Marilyn Monroe June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962: the ethereal eternal beauty.
This stunning painting is one of my treasures by friend and artist See Tf.
Marilyn Monroe Champagne
HAPPY 88th BIRTHDAY TO MARILY MONROE THE ETERNAL BLONDE.
My 1990 & 1992 Cuvées/Champagnes!
The Marilyn Cuvées Champagnes were sold in 1995 and 1996. Both of these sparkling wines were traditionally made, vintage dated, methode Champenois…e sparkling wines from high quality Carneros Chardonnay. Cuvée One (1990 vintage) and the Cuvée Two (1992 vintage) were aged nearly four years sur lees in their bottles. Now extremely rare!. $1,000 a bottle. Any offers?
MARILYN MONROE MERLOT WINE Mint750ml – Full Bottles, 1991-2002
Photo of the day: DEBBIE HARRY, CHRIS STEIN, BLONDIE, EARTHA KITT AND HANS – 35 YEARS LATER – or “How a Russian, an old concert ticket and Eartha Kitt got me to meet Blondie” – Last night one of music’s most influential and iconic duo, Chris Stein & Debbie Harry of “Blondie” gave a very rare 90 minute audience participation interview about their lives and the formation of “Blondie” the new wave group that we all know. All you need to hear is Debbie’s “oooohh oh oh-oh” from “Heart of Glass” and you recognize it instantly. The venue – The 92nd Street ‘Y’.
I brought with me my 1979 Blondie concert tickets from Asbury Park’s Convention Hall for the then expensive price of $8.50. ‘The Laughing Dogs’ opened for them. On the day of the concert my friend Susan and I begged the promoters not to tear our tickets so as to preserve them and they obliged! In today’s times that would never happen. So, I showed up at the ‘Y’ stage door last night at 5:30 for the 8:00 show. The Ebayers all started showing up. “She doesn’t like to pose with people.” OK, I thought, a photo is out, autograph is the main goal then.
One of the security guards saw that I had a very rare French 12″LP of ‘Sunday Girl’ with me and was eager to see it. He winds up showing me his record collection on his iPhone, proudly exclaiming he knew all the songs on his records and that they are in mint condition. “Do you have this one?!” “Remember that one?” The last one he showed me was Eartha Kitt’s first lp “That Bad Eartha”, I told him that I had been friends with her and the stories she had told me of making that first album, well…that sealed the deal. “Come back after the show,” he said.
At 7:20 a black town car pulled up and she emerged. Hair in curlers, radiant as can be. Rushed right in. Her driver told me she was exhausted, fighting a cold and was unnerved that she did not know who the interviewer was.
A few moments later Chris Stein pulled up willing to sign a few autographs. The Ebayers pressed forward. The ‘record collector’ security guard made room for me. I showed Chris my 1979 concert tickets and he laughed and said ‘you deserve an autograph after all this time!’. In he went.
Debbie’s driver and I wound up being all alone at the stage door and he started to tell me about his life. He is a Russian scientist who immigrated here in 1989, became a Wall Street trader but lost it all in the stock market crash. He decided to take his knowledge and educate his daughter on the principles of science and economics. She is now graduating with a Masters Degree in physics. We spoke of politics, America’s influence on music, only to discover he sold his piano and bought and electric guitar and knows the riffs to all the hard core rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s and starting playing air guitar for me – Blondie’s chauffeur is playing air guitar for me – surreal !
The interview was conducted by Anthony DeCurtis, co-author of Clive Davis’ autobiography. Chris in his white hair, all black suit and boots, wearing blackout shades he evoked the 1980’s all over again. Debbie looked stunningly radiant. Her now coifed hair had transformed her into a luminescent modern day Marilyn Monroe, same color, same tossed soft curls. She was dressed in a white cotton blouse with parachute style yellow shawl, tuxedo pants and combat boots. Total Blondie.
Speaking of clothes, they explained their original look came from the thrift shops of New York in the early 70’s. “Disco was big lapels, bright colors and we wanted to be the antithesis – the early Beatles black suits with the narrow lapels, secondly also because that shit was the cheapest in the stores and nobody wanted it, now it’s all gone. No one looked like us, we would get stared at in the street in those days.” Debbie laughed.
Debbie’s voice actually has a Marilyn quality, soft spoken, she takes a moment to think before she speaks, and just answers the question, short and to the point yet often reflective. When asked about being the first breakthrough rap recording artist (who happens to be a white female) with the song “Rapture” (the man from Mars is eating cars!) and how did it come about she explained, “I didn’t know the word ‘reggae’ but Chris heard there was this festival going on up in Harlem and we went. I loved that the music and that it had a message, told a story and so connected with the people, I loved the rhythm. We basically stole/copied their style…the rest is history.”
But their influences came from the opposite direction as well, “Dreaming”/(Eat to the Beat) is blatantly lifted from Abba “not enough so I could get sued” chuckled Chris. Debbie said, “yeah I listened to them, but I could never get past that polka-like sound that crept into their music.” She grinned and laughed.
When Debbie laughs or reflects she leans back and pulls her hand through that platinum ‘Marilyn’ hair and as the evening progressed and as the hair became more tossed – she morphed more and more into a 68 year old radiant Blondie/Marilyn.
When asked what rock group from the CBGB era to you feel should have been more recognized, Chris instantly and angrily said “The Ramones, I mean come on, their were fucking brilliant, they should be up there today with the Beatles and The Stones!” What was so great about CBGB’S? Debbie answered: “No one watched you, we just did shit, if we fucked up it didn’t matter and that’s how we evolved, we were not under a microscope.”
