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Marilyn Monroe is the biggest, brightest and sexiest star of the 20th Century, and 37 years after her death the auction of her belongings in late October had lines snaking along the street and a staggering $13.4 million dollars spent by investors and fans wanting to own a little (or large) piece of their idol.

Christie's auction house in New York City billed the sale as "The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe" and it was very, very personal. The contents of her two homes, in Los Angeles and New York, gave an intimate look at both the glamorous, dedicated actress and the woman outside the Hollywood spotlight.

Glittering star of the show (and possibly the world's most famous dress) was the skintight, rhinestone-studded sheath that Marilyn wore to sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962. French Oscar-winner Jean Louis designed it to be "as nude as possible...a dress only Marilyn Monroe could wear". It was hand-sewn with a spiderweb of more than 6,000 beads and Marilyn, sans underwear, was literally stitched into it. New York's "Gotta Have It Collectibles" paid a stunning $1.3 million.

The item with the most sentimental value was the platinum eternity band with 35 baguette-cut diamonds, which the late baseball great Joe DiMaggio gave Marilyn shortly after their wedding. The ring, missing one diamond, had an estimated price of $50,000. An anonymous buyer paid $772,500.

Estimates went out the window as bidders, including actresses Delta Burke and Meg Tilly, sent prices sky-high. Tommy Hilfiger bought her blue jeans. Ripley's Believe It Or Not bought her traveling makeup case, bikinis, dresses and driver's license. Delta, outbid on many items, managed to buy a handkerchief embroidered with the letter "M".

Some outfits were instantly recognizable from movies and famous photographs--a flapper dress and feather cap from "Some Like It Hot", the sequined dress and strappy sandals from her tour to entertain US troops in Korea. The hand-knitted Mexican cardigan from the beach photos taken by George Baris brought $167,500. Tan leather cowgirl boots from "The Misfits", the last movie she ever made--$85,000.

Collectors battled for the scripts from classic films, full of Marilyn's handwritten notes and testimony to how hard she worked and how seriously she took her career.This estate was originally left to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, and is now being sold by his second wife, Anna. The annotated script from the comedy "Some Like It Hot" brought $52,000.

But it was the everyday items that gave an intimate look at the private Marilyn. The sale included stuffed toys and pajamas, snapshots of her pet Maltese, even pots, pans and oven mitts. Her Magnavox television, spray-painted gold, went for $30,000. Her temporary California driver's license brought $130,000. Weights and gym equipment (she was ahead of her time in her dedication to exercise), $60,000. No demanding diamond diva here--all Marilyn's glittering jewelry was glass, rhinestones and simulated stones.

There was the white baby grand piano with the touching history, sold when her mother was institutionalized. Marilyn searched for years to recover the piano, which sold for $662,500.

Marilyn's library, with works by writers as diverse as Kerouac, Camus, Tolstoy and Twain, was sold to benefit Literacy Partners. Her silk satin stoles and furs went to benefit the World Wildlife Fund. The huge turnout and money spent at this extraordinary celebrity sale prove that today, more than ever, Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate and capture the public's imagination. / Issue 200 - August 2018
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