The Marilyn Monroe Collection Exclusive Interview with Anna Strasberg: Part II
In follow-up to Part I of my exclusive interview with Anna Strasberg, below is Part II. Anna opens up for the first time ever and shares her thoughts on Marilyn and managing the Marilyn Monroe estate.
In turning the topic to Marilyn, I asked Anna to share her thoughts on Marilyn’s pop culture superstar status. “Marilyn surpasses superstar status, she stated. “She is legendary and timeless.”
I reflected on the fact that Marilyn had been part of my life for as long as I could remember, and that I actually couldn’t recall a time when she wasn’t part of my consciousness, when she wasn’t “present” for me, not in spirit but in awareness. Like millions of people around the world, I’m simply fascinated with every aspect of her. I asked Anna to talk about the presence that Marilyn has had in her life and what Marilyn meant to her. “The essence of Marilyn was always what we individually and collectively saw in her talents and her life. We rejoiced with her, cried with her; we were always involved, always supporting her.”
I asked Anna to share her thoughts on Marilyn’s legacy. She said, “Marilyn’s very human qualities connected her with her fans. We loved her for just being Marilyn, which made her one of us.”
Marilyn was close to the Strasbergs right up to the end of her life. A receipt dated July 30, 1962, shows that Marilyn purchased a one-way first class ticket for Paula from Los Angeles to New York.
Marilyn and Lee were so close that in her last will and testament, dated January 14, 1961, she left her personal property and effects to him. Anna personally managed the estate of Marilyn Monroe from the time of Lee’s passing in 1982 until 2011 when New York-based Authentic Brands Group LLC acquired the rights to license Monroe’s name and image (she still holds interest in Marilyn’s estate and is a minority partner).
Marilyn’s estate was in storage until 1999 when Christie’s was selected to hold what would become referred to as “the sale of the century.” The auction, titled “The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe,” took place on October 27 and 28 that same year in New York. With this auction, Marilyn was firmly established as a highly collectible star. The “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress created a world record when it sold at this auction for $1,267,500.00. That record will undoubtedly be broken at Julien’s this November. In 2005, an additional collection of Monroe property was auctioned at Julien’s Auctions, and now, eleven years later, Anna is releasing the last of Marilyn’s items that were left to her husband.
“Anna Strasberg has been the best protector of Marilyn’s legacy since Lee’s passing of the torch. She’s always worked hard at keeping integrity and respect, and doing what is best to honor the woman that the world considers the greatest legend of our time,” states Julien’s Auctions President & CEO Darren Julien. “We are proud to partner with her in offering this final collection of Marilyn Monroe possessions from the Lee Strasberg Archives.”
Most notable from the remainder of Marilyn’s estate are the poems, journals, and notes that were published in the 2011 book Fragments. These items show us the real human behind the legend; they demonstrate the delicate, vulnerable, intelligent, artsy, funny and at times fearful Marilyn. While personal and sensitive in nature, the release of these writings allows Marilyn to have the final word, and her final words are still open to interpretation.
View items from the remainder of Marilyn’s estate here.
I asked Anna about the biggest challenges and rewards that came with managing the estate of Marilyn Monroe, and what had surprised her most. She responded with, “I was mandated by the Surrogate Court to pick up the personal effects that Marilyn had left to Lee. She knew that he would protect her dignity. There was no memorabilia market in those days. Her belongings were sent a few years after her death. It was a learning process of who she was, as opposed to the presumptions about her life.” I wanted to hear Anna’s thoughts on the responsibility and guardianship of Marilyn’s image, legacy, and estate. Was it ever a burden? “Like most things you take on of that magnitude, you just soldier on,” she said. “If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t get the work done. I was guided by what I felt Lee would expect me to do – show her struggle to become a serious actor and protect her dignity. When asked to manufacture Marilyn Monroe cigarettes, I had already written no across the page, and my sons said, ‘Mom, if you said yes, we would never respect that decision. Smoking hurts too many people’.”
I asked Anna to describe Marilyn Monroe in one word. She responded with, “A gift…a wonderful gift for us all.” When asked what she wanted Marilyn’s fans to know about Marilyn, Anna said, “Marilyn appreciated her fans greatly – they supported her.”
When asked what she wanted most for Marilyn and how the public and her fans view her Anna said, “We each have a different prism on her essence. We should be grateful that she touched our lives. She appreciated the enduring love and support of her fans, and they, in turn, reciprocated that love and affection.”
I asked if Anna had any final thoughts on Marilyn. She responded with, “When a great star in the firmament finishes its turn, it erupts with a cascade of golden star lights. Imagine Marilyn among that golden glory, large and small and bright, filling us with wonderment. It stays with us for always, and sometimes, as the first light of dawn, she is the morning star. Marilyn…happiness…at last. May you always glow and light up lives.”
The MMC thanks Anna Strasberg for sharing her thoughts on Marilyn and memories of Lee with fans around the globe.