How does she feel about being such a music icon? Was she harassed? “It felt great. We weren’t thinking of the future, we were just in the moment. I mean I did wind up becoming a feminist mainly because of Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin. I wanted to get even for those ladies, I felt so sorry for them. ‘Here world take this!’ and here’s to you Billie and Janis. I was never harassed because I was with Chris, the band didn’t lay their hands on me because I was ‘Chris’s girl’. At one point though it did become us versus them, but we got past that.” On meeting Warhol: “We met in passing at Studio 54 and became friends. He was determined to photograph me in 1979, he did my hair for the shoot! He used to shoot with these crappy Polaroid cameras, I mean like the oldest archaic models, so we used to look for them in thrift stores as we toured and would give them to him,” said Debbie. That happened to be the 1979 poster advertising the Warhol Blondie issue that I had brought with me to be signed.
They have just released a new double VINYL lp with re-recorded classic hits as well as 12 new songs. The double albums has two titles “Blondie 4(0) Ever/Ghosts of Download.” Sadly they did not have a signing afterwards. They plan to tour “with festivals” in Europe later this year and tour in the USA in 2015! Chris Stein’s book of awesome photography will go on sale in August. Many of the photos were shown in a slide presentation and they both humorously reminisced about the ‘old times’. Audience questions were taken during the last 20 minutes and were very insightful.
At the show’s end I ran to the stage door already besieged with Ebayers and fans. Luckily the her driver and the security guard placed me near her car door. As Debbie noticed the Ebayers had pressed forward she didn’t want to sign anymore but her driver and the guard steered her towards me and both the guard and I said simultaneously “He’s/I’m not an Ebayer!”. Debbie looked, warmly smiled at me, squeezed my hand and signed her full name unlike the initials she had dome for the others. I floated on an ‘Atomic’ cloud all the way home. Here is my incredibly awesome rare signed treasure above – 35 years later!!
BLONDIE 1979 Village Voice ad
Photo of the day: ZEN TAG – Seen in the side streets of the west 50’s in Manhattan, was this service entrance gate to a grocery store. Being so cold outside I was walking at a brisk pace but my eye still caught the Zen Buddha up ahead. But as I passed I noticed something clever. One of the grocery clerks had gotten creative with his pricing gun and created a ‘price sticker Buddha’ and place of Zen in an otherwise dreary garbage filled side alley. Namaste.
Photos of the day: MODERN DAY HITLER VANDALIZES ‘DEGENERATE ART’ AT 5 POINTZ:
5 POINTZ AFTER NOV. 2013
5 POINTZ BEFORE NOV. 2013
Tuesday November 19, 2013 is a day I will not long forget. It was a twist of events and cruel fate that brought many powers of good and evil together.
My dear friend and fellow tour guide Tom Orzo and I picked up 6 German tourist guests at the Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn piers for a 3 hour city tour. Normally Tom and I end our tour with a surprise visit to 5Pointz. Since we were coming from Brooklyn, Tom (doing the driving) insisted we make 5Pointz our first fateful stop. At 10:45 we were heading down Jackson Avenue when Tom kept calling out “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”. I thought it was his over-reaction to a smaller building in front of the Graffiti Museum that was being torn down. My back was to the museum, I’m facing my German guests telling them how extraordinary a site they are about to see. Now I realize their faces seemed odd and puzzled, so I turn around to the shock of seeing men on high cranes slopping white paint all over the building, obliterating 12 years of spectacular intricate art. I quickly got out to see if I recognized anyone.
MERES’ VOW TO FIGHT
I ran back to the van and we sped to the main loading dock/entrance to the building. And there it was, a vandalized, obliterated work of art – 12+ years destroyed. I ripped open the door to the van and ran into the arms of curator Marie Flaguel and held her as tightly as I could. I cried deep from the gut. I couldn’t stop, I could not speak, I kept gasping for air. I was afraid to let go for fear of seeing Marie’s face. Finally I had to. “It’s all gone…” she said as tears streamed down her face. The owner Jerry Wolkoff, the same man who had asked the artists to paint the murals on his building, had hired non union thugs to destroy over 1,500 pieces of art outside and even throughout the entire inside of the building. Murals that would take your breath away now had erratic white brush strokes all over them. Oddly enough, the greater more powerful murals – had extra coats of white paint over them, it was deliberate, fearful, vindictive and hateful. How do you find words in a moment when you realize it was one of the greatest mass desecrations of art in the 21st Century. An art genocide.
One of the most haunting incredible unseen inside murals by Carlos “See TF” Game
As Marie was filling me in on what happened, one of my German guests, Andrea Pröscholdt-Krulich, ran over in tears. “Why?! Warum?!” she kept asking. She was quite shaken. You see – her son was a graffiti artist who had recently committed suicide. She had planned on this trip to New York to visit 5Pointz to pay homage to her son. She never thought that a ‘routine Manhattan city tour’ would have included our surprise visit here. Andrea and my guests were stunned at the amount of press around us and the unexplainable goings on. They looked on in wonderment – here they were in ‘free’ America’, in ‘progressive’ New York and they were watching Hitler-like tactics unfold before their stunned eyes. Some of my older guests were survivors of World War II. I had to get back on the coach and explain what was happening. Then I realized something. I was with a group of Germans, some of whom had been through a time in Germany when Hitler from 1936 to 1937 rounded up all “modern” art – “Entartete Kunst“ and declared it ‘degenerate’ and had it all destroyed. Over 5,000 works were seized, including 1,052 by Emil Nolde, 759 by Heckel, 639 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and 508 by Max Beckman, as well as smaller numbers of works by such artists as Alexander Archipenko, Chagall, James Ensor, Matisse, Picasso and even Van Gogh. What Jerry Wolkoff did was no different!
