By Fraser Penney
When I first began to take a proper interest in Marilyn during the second half of the 1970’s, the fall of 1976 to be exact, something inside me was drawn to her after reading a brief biography in an encyclopedia and suddenly I began seeing her image everywhere and it would take my breath away. It was a life changing experience as I’d never had feelings like this for someone outside my family and friends before and I somehow attached myself to her as if she was something I had been searching for my whole life. I was 12 so at a very impressionable age.
Around the same time a young model by the name of Linda Kerridge was re-igniting the Monroe flame with her flawless complexion and uncanny resemblance to the late screen goddess that you could be forgiven for thinking she was Marilyn reincarnated. Her image on posters were seen all over the world advertising jeans and sunglasses and other products, with an aura of Monroe.
The likeness to Monroe begun during Linda’s childhood on a farm in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Her great-aunt Esther told her she looked like Marilyn, also the mother of her boyfriend from high school said the same, so Linda began to read about Marilyn and began to feel a sympathetic connection to her and loved her movies. When she went to art school people were always telling her she should try modelling, which lead to photographers looking for the likeness and asking her to dress up and pose like Marilyn, and it just snowballed from there. It was never planned, it was just something that happened due to other people’s prodding and pushing.
It wasn’t just that Linda resembled Marilyn, when you looked in her eyes it was like looking into Marilyn’s soul. Linda appeared to share that same animal magnetism and charisma Monroe had, that caused women to look twice and men to offer proposals of marriage on any given day of the week. By the time she left Australia and headed for Hollywood as an aspiring actress the association was complete. She even met people who knew Marilyn well, like her make-up man Allan “Whitey” Snyder, who told Linda she looked like her very much, as did photographer Bill Burnside, who worked with Marilyn at the start of her career, describing Linda as having the same “nebulous quality.”
Linda portrayed a girl with a resemblance to Marilyn in the 1980 horror film, Fade To Black. Her performance stunned critics who had difficulty working out where Linda’s scenes finished and footage of the real Marilyn began but it was all Linda. By the time of the films release, the shadow of Marilyn hung like a millstone around the young actresses neck. Marilyn had been a prisoner of her own beauty and now Linda appeared to suffer the same fate. Unable to escape the Marilyn connection her dreams had turned into a nightmare. Constant demands from photographers for her Monroe look; constant interest in Linda as Marilyn took their toll and she likened it to being in a prison.
Determined to shake off the image and start life anew, Linda cut off her platinum curls, changing her hair to a spiky, close-cropped ‘punk’ style in an attempt to distance herself as far as possible from the Monroe comparisons. She made the decision not to do any more films about Marilyn until she had done other things. Her likeness to Marilyn had helped her gain the experience of making a movie so the image had served a purpose in that way. Happily the situation did not plague Linda forever as I found out recently when I caught up with her.
Fraser: It’s been a long time since we last heard from you and to bring us up to date, what is your life-like today?
Linda: Today I live in The Blue Mountains with my son, we are very close. His name is Charlie. I paint and write when I am not looking after tons of critters… wild and not. There is also the garden which is getting away from me at the moment because I am concentrating on writing a memoir. I’m divorced, happy not to be in a relationship — have attracted male versions of my mother in the past — so it’s all for the best. I love nature, all animals, sweet, kind, deep interesting people and wish that world consciousness would elevate quickly so all senseless suffering would end.
Fraser: How does it feel to reflect on your past achievements; Has time changed how you look at your life and career?
Linda: Exploring how my childhood contributed to the insanity of wanting to look like somebody else ( Marilyn) when I grew up and left home. From time to time when I was a child people would say that I reminded them of MM. I didn’t think anything of it but later when I began modelling it set me apart a bit and I noticed that people treated me a little better. It made me feel special even though I knew it wasn’t really because of me. Marilyn was my idol then too and I could see how loved she was and I wanted some of that too. I had zero self-esteem back then and due to my upbringing felt totally unloveable… So I was an accident waiting to happen and I milked it for all it was worth. The trouble is I forgot who I was which I thought was a good thing at the time because I felt totally worthless. I knew I could never measure up to Marilyn’s supreme magic. I felt like I was holding a candle up to the sun.
When I was around 27 I got into meditation and went to India. It really saved me. I started coming back to myself and began doing a lot of inner work. I did several movies after Fade To Black during that time but even though it was fun I always had the feeling that it wasn’t really ‘my thing.’ I had fallen into it quite by accident. I was on my way back to Australia via New York and LA. I was walking down La Cienega Blvd with a friend when these producers pulled up in a car. One I had met briefly at a party in London. They said, in true Hollywood style, “do you want to be in a movie?” That was Fade To Black. I really loved LA so I decided to stay.
Fraser: What would you consider the high points and lows, if any?
Linda: I guess that was the high point — career wise. After that I did other movies but that one just came so easily and it was a lot of fun. Not long after I first arrived in LA and decided to stay, my father died. I think that was my lowest point. My mother wrote me a letter and told me. No one called me, none of my brothers or my sister. The funeral, everything was all over by the time I found out. I didn’t know anyone very well in LA at that time – I was all alone dealing with this awful grief and I got deathly ill. I’ve never to this day been that sick and I should have been in hospital. All alone in this little apt with no food only tap water! Yuk LA tap water, and too sick to get to a store. Lost 25 lbs in two weeks! So I ended up staying longer in LA because I felt abandoned by my family. I had been under the false illusion before that, that I had, had a normal family… Started to realise after that how damaging the events of my childhood were and how cut off from my feelings I had been. The whole Marilyn obsession was just a symptom of that total dis-function.
Fraser: You have kept your looks and your complexion is as lovely as ever. Do you have a beauty regime or tips for staying healthy?
Linda: I have only one beauty tip — meditation. It helps maintain an open heart which I think is the key to everything. Love. It is the only thing we take with us when we die — that is..our capacity to love. I try to eat fairly well – with a few big sugar lapses. Would like to be a total vegan because I know the horrors that animals have to face and I admire those who are but sometimes I eat seafood, eggs and cheese. Not proud of it though. Walk the dogs and garden for exercise, do a little yoga too — stress on the little.
Thank you Linda, this has been an honour for me to interview you on behalf of Immortal Marilyn. For many years you have cropped up in our discussions and it has been a dream come true to finally get to catch up with you and spend time getting to know you. I look forward to reading your memoirs one day and wish you all the best of success with that.