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Staley-Wise Gallery : Bert Stern : Marilyn Monroe, The Last Sitting 1962


Marilyn Monroe : The Last Sitting, 1962
By Bert Stern

(…) The phone rang.
Startled out of my reverie, I grabbed it. The voice said, “Miss Monroe is here.” “She’s here already?” I couldn’t believe it. It was 7 p.m. She was only five hours late.
I slowly put the phone down and took a deep breath. Well, Bert, this is it. I wanted to see her first, before the others did, so I said, “Okay, everybody just stay right here. I’ll be right back.” And I stepped out the door.
As I came down the stairs toward the reception room, I was surprised to see a girl walking toward me on the pathway between the trellises, alone. A scarf covered her hair. I had expected her to be flanked by press agents and bodyguards and God knows who else. Her P.R. girl, Pat Newcomb, was supposed to be there for the sitting. But no. She had come alone.
The sun was setting behind the Hollywood hills, and the girl next door, the girl every man dreams of, was walking slowly toward me in the golden light. I walked up to her.
She was a total surprise.
This was no other woman, voluptuous, aging.
She had lost a lot of weight, and the loss had transformed her. She was better than the full-bodied, almost overblown girl I had seen in the movies. In her pale-green slacks and cashmere sweater she was slender and trim, with just enough softness in the right places- all of it hers. She had wrapped a scarf around her hair, and she wore no makeup. Nothing. And she was gorgeous.
I had expected-feared-an elaborate imitation. No. She was the real thing.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m Bert Stern.” I offered her my hand. She took it, and I looked into her eyes. They were blue, green-blue.
I forgot my marriage, my baby, my dream life in New York, everything but this moment.

I was in love.
I took a deep breath and said, “You’re beautiful.”
She looked straight at me, parted her lips, and said, “Really? What a nice thing to say.” Another surprise: her voice. It wasn’t the tiny, breathy baby voice you hear in her movies. It was more natural, yet distinctive and feminine. She was a natural. Not one of those Hollywood stars who were beyond my reach, but a real, flesh and blood girl named Marilyn. I had nothing to fear from her . . . expect that she might vanish before my eyes now that I’d found her.
I had a camera to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
“I’ve built you a studio,” I told her as we walked up the stairs to the suite. I opened the door for her. She stepped across the threshold, said hello to George and Jim, and looked around at the white paper, the waiting lights. The familiar props of a photographic sitting seemed to set her at ease. She explored the room like a cat in a new house.
“Is there a dressing room?” she asked me.
I showed her the bedroom. She sat down in front of the vanity, took her scarf off, and shook out her hair. It was white blonde, almost silver. I looked at her in the mirror.
Her eyes met mine in the mirror. “What do you want me to do?” she said. “Are you in a hurry?” I said.
“No, why?”
“I thought you were going to have like five minutes.” She said, “Are you kidding?”
I said, “Well, how much time have you got?” “All the time that we want!”
I looked at her, and I saw that it was true. She had nothing else to do. She wasn’t going anywhere. She was here.
“That calls for some champagne,” I said.
I popped open a bottle of Dom Perignon and poured two glasses. We drank. (…)

Bert Stern
Excerpt from Marilyn Monroe : The Last Sitting, 1962
By Bert Stern
Published by William Morrow and Company, 1982


Bert Stern : Marilyn Monroe, The Last Sitting 1962
January 27 – March 26, 2022
Staley-Wise Gallery
100 Crosby Street
New York NY 10012

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