5 POINTZ CANDLE VIGIL 11-18-13
LAST STAND AT 5 POINTZ 11-18-13
But we were not there to mourn the destruction of the museum, their clock was ticking and I was there paid to give a tour. We continued with our tour, but every time we came to a red light or got stuck in traffic, the conversation always went back to the disbelief of 5Pointz. We dropped off our guests and I headed to a candle light vigil that was held at 5pm.
GERMANY MOURNS WITH YOU ❤
The vigil’s atmosphere was like a tomb, what had been vibrant was dead. At night the ‘white” was even more ‘deadly’ and eerie. People kept coming, looking up in silent tearful disbelief and anger. Poster boards were taped onto the building for us to leave our messages. The purpose of the posters is – we will never ever again grace his walls with a single piece of art, line, scribble name or even a dot. Wolkoff had the audacity to claim he too cried. He claimed he had done this so the artist wouldn’t have had the pain of seeing their art work torn down over a period of months. This scumbag reasoning is because he was afraid of the momentum we were gaining. On last Sunday’s rally, when 5Pointz was packed, Marie and Meres (co-curators) had gathered over 1,000 signed petitions in ONE day, to have the building land marked and saved. The owner Wolkoff cleverly erased the value of the building. Let us also not forget, the approval of the two twin glass towers that he plans to build on the same spot were approved by the weasel of a lying two-faced councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the lowest form of politician there is: big smiling child like innocent face, with his hand holding a knife behind his back, ready to strike for his financial gain. Wolkoff and Bramer – greed is the intoxicant but karma is the bitch.
So joining the ranks now of Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh are artists Onur Dinc, Esteban Del Valle, Meres One, Spidertag, Kidlew, Kkade, Rubin, Aka Shiro, Veronique Barrilot, Contort, Jekl and Dyzer5, Bisco, Bishop203, Just One, Leias, Zeso, and Zimad, Lord Roc, Bisc1, one of my favorites Carlos “See TF” Game and so, so many, many more. Who is anyone to say they aren’t the next Keith Harring, Basquiat, or Matisse? It is a knife in the soul of a fading New York.
GHOSTS OF 5 POINTZ
Rest In Paint 5POINTZ
MARIE FLAGEUL – CANDEL LIGHT VIGIL
MERES’ ‘STAND HERE’
Photo of the day: CHRISTMAS DINNER AT BENDEL’S WITH LIZA, SARAH-JESSICA, WOODY, MARILYN, CAROL AND AL HIRSCHFELD – Since I was a little boy the magical drawings of Al Hirschfeld have absolutely fascinated me! The fact that a few twists of the pen could totally capture a person and their character was astounding to me. Every Sunday I would get up early to run to the corner store to get a Sunday New York Times and pull out the Arts & Leisure section to see who had been ‘Hirschfelded’. That was a steadfast tradition from about 1964 till Al Hirschfeld’s death in 2003. I have boxes and boxes (and boxes) of clippings of all the Hirschfelds I could find from then till now.
The great Hirschfeld
My dream of meeting him came true one day in the year 2000, in the theater that was later to be named for him, The Martin Beck now The Hirschfeld. The story of meeting him is a story unto it’s own. I had met the greatest of the greats until then: Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elvis, Elton, Cher, Liz Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, but meeting Hirschfeld had topped them all. I had met the man that had documented close to 100 years of America’s entertainment history. It was the most humbling and breath taking moment of my life.
Jerry Stiller meets ‘Jerry’ with Margo Feiden and Bendel’s
When Hirschfeld died, I bought many of his possessions at the 2011 Doyle Galleries estate sale, his pens and pencils, his large wooden pencil box, his shoulder bag and many, many other items, all lovingly displayed in my home.
Fast forward to November 14, 2013 and I am standing in front of Henri Bendel’s windows waiting for the grand unveiling of their Christmas window featuring a three dimensional tribute to the great beloved Hirschfeld.
Bendel’s president and top executives and creative team
I waited front row, clutching my Hirschfeld owned shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached written in his trademark squared signature. Due to arrive were Jerry Stiller who is featured in the window and Margo Feiden, the sole curator of the Hirschfeld collection. They were followed by the president of Bendel’s, the artistic director, and by Tom Carroll who created the pieces and Bendel’s Assistant VP of Visual, Gilberto Santana. Once inside, I showed the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “You must meet Margo!” (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories. She so very much reminded my of my dear aunt “G” (see older posts here.) I told her: “Back in the 1960’s and 70’s I was the quintessential stage door Johnny. I had met Bergman, Davis and Crawford…” Margo squeezed my hand and cut me off, “but when you met Hirschfeld…” she interrupted. “Yes!” I proclaimed, “how did you know?” “I can see it in your eyes, it’s still there.” She held my hand tighter. I will not forget that moment. Bendel’s has a limited edition ($100.) poster available for sale commemorating the evening which I asked Margo to sign. “I hope you can read this,” she said as she rolled it up before I could read what she had written to me. I was on cloud 9 as I thanked her and left.
