Friday, December 30, 2005

I wanna be loved by you

Today I visit a museum exhibit, “I wanna be loved by you.” It's a series of photographs taken of Marilyn Monroe. I feel as if I've had a personal visit with her.

My image of her is from the early ‘60’s: on the cover of Life, a celebrity who committed suicide, once married to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, and someone took a rose to her grave every year. I think it was Joe.

A burgundy floor to ceiling poster says:

I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else. The public was my only family, the only Prince Charming, and the only home I had ever dreamed of.—Marilyn Monroe

The photos in the exhibit are poignant yet erotic. Come to think of it, there are a lot of men at the Marilyn photos, men of all ages, with ball caps, with spikey hair. Clearly she looked fabulous in a sheet. There’s a celebrity section: “Marilyn and Jack Benny,” “Marilyn and George Cukor,” “Marilyn and Tony Curtis.”

But there’s one photo of her in a white V-neck sweater, at a lunch room, pointing at the camera. The title of the photo is “Marilyn caught off camera.” She looks smart, savvy. Her eyebrows are up and she looks about to say something. She could be in the courtroom. She could be my dentist. She doesn’t look ready to kiss anyone. She could be me. That's my Marilyn.

It’s said she completely changed before a photo shoot, rearranging herself, a consummate actress for the camera. Then there are the 100 life-size Marilyn cutouts grouped behind movie ropes and a video playing of her singing happy birthday to JFK. I wonder what she’d think of all this cardboard homage to her. All these models of yourself with your skirt blowing up from the subway air, dressed in red, white, blue or green, like so many Christmas lights. Twinkle, twinkle. Did anyone really love her?

Then, hidden in the back corner, there’s the room of Norma Jean Baker, a slightly prettier than average girl who worked on an assembly line, before she imagined herself into being, before she took unprecedented control over the movie Bus Stop with her savvy, and before she left the planet.

Marilyn said The public was my only family, the only Prince Charming, and the only home I had ever dreamed of. The title of the Marilyn exhibit is “I wanna be loved by you.” I didn’t realize she maybe wanted to be loved by me.


alphawoman said...

She was only 36 when she passed away. Just think of what the world was robbed of? She would have matured into an even greater beauty. And a savvy sage.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Beth. What a great entry. Really fabulous.

What museum was this?


Anonymous said...

Beth, I have always loved MM. Maybe because when I was a (very) little girl, my friend's brother called me Marilyn Monroe - my hair was like hers. (Not no more it ain't.) Have you read the Normal Mailer biography? I bought it when I was a teenager, and loved it. I still have it, even though it is a little battered now. She wove a spell over us all, didn't she? I think women can identify with her vulnerability for sure, as in, "I wanna be loved by you..." Thank you for this lovely entry,