June 1st, 2023 would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 97th Birthday. The older I get the more I adore, admire and respect her. It’s in that vein that I’d like to recount this story.
I find myself alone in my doubletree suite in downtown Manhattan, looking for something unique to do as my gay travel companion has abandoned me (as a potential cock blocker I guess ) to cruise Manhattan alone.
I leaf through the pages of What ‘s Happening in NYC monthly guide with a sense of adventure and determination, not really expecting to find anything. That’s when I spot a PR piece about the Marilyn Monroe auction preview being held at Christie’s. What?? This is a gift!
Evidently all her belonging were thrown in to Lee Strasberg’s garage after her death. Her will stated that if he was to out live her, he was to distribute her belongings amongst her friends. Which he never did. What a JERK! The auction yielded $13 million.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the glamorous gowns of Marilyn Monroe. Into a cab, and off I go.
En route, I find myself feeling nostalgic for my childhood when I repeatedly sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” after seeing “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.
I’m astonished to learn that I was only five years old when Marilyn died. She was such an iconic role model throughout my youth. She was the embodiment of femininity. As a child I assumed she’d live forever. She was woven into the fabric of my idea of the idea what it meant to be a girl along with Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Sophia Loren.
Will I get a sense of who she really was? Or will this be some carefully staged recreation of a Hollywood melodrama? I’m very curious to form my own opinion as to the cause of her death. Having seen the films about the conspiracy theories, it’s something of an open question in my mind.
Moments later I arrive at Christie’s to see only a handful of people ahead of me. This final preview of the exhibit closes in an hour. That’s all I need.
I enter the first gallery. What the hell? Did I make a wrong turn? I’m in a half empty room of people walking around looking at what appears to be a collection of colorful simple clothes just hanging willy nilly, from a white gallery wall. They are neither clean nor pressed. Are they kidding? This looks like a lame garage sale. Or like the cleaning ladies walked into a bedroom and found a bunch of clothes on the floor and threw them on a hanger. WTF! Where are the gowns? The furs? The glamor? This is stupid!
There is a small crowd gathering around her lingerie. Really? How cliché. I paid for this? I feel sad that her lingerie is on display. That seems rude to me. Is nothing sacred? How would she feel about this? I sure as hell wouldn’t want my knickers and triple D bras on display…EVER!
I spot her furs and make a beeline across the room. The thrill of seeing them is short lived.
Along another wall I spot some Pucci blouses. Although I always thought they were a little weird, my mom was a big fan and had a small collection as well. My sense of nostalgia causes me to backtrack for a closer look…
I’m immediately struck by two things, her stature (maybe a size 2) and the fact that practically every item of clothing is stained from either food or wine. (The price for having ample breasts. I know from experience. )
They couldn’t have sent her stuff to the dry cleaners? That’s just mean! Albeit, “spots” have enjoyed the ”spotlight” this past year, ever since Monica Lewinski chose not to dry clean her infamous blue dress, but Monica is no Marilyn!
The items I found so crass upon my arrival, have now captivated me. I want to knock over the velvet chord and get closer.
What were the circumstances behind these stains? Occasionally a photograph featuring her wearing the dress appears on display. This leads me to wonder what happened that evening. Was she having a great time? Or was she so miserable she decided to get hammered?
The deeper I go, the hungrier I get for a sense of Marilyn. All these personal items start to bring her into better focus.
I turn the corner to find a room full of belongings and people moving through it rather swiftly like experienced estate sale shoppers. Most people are reviewing her many books, like they were planning to haggle for them. At first glance, again, it seems like a collection of junk from the 50’s and 60’s. It’s not very guarded, leading me to think it’s of little importance.
This is the closest thing I could find to the paintings I saw.
Next I spy a pair of black velvet paint by number pictures. You could knock me over with a feather! One is of a little girl with huge wide eyes, the picture of innocence, holding an umbrella. The other, another child with sad eyes is unfinished. These must be from the Big Eyes series, which became the subject of the film with the same name.
It’ s fascinating to imagine Marilyn passing the time painting these. What possessed her? Was she so hungry for culture and knowledge that she felt this was a good way to learn more about art? Did she relate to this young girl? It seems so non-sequitor and yet, not. The appeal of paint by numbers is the feeling that you are able to create art. Is that what she was after? (I’ve looked all over the internet and oddly enough, there isn’t a trace of these paintings anywhere. But I assure you, they were there!)
Her tv is a portable one. I’m very impressed at how unimpressive it is. You’d think this “giant of the silver screen” might have the most modern tv of the day. Clearly, she could care less.
While queueing up to enter a small corner where her Hollywood gossip mags are stacked, the room suddenly seems quiet and fades in the distance. My heart sinks. I almost begin to cry. I’m hit with an overwhelming sense of sadness. What is this all about?
I’m leaning against (what I assume) is a wall until I feel it move. It startles me. Evidently it’s a board of some kind sticking out. It’s practically buried behind a bunch of miscellaneous items, like luggage,etc. My first thought is “Damn! I could have knocked this over!”
I take another look. I was leaning against Marilyn Monroe’s white satin headboard. It took my breath away. I feel a powerful sense of loneliness and begin to get quite misty. I’ll never forget this moment. Like a panic attack it springs from nowhere.
I make my way into the final gallery where the room is very dimly lit. There is a glistening beacon of light coming from an article of clothing. Is this Cinderella’s dress? It must be. It literally glows.
In the center of the room, on a clear full length dress form, was the sheer beaded gown that Marilyn wore to JFK’S birthday celebration. It is literally lit from within with halogen lights overhead, creating an iridescent glow that fills the room and the eyes of anyone who stands before it. Quite stunning! (It was also about as big as my finger!) How apropos to light it from within, much like its original owner.
Suddenly this collection of “junk” makes sense to me. I came here looking for a legend and instead discover a lovely, sweet, young, sensitive and unpretentious young woman with a voracious curiosity and appetite for life, who had an occasional profound sense of sadness.
She enjoyed great passion, only to find herself still alone, and longing to be loved and understood by someone who will trust her enough to want to stick around.
I don’t believe Marilyn intentionally took her own life. Particularly considering that evening Joe Dimaggio (probably the only guy who really cared) told her he cancelled his plans to remarry.
I suspect she was worn out and wanted to stop feeling for awhile. Anyone who has truly lived has surely had that feeling at one time or another. But unlike others, she likely felt things on a much grander scale. When she wasn’t becoming numb fast enough she popped another pill. I imagine it’s easy to lose track once they kick in.
This is a remarkably intelligent woman whose brilliant career created a persona that the entire civilized world came to know of and adore.
She was able to turn her enormous hunger for love and acceptance into a global event. Unfortunately for her, it would appear that the very persona she created was so enormous, it ultimately thwarted her efforts to find and maintain one true love.
It’s reminiscent of Norma Desmond’s line in Sunset Boulevard, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!”
In Marilyn’s case, she was big. It was her men who were small.
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3 thoughts on “My Afternoon at The Marilyn Monroe Auction at Christies”
I really enjoyed reading your story. Loved how you went from clearly being unimpressed to caring and intrigued. Looking at these items she was just like you and I. Thank you for sharing. I would’ve loved to have been at this event.
Thanks. She’s a tremendous source of inspiration to me. She had a dream and made it happen, in spite of the odds.
Thank you! It was so revealing. I’ll never look at her the same again. My admiration for her increased tenfold.