Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia to Help Fund Library Capital Improvements
by Sally Deering
Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe lit up the silver screen with her simmering sexuality, bootyliscious bod and a killer smile that warmed film-lovers hearts. Playing the bubble-headed blonde roles producers cast her in, Monroe delivered sex-appeal by the D-cupful with an added twist of vulnerability, like her character Sugar Kane in “Some Like it Hot.” When Sugar tells “girl musicians” Josephine and Daphne, (played Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon,) “I’m tired of getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop,” the chord strikes like an arrow threw the heart and although the line belongs to writer/director Billy Wilder and his co-writer I.A.L. Diamond, the delivery is all Marilyn.
We lost Marilyn Monroe in 1962 to a pill overdose, but her memory lives on in her films and the merchandizing of her image stamped on everything from pocketbooks to postage stamps. You can’t pass a souvenir shop without seeing Monroe’s heavy-lidded eyes and ruby red pucker plastered on T-shirts, pocketbooks, pens, lighters, even coffee mugs – ah, the price of fame.
But Marilyn Monroe was more than just an icon of sexuality. Underneath her platinum-blonde persona, she was a thinker, a smart sugar cookie who took the craft of acting seriously, moving to New York to study “The Method” with Lee Strasberg and challenging herself in complicated film roles. She was intelligent and curious and according to several biographers, Monroe was an avid reader and nourished her mind with good literature. Writer Joyce Carol Oates even penned a piece about a chance encounter with Marilyn Monroe in the Strand bookstore in New York City back in the 1950s. In her short-story collection, “I Am No One You Know,” Oates – a college-student at NYU at the time – observed the star poring over book stacks and aware of her fear of being noticed as Marilyn Monroe, Oates’ character offers to handle Monroe’s cash transaction at the register and hands the star her book purchases outside the store.
Just recently, Monroe’s love of books and the merchandizing of her image have melded together for a good cause thanks to Tony Lambiase of Jersey City, who recently donated his collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia to the Jersey City free Public Library at a time when New Jersey libraries face budget cuts and capital improvement projects need funding. Lambiase’s donation includes a life-sized statue of Monroe picked up in a store in Pennsylvania – a gift to him from friends; a sign discovered on a deserted building; and a framed grouping of Marilyn Monroe postage stamps circa 1995 issued by the U.S. Post Office.
“I’ve been collecting Marilyn Monroe items since 1990,” Lambiase says. “It started when my sister-in-law bought me a cigarette lighter with Marilyn Monroe’s picture on it.”
The Jersey City Library, like libraries across the state, has been facing budget cuts in a measure to reduce New Jersey’s deficit. Employees may be laid-off or given work furloughs – unpaid days off – and if the state does any more downsizing in its effort to slim down spending, some branches may even close.
A recent grassroots effort led by state librarians, library workers and supporters helped restore $4.2 million to the New Jersey budget for library programs. According to a post on savemynjlibrary.org, “delivery of materials between libraries will continue for this budget year. Also, access to the EBSCO databases that many residents and students rely on will continue. In the proposed New Jersey FY 2011 Budget, state aid for municipalities is being reduced in a time when tax revenues are also decreasing. Although municipal library funding is a small percentage of a municipality’s budget, typically less than 3%, many towns are feeling pressures with shrinking tax revenues and are looking to reduce library funding to find relief.”
With foresight and sound-decision making, Jersey City Library Director Priscilla Gardner started the Jersey City Library Foundation in 2004 as a safety-net to fund capital improvement projects for the library. The Foundation’s last fundraising campaign brought in $222,000 for a bookmobile and their latest project is the installation of security cameras in all Jersey City library branches for employee and patron safety. The money raised from the Marilyn Monroe memorabilia will help support this project.
“Along with Cynthia Harris of the New Jersey Room, we are working on determining the best way to market the material,” Gardner, who also serves as the Library Foundation’s executive director says. “In that way, the Lambiase Marilyn Monroe Collection is properly presented and his interest in helping the Jersey City Free Public Library is full executed.”
Cynthia Harris, manager of the New Jersey Room – a repository of papers and photographs documenting the history of Jersey City and all the towns in Hudson County – is curator of the Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, researching its value, which at this point is at the early stage.
“I wouldn’t begin to guess on the value,” Harris says, “but anyone who’s a fan of Marilyn will find something to catch their heart. I’m intrigued by that life-sized statue of Marilyn in her white dress from ‘The Seven Year Itch.’ I think it’s very cool and some of the pictures are really nice. There’s enough variety that anybody who’s a fan will find something to tickle their fancy or something that will add to their collection.”
Lambiase’s Marilyn Monroe collection – 20 pieces in all — will be featured at the Library Foundation’s annual Fall fundraiser where guests will be able to bid on the items in a silent auction with all proceeds going to the capital improvements project.
And one can just imagine somewhere in the universe, where stars burn their brightest, Marilyn Monroe – the sexy, dazzling and bubbly-blonde who indeed had a brain – smiles that killer smile, thrilled that her image will help nourish people’s minds and not just hold their coffee.