Mondo Marilyn: Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

MONDO MARILYN PART THREE: ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE

It is often said that the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.  In Marilyn Monroe’s case, this seems to be the rule instead of the exception; the public is repeatedly asked to endure endless accounts of the schizoid Norma Jeane/Marilyn myth while her real and more substantial passions are often ignored. 

There isn’t any money to be made in suggesting that Marilyn was actually a multifaceted and talented career woman whose “madness” was probably a reaction to the shortcomings of the men who controlled her opportunities in that pre-women’s lib era in which she struggled to survive.  I find it curious that of all the books that have been published on Monroe, even the ones that profess to defend her, none of them have donated their sales to the Los Angeles Children’s Home in Hollywood, the orphanage synonymous with that infamous tale of the sad childhood of Norma Jeane. 

I wonder if it would surprise people to know that Marilyn considered herself a natural horticulturalist – she subscribed to gardening magazines and used her talent for horticulture as therapy, especially during the last period of her life, when she occupied her Brentwood home.  This Giant Marilyn Garden Art Wall from last month’s Singapore Garden Festival would have delighted her.

Walt Disney, the man who imagined, and then made real, an entire universe synonymous with the young at heart the world over was so enamoured of Marilyn’s effervesence that he insisted the character of Tinkerbell be fashioned after her.  Unlike the exaggerated Barbie doll, Tinkerbell’s proportions are entirely Monroe’s. According to Wikipedia, Disney’s animated version of Tinker Bell is one of the most important branding icons for the The Walt Disney Company, generally known as “a symbol of ‘the Magic of Disney'”.

Marilyn’s greatest and overlooked passion, that of equality and human rights, is finally being explored, thanks to the recollections and gratitude of Ella Fitzgerald. 

Here Bonnie Greer, a playwright and Actors Studio alum talks about her play, MARILYN AND ELLA, which focuses on Marilyn’s support of the Civil Rights Movement

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Ella Fitzgerald would muse. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”