Transcript:

Speaker So tell me the story of how you sort of how you first got just even introduced to the image of Marilyn and having a photograph and you could actually reference that post if you wanted to?

Speaker Well, I guess, Marilyn, I would see it as a child movies or some kind of books, publications.

Speaker I was born only three years before she passed away, and she was always sure was captured, my attention as a very beautiful woman.

Speaker So I always kind of felt an attraction to her. Interestingly enough, the poster that you see or that you have seen around floating around the Life-Size poster was given to me by a friend of mine in college.

Speaker He knew of my attraction or my infatuation with Marilyn.

Speaker And I always spoke about like, oh, Marilyn, you know, when you are growing up, everybody has girlfriends. And I guess at that time when you're a teenager and she's not around to deny, then she becomes your girlfriend. And I guess that was my first true contact with Marilyn.

Speaker And then three years then after I moved to New York, I started collecting images of Marilyn, not because I knew that there was any value.

Speaker And I don't know if there's a bad value to the photograph as a market or the value that people give to the image of Marilyn. But it's that is irrelevant. I never care and I don't think I care. I will always value and treasure Marilyn for her image and for her value as a person. So that's basically how I perceive and I have my relationship to Marilyn.

Speaker Did you think, though, that that darling photograph, which really is darling and you can understand why young guys would think differently? I think it's darling. I mean, it's a wonderful image. But did you think it would it would take you to this place where you would become sort of a great connoisseur of the photographers of her, the images of her that exist in the ways in which, you know, obviously not because I guess, first of all, I lived in a different place.

Speaker I didn't have the exposure.

Speaker I didn't have the auction houses. I didn't have the galleries. Your interests of your interest when you're young or a teenager in college are different than when you're growing up. Your means are different and you don't know if you're going to be able to collect. You never know if you're going to be a collector. I think it's luck. I think it's being in the right place at the right time. But that's, I guess, everything in life.

Speaker Tell about sort of the first time you really realized you going to buy a photograph and how you went about doing that. This was many years after the poster hung in your home, in your dorm room.

Speaker Well, absolutely. The first time, I guess it was in an auction house. I don't remember if it was Christie's or Sotheby's. And I went to see a viewing, I used to go to the viewings, not only to the photograph viewings, but I went to the impressionist, to the Latin American, because I knew there were pieces there that I would never see again in my life because they would become part of a collector's collection.

Speaker So if a museum buys them, you get to see them again in a museum. If a collector buys them, as you see here in this room, it's difficult for people to have access again. And that's why my wife and I would trade to to share as much as possible with the public what we can. So I went to see it on my first Marilyn was Bursten, a Bert Stern image of my first. Marilyn was a bursten of the last seating of Marilyn in a very.

Speaker Difficult position. Difficult. Not because it was a contortionist or anything like that.

Speaker But she was like bending down and it could have been like a dance movement. It could have been like a playful movement.

Speaker It could have been like a laughing moment, like she was bending down.

Speaker But it was not a full shot. It was a big image. It was a large size image. But it was not a close shot of Marilyn. But it drew my attention. It drew my attention. And and that was my first Marilyn. And from then on, I guess I said, well, maybe another one. Maybe another one. And that's the addiction of the collector.

Speaker Just one more. Just one more. The last one. Everybody has an addiction.

Speaker Well, we say that my collecting of photography is a passion, not an addiction. An addiction is when you cannot control yourself. Sometimes it's hard to control yourself in an auction. I'm not denying that. But in general, I would refer to it as a passion.

Speaker Well, in this passion of yours, you have really learned an enormous amount about the people who photographed her. And you have an incredibly broad spectrum of works. And I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the some of the things that you have in this collection, some of the things you're going to see in Florida, some of the things that you have for yourself. Very moving. I'm interested that you just, for example, are doing such sentences.

Speaker So it's not one of the ones that you sort of have, you know, have pursued and yet just sort of what dictates your own taste and what sort of them starts to appeal to you when you start looking at the various and the various ways in which he's been shot. Because there's many movies, there are photographers. They all seem to somehow get her in yet another way.

Speaker It's interesting that you say the Arnold Newman shot, they are not Newman shot is a disturbing shot. It's like the shot of Marilyn dead. I don't have it as well. What for? I know she's dead, but I'm not that kind of a person that collects mortuary art in any which way or form the Arnold Newman shot, for example. It's a disturbing shot of a very I mean, if you don't know the story behind the shot, you would say that it disturbed Marlene from all the story that you know about her or her history.

Speaker But the rest of the photographers. I cared less about the photographers. I care for Marilyn and her image. I don't care too much for the signature of the photographer. The photographer becomes a second item in this subject. The main subject is Marilyn. Her image, what she transmits through her looks, through her face, through her body, through her movements, through her dressing. Every thing that is her. I think that the rest of us, we are just spectators the same way. The photographer is just a spectator that happened to have an instrument to capture the moment.

