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Sentiment surrounds Marilyn's stuff

Gary Tuchman

By Gary Tuchman
CNN Correspondent

October 29, 1999
Web posted at: 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

In this story:

Celebrity auctions all the rage

Cleaning out Marilyn's attic

'I like to feel blonde all over'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that's one of a kind."

The dress, on display  

Those were Marilyn Monroe's words to Oscar-winning costume designer Jean Louis after Monroe was asked to sing "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy nearly four decades ago.

As it turned out, Louis designed a dazzling dress, a flesh-colored souffle gauze encrusted with some 6,000 rhinestone beads and sequins, that Monroe wore as she delivered her famous performance in New York City in 1962.

And that dress could have been yours, if you had hundreds of thousands of spare dollars that you were willing to spend for it.

Manhattan-based Gotta Have It! Collectibles did, spending $1,267,500 for the dress Wednesday night during a two-day auction of Monroe's personal property at Christie's in New York City. Christie's had estimated the dress would go for "the high six figures."

Celebrity auctions all the rage

The dress was one of hundreds of Monroe's personal items to hit the auction block Wednesday and Thursday.

It was the latest in a string of celebrity auctions that are increasingly popular and lucrative.

The 1996 auction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' personal items, at Christie's competitor Sotheby's, was a tremendous success, as was the Christie's auction of Princess Diana's dresses in 1997.

Until Wednesday, one of Diana's dresses, which she wore at a White House dinner in 1985, had held the record for the highest price ever paid for a dress at auction. It sold for $222,500.

Cleaning out Marilyn's attic

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at the age of 36 of an apparent suicide.

After the former Norma Jean Mortenson's death, her mentor and acting coach Lee Strasberg took possession of many of her personal belongings. His widow, Anna, decided to let Christie's auction off the property.

The auction mixed the everyday with the more exotic, from household goods to an eternity ring  

Christie's claimed Monroe is "the most collectible person in the market" in part because most of her possessions have never been in public view.

The collection was eclectic to say the least. On the block was an eternity band given to Monroe by her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, a marriage that lasted far less than an eternity. It was expected to sell for at least $30,000; it went for $772,500.

Some of the scripts from her 29 movies were also for sale, including her copy of the script "Some Like It Hot," with personal notations on the pages.

Many of the items were amusingly mundane. A makeup case with makeup, pots and pans, alarm clocks, even barbells were up for auction. A 13-inch 1950s-model TV set was for sale; suffice it to say it was not cable-ready.

One particular item would not require much effort to lug home. It was a single piece of notebook paper with Monroe's initials on the page, along with the handwritten notation, "He does not love me." It's not known who the screen siren was writing about when she jotted down those words, but the page was expected to sell for at least $2,000; it went for $12,650.

'I like to feel blonde all over'

It was the fashions that were getting the most attention. Much of the clothing was glamorous, styles Monroe made famous in her alluring roles in the movies.

But other items up for bid were everyday wear: flat shoes, preppy-style clothing, blue jeans and boots. The auction included a pair of cowgirl boots from her role in her last completed film, "The Misfits."

Experts estimated Christie's would bring in between $10 million and $15 million from the 500-plus lots up for auction. The final total came in at $13.4 million.

A piece of notebook paper that reads "he does not love me" attracted attention  

Some of the proceeds will go to charity. The group Literacy Partners will receive money brought in from the sale of Monroe's library and papers, and interestingly, the proceeds from her furs will go to the World Wildlife Fund.

Most of the people with winning bids were expected to be professional collectors.

But as with other celebrity auctions, there were avid fans who bid to buy a part of a life that still means so much to them.

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