“This is the Marilyn you don’t know. That’s what we tried to give you, not what you know but what you might not know.” The icon that is Marilyn Monroe has been celebrated time and time again, but leave it up to Whoopi Goldberg to bring a very real view on the Hollywood legend to life. Over the weekend, “Marilyn: Character Not Image” kicked off at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City. The View host curated the month long exhibit featuring Marilyn Monroe’s poems, drawings and photographs by Milton Greene and Weegee in hopes of showing a more personal appreciation of the woman behind the actress.
So what’s Whoopi’s connection to the '50s sex symbol? Well, besides her general fascination with the star, she explained at a visit to the art complex, “More than anything, I think I represent that you don’t have to be Marilyn. I sort of represent that we can exist on the same plane as performers, as actors. And also as we look at these women who are in movies now, to keep in mind that these are real people with inner thoughts. They’re not just these images.”
Perhaps the real star of the show was the gown Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to President John F. Kennedy in at a 1962 Democratic Party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden. The dress, made of soufflé gauze and 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, is displayed on a mannequin standing on a white pedestal until it goes up for auction in November. It was previously sold in 1999 for a then-record-breaking $1.3 million, but executive director of Julien's Auctions, Martin J. Nolan, predicts it will go for up to $3 million this time around.
“Any time I see anything of hers, I feel happy and sad because you know it’s not easy to be [a] superstar, but it’s not easy to be a sex symbol I’ve figured out. And you know, she was the first. Elizabeth Taylor had a different kind of sexy. Marilyn gave you vulnerability. On top of that, having to maintain this, ‘I’m the sexiest thing on the planet,’ when really you’re just getting your period and you want to go home. But she didn’t get to have that.”
"Marilyn: Character Not Image" runs through Oct. 22 at Mana Contemporary at 888 Newark Ave.
(Photos: Thom Sanchez/Mana Contemporary)
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