Speaker So the photographers, you can save a hazard shot. She walking away to the horizon, the burst turn of the last sitting on the shores of Marilyn, sitting in a bench reading a newspaper with two other subjects in the picture.

Speaker I mean, every shot in. Because of the subject, because Marilyn is there.

Speaker So knowing much about the photographer is irrelevant then knowing about Marilyn? I think it's also in a way irrelevant to know the facts. The facts are not important. I think the fantasy of each one of us of what we have about Marilyn, it's what's important. I think that it is absolutely important that we all make a story about her. Somebody want to make a sad story. Somebody went to make a drama. Somebody want to make a happy story. Nobody knows the facts. Nobody's Maalin and whatever has been written about her. It's all speculation. Somebody can give you a story. I can give you probably the less than the least. Truthful story to it, because I was not there are no Newman was there. Bursten was their show was their Zimbo was their part was there. Many were there. But I guess my story is the one of the girl that wanted to be loved by.

Speaker And by everyone. And she had the biggest, a fur that she ever had was with a camera. That was her main main love and her main passion, the camera and to transmit that. To the people.

Speaker Did she know what she have, the power that, you know, people talk about the taxi story where she gets in as Norma Jean and she tells. Do you want to see Marilyn Monroe coming out of this cab and in two minutes she makes up for herself and Marilyn Monroe appears? Did she know the power that you have?

Speaker Who knows? Maybe she knew it, but she didn't abuse it. I think it's very important and very people, very few people pointed out. You don't find. In any of the biographies, in any of the programs that have been done about Marilyn, anybody saying that she was.

Speaker She was a mean person, that she abuse her power.

Speaker Probably the only abuse of power that you hear about the whole thing is that at some stage in her life, when she was very disturbed, she would arrive very late to the shootings. She was not OK at that point, but she always had a helping hand because she always needed a helping hand. She always wanted somebody to help her and to love her. And that's what I think she found. She found that probably. My interpretation is that the greatest love of her life was DiMaggio. Not the miller was not another the first husband, not the the other people were not the love of his life. I think Joe DiMaggio was always the guy that was next to her. So I think that. I don't know if she had knowledge of the power she had.

Speaker Regarding her sex appeal. With men, if she knew. Good for her.

Speaker Talk a little bit about that, I remember when we first met and you were talking about baby fat and what was sort of so kind of yummy about your talk about the appeal.

Speaker Well, I think that this time and age, Marilyn would be consider a fat girl. Especially regarding these models that are really concern for the actresses or what you call the actresses or what people call the actresses.

Speaker And anorexia and bulimia is the dish of the day. I think that Marilyn knew she was a size 14. And she was comfortable with it. She was not trying to be a size four or six or two or nothing wrong, my wife is a size 20.

Speaker She's my little Marilyn. But but Marilyn was comfortable with all that that she had.

Speaker Marilyn, it's interesting that as much as she was comfortable because she didn't try to become very thin, slim body, because probably at that time also Jane Russell and then in Mansfield and the whole the whole bunch of girls of that time and Lauren Bacall, there were full body women as well.

Speaker But she was not a size store. I mean, I didn't see those. Yeah. So so what I'm saying is that they were comfortable and the people was comfortable with it. And I think Marilyn had the baby. Had you seen that poster? I mean, you see it in her pictures. She was okay. You see it in the pictures of Tom Kelly. You see it in the pictures of Bert Stern.

Speaker Well, by. He's pretty skinny. No, that was really. She was really. She started to get.

Speaker But she was also comfortable because she has a scar of the gall bladder here that they nobody ever retouched. She didn't cover it. She was not embarrassed. Manning was comfortable with herself.

Speaker The only part that was not comfortable about Marilyn is that since she didn't have a paternal figure or a maternal figure, she needed that. And she found that through the men she got involved.

Speaker When you talk about something quite interesting here, actually, I think you're very right. I think that all of the schisms of Norma Jeane Maryland, this is there was a definite what was the body and what was sort of the soul or the brain or the heart? Because I think you're totally right. The Tom Kelley I talked to Tom Kelly's son, and they have a story that she came in. You know, she had a moment of them being a little bit squeamish about taking a close up. And then she was like a fish to water in the end. And Tom Kelly writes about this. But she was extremely comfortable. She had no problem with her nudity, which that we've that repeated itself for the whole rest of her life. She's easily able to be, you know, take her clothes off and pictures and and seduce these guys that were taking picture of the pictures that were on all levels. And was, I think, in it. Absolutely right.

Speaker Tremendous comfort and an absolute no apologies.