Hans, Jerry Stiller, Margo Feiden
I called mom and told her of the wonderful evening and how my Hirschfeld story had come full cycle. “Well what did Margo write to you?!” mom asked. I didn’t know, because shortly thereafter it was tied up in the traditional brown/white polka dotted Bendel bow and into to fancy large shopping bag it went. “I’ll stop by your apartment on the way home and we can unveil it together.” I rushed home holding onto to it for dear life.
Once in mom’s living room, we carefully untied the bow and unrolled the large parchment poster, our eyes transfixed on the small handwriting on the poster, trying to make out the inscription. Then we both looked at up each other and were speechless when we saw what Margo had written: “To Hans, with your enthusiasm Bendel’s won’t need lights, Margo Feiden.”
My heart is full.
The celebrated party guests translated into three dimensions in the window include from left to right: Whoopi Goldberg, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen, Matthew Broderick, Liza, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jerry Stiller, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing and Hirschfeld himself. (Omitted in error is Margo Feiden.)
The Margo Feiden Gallery
15 East 9 St Between 5th Ave & University Place
Photo of the day: DEAD MARILYN ~ DAY OF THE DEAD – Day of the Dead / Dia de Meurtos is a fascinating holiday celebrated in Mexico October 31 and November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day (Halloween), Mexicans have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones. They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. I think this is wonderful. Elaborate altars are prepared with food and drink, skulls made of sugar, marigolds and lots of flowers, cigarettes for the departed and incredible folk art replicating and honoring their dear departed.
So on my annual trip to Tijuana, Mexico this August it was close enough for the approaching holiday that the Day of the Dead folk art abounded. Eagerly I shopped the markets – I saw dead Frida Kahlo of course, dead Elvis and my two treasures – dead Marilyn. Upon seeing them, my first reaction was with excitement. Second reaction with revulsion. Third reaction “I have to have them!” (Fourth reaction ‘Which do I choose?’) So here are my two hand made folk art Dead Marilyns (I’ve gotten used to them in my living room). Feliz Dia de los Muertos! .
PS – There was a short lived punk rock group called ‘Dead Marilyn’, I have the picture sleeve 45 tucked away somewhere.
Mondays on Memory Lane: MARILYN DEAD (murdered) August 5, 1962 – The glaring headline sent shock waves around the world, that the world’s most beloved blonde sex symbol had “committed suicide.” I can still remember that Friday summer’s morning in August, as a six year old boy was visiting his local grocery store with his grandmother, when suddenly a woman rushed into the store waving a newspaper over her head yelling something. The next thing I remember is the grocery store becoming absolutely silent. I didn’t understand at all what was going on, I had never witnessed anything like this. I remember I tugged on “Oma’s” skirt and asked her what had happened, I clearly recall her saying to me in a hushed tone “a beautiful woman has died.” We left in silence, the people around us were transfixed on the newspaper, many crying.
Today Marilyn would have been 87 years old, the same age as my mother. I wonder, what would she have been like? A woman’s libber? A dramatic actress? A recluse? We will never know. I choose to think she would be happy, having found love again with Joe DiMaggio (they were seeing each other again, seen walking hand in hand on the beach), outspoken, not face lifted and a beautiful graceful wise old woman. I wish that for her.
“How sad that the universal symbol of love and sex appeal died so alone.” No, she didn’t die alone – she was murdered, there were many people there that night. There is all the proof in the world that has conveniently been suppressed to keep the Kennedy’s reputation clean and clear. How intense that America’s ‘Camelot’ first family would be tied to the murder of the most famous woman of all time.
New York Daily News, August 5, 1962
Marilyn knew too much. She was seeing John F. Kennedy who had to end the affair for obvious reasons and passed her on to Bobby Kennedy. When Bobby wouldn’t return her calls anymore she made a pest of herself at the White House and the Kennedy household. How is it, that during the night she died, all of her phone records magically disappeared? No one has the power to do that – except the White House. Weeks before her murder, her house was broken into. What was stolen? Jewels? Furs? Her bra? Memorabilia? No – the infamous diary that she foolishly kept. Not wanting to be considered the dumb blonde, after her visits with the Kennedy’s and political figures, she would jot down notes of what she had overheard. She would study those notes so as to sound ‘intelligent’ at the next gathering. This was at the volatile time of the Cuban missile crisis which undoubtedly MM overheard details of. She simply was “a piece of meat” (Marilyn’s own words) who knew too much.
It is said she was depressed for being fired from her unfinished film “Something’s Got To Give” – not true, Dean Martin refused to continue filming unless MM was rehired, and she was. It is said she was loveless, as I said, she was seeing DiMaggio again. She was also living for the future, she had made plans to go furniture shopping in Mexico for her Spanish style home – a depressed person does not plan to buy furniture. She was known to be and said to be by her maid, Eunice Murray, a slob and would sleep rebelliously in dirty sheets for weeks and that the bed had not been made. Magically that night, new sheets appeared.
Anyone who knew her or had even seen her, saw and knew she couldn’t take pills without lots of water – there was no glass found in her room. How did she take all those pills?? The medication she is supposed to have overdosed with, leaves you dying cramped up, her body was found smooth. If she did take all the pills – where were they? The autopsy to this day shows only tea and toast in her stomach, that which her neighbor saw her eat. Her autopsy also, originally hundreds of pages long, mysteriously disappeared and was replaced with the greatly abbreviated version that exists today. The detective on the scene said he had never seen such a fishy fake set up as her bedroom death scene, but he never confessed this until shortly before he died.
