Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Marilyn Monroe Syndrome


Unedited and uncensored. 
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I guess I have a Marilyn Monroe syndrome or something like that, since many look-alikes have taken my fancy. I decided to do an article of Marilyn Monroe look-alikes and contacted Ernie Garcia, in Long Beach, who had a Marilyn Monroe fan club type of thing going on. Fan clubs for dead actors and actresses seem "ghoulish" to me. Fan clubs are usually started to promote a celebrity's career. But how can a career be benefited from those things, if the honorary is dead? Remembering those who we idolized on the screen is probably a good thing, (it's better than robbing banks or getting into trouble), since most stars chose their career to achieve some sort of respect and longevity associated with celebrity. Many stars have passed on and soon forgotten. This is true of stars who were big, during the forties and fifties and as they aged, and got less work, they were sort of forgotten. When one dies now-a-days, everyone asks, "who's next?..they die in threes." Superstars like Jimmy Stewart and Lana Turner are still remembered from their numerous screen appearances that are still shown today on Turner Classic Movies and American Movie classics.

But the ones who have survived the longest and being the most famous are Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Elvis is also big, but then his category is for his music, even though he starred in a lot of films, none of these had any serious impact. They were mostly "Elvis" pictures with songs surrounding mediocre films. Marilyn wasn't in too many films, but the ones she starred in were good and her sex appeal sold them. She lived a tragic, lonely, life. She had even phoned a disc jockey one night and talked with the D.J., stating she was lonely. She was at the peak of her career, yet so alone. Her mother was crazy and she never knew her father. Dean grew up with his aunt and uncle after his mother died when he was nine years old. He missed being with his real father, and rebelled all through his life, in school, in New York and Hollywood...even in his movie roles. Lloyd Nolan had him fired from a television show in New York. He was "too crazy" to be around. He was the first wild child, yet he seemed lonely in his screen roles. A reversal of his real life role. He did anything to get attention, whether speeding on his motorcycle, (which he did before he became an actor in his Indiana hometown), or driving his car at speeds to shake-up his companions. He knew what it took to get attention and this made up for what he really be loved and to love. He didn't know how to express himself this way and died at 24, still acting like a teenager and not having a love he could cling to. He experienced sexual dalliances, once done, it was over, then on to the next one that would come along. He tried everything, played bongos, and bullfighting,..."if only in his mind," and would ride his motorcycle all over town, in Fairmount, New York and Hollywood.

He liked to stay up late and sleep in late. A night person. Marilyn was a night person too, not always wanting to be and had a hard time getting to sleep and needing pills to put her under, then she didn't want to get up in the mornings. But, both their talents made up for their odd behavior. Their screen presence made them the stars they wanted to be. Marilyn, prior to her success, used to go to Grauman's and put her feet into the prints in the concrete, dreaming what it would be like to be that popular. Then one day, she too, would do the real thing and would be honored in that Hollywood tradition. She married a baseball player, who didn't like the idea of her getting more press than he did. Then she married an intellectual writer, who cared more about his next book, than his sexie wife, and he disliked publicity, unless it was aimed at his latest writings. She had married, but felt alone, not loved, not wanted and she couldn't figure out what she was doing wrong? She was one of the most famous persons in the world, yet she was unhappy. She dated a President and it's alleged, she slept with him as well as with his brother. But, she was their "play thing." Another notch on their list of those whom they had made and shared. They, the leaders of the country, had made it with the biggest screen star in Hollywood. They used and abused her and never looked at her as a person who needed and wanted real love, and not just a quick, secret, romp in the hay.

When she told them she wanted to let the world know about her feelings for the President, she suddenly and mysteriously died. Both men were married and grew up in the political arena. They couldn't let a dumb Hollywood lay, ruin their career. Only men in that position could seize telephone records and other material that could possibly link them with her in any manner, other than having been a Hollywood friend. After her death, a neighbor stated he saw Bobby Kennedy going into her home with another man carrying a satchel. But, since those days, after her death, the neighbor moved and the statement made, was forgotten over the years. He wanted to avoid publicity and possibly repercussions from his statement. Whether she took her own life, accidentally, or whether someone took her life, no longer matters. She's been gone too long. She would have been 70 this year.

So, I wanted to do a story on look-alikes and a film called "Fade To Black," was playing and Linda Kerridge, (an Australian), was portraying Marilyn in the film. Dennis ("Breaking Away" ) Christopher, played a nut and re-enacted roles he had seen on the movie screen. When he saw Linda, he saw Marilyn, and fell in love. Linda, having been made up by a make-up artist, really resembled Marilyn too. I had watched some of the filming of "Fade to Black," when they were filming at a beauty parlor on Highland Avenue. Between takes, Dennis was in the dressing trailer and I spotted Elton John going in. They were smoking pot.

