Monday 21 February 2011

CNW taped the 2011 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Watch the 2011 Charles Taylor Prize For Literary Non-Fiction. It is now available on You Tube.



Touch of Strange - Marilyn Monroe Brings In The Fans

She has been dead longer than she lived. Most artists who paint her image were born after she died in 1962. Her fame grows, she is a worldwide icon be it as Norma Jean, Marilyn Monroe, or the Blond Bombshell. The young know her better than the Boomers who have first hand memory of her life, her times and her death. Name a building after her, hold an art show celebrating her, or simply write and post a story for a major newspaper, and your media campaign is bound to succeed. Warning: Be prepared to meet people whose 7-Year-Itch has long since graduated into a terminal case of Celeb fueled Poison Ivy.
Last summer I wrote a "how is it built" feature about the Marilyn Monroe condominium in Mississauga for the Toronto Star. To date the feature about the 54-story condo, is the third most viewed story in the history of the Star's website. It was the first time a Condo story has ranked that high. Congrats went around the Star, with only a brief mention of the writer - me - but that is okay because the reason readers were visiting the site wasn't because of who wrote the story but rather the use of Marilyn's name in the title, the meta tags and the picture of a condo shaped like a concrete Blond Bombshell! (probably why you are here isn't it?)
Read the story at:
Fast forward. This month the McMichael Canadian Art Collection opened two exhibitions featuring art based on Marilyn Monroe. One exhibition, curated in Germany includes photographs, sculptures and paintings by some of the best contemporary artists of the day including Antonio de Felipe, Andy Warhol,photographer Milton H. Greene and Bernard of Hollywood. The second exhibition, curated by Windsor University graduate Chris Finn looks at Marilyn in Canada - pictures and paintings -- surrounding two film shoots that brought Monroe to Niagara Falls, Ontario and Banff, Alberta.
No surprise the exhibitions have attracted the attention of the media. I was taken aback by how fascinated some reporters are to the Norma Jean legend, to the point of actually giving themselves Marilyn Monroe ink.
Let me explain.
I had a physio appointment Friday morning. I wasn't planning to go out to the gallery, I was very much looking forward to spending the afternoon on the couch nursing my sore back. While in therapy I got several calls from a TV station. They wanted to do a National Arts story on the show today. ASAP.
I left my physio and headed out to Kleinburg where the public gallery is located. It is a 40-minute drive when there is no Rush Hour traffic. God only knows how long when it is the Rush Hour Crawl is on.
I meet the news crew at 11.30 a.m. There was an experienced cameraman and a rather green reporter waiting for me. This was her third day on the job. She and I got to talking while the cameraman worked. She is 5ft 8, blond, cat walk thin, with a figure not unlike the actress we were looking at in the over 200 pictures and paintings. I mentioned seeing a Marilyn Monroe sculpture at the Key West art gallery and how Ink Parlours near the museum offer Marilyn Monroe tattoos.
She told me she already has Marilyn's signature inked across her back and that she has a Marilyn Monroe styled dress that shows it off well. "Oh yes and I have a tattoo that is in the shape of MM's lips."
The next day, media mogul (Zoomer Magazine, Vision Television, AM740 and Classical 96) Moses Znaimer came out. He is a super fan. A few years ago he bought MM's TV at auction for his Television Museum! He also owns film footage, photographs and a sculpture of Monroe.
He brought with him Ziggy Lorenc. She is currently heard on Moses' AM740, hosting a late night program devoted to romantic music. She was also the star/host of the series Life on Venus Ave that ran on Much Music TV in the 80's. In her day Ziggy Lorenc was known for having a Marilyn Monroe image -- a first for Toronto TV.
On Saturday the show opened to the public. Curators dressed like Monroe, movies were shown in the lobby and Seven, the gallery cafe had a special Monroe menu. The McMichael gallery offered free admission to anyone coming dressed as Monroe. Only one person did, and she admitted she was quite the fan. "Nothing would stop me from coming," she told me, with a Monroe like whisper.
I met another follower, 81-year old Neville Bishop, came as a fan, but for a different reason than the MM look-alike.
"Back in 1953 I had been an employee of the Bank of Montreal and I resigned that position in order to go back to school," Neville Bishop said. "I had a summer job and drove a car out to the West for a Waterloo company. I decided to stay and took on a job up at the Banff Springs Hotel as a gas station employee and a cab driver."
" One of the interesting things was there was all sorts of activities going on with the movie families and one involved Marilyn Monroe," he continued. " I spent most of the time driving people back and forth (to the movie set) but on one evening I had an opportunity to have a little bit more time to spend talking with Marilyn Monroe."
"She spoke a great deal about their community of people who worked and travelled(together). It was a new experience for her and others to move up in the Canadian scene. The Rockies were an attraction for everybody."
" It was a wonderful experience sitting there listening to she and her compatriots on the male side of film industry as well. Some of it was very positive and other things were rather disturbing. She always shined!"

Mr Bishop said he stayed in Banff that summer because there was no room left in the hotel during the filming of River of No Return. In town Mr. Bishop spent time thinking about what he was going to do with his life once he returned to the Toronto area.
Mr. Bishop did not let his brush with Hollywood go to his head. At the end of the summer he entered university and in time became an ordained Anglican Minister.
Now retired, Reverend Bishop well remembers the summer of '53 and the "commotion" that Monroe caused where-ever she went in Banff. Still, he felt a little flustered and out of breath when he posed with a buxomy Marilyn Monroe look-alike by the entrance to the McMichael exhibitions.

Top - undated picture of Ziggy and Moses
Second from top - Reverend Bishop and a Marilyn Monroe look alike
Third from top - Mississauga's Marilyn Monroe Building (back) under construction
Second from bottom - Blogger / broadcaster Jody Glaze poses with his wife beside a Antonio de Felipe painting of Monroe.
Bottom - McMichael head curator Katerina Atanasova, came to the art-show opening dressed as Marilyn Monroe
Below - Seward's life-sized Marilyn 7-Year Itch statue. Photo taken by sweir in Key West Art Gallery 2010