50 years after her death at only 36 years old, Marilyn Monroe still draws a crowd. Yesterday, hundreds of fans gathered at her Westwood Memorial Park crypt to remember her, and to attend a memorial service in the same chapel where her funeral was held in 1962.
The memorial service was one of a four-day series of gatherings and events that brought fans from all over the world to Los Angeles; also included was a special run of Marilyn: Forever Blonde, a one-woman play starring Sunny Thompson, a screening of one of Monroe’s movies, and a tour of the places she lived and frequented. Fans ended the tour, organized by Mary Sims of Immortal Marilyn Fan Club, with a sunset champagne toast to Monroe on Santa Monica beach. The many events, prove that Marilyn Monroe remains as powerful a presence as she was when she passed away half a century ago.
The waif who became the world’s biggest star is, if anything, more popular than ever; interest in her has skyrocketed with shows like Smash and the film My Week With Marilyn which earned Michelle Williams an Oscar nomination. But the people who gathered to remember Marilyn yesterday were there to honor the woman behind the myth.
Among those present at the memorial service, organized by Greg Schreiner of the long-running fan club Marilyn Remembered, were several people who knew Marilyn and a whole lot more who wish they had. Speakers at her service included Stanley Rubin, producer of Monroe’s film River of No Return, photographer George Barris, and Amy and Joshua Greene, the wife and son of Marilyn’s business partner and photographer Milton Greene. They spoke of the woman they remembered not as a movie star, but as a friend.
Marilyn’s crypt was stacked with flowers, cards, and photographs, notes from the fans she continues to inspire to this day. An actress who was never taken seriously in her own time, Marilyn Monroe’s legend has grown in the 50 years since her death. Books about her life number in the hundreds; she has been analyzed by the likes of Gloria Steinem and Normal Mailer, and she has finally been recognized for the one thing she most wanted; as a gifted actress and more than simply a sex symbol.
Marilyn draws fans from all walks of life; her enduring influence is evidenced by the devotion of her fans, who came from as far away as New Zealand, Italy, and Spain, and by her continual presence in pop culture so long after her passing. Her tragic death ensured her place as a legend, and it shows no sign of wearing off.
I can't think of any other star who remains so present after half a century, nor can I think of any start today who might be remembered in the same way. Marilyn Monroe was one of a kind; an American icon.