Speaker But not all of it. But if you analyze that. Sure. She as well got naked. Her soul and her spirit got naked for the public. She said, this is me. She was not embarrassed to show herself as well. She probably because of the need to be loved. She gave herself.

Speaker To these men.

Speaker But she didn't prostitute herself ever, because, you know, the story of I think it was Jack Benny who offer her marriage and an all the money in the world and the whole thing said, no, you're my friend.

Speaker I don't need the money. I won your friendship.

Speaker The only the only episode that people can question that can kind of doesn't make sense is the episode with the alleged romance with President Kennedy.

Speaker And with Robert Kennedy and Bradley, I think that was one thing led to the other. But I think that the same way that Marilyn took off her clothes for a shooting, she opened her heart to be loved. So I don't agree that she did not that she was a reclusive person. I think she was a person that gave herself. I think she was a person that gave herself to her friends that gave the best in the in the in the movies.

Speaker You see her her or her body, not only her body, her body of work and her body of work is a very interesting body of work from the dumb blonde, which you can be dumb.

Speaker And if you're that dumb, you wouldn't remember your lines. Or you have to be very smart. Or you have to be a very good actress. I think she was a very good actress because she had from being a dumb blonde to scenes like Misfits, where the range is, it's probably 180 degrees.

Speaker And she was not shy and she was not intimidated by the difficulty of both whether how to marry a millionaire or someone your age or anything like that to the Misfits or bus stop or anything like that.

Speaker What she said about her face was all the trouble with all of the waving, with all of that.

Speaker She would show up and she would be her. It was her. Yes. She stole that from her.

Speaker Yes. Yes, that's true. So I guess that Marilyn was absolutely herself. The only part I think, of all, which is think that for Marilyn, I have always felt a lot of compassion. For the people that surrounded her and they did they did not know how to understand her and how to. Her. I feel a lot of B.

Speaker Because they were only abusing and they only wanted to be with the greatest sex symbol that humanity has ever had.

Speaker I mean, we have other sex symbols. We have Sophia Loren, Sophia Loren, another great actress, fantastic actress from the very from a very young age. Catherine Deneuve.

Speaker That was a different kind of sex symbol, and that was a different kind of approach to sensuality. Marilyn was here and it was much more forward and it was much more naive.

Speaker It was much more Neith, and the other thing that people don't consider about Marilyn is that Marilyn led the way to a lot of women. She had her own studio at a very young age in a very difficult control environment by men in Hollywood, powerful and the whole thing. So she led her way. She lived with the shooting. She led the way to a lot of women to be what they wanted to be.

Speaker Some of them, they don't understand it. And they become the Lindsay Lohan's and the Britney Spears and all that stuff that we have nowadays. They're gonna be forgotten before somebody remembers. And Marilyn will always be remembered. I mean, we're talking about it's gonna be her 80th birthday.

Speaker And. She's still. Turns every body's had around to look at her and to fantasize about her.

Speaker One more thing I want to talk about the women a little bit. We're talking about the appeal for men and also talking about the fact that. Yes.

Speaker I mean, whether people realize it or not, you're absolutely right. She pioneered a great a great deal of what women sort of aspire to day within that within the entertainment business in the world. What's the what's what do you think the female response to her is? And I my I feel that young people now know her, not to the movies at all, but really do these incredible photographs. And she's sort of beloved by young women, not not sort of, you know, the sort of feminist track does not exist for Young. And it's it's interesting to me that I think that there's a girls like her and I think they see maybe what you're saying here was this bold person.

Speaker I think the smart ones were smart women. I admire her. The.

Speaker Once will don't have a true own personality.

Speaker They tried to copy her or mock her.

Speaker I mean, you have seen Madonna and I think it was Christina Aguilera. And and what's the name of the other girl?

Speaker The the the girl that was skinny, the playboy. And she was a dancer. And then she was very bad. Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. You know. Scarlett Johansson has a little bit of the glamour of the old Hollywood Scarlett Johansson that it has a little bit of that, and I hope she she watches herself in what she does in movies and she shows that she can do.

Speaker I think she's a great actress.

Speaker And she only in this matchpoint from from from Woody Allen, she shows her Marilyn esque kind of virtues. But I guess the the ones that truly understand her. You don't give them criticizer, you don't kill her.

Speaker You don't hear them. Put her down. They admire her. They admire her. The ones who don't understand tried to Basra. It's very easy to call someone dumb or or empty or shallow or to me, those ones.

Speaker And in this generation, I have seen very few that deserve the mention that Marilyn has had that she will have. And let's see, when we celebrate her 100 birthday, what we can do when we think about the collection itself from you, from just from your own.

Speaker And I don't want to say what's your favorite? But as you started to grow this collection, which is extraordinary. It's very heartfelt. It's very sweet. It's it's it's it's magnificent. It's full.

