The very first time I saw Marilyn’s pictures they weren’t too impressive in my book. I was 15 and a friend of mine named Shauna had brought a book about Marilyn Monroe into school and was showing some of the pictures. Among them were the red-haired nudes. Whatever. I was very pretty, popular, had a gaggle of my own male fans, and was utterly uninterested in this eternal movie star. In fact until that day I didn’t know she existed. Shauna remained obsessed with Marilyn all that school year and tried to dress up as Marilyn Monroe for our Halloween school dance. She borrowed a rather bland pink low-cut gown from the drama wardrobe and wore that but she didn’t have a blonde wig and didn’t wear red lipstick. That made no sense to me. Another girl there asked me if I knew who Shauna was supposed to be. I said no. Who? And she leaned in to whisper Marilyn Monroe, as if this was some great secret. Looking back on it now I wonder why Shauna even bothered. Fast forward about four years. For some reason at 19 I became smitten with Marilyn Monroe. I don’t remember why. I must have been photographs of her somewhere and thought she was gorgeous. I then read that she was long dead and she was a suicide. That peaked my interest. Like everyone else I wondered why a gorgeous woman like that would kill herself. And the game was on.
I was everything Marilyn after that. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, my first ever Marilyn Monroe movie with my boyfriend, Steve. Neither of us was impressed. I was downright disappointed. I thought her eyes looked small. I thought the way she sang made her mouth look strange. When she made that iconic expression where she shut her eyes and pulled her mouth down my boyfriend snickered. She was embarrassing, just like Gloria Steinem wrote in her biography entitled Marilyn. The movie was somewhat interesting and by the end of it i had a better impression of Marilyn. I liked her thick blonde platinum hair. I thought her face was gorgeous. She was sexy. I didn’t reflect on whether or not she could act. Who cared? I was caught up in the fantasy that was Marilyn Monroe. Eventually a black and white poster of Marilyn made its way onto my wall. I purchased the collector’s item of Playboy with Marilyn’s nude on the cover and her centerfold. I left it in its plastic. My mother must have found it and thrown it out, austere Catholic that she was. It was disconcerting to know she snooped so much through my room that she even looked beneath my bed (that’s where it was) seeking God only knew what. A miniature grow-op perhaps. I know it had to be her because no one else in the family would want it and certainly wouldn’t steal it. That magazine would be worth a few bills today. (Not that I’d sell it).
My father bought me the movie How to Marry a Millionaire for my birthday in August 1987 and I watched it about 400 times. I had spent the summer in bed (after getting out of the hospital) after a wicked bout of Epstein Barr (the virus responsible for mononucleosis). That movie became the love of my life. I bought a Marilyn calendar and hung it on my wall. i wore red lipstick and tight, slinky dresses when I went out at night. I cut my hair and styled it like Marilyn’s (although I was a brunette then). I was never without my red lipstick and black eyeliner. I was all about Marilyn Monroe. My efforts must have paid off because men flocked to me. I was never without a date. When I went to a bar with friends I was surrounded by men, the way Marilyn was when she sang about diamonds and the men in tuxedos crowded around her. If this was anything like being Marilyn, it sure was fun. The irony was that the one man I wanted that summer wouldn’t look at me (well, not entirely, but I won’t go into detail about our brief fling). My heart ached all summer for him until I started dating someone else and even that was a bittersweet experience because the other boy was still in the back of my mind. Summer memories. Some are sweet. Some are sour.
I devoured Anthony Summers’ Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe three times. My mother took my book and read it in the middle of me reading it, even though she sneered at Marilyn and stated “that’s not beautiful.” (Clearly, an envious comment even though I never knew my mother to be the jealous sort). By the time she finished the book she stated, “She was gorgeous! Her life was so tragic!” No duh. My brother bought me a copy of Gloria Steinem’s Marilyn with George Barris‘ pictures for Christmas. Inside he wrote the elegant message, “I still say she’s ugly but you like her so Merry Christmas.” Well that’s a teenager for you. This went on for a couple of years and then my interest in Marilyn hit a brick wall. I got interested in other things and other people and went to work full-time after university. Everything changed. I lost my Marilyn books but didn’t notice for a year or two. I lost the movie my father had bought me. Who knows when that happened? My summers were still good but I never had a better summer than the one where I was “making like Marilyn.” Nothing compares to it. I was young, free, had no responsibilities to anyone except me. Perhaps that’s part of the Marilyn fantasy. We only see her in movies and her most popular films like Seven Year Itch are carefree and fun. BTW I saw Itch and was very disappointed in it and the skirt scene. I was expecting the scene like the one in the poster (as was, I suspect, every 1950s theatregoer). The movie dragged and they talked about stupid things. Tom Ewell was booorrrrrrring. I didn’t like his acting at all. I didn’t like him. i didn’t know he was a movie star in his own right and i didn’t care.
Years went by and my interest in Marilyn vanished completely. Now she was just another beautiful celebrity and a source of income for the phony celebs and anonymous types who claimed they knew her well and wrote books about her. Most of the titles were a variation on Marilyn and Me. Whatever. They all pretty much said the same thing just in different situations except for the books examining the potential murder. Mind you all of those books say the same things about the mafia, FBI, CIA, Kennedys and so on. It’s all been said just in slightly different words with supposedly “startling new evidence and never before seen photos!” For no particular reason after I was blogging on WordPress for at least a year or so I decided to blog about Marilyn. Somehow my interest in her revived. Finding information has never been easier or more fun. Gathering photographs is awesome. I think I find a new photograph of Marilyn Monroe I haven’t seen just about every day on the internet. Crazy. Sometimes when I look at pictures of Beverly Hills with its palm trees and I see the Hollywood sign in movies or pictures, I think what Hollywood must have been like when Marilyn was alive. That whole era was a glittering, exciting time, the domain of the Rat Pack and the partying ring-a-ding-ding crowd. We’ve never had anything like that, not the people of my generation who weren’t born by the time Marilyn died. One of these days I am determined to go to Hollywood to get a glimpse of what it was Marilyn experienced. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Of course I have to place my hands in hers. I want to see her house on Brentwood Avenue. I want to visit her crypt. i want to go to the places she used to haunt (pun) if they are still there. Apparently, Marilyn and me are having a revival.