Thursday, August 23, 2012


I never realized that this happened.

In the 50's black performers were usually not allowed to play in the larger clubs.  They generally played in smaller clubs for what was presumed to be primarily black audiences.  Well, they didn't plan on Miss Marilyn Monroe shaking up that system.

Marilyn loved to go to The Mocambo, a Latin-themed club in Los Angeles. It was a place where the stars loved to hang out:  people like Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Myrna Loy, Bob Hope, and many  more.  It was so popular that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball replicated it to create The Tropicana (tell me you aren't saying "bobalooooooo" in your head right now.  You know you are.)  Well, there was plenty of entertainment at The Mocambo, but no black artists.  They just were not allowed.  Enter Marilyn, who was a great fan of Ella Fitzgerald.

Marilyn appealed to the owner to have Ella Fitzgerald sing at his club, promising that she would sit front and center every night if he did.  Well, he did, and so did she.  It was a group coup, because the club got plenty of publicity for Miss Marilyn Monroe being there, and Miss Ella reportedly never played a small club again.  It was acts like this that changed civil rights as we knew them, bit by bit. 

Marilyn was a deeper thinker than most people realized.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


This beauty is from the House of Worth, circa 1898.  Frederick Worth is known as the first couturier, because he was a pioneer in using live models to show off his creations.  The House of Worth was a destination -- women would travel there to buy an entire wardrobe.  The House of Worth opened in 1858, and didn't close its doors until 1952. 

Who says in fashion, one day you're in, and one day you're out? 

(Photo: Met Museum)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Princess For a Day

So, my friend Janet shared this photo with me.  It is the wedding dress of Margaret Campbell Surry, whose wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell for her wedding in 1933.  Mr Hartnell, as you may remember, designed dresses for such casual events such as then Princess Elizabeth's wedding to Prince Phillip, Princess Margaret's wedding dress, and Queen Elizabeth II's coronation gown.  Little stuff like that......

So rumor got out about this fantastical dress, and on her wedding day, Miss Margaret found traffic jams in the streets of London, with people anxious to see the dress.  And for good reason.  It's easy to see how Mr. Hartnell became such a favorite of the royals, isn't it?

If you'd like to see a bit of footage of the recessional from the wedding, here it is.  What a bunch of somber bridesmaids.


Sadly, the wedding ended in divorce in 1947.  Mrs. Surrey later fell down an elevator shaft, falling 40 feet.  The resulting head injury caused her to lose her sense of taste and smell, and to become something of a nymphomaniac.  Her next marriage in 1951, to the Duke of Argyll, ended in a very nasty divorce full of Polaroids of her escapades.

But despite her marital foibles, on one wonderful day in 1933, she was princess for a day, and wore the most beautiful silk creation to grace the planet thus far.  If you'd like to see other beautiful wedding dress creations, check out this link.  How I would've loved to be there for the unveiling of that  display.

Monday, August 13, 2012

One detail.

My brother mentioned yesterday that he had just watched Stage Door.  What a wonderful movie, with early performances by not-yet-known stars like Lucille Ball and Ginger Rogers.  But first and foremost, of course, is Miss Katherine Hepburn.

The climactic scene is shown above, with Miss Hepburn wearing a gown designed by Muriel King.  I saw it, and I fell in love.  I can't find a full length photo of it online, and I'm hesitant to post the video clip, lest it ruin the movie for you.  But if you must.......

Just look at how that dress moves.  It's like liquid.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Apparently, Ms. King believed that dresses should have only one focal element which, of course, is the bodice in this dress.  How smart is it when a designer knows how to edit themselves?  And it served her well, because although she didn't draw, or sew, or even drape, she became a personal designer for Ms. Hepburn both on and off the stage.  Her work process was backward -- she painted a full watercolor of the dress, then left it up to her people to make the dress a reality.  What I would give to have one of those paintings.........

And if you are like me, and wonder how that dress looked in real life color, here it is.

I imagined it in powder blue, but after seeing it in color, realized that designers had to design for the lighting of black and white film.  This detail only adds to the genius of designers such as Muriel King.  She retired in the late 50s to paint full time, leaving behind a fine set of designing credits.

Photo:  Kent State (who had a display of Katherine Hepburn's wardrobe in 2010.  Had I known it was there, I would have slept on their doorstep, waiting to see it.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

50 Years.

Her life was short, but left a legacy that is probably never going to be equalled.  She was both innocent and sexy, sad and joyous, amazing and tragic.  She married and divorced.  Her first husband sent flowers to her grave every week for twenty years.

She was our Marilyn.

It was said that she could walk down the street unnoticed, until she turned on Marilyn.  As Norma Jean Baker, she could blend into a crowd.  As Marilyn, she attracted one.  Her film career didn't include any Oscars, and it was, by comparison, short.  But we will never forget her. 

And 50 years later, we still mourn her.