marisa Vanderpest

Shaney Evans

Mary Farver

Debra Stahl

Megan Owen

Dorina Barile

Nathalie Terhorst-Lensink

Treena Leonard

Sirkku Aaltonen

Heather and Sean Williams

Cora Morana

Marcelline Block

Melissa Murphy

Nancy Jones Cook

Barrie and Jackie Edlin

Lorraine Nicol

Eric Patry

Dionne Abraham

Barbara e Max Re

Leslie Kasperowicz

Johan Grimmius

Bruce Maki

Lisa Bates-Slone and Fallon Slone

Peter Lo

Sarah Draper

Donna Shields

Virginia Munro

Tina Garland

Deb Hoyle

Pavle Ivanov

Brandi Wakeley

Mary Sims

Paul Glazebrook

Gianandrea Colombo

Will Morann (William Green)

Deb Bakker

Edwin Bakker

Suzie Kennedy

Phillip Bradbury


55th Marilyn Memorial – August, 2017

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Fans gathered once again for a week of exciting events honouring the life of Marilyn Monroe.  Immortal Marilyn hosted two events, a pool party at the Avalon Hotel and a sunset dinner at Mariasol Restaurant on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier.  Other events included a tour of Marilyn homes and haunts  hosted by Elisa Jordan of LA Woman Tours, a VIP showing of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theater, the Memorial Service at Westwood Memorial Park, and An Evening with Marilyn at Hollygrove, hosted by Marilyn Remembered, and a trip to the Del Coronado arranged by Jim Parson.

We want to thank everyone who made Memorial Week a success, and share a few photos from the events!

Avalon Hotel Pool Party.  August 2, 2017

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theater, hosting by Marilyn Remembered.  August 3, 2017

Santa Monica Sunset Dinner & Toast, August 4th

Memorial Service, August 5th 2017, hosted by Marilyn Remembered

An Evening With Marilyn at Hollygrove, august 5th, 2017, hosted by Marilyn Remembered

Tours, Hollywood, Friends Hanging Out Together!