George Christy Talks About Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Auction House Highlights, Venai Jelks and More!
“No, no, no!” She shook her head adamantly. Refusing to wear any undergarments. No bra, no panties. Costume designer, the award-winning Jean Louis pleaded. But she was in the midst of tantrum, crying. Refusing to wear her nude chiffon gown, hand-embroidered with 2,500 beaded crystals at a cost of $12,000. She insisted on being sewn into it. Stark naked. He argued that she might not be able to control her bladder. “Just a bikini panty,” he begged. Didn’t matter, she claimed. The sparkle would masquerade any of the pee.
And so it was. The world’s most famous blonde goddess, Marilyn Monroe — accoding to Jean Louis — was stitched into her historic Happy Birthday gown for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s night of May 19 when he celebrated his 45th year in 1962 with a tumultuous New York crowd of fans at Madison Square Garden. Jacqueline Kennedy did not attend.
“Nothing I could do to change her mind,” Jean Louis told us years later at his oceanfront Malibu hideaway, reminding that Marilyn died three months after JFK’s birthday under suspicious circumstances.
Sold this week by Julien’s Auctions for $4.81 million to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Hollywood, the gown, claims museum vice-president Edward Meyer, is the “most iconic piece of pop couture that there is … I can think of no other item from the 20th century that tells the story of the 1960s as this dress.”
The Jean Louis’ gown, in 1999, fetched $1.2 million.
Jean Louis Berthault, Paris-born, headed the costume design department at Columbia Pictures for Harry Cohn, where Jean Louis created Rita Hayworth’s black satin topless and strapless gown for her fabled Gilda film when she strutted and sang Put the Blame on Mame.
Oscar-nominated 14 times, Jean Louis, an elf of a charmer, and his adored wife Maggy hosted relaxed sunset buffets at their Malibu hideaway. Among their guests of honor one summer was the Kremlin-defected Bolshoi Ballet star Rudolph Nureyev, who adopted them. After Jean Louis lost Maggy, he wed Loretta Young, retiring with her to Palm Springs.
Julien’s Auctions begin bidding wars soon for Marilyn’s address book.
A whisper in the wind. A lucky auction house will be offering Peter Falk’s iconic Columbo raincoat sometime in the future. More bidding wars!
Venai Jelks was 13 when she walked into the Fireside Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica two years ago. A student at Santa Monica High carrying her viola. Asking the activities director, Howard Celnik, if she could volunteer.
To play music for the confined residents. He was delighted.
She’d arrive after school, and with smiling grace visit each resident and ask, “May I play a song for you.” Of course, they were thrilled.
Passionate about music, Venai befriended not only the residents but the staff. One of our relatives at the Fireside was smitten with her sweetness, and Howard himself was enchanted with her “moxie,” as he called it. A dreamgirl, he said.
“I was won over by Venai on many counts. Her kindness, yes, and her desire to please our aged residents, and I admired her ease and confidence when introducing herself to our newcomers and family visitors, always playing a song or two on her viola. At school, she became a popular basketball and soccer player.
“Venai was born to give and born into music … she would have been the First Viola in an orchestra.”
We lost Venai a week ago at the heartbreaking age of 15. Whoever knew her remains deeply moved. So young and vital and sharing her boundless love.
She was not well one evening, and mysteriously passed the next day, leaving a brother, sister, dad and a mother who is expecting her fourth born.
Hundreds, including teachers, coaches and classmates, mourned her during the Christian service at the Inglewood Park Cemetery, where the rain abated until the following morning.