Marilyn Monroe’s pop culture presence

Los Angeles Times

Helen of Troy may have been the beauty whose face famously “launched a thousand ships,” but when it comes to moving merchandise, inspiring artists and spilling ink, she can’t hold a candle to Marilyn Monroe, whose presence can be felt in almost every corner of popular culture. What follows is a selected list of products that carry her imprint.

—Adam Tschorn


The actress’ name and image

have been used to sell a mind-boggling array of products from khakis andCoca-Colato cars and cosmetics, but one of the more memorable ads to leverage the legend didn’t use her likeness at all. In a 1995 print ad, a vodka bottle sits atop a subway grate as the lettering from its label billows about the same way Monroe’s dress does in that iconic scene from “The Seven Year Itch.” The ad copy read: “Absolut Marilyn.”



The best-known artwork bearing her likeness are the silk-screened images created by Andy Warhol within a month of her death in 1962. Warhol’s Marilyns were based on a publicity photo of the actress used for the 1953 release of the movie “Niagara.”

Coffee shops

Toronto-based Marilyn Monroe Cafe Franchise Inc. has plans for a global chain of 750- to 1,500-square-foot coffee shops with coffee drinks, fruit smoothies and pastries on the menu and Monroe quotes and photographs on the walls. The first one is set to open its doors in the Toronto suburb of Oakville in early September.


Monroe has been an obvious choice to be the face of beauty products over the decades. The most recent effort, due to hit retail in October, is a limited-edition, 30-piece beauty collection from MAC Cosmetics, which will include nail lacquers, eyeliners, eye shadow and lipstick.


In the past, Dolce & Gabbana has offered Monroe-motif dresses and T-shirts, Betsey Johnson has created “Mary-Lynn” tote bags, and Gerard Darel has sold replicas of the cable-knit sweater Monroe wore in “Let’s Make Love.” More recently, the film “Niagara” inspired the spring 2011 men’s and women’s Gant by Michael Bastian collection. And Italian luxury label Salvatore Ferragamo is rolling out a capsule collection of shoes that re-creates Ferragamo footwear once worn by Monroe.


A 60- to 100-piece jewelry collection that includes rings, necklaces and earrings is scheduled to go on sale in mid-October, says Tim Engle, chief strategy officer of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Jewelry Television. He says the collection will have actual pieces that Monroe owned and reproductions, as well as pieces inspired by Monroe’s style. The debut collection, priced from $40 to $125, will be sold on JTV’s website and its cable TV channel.

Nail salons

Marilyn Monroe Spas, which expects to open its first nail salon in Orlando, Fla., by the end of the year, aims to offer manicures, pedicures and a range of other salon services inspired by and themed around the late actress.



Channeling your inner Marilyn for a magazine cover or the glossy pages in between is practically a rite of passage for the celebrity set. Among those who have done so to memorable effect are Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, the latter of whom went full Marilyn by re-creating Monroe’s famous 1962 Bert Stern photo shoot known as “the last sitting.” Stern even photographed Lohan for the 2008 New York magazine cover spread.

Movies and television

Where to begin? Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino portrayed younger and older versions, respectively, in the 1996 TV movie “Norma Jean & Marilyn,” Charlotte Sullivan played Monroe in the 2011 Reelz Channel miniseries “The Kennedys,” the same year Michelle Williams earned an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for “My Week With Marilyn,” and James Franco made an ill-advised appearance in Marilyn Monroe drag during a co-hosting stint of the Academy Awards. Then there are the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of DVDs of her film appearances.


Monroe’s short life was the inspiration for Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s song “Candle in the Wind,” which first appeared on Elton’s 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

Music videos

Madonna pays homage to (and essentially strip mines) Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” dance number from the 1953 film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” for her “Material Girl” music video — right down to the pink dress, nearly shoulder-length pink opera gloves, jewelry and a chorus of tuxedo-clad gentlemen.

Postage stamps

In 1995, Monroe officially became first class — postage, that is — when theU.S. Postal Serviceunveiled a 32-cent stamp bearing her likeness. It went on to become that year’s bestselling U.S. postage stamp.


Designer William Travilla’s iconic “subway dress” is immortalized in “Forever Marilyn,” Seward Johnson’s 26-foot-tall sculpture depicting Monroe’s subway grate pose from “The Seven Year Itch.” The piece is scheduled to remain at the corner of Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Drive in Palm Springs until June 2013.



Napa Valley-based Nova Wines Inc. has been making Monroe-themed wines and packaging them in bottles bearing her likeness since 1985. Products include Marilyn Merlot ($40 to $3,800 depending on the year), Sauvignon Blonde ($16) and Norma Jean ($12 to $160).