So how did she die? Poisonous injection and suppository. MM wanted to get attention, having been rejected by both Kennedy’s. So, she had planned a press conference for that following Monday August 8th and was going to innocently leak some of the political scoop she had overheard, so as to get the brother’s attention. (Some old newspaper records still exist of the press conference she was to have had.) Oddly she was gone Friday night. Peter Lawford was sent with MM’s psychiatrist Ralph Greenson to quiet her up. The doctor knew exactly what drugs she had been prescribed and knew exactly what drugs would lethally interact with them. That drug was injected into her arm pits – one needle mark in each armpit is indicated in the autopsy report, her colon was discolored from the poison inserted into her.
Time has very conveniently been the best cover up of the most sensational murder of all time. People fearful of reprisal kept quiet, or confessed when it was too late. The afterlife must be one helluva an interesting place when all those guilty souls have to meet. Hundreds of books have been written about her, more so than any other woman in history. I own about 300 of those books and have read about half of them. It fascinates me endlessly! As a college student, I had to write a term paper on ‘a controversial subject’ – I chose her murder, which, at the time, was still very, very hush-hush and just rumored about. In 1969, there was only one book that existed about the subject, Fred Lawrence Guiles’s ”Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe,” which was translated into 14 languages. It was followed by Bob Slatzer’s 1974 book “The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe”, I devoured them both and determinedly wrote my term paper for which I begrudgingly got an “A”.
Macy’s American Icon banner, summer 2013
To this day she remains the eternal blonde. The eternal symbol of American sex appeal. The eternal love goddess. The epitome of ‘blonde’. The eternal American success story, from orphanage to the goddess of Hollywood. What person today doesn’t recognize that luminous face? She will radiate eternally. RIP.
Hauntingly beautiful, Norma Jeane Baker windswept
Mondays on Memory Lane: PLEASE HELP GIVE CAROL CHANNING A 2013 KENNEDY CENTER AWARD – If you are of a certain age, or you know your entertainment history, there are certain voices that on first note you recognize instantly. The Brooklyn of Jimmy Durante, the heart of Louis Armstrong, the belt of Ethel Merman, the breathiness Marilyn Monroe, the growl of Eartha Kitt, the shaky quality of Katherine Hepburn, the accent of Marlene Dietrich, the staccato speech pattern Bette Davis and above all the big hearted gravely “hello” of Carol Channing!
Carol is larger than life, she is a living caricature of herself, a favorite of the best caricature artist of all time Al Hirschfeld. She is also living Broadway history having created two of the most iconic characters in theater history, Lorelei Lee of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ and Dolly Levi of ‘Hello Dolly’. No matter who you remember playing these characters on screen, Marilyn Monroe or Streisand – Carol originated them! But above all, there is no other creation like Carol herself. You fall in love with her the moment you set eyes on her.
At age 92, nothing has changed, her saucer eyes, her broad grin, that bowl cut hair style, the platinum blonde hair, that child-like enthusiasm with a heart of gold and above all, above all – that voice! I have had the thrill of seeing her on stage many times in my lifetime: 3 times as Dolly in 1970, 1978 and 1995. Once as Lorelei Lee the ultimate diamond loving gold digger the 1974’s ‘Lorelei’, the musical stage version of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. In film she will be forever remembered as Muzzy Van Hossmere in Julie Andrews’ ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ as Carol sang in a vocal range from a high ‘C’ to the lowest note possible in ‘I’m Just A Jazz Baby’ and ‘Raspberries!’
On April 30, 2011, my good friend Jeffrey Shonert and I had the thrilling absolute surreal honor of sitting in front of Carol Channing and her late husband Harry Kullijian at the premier of her life story documentary “Larger Than Life” at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York. This was thanks to the larger than life heart and love of my dear friend, entertainer and author Richard Skipper. As the film ran I could hear Carol commenting on the film to her husband – two Carol voices at once – surreal!! Richard, I am forever indebted to you!
Once a year The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C hands out lifetime achievement awards to the greats of entertainment. Since their inception in 1978, in all this time, Carol Channing has never been honored. How they have overlooked and bypassed this legend is a travesty and embarrassment. What to me makes it worse, last year seemingly having run out of names to give it to, they gave it to mad magazine poster child David Letterman. How throwing watermelons off a roof while stupidly grinning into the camera merits a lifetime achievement award over the life’s work of Carol Channing is beyond me! She has entertained us since the 1940’s, has worked tirelessly for Arts In Education. She IS theater!
Thank you !
Hans Von Rittern
Photo of the day: MODERN DAY MARILYN – The Marilyn-esque look will last forever. I was strolling through the east village and came across MM staring down at me through the window of the wonderful 125 Second Avenue vintage shop “ENZ’S”. This mannequin has so many MM references: the cherries from her ‘The Misfits’ dress, the halter top from the famous subway skirt blowing scene in ‘The 7 Year Itch’, the pouting lips, the droopy eyes and lashes, the famous flip hairdo with an updated color – it’s Marilyn!
The east village is one of the last vestiges of what the entire “village” used to be like. Odd, unusual shops filled with quirky items, retro and hand made looks and even quirkier shop owners. Sadly in the Bloomberg/Quinn era the flavor of our ‘originality’ is quickly disappearing in favor of high rent chain stores and the ever cancerous growth of the New York University (NYU) campus. I truly hope in 2025 I will still be able too wander along some of our streets and find a Marilyn pouting at me through the window of a funky shop.
