Sunday, February 17, 2008


I promised last night I'd talk about Marilyn Monroe after we'd revisited her tomb. Which we did today. She's buried in quite the smallest urban cemetery I've ever seen. Which means that I've seen smaller cemeteries in out of the way places but this one is in deep Los Angeles. A local might dispute that and if s/he did I'd have no comeback but I'm judging it by the scale of a world map and on that scale it surely is in Los Angeles.

You drive up Wilshire Boulevard into Westwood, turn right off the Boulevard into what looks like city car park territory, do another quick right turn and suddenly you're in a cemetery. It's surrounded by twenty storey office towers. Here's a context shot I took.


If you've lived in Melbourne this image might seem vaguely familiar. It certainly seems so to me. Doesn't it look almost exactly like the view along St Kilda Road looking south from Commercial Road?

I'm not completely unfamiliar with cemeteries in downtown settings though we don't have any such in Melbourne. I've visited cemeteries in Boston right in the heart of the commercial centre. There are one or two in Manhattan within spitting distance of Wall Street.

Once in the cemetery you're in a quiet world. Here are buried Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Frank Zappa and other luminaries; also Robert Nathan. Who? Robert Nathan of course, who wrote the novel which became the screenplay for one of my favourite films, Portrait of Jennie[^].

Perhaps the most famous corpse there is, of course, Marily Monroe. I find it difficult to understand the fame she's accrued. Had she lived another two decades she'd most likely have been forgotten but of course she didn't live. Thus a mystique accumulates around the corpse of much ado about nothing much! Here's a shot of her tomb.


I only took the one shot so you can't see it but this slab of marble is not parallel with the surface of the earth as one might expect. Nope, it's half way up a wall. Above and below are named nobodies. If you touch the marble belonging to the named nobodies it feels slightly rough to the touch; if you touch Marilyns it's smoother than a babies bum. That's what 45 years of fans caressing a chunk of marble will do! I suspect that a century hence a depth of an inch will be measurable!

Well I wrote somewhat disparagingly about Marilyn but one cannot deny the way the idea of Marilyn has influenced some aspects of western culture, as witness the scenes in Tommy[^] (another movie I love).

And I'm not completely immune to the allure of the goddess herself; I watched a year ago Bus Stop[^] though that was as much because some of the action takes place in Phoenix as because Marilyn was in it. I'm still puzzled by some of the shots that purport to have been shot in the Phoenix of 1956 but show topology that doesn't feel right for Phoenix.

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