Speaker It's rich in all in all of its scope. How how. And just how is it felt building this collection for you?

Speaker Because interestingly enough, I know you speak and I agree with you that the subject is Marilyn. But just conversely, in the Helmut Newton circumstance, it's failed. It's the photographer. So I just. And curious. Sort of for you, what starts to speak out to you when you start?

Speaker When you started to think over the years when you have collected these Marilyn photographs because there is a certain mood that prevails? Well, I think gynae.

Speaker I think like with everything, no, you start collecting because she looks beautiful and then you start collecting because she looks funny. And then you start collecting because she looks more sexy.

Speaker I mean, I think that every. Episode of going to the auction houses, to the galleries and buying different photographs. It's because the mood did you were that day in or because of what each one of the photographs tells you or speaks to you?

Speaker I think that the collection, I have to say.

Speaker Fortunately, it's a complete collection, complete because it's represented by more than 40 photographers. It's complete because it represents. I would say.

Speaker Ninety percent of her mode or 95 percent of her different moods. The body, the face, the situation that she was in. You have very. Personal photographs of Marion, very introverted. The like, the shots with Milton Green, very personal shots like the ones with, uh, eating.

Speaker You have more extroverted like the Kaylee's or the or the Bursten. So each one of the of the photographs. Speaks for itself, and I think because Marilyn, in each one of them, she was so in love with the camera and the camera was so in love with her, the camera. I have no problem with her. And she had no problem with a camera. It was a perfect report. And you don't see that with many people. She had an incredible relationship with a camera and with a media. Whether it was film, whether it was stills, image, still images, whether it was music and singing through the and performing diamonds are a girl's best friend or I want to be loved by you every media. Tweeted her. Very nice, because she was in love with the media. So it was a perfect marriage. That was probably her best marriage.

Speaker No question. Thank you. Thank you. I want one more. I just want about the lease that.

Speaker Yes. Just because it's such an extraordinary picture. I know.

Speaker I haven't been able to figure out. I'm going to. I'm going to use yours. Shoot your eyes and get licenses to talk about that. That's just a very interesting Bill Zimmerman Bill.

Speaker When I saw it, it's a very disturbing image, you see. It's an image of her, of a torn poster. And before I said that, I know I didn't buy disturbing Marillyn images. She's not disturb, what is disturb is the image of the image. So that's the only one that I would say and maybe another one where she's sitting with the words you're seeing with a long skirt of a Milton Green, but instead model. It's probably the only one where you see that somebody, a passer by on a street, just decided to.

Speaker Vandalize the image.

Speaker It interests it also lives with at least MUJAO was stopped by this. I mean, the photographers that responded to her and the image within the image interests me also. Yes, because this is constant. You know, one of the things we're also trying do ourselves establish we're going to do it by doing your by doing your exhibit is put the image in the image again.

Speaker She's she shines out everywhere. You see your flower rooms in Paris, you see her and, you know, Reno, Nevada airport. You know, you see she's she's on the street. She's on clothes. There's a store, there's a store in my corner that sells with these clothes.

Speaker And I literally walk by the other day and there's no Marilyn coming off a skirt.

Speaker Well, fusion of the image in our life still is really in the end, the contribution of visual culture still is external.

Speaker Well, Gail, you have to understand and we all have to understand that that is the definition of an icon. When you start making the representation of that into some kind of adoration. It becomes an item. I mean, I know this sounds and probably not PBS, but some other channels it would sound irreverent with Marilyn Monroe is represented.

Speaker Only second to the image of Jesus.

Speaker So what does that tell you, that there that she's revered, that she wants to be represented, that she wants to be? Put everywhere and people go after her image and they want to have a momentum. It's impossible to capture Marilyn to the pictures. She's no longer here. I mean, she's gone. Since what? Forty? Yes. Sixty two, which is forty four years ago. So I guess the only way of capturing her is capturing a moment. Whether it's a glass or a T-shirt or book marker or something. In my case, it's the photographs that everybody's so fortunate that is able to buy a photograph. Because some of them are expensive, because some of them are limited edition, because some of them are not accessible. But there is always something of Marilyn legacy. So if you can go with your own digital camera, with your own disposable digital camera or disposable regular camera and capture the image of the image, you have a momentum. So I think that that is exactly the definition of Marilyn, a true icon. And it's really the truest American icon.

Leon Constantiner
Interview Date:
2006-02-24
Runtime:
0:34:15
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-ws8hd7pm29, cpb-aacip-504-901zc7s93k
MLA CITATIONS:
"Leon Constantiner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 24 Feb. 2006, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/636
APA CITATIONS:
(2006, February 24). Leon Constantiner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/636
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Leon Constantiner, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 24, 2006. Accessed January 27, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/636

© 2022 WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.