Address: 125 2nd Ave New York, NY 10003 Neighborhood: East Village (212) 228-1943
Nearest Transit: Astor Place (6) 8th St-Broadway (R, W) 3rd Ave-14th St (L)
Hours: Mon-Sat 12 pm – 8 pm
Sun 1 pm – 7pm
Photos of the day: ♫♪ ON THE 20th CENTURY LIMITED ♫♪ – The 20th Century Limited was an express passenger train operated by the New York Central Railroad from 1902 to 1967, during which time it would become known as a “National Institution” and the “Most Famous Train in the World”. In the year of its last run,The New York Times said that it “…was known to railroad buffs for 65 years as the world’s greatest train”. The train traveled between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago along the railroad’s famed “Water Level Route”.
From February 1978 to March 1979, “On The Twentieth Century” was a big, splashy art deco Broadway musical starring none other than Imogene Coca, John Cullum and Madeline Kahn. Imogene stopped the show as Letitia Primrose with her rousing song “Repent!”.
“On The Twentieth Century” 1978 Broadway cast lp
Last weekend May 11-12, 2013, the extravagant 20th Century Limited made a much sought after reappearance at the Centennial Grand Central Terminal Train Show. The crowds were twice what the police expected. It was a two to three hour wait to see the ‘Limited’ alone, but it was worth it! The New York police made the very unpopular decision to shut the show down early to handle the overflow crowds. I was literally the last person to make it in line to see the famed art deco train at 1:00pm. Phew! The upside of that was, since I was the last, the Grand Central volunteers were so happy to see I was the last one – I got a private tour! I was dizzy with euphoria as prying eyes outside were looking in wondering ‘who is that guy?!”.
In the stainless steel operational kitchen.
To experience this treasure from the past all alone is incredible. The sleek art deco fluid designs, the wonderful mint green art deco colors, the big deco furniture, the sheer elegance of every detail is exquisite. It was sensory overload. These were the days when travel was a luxury and an exciting experience you got dressed in your best for. Ladies with hat boxes, men with top hats and ties, children with their nannies in tow. I saw the whole train. The private dining room, the main dining room, the art deco bar, the sitting room, the sleeping quarters for the crew, the luxurious suites, the deco bathrooms, the all stainless steel kitchen-still operational. The best feature of all is the elegant high style art deco observation car in the back, shaped like a bullet. Wandering through the train James Bond’s intrigue with the adjoining rooms in “From Russia With Love” came to mind. Marilyn Monroe in her upper sleeping berth of “Some Like It Hot”, the romantic and thrilling memories were everywhere. I was told the most oft asked question asked upon seeing the sleeping berths was “Where’s Marilyn?”. The train is privately owned and you can rent it for $14,000 a weekend to travel the scenic rails of America. Get 20 of your best friends together, dress in your vintage best and it’s worth it! ALL ABOARD !
The owner, way in the back of ‘Star Trak Inc.’, finally taking a rest in his domain.
Photo of the day: GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL IS 100 YEARS AND 100 DAYS OLD TODAY – In the 1968 the city wanted to tear it down. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stepped in and fought for it’s protection:
“Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.”
Sadly enough, her statement is even more true today in the Mayor Bloomberg/Councilwoman Christine Quinn administration than it ever has been. One half million people a day wonder at the awe of this magnificent saved building. With the greed that is so prevalent in our city today, with buildings being torn down left and right in favor of monsterous soul-less glass boxes – how many buildings are we to loose?…
BUMPING IN TO MARILYN: Marilyn and the New York subways will be forever linked together since her iconic subway-grate skirt blowing scene from the 1954 film “The Seven Year Itch”. Coming out of the Trans Lux movie theater (Lexington Avenue/52nd Street) having seen “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” Marilyn wanders over the grate and joyously exclaims “Oooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway?! Isn’t it delicious?”
Incredibly and sadly, there is nothing there on the spot to commemorate that sizzling moment, but the photos from that infamous scene will live on forever – you think of Marilyn – you think of that white Travilla halter dress which Debbie Reynolds recently sold at auction for $4.6 million dollars.
One the most perfect photographs was shot by photographer, her friend and film maker Sam Shaw. Thanks to the MTA’s Art for Transit Program you can now ‘bump into Marilyn’ again for all of this 2013 in our subway system. The supersized version of Sam Shaw’s well-known 1954 photo is part of an exhibit. The exhibit also features seven of Shaw’s other Monroe photos. Later, in 1957, he spent a day with Marilyn wandering around Manhattan, taking photos in Central Park – at a bench and rowing a boat, window shopping along Fifth Avenue and perched above the FDR with then husband #3 playwright Arthur Miller .
The Sam Shaw lighted photo exhibit is on view inside the 42nd Street-Bryant Park subway station on the B, D, F, M and 7 lines. Manager Lester Burg of the Arts for Transit program says matching a mass transit setting with a popular figure from mass culture seemed a good fit. I would agree, ‘isn’t it delicious?’
ENJOYING THE LAST WARM DAYS OF WINTER WITH VERA: Yesterday was one of those last early warm December days you could find a comfortable chair in the park and close your eyes and drift back to summer memories of years gone by.
I took advantage of the warmth and made myself comfortable, as I did, I was intrigued by the woman sitting nearby, I sensed she has a bright spirit by the accessories she was wearing. A purple crinkle fabric handbag and a classic Vera scarf to go with her elegant black velvet jacket. Remember Vera deigns? How chic they were in the 1960’s with the little lady bug logo? Bright splashes of bold colors on bold flowers and bold waves of the paint brush swirled delicately about. Marilyn Monroe was a fan of Vera scarves.
