“If you’re gonna be two-faced, at least make one of them pretty.”
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
“I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people.”
“It’s better to be alone and unhappy than unhappy with someone – so far.”
All above quotes have, at one time or another, been attributed to Marilyn Monroe and sport a flourish just as varied, intelligent, and manifold as her overt and hidden talents, and personality alike!
Equally diverse are the women who paraded Ms. Monroe’s costumes on the red carpet for the latest historical unveiling of the newest editions to Miss Monroe’s ongoing costume exhibit at the Hollywood Museum last Wednesday night, May 27th!
The classic art deco Max Factor building–turned time capsule–was abuzz with actors, onlookers and photographers alike as Crystal Hunt, Lindsay Hartley, Chrystee Pharris, and Donna Mills, otherwise known as the cast of the much talked about Pop Network series Queens of Drama donned some of Miss Monroe’s (otherwise known as the “original queen of drama”’s) most memorable material!
As distinct as the women themselves were the fashions they chose. Lindsey Hartley selected one of Marilyn’s favored day outfits in which she was photographed repeatedly. So keen on the designer’s work, she had the style fashioned in numerous and differing colors! Crystal Hunt selected a more dancey number in that of the dress worn in the film Let’s Make Love in which Monroe engaged in stealth choreography not only on the floor but um…that other place up top, if not in actuality, then in everyone’s imagination natch; rounding out the quartet: Two of her most noted and historical gowns. Chrystee Pharris donned the black, bejeweled spaghetti strap number used to entertain the troops in Korea and last but certainly not least, Donna Mills proudly paraded the pale and historic “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress to sleek and elegant appeal! (Though this particular dress is a remake, it was cut and tailored to exact duplicate proportion!)
Also in attendance: Actress Doris Roberts, The Young and the Restless’ Kate Linder, noted sitcom Mom and Broadway star Ilene Graff, golden-voiced singer Barbara Van Orden, actor Steven Wishnoff, Actor/Singer Donny Most, Teresa Ganzel, Little House on the Prairie bad girl Alison Arngrim, Ruta Lee, Morgan Brittany, along with daughter Katie Gill, the ever-Bewitching Erin Murphy, Geri Jewell, Judy Tenuta, Jerome Ro Brooks, and actress Kathleen Hughes whose husband Stanley Rubin produced River of no Return with Marilyn Monroe.
Also on display for the first time: Rare and never before shared photos of the deliciously dramatic diva in decided theatrical, and cinematic repose in a fresh procurement of purchased and secured copyrights by Hollywood Museum Founder and President Donelle Dadigan. Recently unearthed by the son of Monroe photographer, Milton Greene, photos encompass promotional shots along with candid likenesses alike snapped with companions and collaborators the entertainment world over up to and including Milton Berle, Maurice Chevalier, Sammy Davis Jr. Marlene Dietrich, Louella Parsons, Billy Wilder, Frank Sinatra and more!
In honor of Monroe’s birthday, the exhibit officially opened on June 1st (the magical date in question) and will remain on display until September 6th. A culmination of memorabilia from international collectors, this unparalleled exhibit will feature Monroe’s childhood keepsakes, cinematic costumes, public appearance gowns, personal non-appearance wear along with accessories, jewelry, furniture, make-up, medication (discovered on the nightstand the evening of her death) and much, much more.
This display into which these new dresses will be incorporated is stunning and informative. From Marilyn Monroe’s beauty tips to singular and intelligent quotes, to the 100 most important days of her life, to the dispelling of rumors that she had a sixth toe! (No people no! She is not part sand creature or alien ped-o-monster, it was just a small dollop of sand crystals that had puffed up next to the small of her foot for a Zuma Beach photo shoot!)
Other fun facts that could not escape my attention encompassed the following: Her first husband Jim Dougherty ostensibly disclosed that she would rinse her face 15 times after every wash. In certain instances she would rub not only cold cream and Vaseline all over her lovely visage, but at times, hormone cream to top it all off. On days when she did not wear make-up, she would apply either lanolin or aloe oil as protection. She would take the occasional ice bath prescribed by her masseur Ralph Roberts into which she would pour Channel No. 5—her favorite perfume.
