Goodbye, Norma Jean…

While we were in LA, we found ourselves inadvertently walking in the footsteps of one of my biggest icons, Marilyn Monroe. I mean that literally:

Embed from Getty Images

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield's handprints outside Mann's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard
(I was all, “I’M Marilyn. No, I am! You be Jane Russell, mum…”)

Hollywood Boulevard was a bit of an odd experience to start with. As we pulled up, and saw hoardes of tourists all jostling to have their photos taken next to the stars on the sidewalk, I couldn’t really see the point . “Why would you want to take a photo of someone’s NAME?” I wondered aloud. “That’s just silly. I would never do that!”

Visiting the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard
So, yeah, we just totally played it cool, you know?


But I was talking about Marilyn Monroe. And on one of our first days in the city, we got to see this:

Marilyn Monroe's white dress from The 7 Year Itch on display at the Paley Center, Los Angeles
Yes, it’s THAT dress. THE white dress. The ‘Seven Year Itch’, subway grating dress. And as you can see, it’s no longer white, unfortunately, but I was still absolutely blown away to be standing in front of it.

The dress was on display at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, as part of the Debbie Reynolds auction collection, which consisted of more movie memorabilia and costumes than they could put on display. The Marilyn dress sold for $5.6 million just a few days after we saw it, and I still can’t quite get over the fact that we were able to be there. As far as I know, the dress has never been exhibited in public before, and it probably never will be again. There was a 2-week window of opportunity during which it was possible to see it, and it just so happened to coincide with the time we were in LA, which was a huge stroke of luck. I’m a huge Marilyn fan, and I couldn’t quite get over the fact that I was standing so close to THAT dress. (They had a few other dresses she’d worn too, including the red sequined one from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Wow.)

(Observation: you know how people are always banging on about how, in today’s sizing, Marilyn would be a size 14 or whatever? Folks, that dress is TINY. As in, I wear a UK 6, and I’m not sure I could have zipped it up all the way. TINY.)

Alongside it, we also saw Audrey Hepburn’s dress from My Fair Lady:

Audrey Hepburn's white dress from My Fair LadyMost of the clothes weren’t behind glass, they were just out on display like this one, close enough to touch if you dared. (We didn’t. They’re worth a fortune, and there were plenty of staff circulating, politely reminding people that pawing these items could damage or destroy them. One of the members of staff, in fact, had been an extra on Lost, and that made the trip for Terry, who instantly befriended the guy and talked to him for ages.)

There was also a ton of other amazing stuff. Oh, including this:

Me beside a Forever Amber movie posterI would totally have bid for it if the guide price hadn’t been $200 – $500.

Having thus commenced our stalking of Marilyn Monroe, we figured we may as well continue with it, because, hey, why NOT be a crazy stalker if you get the chance? Here I am standing in front of the house she was living in when she died:

Outside Marilyn Monroe's house in Los Angeles, California
And, well, here I am visiting her final resting place:

Visiting Dean Martin's grave in HollywoodMarilyn Monroe's graveThat’s actually Dean Martin’s grave I’m standing in front of in the top photo. The cemetery has its fair share of famous names, and it was a really moving experience. Apparently Joe DiMaggio had roses sent to Marilyn’s grave twice a week for years. I’ve no idea who the flowers were from when we were there, but the tomb was also covered in lipstick prints, presumably from visiting fans. Although there were a few people visiting while we were there, it was still very peaceful and quiet.

Finally, to wind up our Marilyn Monroe tour of Hollywood, here I am in Marilyn’s favourite booth at The Formosa:

In Marilyn Monroe's favourite booth at The Formosa, Los AngelesWe had drinks there one night with my friend Erik, who lives in LA, and while we were there we asked the waitress which booth was Marilyn’s. The restaurant was starting to empty out by the time we left, and the booth was empty, so we all popped in and took some quick photos. I’d imagine that seat has probably been re-covered since Marilyn sat in it, but still, people. STILL.

