An Evening with Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe Exhibit:  A Benefit for the United Way of Santa Cruz County
March 16 & 17, 2012


Exhibit Press:

The Good Times: Legacy of a Legend and Marilyn Unveiled
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
By J.D. Ramey

United Way fundraiser at Chaminade offers a candid view of Marilyn Monroe’s private life

Most Marilyn Monroe historians play up the more sensational aspects of the film star’s life: the glamour, the mystique, the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, the rumors of her affairs with this or that Kennedy. But beneath all the glitter and intrigue, Monroe was a shy, sensitive soul with a soft spot for humans in need, not to mention a strong belief in equal rights for minorities and the poor. Her compassionate side is evidenced by the fact that she supported several charities, all the way up to her last public appearance on June 1, 1962 (her birthday): a fundraiser to fight muscular dystrophy at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.

Being the 50th anniversary of Monroe’s death, 2012 is a fitting year for “An Evening with Marilyn: An Intimate Look at the Legend,” which takes place at Chaminade Resort & Spa on Saturday, March 17. A fundraiser for United Way of Santa Cruz County, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, the event features cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, a special presentation, and an exhibition of Marilyn memorabilia from the collection of local aficionado Scott Fortner. As Fortner puts it, “Marilyn Monroe, the glamorous movie star, is very well known, yet exhibit and gala attendees will experience the very private and personal life of Marilyn.”

Among the items on display will be the first fur that the film star ever owned, the blouse she was wearing in the last photos ever taken of her before her death, the Kodak Brownie camera she owned as a child, private letters, cosmetics, books from her library, invoices and receipts from her files, and one of her bank checks, dated Aug. 3, 1962—two days before her death. Also exhibited will be photos from throughout Monroe’s career, including early modeling shots from the days when she still went by Norma Jeane.

“I’ve worked closely with Santa Cruz County United Way for over 10 years, and I know their community support is far reaching, just based on the number of agencies they support throughout our county,” Fortner offers. “I’m hoping we can raise a lot of money to help support our community members in need.”

Fortner explains that most of the items in his collection come straight from Monroe’s estate. The screen legend willed the lion’s share of her possessions to her acting coaches, Lee and Paula Strasberg, who kept the memorabilia in a storage locker for decades. Fortner amassed the bulk of his collection at auctions that the Strasbergs held in 1999 and 2005 at the New York fine arts house Christie’s.

It’s a testament to Monroe’s iconic status that a display of items from her off-screen life can still draw a crowd a full five decades after her death. One has to wonder what it is about the actress that makes her such a perennial subject of fascination. Fortner says he’s presented that question to each of the thousands of Marilyn Monroe fans he’s met over the years. “The one answer I receive time and time again is that people feel a need to protect her,” he notes. “I hear this from people who actually knew Marilyn, and also from casual fans born after Marilyn died.”

The collector adds that people relate to the personal challenges that Monroe faced. “For example, Marilyn had a troubled childhood, never knowing who her father was,” he expounds, also citing the institutionalization of her mother, her challenging relationships with men, her weight problems in the late ’50s, and her addictions to alcohol and medications. “She struggled to be taken seriously and also to be respected. She was painfully shy, afraid and insecure. She was very unsure of herself. These are aspects of Marilyn’s life in which many people around the world feel a connection because they experience one or more of these same issues or feelings.”

Asked what three questions he’d ask Monroe if given the opportunity, Fortner offers, “Since the circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death are still shrouded in mystery today, I’d ask what actually happened the night she died.” Secondly, he’d ask what her true relationship with the Kennedy brothers was. And lastly? “I’d ask her what her feelings are about her stardom today and how popular she continues to be 50 years after her death.” 

Santa Cruz Sentinel: United Way of Santa Cruz County Marks 70th Anniversary Featuring Collection of Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia

An exhibition of the clothing and personal belongings of Marilyn Monroe will go on display March…

A rare display of personal items once owned by actress Marilyn Monroe will be on display for the public during fundraising festivities on March 16 and 17 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Way of Santa Cruz County.

“It’s a gift for us, because the public gets a chance to see these artifacts,” said Mary Lou Goeke, executive director of United Way of Santa Cruz County. “It’s a wonderful blend of personal items from one of the most recognizable movie stars of all time.”

Monroe, who died in 1962, was a top box office attraction during the 1950s and was rated the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. She has remained an enduring star and pop icon to this day.

“Not only is it the 70th anniversary of United Way of Santa Cruz County, but it’s also the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe,” Goeke said. “This year will see, in addition to movies about Marilyn Monroe, retrospectives on her life in newspapers, books, PBS and other television cable channels.”  The Monroe memorabilia was assembled by Scott Fortner, a noted collector.  Goeke said Fortner’s collection includes private photos of the star, original clothing items, cosmetics, private papers, documents and other items.

“It’s a priceless collection,” she said.

After Monroe’s death, her personal effects were shipped to a family friend where they languished boxed up in a basement. Fortner was able to acquire many of them as they came up for auction in famous outlets such as Christie’s New York.

“Some of Monroe’s dresses have sold in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Goeke said.

United Way of Santa Cruz County was originally formed in 1941 in Watsonville and Santa Cruz to raise funding to help troops overseas fighting World War II. At the time it was called “Community Chest.”