In terms of her physical regimen, she was ahead of her time. As early as 1943, Norma Jean Dougherty trained lifting weights. She would continue said routine, but in 1951 would change it up with calisthenics and the lifting of 2-5 lb dumbbells.
Entertaining the troops was important to Monroe, so in February 1954, she cut her second honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio short in order to go to Korea for such purposes.
It may surprise many to know that at 16 Norma Jean Baker worked in an aircraft plant and married a man she called “Daddy.” It was at the Radioplane plant that she was discovered by press photographers. Her fresh-faced look and natural charisma made her impossible not to notice and the rest as they say is history…
Considering her vast magnitudes of magnetism, the night would not be complete without discussion and reference to one of my favorite tales in Marilyn Monroe lore centering around her persona vs. her day to day presence in the world in an oft told tale of Ms. Norma Jean casually strolling down a city sidewalk (ostensibly New York) completely unnoticed with a close companion. She stops all of a sudden and informs said friend, “Watch, I’m going to ‘do’ Marilyn Monroe,” at which point she removes the babushka, fluffs her hair, talks the talk, walks the walk and city dwellers the sidewalk over flock the flock!
“For one of my birthdays we did something that was very, very not us,” admits Ilene Graff. “I think when you wear costumes for a living, getting dressed up in a costume is not that interesting, but for one of my big birthdays we decided to have a 50s birthday party… And everybody got dressed up like the 50s and I got the white halter dress, and I got dressed up like Marilyn with the platinum wig, and Ben, my husband, got a Joe DiMaggio Baseball shirt and…I found it fascinating that people reacted differently to me dressed up like Marilyn Monroe than they react to Ilene. There absolutely was something about the spell of that outfit, and that hair, and makeup, and jewelry that I felt like a movie star. And my friends even just treated me differently… [Coming up to me] in wide-eyed wonder and thinking that I was particularly attractive.” (And the writer of course interrupts her to tell her she already is.) “But you know, not like that. And Ben even noticed it I said, ‘Are people sidling up to me and wanting to rub my arm?’ He said, ‘Absolutely!’ There’s a magic in that Marilyn Character that was fun to embody for an evening!”
“So when you wore the ‘Happy Birthday Mister President’ dress tonight did you feel like you were channeling her at all, did you feel like her?” I ask a most serene and elegant Donna Mills.
“Yeah, it was wild,” Mills confesses. “It was fun to put that on and realize that that’s the dress that she sang to President Kennedy in. I mean, it’s kind of spooky… It was amazing too because when I put it on, it just went on. Everybody kept saying, ‘Oh she’s way bigger than you.’ She’s bigger in the bust but not other places. You know…”
When asked how she felt wearing the gown in which Ms. Monroe entertained the troops, the stunning and statuesque Chrystee Pharris could only reply, “I have a lot of friends that are in the military right now. That are overseas…it’s usually a six month tour and they have been doing 9 month tours now because of the Isis war and all the other things, and I just felt that it was very appropriate that I ended up in this dress because I’m honoring a lot of them right now, and people who are close to me… So there’s a little bit of Marilyn Monroe in all of us, and it doesn’t matter what color you are, or what religion. I feel like there’s always a little bit in you whether you’re as bold as she is or not. So for me to be able to wear her dress: I felt her energy come out of that dress and into me!”
Clearly an element of magic in all things historically material. But one additional aspect of enchantment of the evening would encompass the actuality that the building in which the Hollywood Museum now resides used to be that of Max Factor. Marilyn’s soul resides therein to this day as it is most assuredly where she spent a good portion of her time designing her look!
That being said, the ladies are not the only ones to experience becoming one with Marilyn by way of materiel. Actor Steven Wishnoff had his own tale of interwoven history and coincidental intrigue. Upon surmising that the act of dressing up Marilyn-style as the sole territory of the ladies that evening, Wishnoff’s response came swiftly and definitively, “Well it’s funny that you should even bring that up. In my career as an actor I have done La Cage Aux Folles many times on the road and there was an early production I did. I think it was 1987, where the wig stylist wanted to try something that was very Marilyn and they said, ‘Let’s play with this a little bit’. Then they thought better of it eventually but I actually worked on the movie Stonewall, the original BBC Movie, not the Roland Emmerich remake, and played a character named Lucy Tania—a rioting drag queen, or as I used to say ‘big as a boat and goin’ down’! But, on the set, I met a drag queen named Fiona James who was hired because he did a Marilyn that was spot on and [he] appears in the riot sequence alongside me. We got to be friends and then many years later when I was cast in the TV show OZ on HBO we were cast as cell mates, and so it was from 1992 or 3 that we did Stonewall and then in 1997, four years later, we saw each other again as cell mates, and he would still on occasion grab the Marilyn Wig and show up, so Marilyn’s a huge influence on everybody.” To speak nothing of a magically coincidental force in the Universe it would seem!
