Home' Z!nk Magazine : March 2013 Contents 103
In November 1961, Hollywood's most famous sex
symbol told 27-year-old photographer Douglas
Kirkland to come into bed with her.
The blonde bombshell, known to the world as
Marilyn Monroe, was nude, shielding her hourglass figure
with a silk white sheet, as she seduced both the young
man from Canada and his camera. A year later she would
be found dead in her Brentwood, California home, also
found lying naked on her bed. Yet it's the intimate evening
with the now world-renown photographer that continues
to captivate fans. Her celebrated curves, sapphire blue
eyes, heart-shaped face, and platinum locks continue to
mesmerize even over 50 years since her tragic passing at
age 36. Kirkland, who has photographed dozens of style
icons, including Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and
Katharine Hepburn, just to name a few, has always been
asked the same question over the years.
What was Marilyn like?
For the now 78-year-old man, who currently
resides in the Hollywood Hills with his wife and business
partner Francoise, his memories with the actress are as
vivid as that steamy evening. And during the process
of capturing some of the most sensual photos ever
produced of Monroe, he discovered three sides that few
"I was with her on three different occasions and in
a nutshell I met three different people," says Kirkland.
"I expected to find a great star, but in reality she
was very much like the girl next door... like a sister of mine.
She wasn't intimidating. My two other colleagues and I
went to her small home and they immediately took the
two chairs she had. She only had two chairs to sit on and
they were right beside her bed. She slapped her bed with
a laugh and said, 'Here, think of it like a couch.' Marilyn and
I sat on the edge of her bed... She laughed easily. That was
the first Marilyn I met."
When Monroe was asked how she would like
to be remembered 25 years into the future for the 25th
anniversary of Look Magazine, Kirkland recalls she had a
very specific idea: get a bed, a bottle of Dom Perignon
champagne, Frank Sinatra records, and a white silk sheet.
When the photo session occurred on one
November evening at a rented studio, Kirkland discovered
the second side of Monroe.
"At 9PM I was starting to wonder what was I going
to say when I arrived back without the pictures because
Marilyn never showed up at 7:30," says Kirkland. "Her
agent said, 'Don't worry, she's always reliable. She's very
often late, but she always shows up, don't worry guys.'
Well, he was right and about 9:30, we heard a sound of
the door... it was amazing because suddenly, I saw Marilyn
Monroe... she was an unimaginable sight. She seemed to
be almost luminescent, like a bright glow. And when she
walked across the room, she seemed to slightly float in
slow motion. I felt like I've been hypnotized."
Soon, Monroe continued to enchant Kirkland as
she slipped under the sheet completely nude.
"As a young man, this gives you a lot of strong
vibrations," says Kirkland, laughing.
t one point, Monroe took command of the shoot,
announcing everyone to stop and leave because, "I want
to be alone with this boy."
"Suddenly, it was just Marilyn and me in that
room," says Kirkland.
"She was really creating the pictures. I have to give
her credit for that. I can't say I was a genius photographer
who made these happen. It was Marilyn that made them.
I was responding, I was encouraging, I was flirting... she
was sending those same vibes back and I was able to
photograph them... I was on a platform up above her and
looking straight down onto her. And at one point, she said,
'Why don't you come down here with me?' I did and I was
doing close-ups. There were innuendos that suggested
other things, but I kept taking pictures and I think that's
where the magic of those images come from."
The third Monroe he encountered, was, however,
not a bubbly cover girl easily swoon over. On one Saturday
afternoon he met with her again at her home to review
the photos for approval. There, Kirkland met a depressed
woman hidden behind glasses.
"I had no idea what transpired before my visit, but
she was very downbeat," admitted Kirkland.
"She disappeared and came back about 10--15
minutes later. This time, without the dark glasses or the
handkerchief over her head she seemed a little brighter
and started looking through the photos. She made a stack
of the ones she didn't like and eventually she took scissors
and cut the ones she hated up. She did not want them to
ever be seen. But of the 150 I had, she approved half of
them, which is pretty good. And that's where my pictures
of Marilyn Monroe come from."
While Kirkland claims he and Monroe spoke of
collaborating in the future, the two never crossed paths
again. The following August of 1962, while photographing
designer Coco Chanel in Paris, he found out the actress
died from an apparent overdose.
Today, Kirkland who has been photographing for
about 60 years and participated in over 100 films, has no
regrets on what didn't happen that fateful evening.
"It was the seduction that I got in those pictures,"
says Kirkland. "I think if we had made love, it wouldn't
have had that same edge. It just couldn't have. It was
honestly like a sexual encounter without the sex. It was
highly charged. It was very sexual, but we physically didn't
make love. I was still the kid from a small town and that's
Links Archive April 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page