About 50 people attended the memorial service for Marilyn Monroe at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on Aug. 5, the 51st anniversary of her death.
Marilyn Remembered fan club president Greg Schreiner gave opening remarks before introducing the speakers: actresses Marian Collier Neuman and Joan Nicholas, biographer James Spada, Hollywood Museum founder and president Donelle Dadigan, and photographers George Barris and Douglas Kirkland.
All of the speakers said Marilyn had touched their lives and some shared memories of their encounters with the iconic actress. Neuman and Nicholas, both of whom had small parts in “Some Like It Hot,” recalled Marilyn’s stunning physical beauty and natural charm. It was also clear, they said, that Marilyn was struggling with personal problems during the shoot.
“She was stunning, lovely, nice and a very warm person,” said Neuman. “She was great fun. She didn’t hang out with us much but we knew she liked us.”
As a 10-year-old growing up on Staten Island, Spada saw his first image of Marilyn in the New York Daily News. “It was love at first sight,” he said. That pivotal moment inspired him to become a writer.
Dadigan touched on Marilyn’s timeless appeal, her “power beyond the blondeness” and her continuing popularity with young people. “Despite feeling lonely and unloved, Marilyn could project the feeling of love and give everyone the feeling of joy,” Dadigan said.
Barris recalled attending a press event in New York in 1954. Marilyn had her back to him, he said, and he decided to start shooting. Suddenly turning around, she told him, “I’ll take a dozen of those.” He also remembered celebrating her 36th birthday (June 1, 1962) on the set of “Something’s Got to Give.” She was in good spirits, he said, but was unwell the following week.
Barris said 20th Century Fox “became hysterical” over Marilyn’s illnesses and inability to work on the movie, claiming that she’d “destroyed the studio,” which was running overbudget on “Cleopatra.” The studio fired her on June 8, 1962.
On July 13, 1962, Barris shot his famous series on Santa Monica beach. “She was magnificent, she worked so hard, she was trying so hard,” he said. At the end of the afternoon, when it got cold, he coaxed her into one more shot. “She sat down, puckered her lips and blew a kiss, telling me, ‘It’s just for you.’ She was the sweetest, most wonderful person to work with. She gave everything she had.”
Kirkland photographed Marilyn in 1961 for Look magazine. He described her as kind, caring, playful and fun. She also took charge, said Kirkland, who was 27 at the time. “She said we need a bed and white sheets, Dom Pérignon champagne and Frank Sinatra records. Marilyn made the pictures I took. I did the technology but I give her the credit. She managed the shoot.”
The service concluded with a video tribute and audio of Lee Strasberg’s eulogy from Marilyn’s funeral in 1962 as well as a performance from vocalist Sue Ann Pinner. Greg Schreiner hosted lunch at his house after the service.