Marilyn’s New Makeover

By Maria Cheung

By Jennifer Williams

Almost 50 years after the death of fashion and film icon, Marilyn Monroe, her name and likeness will be used to market a range of new products, including apparel, handbags, fragrances and home goods. Marilyn’s name and image currently graces numerous cheesy souvenirs, which are sold in Times Square and other tourist destinations, worldwide. According to the New York Post, Jamie Salter of Authentic Brands Group partnered with media company NECA to acquire Marilyn’s estate. Salter wants to ultimately eliminate the Marilyn-themed trinkets and souvenirs sold in tourist destinations.

“We’re not really interested in the trinkets and trash,” Salter told The Post. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good business — calendars, posters and shot glasses — but that’s not what we want to do with Marilyn Monroe.”

Salter, who already owns the right to reggae legend Bob Marley, also wants the starlet’s image to appear in future Hollywood movies and on television, possibly through the aid of digital animation technology.  Salter refused to discuss specific deal terms, but reports said he and NECA acquired the rights to Marilyn’s estate for less than $50 million after about six months of discussions.  Anna Strasberg, executor of the estate and the third wife of Monroe’s ex-acting coach, Lee Strasberg, who sold Salter the treasure trove will remain a partner in the venture. Strasberg said in a statement that Salter “impressed me with [his] bold, imaginative ideas.”

His goal is to “create products that people actually want to buy.” “You’re not going to get into bed with 300-thread-count sheets that have Marilyn Monroe’s face all over them,” Salter said. “That’s kind of hokey.”

Salter wants to use Marilyn’s image to distribute a line of licensed products to mid-tier retail chains and discounters worldwide. Authentic Brands has taken a similar approach during the past year with its licensing deal with Bob Marley. Only about a third of the products created thus far bear the image of the reggae legend.

“It’s too early to say what Marilyn-branded clothing will look like, except that it will be “elegant, elegant, elegant — and size doesn’t matter,” Salter said.”Marilyn was an elegant woman, but she was not a pencil.”

Salter’s re-vamp of Marilyn’s image and likeness should ultimately prove to be rewarding and justly honor the star. As long as the merchandise sold is of a decent quality, I think it is smart for Salter to want to regulate Marilyn’s name and image, so that it is not misused. However, the only concern I do have is how much of Marilyn’s name, image and likeness already belongs to the public. Have these Marilyn-themed trinkets and souvenirs already tainted her name and image enough to make her a part of the public domain in some sense. Marilyn was an iconic movie star, whose life truly belonged to the public, whether it was scandalous pictures, a doomed marriage or a forbidden love affair. It will be interesting to watch Salter’s vision unravel and as it does, I hope my questions will be answered.


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