Constance Forsland played Marilyn on a television show and she too looked good. I saw her at a press screening and couldn't take my eyes off her. Ernie had given me some Marilyn photos and discussed Linda Kerridge's role in the "FADE TO BLACK," film.

I went to a sneak preview at the Chinese theater, to see a Clint Eastwood picture, "Any Which Way you Can." I was sitting down close to the front when I heard people saying, "Look, there's that girl." I didn't even turn to see who it was they were talking about. Then someone sat down next to me and it was Linda Kerridge, with another couple. I said, "Hi Linda, I'm Bill Dakota and I'm doing a story on Marilyn look-alikes." She looked at me then turned sideways with her back to me. Evidently, she wasn't familiar with the paper. Then I said, "I talked with Ernie Garcia and he is going to have your fan club." Suddenly she was all smiles and talked a bit. After the film, I told her I would give her my phone number. She said she would give me hers instead. I felt flattered.

                         Linda Kerridge and Dennis Christopher in "Fade to Black"

And a few days later, I made a date to take her to M-G-M studios to see the Marlon Brando film, "The Formula." I asked her what she would be wearing that night and she said it would be casual, like what we were wearing at the theater that night. So, I rented a limousine and got to her apartment at 7:25. When I knocked at her door she said, "You were supposed to be here at 7:30," and shut the door on me. Well, she came down in five minutes, wearing a fur coat. That was casual? Well, it didn't matter to me.

When we got to M-G-M studios and got seated, we were sitting next to gossip columnist, Joyce Haber, who was writing for the Los Angeles Times. I introduced myself because I had only known her over the phone and then I introduced Linda. But, Linda spotted someone in front of us, who had been in "Fade To Black" and spent most of her time talking to them. I was just there, with her, not meaning anything else, just there...and "paying for the limo."

After the screening, I wanted to take her to my "watering hole," the Sideshow Bar in Hollywood. But, she said "no," she had to get back home. (Ironically, she was living in the same apartment that Sal Mineo had been living in at the time of his murder). I took her home, then had the limo take me to the Sideshow. Jimmy, the bartender, was disappointed that I never brought Linda and thought I had been bull shitting him about knowing her. I said, "Jimmy, the limo is parked outside, go and smell the back seat where she was sitting." He walked out the side door, saw the limo, then came back with a smile on his face. I don't think he actually smelled the seat, although I wouldn't have put that past him, but then he did believe I had been with her.

A few years later, Ernie Garcia would phone to tell me about another look-alike who was better than Linda. So, I made an appointment to see her. When I first saw her she looked like a cross between Linda and the real Marilyn. She was very pretty and had just moved to Hollywood from New York. She was from Germany and had an accent. She was about twenty-two but looked older. Her name was Bettina Lipinski. And she loved her boyfriend, Richard. He didn't speak one word of English, but he was a good listener. Then one day he started speaking English as well as I do. (well, that's not saying much for me). Anyway, Bettina was beautiful and eventually she would move into the apartment building I was managing at that time, for Stagen Realty. Of course Richard was with her.

Bettina had won a look-alike contest in New York, and she had big tits. Linda Kerridge had practically none. Bettina said she had been in a Monroe film in Germany, playing Marilyn. (I later got her to confess that this was a lie). She had many press clippings and loved to show them.

But, when I asked to see the clipping about the German, Monroe thing, she said she had lied. But, we soon became a two-some, going to screenings, to bars, etc. Not to cut in on Richard, but to show her off and get her publicity. They loved her at the famous Pantry restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, owned by former Mayor, Richard Riordan. The waiters were always glad to see her and the tourists would think she was a star too, she looked so good. She a friendly with everyone.

Someone had written a book on Marilyn and there was to be a press conference at the old Press Club on Vermont Avenue. I talked Bettina into going, since it would be a natural publicity thing for her. And when we arrived, the press conference had already started, but the photographers started taking pictures of Bettina as soon as they saw her. When the author was asked why he had a look-alike there?, he said he didn't know there was one. The press assumed this was part of a publicity thing. (It was, but not for the book, but for Bettina). She was even shown on TV standing next to the author. She stole the show. Before we went there, I told her to tell everyone her name was Bettina, and nothing else. Just one name. But, when they repeatedly asked her for her last name..she blurted out LIPINSKI! I about shit. I could have killed her. I wanted her to go by one name but she said it isn't right to have just a first name. Well, later there would be Blondie, Prince and Madonna. So, I was right on that matter.

Then one day a newspaper article on a look-alike mentioned a Bettina Best! I asked if this was her?, and she said, "yes." I said "what are you doing, you are screwing everything up. One day you're Bettina, then Bettina Lipinski and now Bettina Best. Nobody reading the story will know who they are referring to or talking about. Why Bettina Best? She said she was the "best" Marilyn Monroe look-alike. This was her logic. She was like Marilyn in this way too.I rented a limo and we went all around town taking pictures. She was mobbed at the Chinese Theater with tourist surrounding her and taking her picture. I ran out of film, but pretended I was taking pictures of her and kept the flash going anyway. She loved it and it got her into Jim Bacon's column for the Herald-Examiner.