I had to photograph her. What resulted . . . is this picture of peaceful elegant serenity. Beautiful expressive scarf, beautiful expressive hands, beautiful expressive face. Ageing gracefully has always been an art.
THE PERSIAN ROOM AT THE PLAZA HOTEL, 1974: Where were you 38 years ago on November 29, Friday night, 1974? I was 18 years old and took my friend Amy Hernandez to see a drag revue at the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room, one of the most magical places within the Plaza. For more than forty years, from 1934 to 1975, the Persian Room was the place to be in New York City. An unparalleled array of performers graced its stage—everyone from the incomparable Hildegarde Shirley Bassey, Ethel Merman, The Mills Brothers, Kay Thompson (mother to Eloise), Eartha Kitt, Bob Hope, Liberace, Diahann Carroll, Julie Wilson, Andy Williams, Josephine Baker, my dear Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich’s last New York appearance.
It was done in high Persian style in deep iridescent tones of blues, greens and purples – nowadays we would view the decor as high camp/kitsch, but it was divine! The entrance looked like a golden gate to a palace. Today it is where the main lobby of the hotel is on the left side as you enter the Plaza Hotel, with sadly not a hint of it’s decadent past.
Amy Hernandez’s mother owned an east side townhouse bar and restaurant called ‘The Beef & Bourbon’ and the bourbon, her mom’s (and Amy’s) favorite drink of choice, flowed freely. Amy had an uppity twin sister named Carol who never liked anything I had to say and would just say “Oh Hans…”.
‘Manhattan Follies’ was the talk of the nightclub world and I just had to go! Impersonated that night were the then staples: Dietrich, Garland, Ross, Channing, Marilyn and Mae and that new sensation Bette Midler. The headliner was up and coming drag star Craig Russell who would go on to make the hit 1977 film called “Outrageous!”
The room still had a ‘cigar & cigarette girl’, a shapely woman with a tray strapped under her bosom selling smokes for high prices (Lena Horne started out as one). A Weegee-like man went from table to table with a huge old fashioned flash camera an offered souvenir photographs.
Some of the photo’s fun details: I am wearing a black and white polyester Marilyn Monroe print dress shirt with an awfully huge white poly tie. The suit is black velvet bell bottomed and huge platform shoes (that you can’t see here) that had silver stars on them. The program pictured here on the right, is next to me by my seat. Amy’s polyester print blouse was black and white to match me. Note my index finger is extended on my lap because I am trying to show off a silver ring in the shape of a man’s head wearing a turban which I felt was appropriate for the evening’s occasion. Amy and I didn’t know we were partaking in history because sadly the ‘Manhattan Follies’ was the last and final show to play at The Persian Room.
The 1970’s was a glorious era. My era. A decadent era of nightclubbing, dancing, glitz and glamour. Studio 54, Xenon, 12 West, Ice Palace and the Paradise Garage. Huge shoes, hair sprayed hair, big eye glasses, bell bottoms and that wonderful disco music.
Where where you November 29, Friday night 1974?…
ROCKAWAY BEACH MEMORIES:
I grew up on Rockaway Beach. My first time seeing the ocean was from this stretch of sand. My first sense memories of sand between your toes and then in your shoes comes from Rockaway. The smells were wonderful: the salt air, the wooden boardwalk had a certain indefinable smell, the sun tan lotion (usually Coppertone) wafting through the air and the hot dogs grilling at the beach stand.
For the first ten years of my life, 1955 to 1965, we were too poor to vacation ‘out of town’. Rockaway was the working man’s Riviera. The longest stretch of urban beach in the United States on a peninsula stretching out into the Atlantic. You took the bus or the subway to get to the beach. We lived in Rego Park, Queens. We boarded the Q11 bus on Woodhaven Blvd. and then transferred to the ‘beach bus’ further down the blvd. It was a long arduous trek that took patience and stamina, but the rewards were well worth the two hour ride. If the buses were too crowded with teeny boppers and their transistor radios, you transferred to the scenic ’A’ train which took you over the bay with it’s little inlets and fisherman’s houses on stilts. It was a scenic journey in those old rattling subway cars with rattan seats, that now seems so much more romantic than it did at that time. I would give anything to relive that journey in one of those old subway cars again, they were different times. People had patience then, it wasn’t the era of hurry and rush, you accepted the fact that you would travel two hours by public transportation to get there.
The goal was 116th street. A wonderful honky tonk of old 2-story shops from the 1930’s hawking beach wear, surf boards, Italian ices, pizza and straw hats. Depending on how long it took to get there you quickly decided how much further up the beach you would walk to find a quieter spot away from the teenagers. (That meant of course, a longer walk back too). Right at the corner of 116th was an old wooden hotel that looked exactly like the Del Coronado hotel in the Marilyn Monroe film “Some Like It Hot”. The main floor was open with a huge open air old fashioned bar where you ordered your hot dogs and beer. Right across on the beach was the main life guard station which usually had the bikini girls right nearby. Planted strategically was the umbrella rental man. I remember the umbrellas distinctly, they were yellow and green horizontal striped. It was all on the honor system, you paid him, hauled the heavy wooden umbrella to your spot and were expected to return the umbrella yourself.