Goodbye, Norma Jean
Although I never knew you at all, I know you had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on a treadmill
And they made you change your name.

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would’ve liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

~Elton John, Candle in the Wind

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  • You look sickeningly lovely as always, and as I regularly tell people, it is always far better to be over-dressed than under-dressed! 😀

    Also, love the poster – I loved the novel Forever Amber as a teen, but didn’t know they’d made a film of it too! Cx

    July 11, 2011
  • Wow, what a tremendous experience. I’m a big Marilyn fan so I’d have been all stalkerish too.

    I remember when we were in Germany there was an exhibition of Marlene Deitrich’s Dior dresses, I got stupidly excited about seeing those too.

    Btw, I think she would have approved of your glamorous look. X

    July 11, 2011
  • Carys


    I think I honestly would have cried, seeing The Dress in real life – I adore Marilyn, I find her endlessly fascinating – but there’s also something about seeing such an iconic piece of cinema that would just overwhelm me. Same for Audrey’s My Fair Lady costume (also, how tiny?! Lordy.)

    Also, you were better behaved than I. The house Marilyn was living in when she passed? I hoofed myself up the fence to get a good picture. Really. My brother was convinced we were going to get arrested (we didn’t).

    We also drove past the Playboy Mansion when we were there, I remember that because you can see absolutely naff all, but they do have a Playboy bunny embossed into the plaque on the gate!

    July 11, 2011
  • you look so pretty in these pictures, especially the last one, gorgeous smile. It’s a shame the dress has darkened so much, but wow the selling price is incredible, I had no idea somebody had bid such a high amount of money.
    I particularly enjoyed watching the Mad Men episode that deals with Marilyn’s death, it was so sad, and people really cried for her. I guess we will never know what actually happened that tragic day.

    July 11, 2011
  • I found it such a touching post actually.. it’s amazing to see someone passionate about what they love. I can imagine how you felt, being at all places where she used to be and even getting the chance to see THE dress.
    And you look stunning as always. I adore your style and the way you wear dresses.. and shoes, of course. I’m a huge fan of your shoes collection)

    July 12, 2011
  • Andrea


    I left a comment on an older post about your hair. You have taken it completely the wrong way. I did not word it in a nasty way at all, yet you chose to go and bitch about me on Twitter anyway. What you wrote about me was not what I said at all. That’s very immature of you. If you wanted to say something then you could have simply replied to my comment. I’m disappointed at your reaction.

    July 12, 2011
  • Marilyn Monroe is a LEGEND! I love her controversial story!

    July 12, 2011
  • Cee


    I can’t believe Marilyn’s white dress isn’t white any more, what happened to it?? It’s great to see it up close as I could never make out the detail in photographs.

    I love your dress and I don’t think it’s overdressed at all, it’s very Marilyn appropriate!

    July 12, 2011
  • fiona


    you look great as always. the pics are really nice. dont know who andrea is but take a hike lol. i am always wary of someone who starts a sentance with, “i don’t mean to be rude” but yeah well shut the hell up. anyway having a ball in the big T. playing with them all day to hot to walk them till later in the evening. thank goodness bonnie has central air. take care xx.

    July 12, 2011
  • Oh what a lovely if very poignant day out! (You’re making me crave a visit to California so baaaaad.) V envious that you saw The Dress, as well as Audrey’s (so gorgeous! Also: teeny).

    July 15, 2011
  • I’m so envious you got to go to the exhibition. I downloaded the catalogue a couple of weeks ago and just sat with my mouth hanging open. Who knew Debbie Reynolds had all that incredible stuff?!

    July 18, 2011
  • While I’m not a big fan of Marilyn in her films on the whole, I’m really interested by her life and her personality and how she wasn’t the stupid dumb airhead she was always playing, she was smarter than that but vulnerable and flawed at the same time. For that I love her, not so much her image

    June 15, 2014