Scott Fortner is passionate about Marilyn Monroe.
And that’s just the beginning…
Fortner has one of the largest collections of Monroe’s personal belongings in the country, if not the world.
There are dresses, luxurious furs and evening wear, makeup with Monroe’s finger swipes still visible, movie scripts, personal correspondence, canceled checks–even a SAG card.
And while Fortner could lock away this priceless collection of Hollywood’s most adored and beloved screen actress, he instead chooses to share his Monroe memorabilia with the world–both online and in an upcoming Marilyn exhibit at the Hollywood Museum.
Fortner recently took some time to speak with me about his love for Marilyn, his memorabilia collection and the upcoming exhibit.
Tell me about yourself.
I currently live in Northern California’s Bay Area. I grew up in a small town in the mid-west. My philosophy of life is simply to try and live the best, most fulfilling and happy existence that you can. Also, try to make a difference in the lives of others.
When did you first discover Marilyn Monroe? Was it watching one of her movies? Did you read a biography?
I don’t remember exactly when I became a Marilyn Monroe fan. She’s been a source of interest and fascination for me since a very young age. The interesting part is that there were no influences in my life propelling me toward her. No one in my family was a fan, and I don’t remember anyone ever talking about her. She’s just a presence that’s somehow always been part of my life. I remember watching Some Like It Hot when I was very young, and I had the 1980s LIFE magazine reprint of the images from the Bert Stern shoot “The Last Sitting.” Both are some of my earliest memories of encountering Monroe.
What was it about Marilyn that made you fall in love with her?
It’s really hard to describe what exactly makes a person come to love Marilyn Monroe. I think we all relate to her struggles in one way or another. Countless people make these same connections. I find that I’m most attracted to the private Marilyn, not the sexy film screen goddess that she’s most associated with. While she was the woman who set the standard for beauty, she was also a warm and sensitive person, yearning for love and acceptance. I think sometimes people forget that there was a real person behind the image that was created by Hollywood. That is the person I find most compelling.
When and how did you start collecting MM memorabilia? Describe your collection…your favorite pieces, any funny or important stories with certain collectibles, the size of your individual collection, etc.
I’ve collected Marilyn related items nearly my entire life. I started with books mostly, and I began collecting Monroe owned items about ten years ago. Today, my collection comprises over 150 items formerly owned by Marilyn.
It’s really hard to have favorite collection pieces when it comes to Marilyn. I would say the top items are her mink fur collar, the cape she wore to the 1955 premiere of East of Eden, her white fox muff, her Screen Actors Guild card and her green Pucci blouse.
The history of Marilyn’s white fox muff is fascinating. It was part of a lot of furs that I purchased at a Christie’s auction in 2006. Initially, I thought the muff might never have been used, that it was just an accessory she owned but never wore. I was more focused on other pieces from that lot as they were pictured with Marilyn wearing them. Not long after purchasing the lot of furs at auction, I was reading “Marilyn Monroe” by Maurice Zolotow. As I read about Marilyn preparing to attend the world premiere of How To Marry A Millionaire, I was a bit taken aback to read about the white fox furs that Marilyn wore to the premiere, which included a white fox muff. According to Zolotow, these happened to be the very first fur pieces Marilyn actually purchased with her own money. I began to look for photos of Marilyn at this premiere, and sure enough…there she was wearing the same white fox muff I had just bought at auction. The white fox stole that she bought together with the muff sold at auction this year for $57,500.00.
Another very interesting item in my collection is Marilyn’s green Pucci blouse. Marilyn was captured on film wearing the blouse as she got into and out of a limousine at her apartment on East 57th Street in New York City in 1962. Also, she wore this blouse as she rehearsed her now famous rendition of “Happy Birthday Mr. President,” which she sang for President Kennedy at his birthday gala in May of 1962. There are photos of her wearing this blouse on stage at Madison Square Garden as she rehearsed. It’s my belief that this is the blouse Marilyn wore when the last ever photos of her alive were taken when she was at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe, July 28 and 29, 1962. The photos are in black and white, and Marilyn was described as wearing a green blouse. She’s wearing a Pucci shirt in the pictures, and to my knowledge this is the only green Pucci blouse owned by Marilyn.
Trails from Marilyn’s fingertips can still be seen in the Erno Laszlo cream makeup that is in my collection. It’s truly a “Marilyn was here” moment when looking at the makeup.
If you had to choose ONE favorite piece from your collections, what would it be and why?
Probably the one favorite piece in my collection is Marilyn’s mink collar. I believe this to be her favorite fur, just due to how often she wore it. There are many different photos of Marilyn wearing the collar on different occasions, both in New York City and in London, England. Along with photographs, film footage exists also and Marilyn can be seen wearing the collar as she walks along the street with Milton Greene in New York in 1955.
How has Marilyn impacted your life overall? How would your life be different if she were still alive today?
Marilyn has impacted my life in many different ways. I’m always fascinated when I hear new stories about Marilyn from those who knew her. Also, because of Marilyn, I’ve met some amazing and wonderful friends that have truly enriched my life. Of course, I’d want to meet her if she were alive today.
Scott, tell me more about your website: marilynmonroecollection.com.
My website (www.MarilynMonroeCollection.com) gives me a way to share my collection with Marilyn’s fans from all over the world. I receive email from people every day with questions about Marilyn or other fans just writing to say hello. I launched the site in August of 2003, and today the site receives several hundred thousand visitors each year.
Tell me more about your Marilyn blog.
My blog (www.themarilynmonroecollection.blogspot.com) gives me a way to communicate current news and information about Marilyn, along with my own thoughts and opinions about her. I have a lot of fun with the blog because it’s really a great way to write and publish information about Marilyn.
If you could tell Marilyn one thing right now, what would it be and why?
I’d tell her that countless people all over the world are holding a good thought for her.
Marilyn Remembered: An Intimate Look at the Legend:
WHERE: The Hollywood Museum, 1660 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood
WHEN: 10 am to 5 pm Thursday through Sunday
Begins June 1 and ends August 31, 2010
PRICE: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors and children under 12.
Public Info: (323) 464-7776
For more information, visit: MarilynMonroeCollection.com or TheMarilynMonroeCollection.Blogspot.
***N. E. Francis is an established news journalist, specializing in arts and entertainment features and is a radio correspondent for the weekly LGBTQ radio program, Alternative Perspectives, every Tuesday on www.wrfg.org. She also writes Tales from a California Blonde, a weekly column published every Saturday exclusively at cakechow.com.
Ms. Francis is also a published poet, ghostwriter, film & theater critic and upcoming children’s author. She owns an online art gallery featuring women artists around the world. Contact her at Artcakechow.comcast.net.***
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