United Way fundraiser at Chaminade offers a candid view of Marilyn Monroe’s private life
Most Marilyn Monroe historians play up the more sensational aspects of the film star’s life: the glamour, the mystique, the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, the rumors of her affairs with this or that Kennedy. But beneath all the glitter and intrigue, Monroe was a shy, sensitive soul with a soft spot for humans in need, not to mention a strong belief in equal rights for minorities and the poor. Her compassionate side is evidenced by the fact that she supported several charities, all the way up to her last public appearance on June 1, 1962 (her birthday): a fundraiser to fight muscular dystrophy at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.
Being the 50th anniversary of Monroe’s death, 2012 is a fitting year for “An Evening with Marilyn: An Intimate Look at the Legend,” which takes place at Chaminade Resort & Spa on Saturday, March 17. A fundraiser for United Way of Santa Cruz County, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, the event features cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, a special presentation, and an exhibition of Marilyn memorabilia from the collection of local aficionado Scott Fortner. As Fortner puts it, “Marilyn Monroe, the glamorous movie star, is very well known, yet exhibit and gala attendees will experience the very private and personal life of Marilyn.”
Among the items on display will be the first fur that the film star ever owned, the blouse she was wearing in the last photos ever taken of her before her death, the Kodak Brownie camera she owned as a child, private letters, cosmetics, books from her library, invoices and receipts from her files, and one of her bank checks, dated Aug. 3, 1962—two days before her death. Also exhibited will be photos from throughout Monroe’s career, including early modeling shots from the days when she still went by Norma Jeane.
“I’ve worked closely with Santa Cruz County United Way for over 10 years, and I know their community support is far reaching, just based on the number of agencies they support throughout our county,” Fortner offers. “I’m hoping we can raise a lot of money to help support our community members in need.”
Fortner explains that most of the items in his collection come straight from Monroe’s estate. The screen legend willed the lion’s share of her possessions to her acting coaches, Lee and Paula Strasberg, who kept the memorabilia in a storage locker for decades. Fortner amassed the bulk of his collection at auctions that the Strasbergs held in 1999 and 2005 at the New York fine arts house Christie’s.
It’s a testament to Monroe’s iconic status that a display of items from her off-screen life can still draw a crowd a full five decades after her death. One has to wonder what it is about the actress that makes her such a perennial subject of fascination. Fortner says he’s presented that question to each of the thousands of Marilyn Monroe fans he’s met over the years. “The one answer I receive time and time again is that people feel a need to protect her,” he notes. “I hear this from people who actually knew Marilyn, and also from casual fans born after Marilyn died.”
The collector adds that people relate to the personal challenges that Monroe faced. “For example, Marilyn had a troubled childhood, never knowing who her father was,” he expounds, also citing the institutionalization of her mother, her challenging relationships with men, her weight problems in the late ’50s, and her addictions to alcohol and medications. “She struggled to be taken seriously and also to be respected. She was painfully shy, afraid and insecure. She was very unsure of herself. These are aspects of Marilyn’s life in which many people around the world feel a connection because they experience one or more of these same issues or feelings.”
Asked what three questions he’d ask Monroe if given the opportunity, Fortner offers, “Since the circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death are still shrouded in mystery today, I’d ask what actually happened the night she died.” Secondly, he’d ask what her true relationship with the Kennedy brothers was. And lastly? “I’d ask her what her feelings are about her stardom today and how popular she continues to be 50 years after her death.”
“An Evening with Marilyn Monroe: An Intimate Look at the Legend” begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 17 at Chaminade Resort & Spa, 1 Chaminade Lane,
Santa Cruz. Tickets are $125. For tickets, visit
Marilyn Unveiled – GT readers cast votes for their favorite Marilyn Monroe look-alike
The results for our Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest are in. Local Samantha Ray Moore captured the most votes in our online poll last weekend, proving, perhaps, that Monroe’s legacy isn’t about to fade any time soon. After grabbing one of the top five spots in the initial online contest weeks ago, Moore and four candidates were offered a photo shoot by local photographers Virginia Morgan Scott, Gail Nichols, and Jeffery J. Luhn (Luhn took the shot of Moore, above.) Styling was done by The Last Resort salon in Soquel. All this on the eve of United Way’s big 70th anniversary bash, “An Evening with Marilyn Monroe: An Intimate Look at the Legend,” which unfolds at Chaminade on Saturday, March 17. (See related story opposite page.) In the meantime, congratulations are in order for Moore. Congrats. She truly embodies the look and the vibe of Marilyn Monroe. Thank you to all who participated, especially the other finalists: Sydney Zolezzi, Abigail Reno, Heather Lemson and Alison Biles.
Now … who’s next? James Dean? Bring it on …