SIMON DOONAN ON MARILYN MONROE
Marilyn Monroe’s Two Secrets By Simon Doonan
What I learned about the icon by folding her capri pants.
In this season of holiday extravagance, it’s worth revisiting Simon Doonan’s take on Marilyn Monroe’s modest estate, which he helped Christie’s prepare for auction. The excerpt below, originally published in 2012, is from Simon Doonan’s Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.
There was, for many years, a big photograph of Judy Garland by the late, great William Claxton duct-taped to the wall of the Barneys display studio where I worked. In this compelling image, Liza’s highly strung mother is caught backstage wrapped in a towel. Her face is a festival of anguish. One rigor mortis hand claws the air. The other clutches at a bottle of rubbing alcohol which has clearly just been torn from her grasp. Judy is having a preshow meltdown.
Next to this picture is another, taken five minutes later by the same photographer. There is Judy, dressed in a black-sequined number, standing confidently onstage and belting it out to what one can only imagine must have been a sea of frenzied, weeping, and adoring homosexuals.
Needless to say, these images were, over the years, repeatedly defaced. Speech bubbles were added to Judy’s mouth: “L’chaim!” “Bring me a chai latte!” etc., etc. Fictitious liquor labels were applied to the bottle of rubbing alcohol. Despite the graffiti, the picture endured, a metaphor for the agony and the ecstasy experienced by creative types like us.
We gays adore a tragic woman.
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