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Focusing on Monroe’s Allure

NY- There have been other blonds.

There have been other blond actresses.

There have been other blond actresses married to men whose fame matched their own.

And there have been other blond actresses who died tragically young, leaving a cloud of seemingly eternal sadness.

So what is it about Marilyn Monroe that sets her apart from the blond pack?

Why, almost 44 years after she died, does the whisper of her name cause conversations to pause and eyes to turn?

Why did someone pay $1,440 in a Christie’s auction last year for one of her used cosmetic jars? Why did someone else pay $780 for three pieces of her business stationery (“Marilyn Monroe Productions, 444 E. 57th St., Eldorado 5-2325”)?

For the same reason, presumably, that the Staley-Wise Gallery at 560 Broadway is opening a Marilyn photo exhibition tomorrow.

For the same reason, presumably, that PBS’ “American Masters” series will air “Marilyn Monroe: Still Life” next Wednesday night.

Because the public wants to know things about her that it never will.

The PBS show, wisely, doesn’t tackle all the deep, dark stuff. Instead, the program focuses on the narrow but intriguing matter of why her photos hold such fascination.

Since still photos are the medium through which most Americans know her, the show therefore is really asking why the camera liked her more than it liked the other blonds.

It’s a question that has been asked of other stars over the years, from Gary Cooper to Madonna – who, of course, went to school on Marilyn.

But interesting as the question of camera-friendliness may be, a whole lot of people who look good in photographs aren’t interesting enough for Elton John to feel compelled to write a song about them.

Women dreamed of being Marilyn Monroe. Men dreamed of dating her. Joe DiMaggio spent his life regretting that he lost her.

What the public doesn’t get is why, from her side, being Marilyn Monroe so often seemed to be a hard life.

People want to know. That’s one reason they keep looking at her picture. They want a clue, a hint, a signal.

If she knew the answer herself, which she probably didn’t, she took it with her.

The funny thing is, if you’re under 50, or maybe under 55, you have little or no personal memory of Marilyn Monroe. It’s all still photos and a few good movies and the mystique.

Heck, maybe people keep looking because America has always loved a good blond – and Marilyn, by popular consensus, was a great one.

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