The Story Behind Marilyn Monroe’s Nude Calendar

It was 1949, then as now, countless thousands of young actresses in Hollywood were unemployed.  Many give up the struggle.  Others take a wrong turn and make decisions they will later regret. A certain unknown, very small, percentage persevere. That songbird they are all chasing, called “success”, inevitably proves elusive. But this article isn’t about the countless scores of would be Hollywood actresses in the late 1940s facing defeat. Marilyn Monroe, at this time just one of many, had found herself unemployed and with the proverbial wolf knocking on her door.

Marilyn had already turned down several offers by a photographer she knew named Tom Kelley, though she had posed for many other photographers (before becoming an actress, she was a top model, her face adorning hundreds of magazine covers.) Marilyn had nixed Kelley’s offers because he wanted her to pose nude.

But now it was May 27, 1949 (just five days shy of her 23rd birthday) and Marilyn desperately needed $50.00 (about $460 today) to make a payment on her car, lest it be impounded. Young Marilyn had been dropped from her contracts at both 20th Century Fox and Columbia and these steady studio contractual stipends were dearly missed.

So she finally agreed and reported to Kelley’s studio at the appointed time. (She had previously done some beer ads with him.) Just so there was no hanky-panky, implied or otherwise, Kelley’s wife, Natalie, was there for the entire shoot. (One wonders if any jealous thoughts went through her head as she helped her husband prepare the cameras and the red velvet scenery that the breathtaking Marilyn would be seductively posing on.)

The photo shoot lasted two hours.

Countless shots were taken, but only two were to ever be used or have any lasting importance. “A New Wrinkle” showed Marilyn sprawled out, lying on her side. (This shot was to grace a Baumgarth company calendar.) The other (soon to be world famous) shot was dubbed “Golden Dreams”; this was a shot of Marilyn sitting up in a sexy pose, with her left arm crooked and held behind her head.

Marilyn was paid the agreed-upon $50.00 for her services. Instead of using her real name, she signed the contract/release using the name “Mona Monroe”. If Marilyn Monroe had been just another actress, the story would end there and the above photos would be a molecule in the universe of photography honoring the feminine form. But now we cut to 1952.

Hypocritically given the public stigma against women who posed in such shots, Marilyn’s “Golden Dreams” nude photo was gracing barbershops, gas stations, and men’s locker rooms from coast to coast and she wasn’t an unknown actress anymore- she had been featured in several films in the intervening three years and was now the hottest young starlet in the business, poised to become a genuine superstar.

That’s when journalist Aline Mosby broke the “nude calendar” story in March of ’52. The studio’s initial reaction was to deny everything. But Marilyn, to her credit, made the decision and convinced the studio to fess up and admit that it was indeed her in the photo.

An exclusive interview was given on March 25, 1952, and the scandal-hungry reporters sharpened their pencils, hoping, as reporters always do, for scandal, ridicule, and shame, not to mention the destruction of a hopeful young actress’s career, which always sells well in the media. But instead of ridicule, the press were charmed by Marilyn’s candidness and honesty.

I was broke and needed the money.  Why deny it?… You can get one (a calendar) anyplace. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it, I’ve done nothing wrong… I was a week behind in the rent (she either had decided to change the real story here, perhaps implying she would have become homeless, which is more desperate than become carless, or she genuinely had forgotten about her car fees.) I had to have the money. Tom didn’t think anyone would recognize me. My hair was long then. But when the picture came out, everybody knew me…I’d never have done it if I’d known things would happen so fast in Hollywood for me.

Even Marilyn’s natural sense of humor was to come out in the aftermath of the “Golden Dreams Scandal” breaking. Later, reporters would harangue Marilyn and ask her if she “had anything on” during the infamous shoot. “Oh yes”, Marilyn quipped, “I had the radio on.”

The press, and more importantly, the public, saw Marilyn’s genuine sincerity and were more than willing to let this cultural faux pas go, despite the fact that few before her had ever survived a similar scandal; but fortunately for movie fans the world over, Marilyn Monroe did.

She would soon be shooting “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) and “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953), the films that really launched the “Marilyn Monroe” phenomena and her immortal “dumb, but sexy” blonde persona. Soon thereafter would follow “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), “Bus Stop” (1956), “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) and of course, Marilyn’s crowning achievement “Some Like It Hot” (1959), one of the great comedies in cinema history. Her sparkling career was to end with “The Misfits” (1960) co-starring her childhood fantasy ideal, Clark Gable.

In retrospect, we all look back on the “Golden Dreams Nude Calendar” scandal and laugh or shrug our shoulders. After all, nowadays we all can see much sexier, raunchier pictures of unclothed women by the millions, simply by pushing the right computer key and it’s rare to find a superstar actress who hasn’t done a nude scene at some point, if not much more than just a scene. Viewed now, the “Golden Dreams” calendar seems almost quaint, a cup of weak tea in the middle of a saloon in tombstone.

In her era, though, most who did this might as well have murdered babies in terms of the effect it would have on their career going forward.  But somehow Marilyn Monroe remained above it all. The Monroe face, challenged the world over, but still unequaled, surrounds us from every quarter even today- movies, TV specials, DVD’s, videos, books, magazines, posters, coffee cups, t-shirts, badges, and every other piece of commercial merchandise from New York to Rio to Tokyo to London to Paris and all the way around the rest of the planet feature the immortal Monroe persona.