“People have seen Community Chest on their Monopoly board game,” Goeke said. “That’s named after us. In the 1970s we became known as United Way of Santa Cruz County.”

The nonprofit works to improve the quality of life by providing financial support for youth, family and health services.

“For example, we support a telephone 211 line that provides referrals for families who need help, and we’re active in helping change laws to make the community healthier,” Goeke said.

United Way of Santa Cruz County funds its operations from local donations and fund raisers. All the money raised locally stays local to help fund United Way of Santa Cruz County operations. Goeke said the organization hopes to raise $40,000 from the Monroe exhibition.

The celebration will be held at Chaminade Resort & Spa, 1 Chaminade Lane in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Sentinel: The Divine Miss M: Clothing, Personal Items of Marilyn Monroe Help United Way Fundraiser
By Shanna McCord

Personal items belonging to one of Hollywood’s most famous bombshells were on display at a fundraiser for the United Way of Santa Cruz County.

Designer clothing and other pieces owned by the 1950s and 60s sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, drew several hundred people to Chaminade Resort & Spa on Friday and Saturday to view the exhibit.

The fundraiser was planned to honor the United Way’s 70th anniversary in Santa Cruz County, and mark the 50 years since Monroe died in 1962.

“I’m a fan and she’s a beautiful woman,” said Joanie Birmingham, a Santa Cruz resident viewing the exhibit Saturday. “I’m going to go home and watch a couple of her movies now – ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘How to Marry A Millionaire.'”

Monroe’s sartorial collection included a slinky low-cut cocktail dress, a beige and pastel silk evening cape, a mink fur collar and a green long-sleeved jersey blouse by Pucci.

Empty jars of Erno Laszlo face creams, paycheck stubs from 20th Century Fox, dry-cleaning receipts, a telephone bill for $34 and bank statements rounded out the collection.

Monroe’s bank account at Bank of America in 1951 showed an ending balance of $245.99.

Collector Scott Fortner, who has been a fan of the movie star his entire life, works closely with the United Way of Santa Cruz County.  He’s known for loaning the exhibit to The Hollywood Museum, and plans to take some items to Florence, Italy, later this year. However, this was the first charity fundraiser for the exhibit.

“I thought it would be fun and exciting to commemorate the anniversaries,” Fortner said. “You just can’t explain it. I’ve just always been fascinated by who she was as a person and how she reached this iconic status.”

Anne Cawley of the United Way said all the money raised will go to programs that help the 75,000 people in Santa Cruz County who seek the nonprofit’s assistance each year.

Besides the exhibit, the fundraiser included a black-tie optional dinner and silent auction at Chaminade on Saturday evening for 200 people.

Cawley estimated the nonprofit could raise as much as $50,000 from the Monroe event.

Chaminade created a Marilyn Monroe-themed cocktail just for the occasion, Cawley said. Santa Cruzans Get a Look At Private Marilyn Monroe Collection

Monroe fans got a taste of the Hollywood Museum at a United Way fundraiser at Chaminade Friday and Saturday.

Fifty years after her death, hundreds of United Way supporters got a look into the private life of Marilyn Monroe this weekend.Scott Fortner’s collection of Marilyn’s most intimate items were on display at Chaminade Resort and Spa Friday and Saturday, to raise money for the United Way of Santa Cruz and celebrate both the 70-year anniversary of the United Way and the 50th year since Marilyn died.

Fortner is considered an authority on Marilyn Monroe.

The heavy rains didn’t stop many curious Monroe fans from checking out the display of Fortner’s extensive collection.

One woman viewing the exhibit says she also collects Marilyn memorabilia. But not these kind of things, says Zenaida Castillo.

“Pictures, jewelry with her, anywhere you look I have her stuff. So it was just kind of fun to come and see her real stuff,” says Castillo. “My favorite, believe it or not is to see her creams and stuff, I love her personal things.”

Polly Hormel of Santa Cruz agrees.

“I love it,” she said. “I’ve been a fan of hers for years. Especially her make up,” says Hormel, pointing out Marilyn’s Elizabeth Arden perfume and cashew cream make up.

Fortner has been collecting Marilyn’s items and original photographs for years. He says he obtains things for his collection at auctions and private transactions.

“Believe it or not, people give me things,” says Fortner. “Like the yearbook was given to me by someone who was in school with Marilyn. She wanted it to go to a fan. Someone who appreciated Marilyn and someone who would really appreciate the book.”

Raelynn McGraw of Santa Cruz appreciated the ‘Marilyn cocktail’ created for the event containing vodka, Chambord, pineapple juice, and champagne.

“They said she liked champagne,” says McGraw. “It was very interesting with the pineapple but it was very good…like a martini.”

Marilyn’s personal correspondence was especially intriguing for June Ralston of Santa Cruz.

“Everything is so different and unique, i kinda just enjoy reading the letters,” says Ralston.

There were many letters, notes, receipts, film scripts, skin care items, gowns, garments and much more to enjoy viewing along with videos of Marilyn wearing some of the very same clothing items on display.

At the main dinner gala Saturday night, the guests were treated to a $125-a-plate dinner and music and met the winner of a Monroe lookalike contest. Winners of the silent auction were announced and the raffle winners from both nights were informed on Sunday.

The event was sponsored by Plantronics, the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, Tina Shull, and the Pacific Cookie Company.