As it got hotter and your supplies ran low you would walk back to the old wooden hotel for more refreshments. It was sort of a badge of honor to have splinters in your feet to show you were tough enough to walk the splintery boardwalk back and forth without your flip-flops. Old biplanes would fly over head heralding the latest soft drink, radio station or local stores. Then there was the ice cream man. No – not in a truck, but a boy who carried a metal box with dry ice laden with Good Humor bars and orange drinks. “Ice cream and orange drinks heah!” We were in heaven. Portions of the beach to the left had stone jetties which created tidal pools, a place of fascination for a little boy. To the right were old wooden jetties with fisherman trying for their days catch. If you walked far enough to the right you would wind up at Riis Park. By 1965 it was the era of ‘Beach Blanket Bingo’, the Beach Boys, and surfer girls – tanning was a must. A good way to get an even tan was to take long walks. Those walks were wonderful, hunting for seashells, sea glass, and other little treasures of the sea. If you wanted to take a walk, you would ask your beach towel neighbor, “mind watching my stuff?” and off you went, sometimes for hours and your things would still be there upon your return. Incomprehensible in today’s times!
You timed your return home by whether or not you were going to stop at Playland, an old wooden amusement park that you would see in the old time black and white movies today. A rickety wooden rollercoaster called ‘The Atom Smasher‘, tunnel of love, games of chance, the smell of cotton candy was heady and the Nathan’s hot dogs were the best! It was a tough choice – sunset on the beach and a not so crowded long ride home, or, screaming thrills and a more crowded bus stop near Playland. Either way, you were lulled by the rocking of the old bus on your way home. Shoes filled with sand, sea shells clinking in your tin pail, sunburned arms and your beach towel smelling of sea air. Treasured memories.
My great-grandfather and grandfather were sea captains from Hamburg, Germany, they traveled the seven seas, the ocean is in our blood. So in the fall and in the winter, when the buses were empty and the beaches were quiet and desolate, we went to the beach for winter picnics and long introspective walks on the beach as the wind whirled the sea air through you hair. Searching for seashells was the best – no competition, that is when this picture was taken. The sound of the wind was like music, the ocean waves and the cries of the seagulls were so soothing. The old wooden boardwalk seemed ghostly without the sunbathers but it was as if it was our own private beach, just us and a few locals. The silhouettes of the old wooden cottages looked like and Edward Hopper painting. Their colors blue, white and green with a little yellow here and there. The beach and boardwalk without the throngs seemed to go on forever and ever. Around 3pm we would head back to 116th street where we would sip some hot cocoa and wait for the few buses to take us back.
In my teen years 116th street and the beach was the cool place to hang out with your friends and bring the latest 45’s to dance to on the beach as they played on your portable record player. We would have tanning contests to see who would come back the darkest from summer vacation, I won 3 out of 4 years in high school. In my junior year Susan Kopp won – she had used iodine and lemon juice mixed with her Coppertone (considered a death sentence today).
In my college years we traveled to the Caribbean for our vacations and the Rockaways became a thing of the past. Now sadly it truly is with the destruction of hurricane Sandy. You never realize how much you miss something until it is gone. What I wouldn’t give to have that one last hot dog or orangeade on the boardwalk “hot dogs and orange drinks, heah!”
Rockaway Beach is a part of me, it always will be.
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR: …is Christopher Columbus, usually seen 70 feet above Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Starting this week, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has enclosed the statue in an 810 square foot living room complete with a big screen TV, couches, magazines for you to read and wallpaper that features American icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, hot dogs and the Grand Canyon. It is all part of a temporary art project funded by the Public Art Fund.
Before the art installation
Before the art installation
Eagerly I climbed the six flights of scaffolding stairs as the view got more and more incredible, literally a bird’s eye view.
It is surreal when you first enter the ‘living room’. Reactions range from absurdly ridiculous, insane and ugly to genius, innovative and brilliant. Upon hearing of the idea first my reaction was unflattering. A scar on our city I thought, a gimmick, defacing the discoverer of our land. But then…as I climbed the stairs….and entered the room….and saw Columbus for the first time in my 56 years of living in this city, face to face, my opinion changed instantly.
Reactions are a mixture of astonishment, bemusement and wonderment. Smiles are instant. To watch the faces of the people as they enter the room is a show in itself. You are encouraged to sit, make yourself comfortable, read the daily supplied papers…just don’t sit on the windowsill as the attendants will tell you. There is even a vinatge copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves Of Grass’ on the bookshelf. You are to observe every tiny detail as you make your way around the room.
I have been to countless public art projects in my lifetime in this city, this one is one of the most inventive. (I am not a fan of Christo.) It brings me almost face to face with a statue the was literally paid for by the Italian immigrants in this city, paid for with their hard earned pennies, nickels and dimes.
Created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo, it was erected as part of New York’s 1892 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas. Il Progresso a New York City-based Italian language newspaper spearheaded the campaign for it’s citizens to donate what they could. I think they would be proud and smile, exclaiming “Bella! Bravo per gli Americani! Fantastico!”
“FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY NIGHT!”: ‘All About Eve’ is my obsessive favorite film of all time. I own film memorabilia from the film and had the extreme privilege to meet Celeste Holm in 2011 and even attended her 95th birthday party. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when she signed my original 1950 film poster for me.
Imagine my euphoria to find out Bryant Park’s and HBO’s Film Festival was showing ‘All About Eve’, Monday August 13th, 2012. I would have attended if I had the plague. Approximately 10,000 people showed up to see Marilyn Monroe ascend the staircase on George Sander’s arm and make her entrance in the party scene just after Bette Davis as Margo Channing utters one of the immortal film lines of all time: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” The audience stood up, hooted, hollered, cheered, whistled and applauded. It is a truly unique New York experience and I was in heaven . . .