In the formal living room of his historic childhood home, Joel Gravallese held his late friend, Jim Dougherty’s, favorite picture of his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe — one that reminded him of the icon’s happiness before the fame.
Gravallese has spent the last year renovating the 1876 home built by Augustus Octavius Goodsoe, the “richest man in Kittery,” to the tune of more than $100,000. On Wednesday, in working with Wanda Syphers of Carey & Giampa Realtors, Gravallese used his Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, passed down from her former husband, to draw visitors and prospective buyers to the Italian-styled Rogers Road home listed at $424,700.
Some pieces were for sale Wednesday, but others are “personal,” Gravallese said, and one day he envisions the items in a museum.
“They were given as a gift,” said the Rochester, N.H., resident, who has many items displayed in his Kittery shop Dunn’s Watch & Clock Repair. “To me, it’s a private collection.”
Photos spanning Monroe’s career, books and more were displayed Wednesday, but the items are “the tip of the iceberg,” said Gravallese, who became a longtime friend of Dougherty’s after the longtime Maine resident visited Dunn’s. The full collection includes much more that the starlet sent her first husband as her fame grew.
“The only thing he asked me to do is, if it ever came to a point that I didn’t want these items, to give them to a museum. He just didn’t want it to go into the wrong hands,” Gravallese said. “Ninety percent of what you see is irreplaceable. These are great memories for me.”
Though Dougherty and Monroe divorced in 1946 after four years of marriage, they remained friends until three years before Monroe’s death, according to Gravallese. The beauty queen often sent tokens of her success to Dougherty, he said. Dougherty wrote “To Norma Jeane, With Love, Jimmie” a story of their romance, and was the subject of “Marilyn’s Man,” a documentary about their love affair.
Monroe was 16-year-old Norma Jeane Baker when she married Dougherty, then 21. When Dougherty left in 1944 to serve in the Merchant Marines, Monroe’s career began and the two drifted apart.
There are countless memories, but it’s the photo Gravallese held Wednesday, with a smiling Monroe clenching a flower in her teeth and donning a blue and white polka-dot tank top, that was Dougherty’s favorite, according to Gravallese.
“This is his favorite because she was happy,” Gravallese said, holding the framed portrait. “He liked the flower in her mouth and that she didn’t look depressed.”
There’s one photo Gravallese said Dougherty couldn’t bear to look at, taken just three months before her death, because he could see the hurt on her face. In the photo, Monroe is sitting comfortably on a beach wearing a large sweater. But it hasn’t been seen by many, because as her eyes are not engaging the viewer, Monroe denied the photographer’s proof.
Dougherty would often visit Gravallese’s Kittery shop and the two would go out for lunch, over which Dougherty would share stories of Monroe. A favorite for Gravallese is hearing that the starlet was “freaked out” by animals in the woods and that Dougherty taught her to hunt.
“When she learned to use a shotgun, she fell back in manure and looked like she was going to cry,” Gravallese said of the story as told to him by Dougherty. “They looked at each other and laughed. That was a year and a half after they were married.”
While Dougherty was “glad” for Monroe and her success, he “had a hard time with the manipulation of Hollywood on her spirit,” Gravallese said. “There was no malice, no nothing.”
It was three years before Monroe’s death that the two lost touch, Gravallese said, because Dougherty, who worked as a Los Angeles police officer, could see Monroe “getting in a bad place.”
That included drugs and alcohol, which reports say led to Monroe’s death in 1962. Gravallese was just 9 years old when Monroe died and 2 years old when his family moved into the Rogers Road home in 1954. He hoped the Monroe items would entice visitors to the home, which has been on the market since June.
“There are a lot of buffs out there that want to see this kind of thing. It gives people a chance to see it,” he said. “It’s an elegant house and we thought, ‘Let’s create something.'”
Gravallese obtained the home from his late parents, Dr. Joseph and Georgina Gravallese. When his mother died last April, the house was in disrepair, Gravallese said, and it was a “labor of love” to bring it back to its original form.
Many items in the home — including the entry chandelier with a “G” for Goodsoe — are original to the 1876 home and others have been imported from Italy and France. The renovation was extensive, Gravallese said, with work to the home’s widow’s walk costing $26,000 alone.
“My father would be very pleased it was resurrected to the way it was,” Gravallese said.
“We’d just like to see it go to somebody who will appreciate it. It’s elegant and it’s priced low. It’s not your average home.”