But clothes are not the only aspect of Ms. Monroe the night’s audience found intriguing. Nothing but praises were sung pertaining to her proverbial presences across a wide and textural spectrum.
Comedian Judy Tenuta, wearing an eye catching eye shadow that gives the appearance of diamonds on the eyelids will serenade me with a rousing rendition of “Diamonds area Girl’s Best Friend” in perfect breathy, slightly falsetto key! “I wore it for her—yes,” she will proudly admit nearly in the same breath as singing her praises in-commonality. “She’s just wonderful—a natural comedian!”
Though Tenuta could recall ever dressing like Ms. Monroe, she was sporting a most fetching Marilyn Monroe inspired bustier purse along with her diamond glitter eye shadow!
“She’s one of a kind and everyone loved her, both men and women which is an unusual thing because obviously men are going to love her because she’s beautiful, and sexy, and warm, and vulnerable and all that kind of good stuff,” gushes a velvet-voiced Barbara van Orden. “But the women liked her too so it really was something. I don’t think there’s really anyone like her now, or will be again… I don’t see anyone new coming up… She was always fun to watch and of course she looked beautiful in everything she wore…the white dress going up in the air, that was, at the time, scandalous! Today it’s nothing at all, and that beautiful pink gown [when she sang] ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ and so it’s just always fun to see her!”
“Marilyn Monroe is absolutely brilliant and a brilliant actress,” said actress in her own right Kate Linder. “I don’t think she ever got the credit she really deserved, and you know that famous shot…that picture of the dress over the vent? I’ve always wondered, [did] they happen to get it because she just happened to walk on it and then that happened or was it set up…? She was great in all of her films, [especially] Gentlemen Prefer Blondes even though I don’t agree with that!” (indicating own hair)
“To this day and had her end not been as tragic, I think her impact still would have been as strong,” declared Steven Wishnoff. “You know people say, ‘Oh young and beautiful, gone too soon-the myth.’ No. She made the myth herself. She created who she was and she knew who she was and what a smart, smart woman. I mean seriously. It takes brains to play those characters. And she labored. Now we know. We didn’t know as the public but we know now from her letters, and her correspondence with Strasberg and all of that, how intent she was on being a good actress, not just the pretty girl, so she had a huge impact on a lot of women who realized that if you really know what you’re doing, you can work it to your advantage even in show business which is still, to this day, predominantly a man’s world. She was well ahead of her time. Shelley Winters used to talk about her all the time, how brilliant she was… The HBO Documentary about Marilyn was absolutely brilliant, and eye opening to put it mildly. That’s where you got to see a lot of the Strasberg letters and wow, what a head on her shoulders! …It’s a shame that her demons were what they were.”
“I think she and Doris Day stand out amongst the women that are beautiful, fun, warm, sexy…” asserted Barbara van Orden. “It’s a shame she died so young but then, you know…life sometimes isn’t what we want it to be, but her movies were good and of course her big people that she left behind: Johnny Hyde was a William Morris agent. He loved her–madly in love with her. He made her career and of course the photographer Milton Green shot all her wonderful shots and between the two of them, they created this wonderful, wonderful star. Interesting thing though…it seems that Marilyn Monroe never goes out of style… and leopard—never go out of style—she and leopard never go out of style—the material leopard you know? She was fun and wonderful and very childlike but endearing.”
Van Orden will ultimately ask her husband Elton Bailess, “What’s your male point of view about Marilyn Monroe?”
“Ohhhh boy! You bet that’s my male point of view!” He will earnestly quip!
All in all, a night of glamour, festivity, cheese eating, water drinking and nostalgic conversation.
The current Marilyn Monroe exhibit can be viewed at the Hollywood Museum until September 6th.
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