Marilyn: The Ultimate Look at the Legend

I loved this book. James Haspiel was a young fan who befriended Marilyn during her time in New York and you can tell this book is presented with love and respect. Lots of rare photos you won't see anywhere else.

Author James Haspiel
Publisher Henry Holt and Company
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 9 x 11.5 inches
Publish Date 1991
ISBN 0-8050-1856-5
Signed No
Number of Pages 207


For years I put off buying James Haspielís book. I canít really put it in words but there was something about the guy I just didnít like. With so many other Marilyn books out there, I told myself that I could do without this manís snapshots and memories. Fortunately, a good friend of mine decided the matter for me by buying a copy of The Ultimate Look at the Legend for me. Now that it was out of my hands and I had no say in the matter, I have to admit that I was absolutely charmed and delighted by Haspielís text as well as the terrific photos this lucky dog took of the woman over the years. About midway through the book it dawned on me just what it was I didnít like about Haspiel: I was jealous. Way jealous.

Jealousyís an ugly thing. Envyís not much better but when it comes to Mr. Haspiel, Iím probably both. Doesnít matter that I wasnít even born by the time Haspiel was meeting Marilyn for the first time, or that he was in New York while I was in Los Angeles. Jealousy, or envy for that matter, never relies on logic. Whatever the reality, jealousy always whispers in your head things like, ëWell, she would have liked me even more.í What jealousy really does is make you stupid and do things like refusing to buy a book as cool as this.

 The bad stuff first. I canít buy into Haspielís story of Marilynís passing and doubt that he does either. I wonít go into it other than to say, ëGet real.í

 The good stuff. Fantastic candid snapshots this lucky cuss took of Marilyn coming and going from apartments, hotels, theaters. Wonderful shared memories of what it was like to be a gangly kid with a crush on a movie star and, (God Bless America), being recognized by the ultimate star of the day and becoming something between a favorite kid brother and mascot. And in addition to all those terrific snapshots of the ìrealî Marilyn as she goes about her days usually sans makeup and pared down to the essentials of a working actress studying under the tutelage of the great Strasberg, thereís a trove of weird little tidbits, (application to Blue Book, letters to Grace, Fox documents), that only a full-blown fan, (short for fanatic), would be interested in.

 For thatís the thing, this is a book by a man obsessed and the scary part is no matter what your gender, youíre going to find yourself so damned envious of the guy. Sure Haspiel went on and had a life, had kids, and from the photo above the dedication, found himself one very good looking boyfriend. But the reaction one feels one should have, i.e. ëThis guyís a nutcase,í doesnít come. Instead, most people end up just wishing theyíd been Haspiel, even if only for a day.

 Because, really, you know deep down, this guy really is slightly whacked to have had this overwhelming obsession for Marilyn. You read through the pages and itís like his entire life from 1954 to the present is just one long adoration session, shared for a while with the other misfits who made up ëThe Monroe Six,í but carried on alone all these long years later.

 James Haspiel reminds me of another fanatic, a Mr. Wayne Martin, who devoted his life to all things Garland. I remember reading about this guy back before Judy Garland died and even though I was listening to the Carnegie Hall album on a daily basis, I remember thanking God that I wasnít so far gone as to devote my entire life to the adoration of some movie star. Now all these years later, having written two books on Monroe, collecting every book I can find on the woman and spending lord knows how many hours a week online babbling on about her, I realize Iím just as whacked as Martin or Haspiel.

 So maybe itís a good thing I wasnít older, that I wasnít in New York instead of Los Angeles. Of course, had I, it might have been ìThe Monroe Sevenî rather than just those six kids hanging outside apartment buildings with their autograph books in hand. Iíd much rather sit back and thumb through Haspielís book, look at the pictures, envy him just a tad and then get back to my own life. Still, if Haspiel is to be believed, itíd be awfully sweet to have a photo of me and Marilyn found in a drawer near her bed that long ago August.

So ñ recommend it? You betcha. The cool thing is you can devote hours pouring over the pictures and reading about Haspielís experiences and then put the book back up on the shelf alongside the four hundred other MM books youíve collected and feel smug that at least you arenít that obsessed.

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