One time I rented the dress Marilyn wore in "The Seven Year Itch," the one that blew up in the air in the studio's publicity photos for the film, showing her underpants. I had rented it from the Western Costume Company, that was on Melrose Avenue next to Paramount Studios. We were going to go to a screening. But, that same night, the Adult Film Awards were being held downtown at the Variety Arts theater. I knew there would be a lot of press, so I told Bettina to get ready to go early so we could go there and then to the Academy Theater for the screening. And sure enough, as soon as we arrived, the photographers surrounded her and started taking pictures, forgetting the X-rated porn stars who were there and who were watching and wondering who the hell she was? I told Bettina "before" we went there, to look directly at the cameras for her best Marilyn look. But, when they asked her to turn around to twirl the dress like Marilyn had, she dropped her head down and that was the picture that made the Los Angeles Times the following day. You could see her body and the "top of her head."

We did manage to get to the Academy theater on time. We rushed down the aisle (nearly everyone was already seated) and we had to sit down front, which gave the whole audience a quick glimpse of the blond, Marilyn Monroe, look-alike, just before the lights were dimmed for the feature. Before the film ended I told Bettina to go to the women's room and fluff her hair in front to emphasize the Marilyn look. Well, she went to the restroom but she was still there when the movie broke and most of the audience had left the auditorium. But, as we walked down the mirrored staircase, and around the bend, we could see the lobby and it seemed like the whole audience was standing there waiting to see her. Usually, after a screening, everyone would dash out to their cars as soon as possible. As we walked down the stairs I heard someone say, "here she comes." And Bettina grabbed me by the arm as we descended the staircase. She "was" Marilyn that night.

When the Adult Film Awards picture was in the Los Angeles Times the following day, they couldn't figure out how she was there and at the screening "at the same time." They didn't know that later, we were at the Bonaventure Hotel, at the disco on the second floor. Bettina stole the show there too. Everybody stopped dancing to watch us. I grabbed a young guy and told him to dance with her. I went to get a drink at the bar but the barmaid couldn't keep her eyes off Bettina, long enough to fix me a drink. The barmaid said she had seen a Marilyn Monroe look-alike in New York but she didn't look as good as this girl. She would have died if she had known Bettina was the girl in New York, who won the contest.

I took Bettina to M-G-M studios where Whitey Snyder, Marilyn's personal make-up artist was working. I had phoned him and asked of he would show Bettina how he did Marilyn's eye brows? He was amazed to see Bettina, the way she looked like Marilyn, but he also said her lips were a little smaller than Marilyn's and showed Bettina how to draw them to make them look fuller. I told Bettina to watch everything he did. But she was too busy "being Marilyn." We stopped by the set where "Fame" was being filmed. All the dancers stopped dancing and were staring at Bettina. Then we stopped in the street, inside the studio that had upstairs offices and I looked up and the windows were filled with people looking out at Bettina.

A few days later, when we were going out, I noticed her eyebrows weren't arched like Whitey had showed her to do. I asked her how long it took her to do her make-up? She said,"About five minutes." I told her that "female impersonators" take longer than that, sometimes an hour. But Bettina did things her way. One time Richard told her to wear pink lipstick, instead of red. When I saw her I knew something was different. Then she told me about the pink lipstick. I told her to put on red and right now! She did and this made all the difference in the world. I told her Jayne Mansfield had worn pink, but Marilyn always had vivid red lips.

I've lost track of her now. But, Bettina had talent. In Las Vegas she entered a singing contest, with no previous experience and had never even used a microphone before and won first place. I also used to see her on the TV news, at Marilyn's gravesite on the anniversary of M.M.'s death. This was way over twenty years ago and she may have lost that look. I always felt she could have been in a TV situation comedy, doing Marilyn, and with her German accent, that would have been funny. I did see her on the cover of "HUSTLER" magazine, as Marilyn. She was beautiful and customers thought it was a photo of Marilyn. Because she refused to do nudity, they didn't give her name credit. Her name wasn't even mentioned and I thought that was a bad decision on the part of Larry Flynt, or whomever made that decision. I know Althea Flynt, was a business person and could be real bitchy. Whether she was alive for that issue, I don't know. She died of AIDS. I only met her once because she had wanted to see a porno picture I had of Marlon Brando, giving head to Wally Cox. Flynt's office, at that time, was in Century City and it took up a whole floor. Their daughter was there, as well a security guard, watching over her. For those who never saw the movie on Flynt, he was shot and nearly killed and is an invalid today. And a rich one as well. But, I liked Althea as well as Bettina. Bettina was just one of the many who let celebrity slip through their fingers. Linda Kerridge appeared in a film or two, then disappeared. She married, became a citizen, then divorced.

( Freddie Prinze