Men love her for all the obvious reasons, but also appreciate her humor and incredible charisma. Women, most not jealous, seem more to empathize, understand and sympathize with Marilyn and her plight. And sixty years after the “world breaking” scoop and resulting “Golden Dreams” scandal, Marilyn Monroe’s face remains probably the most famous, familiar women’s face in the history of the world.

Like Babe Ruth in baseball, Michael Jordan in basketball, or Muhammad Ali in boxing, Marilyn Monroe remains the “undisputed champ” for immortal actresses. Unfortunately, like Elvis, we see the excessive drug use, the wasted success, and the being surrounded by too many of “the wrong people”. And as with Elvis, most of us don’t condemn, we only regret. We mostly just wish they had somehow just “gotten their act together” so we all could enjoy them for a while longer.

Found at Today I Found Out.


Late night shopping may never be the same again after you watch IKEA’s homage to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic, The Shining.


One down, two to go—North Korea frees US citizen.

Jeffrey Fowle is on his way home after nearly six months of being detained in North Korea for “anti-state” crimes—he left a bible in the bathroom of a restaurant. Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller remain in North Korean custody.

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“I am Darren Wilson”: St. Louis and the geography of fear

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—“I am Darren Wilson.”

The slogan is all over the St. Louis metropolitan area: on T-shirts worn by soccer moms, on rubber bracelets worn by police officers, on signs held by their wives. “I am Darren Wilson,” they proclaim, in a show of affinity with the white police officer who  shot black teenager Michael Brown to death in the street in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9. “I am Darren Wilson,” they affirm, as St. Louis waits for a grand jury to rule whether the most infamous police officer in America will be indicted.

Everyone in St. Louis is afraid. The discrepancy in what they fear is tearing the region apart. Ferguson protesters—and much of black St. Louis—fear the police. They fear officers like Wilson, whom they believe view black men as inherently threatening and deserving of lethal force. Since Aug. 9, protesters have proclaimed “I am Michael Brown” and mimicked the “hands up” gesture he allegedly made before he died. “I am Michael Brown” is the grim corollary to their other rallying cry: “Black lives matter.”

Those who claim “I am Darren Wilson” say they stand in solidarity not just Wilson, but also with law enforcement. To support Darren Wilson, the refrain goes, is to support law, order and due process. But underlying the phrase “I am Darren Wilson” is a different kind of fear. It is fear of disenfranchisement, chaos, and criminality. It is a fear of black youth and black self-determination. This fear structures not only the geography of St. Louis, but also the regions beyond.

Today the base of Wilson support comes not from St. Louis, but rather neighboring St. Charles County, where white St. Louisans began to migrate en masse at the turn of the 21st century following the arrival of blacks in suburban St. Louis. The Wilson case is the culmination of decades of the racial politics of fear, which dictate everything from where people live and how they treat each other to whom they view as the antagonist in the Ferguson events. While the grand jury has until mid-November to rule on an indictment, rumor is that it will happen soon. St. Louis is a region on edge, united only in anticipation that the worst is still to come.

Finish reading this HERE.

The Simple Genius of the Blackboard

Why the board-centered classroom is still the best place to teach and learn.

Excerpted from Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom by Lewis Buzbee. Out now from Graywolf Press.

The blackboard is a recent innovation. Erasable slates, a cheap but durable substitute for costly paper and ink, had been in use for centuries. Students could practice reading and writing and math on their slates, in the classroom or at home. But it wasn’t until 1800 that James Pillans, headmaster of the Old High School of Edinburgh, Scotland, wanting to offer geography lessons to his students that required larger maps, connected a number of smaller slates into a single grand field. And in 1801, George Baron, a West Point mathematics teacher, also began to use a board of connected slates, the most effective way, he found, to illustrate complex formulas to a larger audience.

Although the term blackboard did not appear until 1815, the use of these cobbled-together slates spread quickly; by 1809, every public school in Philadelphia was using them. Teachers now had a flexible and versatile visual aid, a device that was both textbook and blank page, as well as a laboratory, and most importantly, a point of focus. The blackboard illustrates and is illustrated. Students no longer simply listened to the teacher; they had reason to look up from their desks.

Like many of the best tools, the blackboard is a simple machine, and in the 19thcentury, in rural areas particularly, it was often made from scratch, rough pine boards nailed together and covered with a mixture of egg whites and the carbon leavings from charred potatoes. By 1840 blackboards were manufactured commercially, smoothly planed wooden boards coated with a thick, porcelain-based paint. In the 20th century, blackboards were mostly porcelain-enameled steel and could last 10 to 20 years. Imagine that, a classroom machine so durable and flexible. In my daughter’s schools, computers, scads of them, are replaced every two to three years.

Read more HERE.

Estonia will let foreigners become “digital residents.”

For €50 ($64), Estonia will soon let non-Estonians apply for an “e-residency” that gives them a digital identity allowing them do business in the country without actually being there. They’ll still need to visit an Estonian police station to get their biometric data recorded, though that will expand to embassies in late 2015.


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