Marilyn’s Night at the Circus

66 years ago this week, in March 1955, Marilyn rode a pink elephant at the circus in her recently adopted hometown of New York. It was perhaps her ultimate showgirl moment, though nowadays we’re more sensitive to animal welfare. Artist Alejandro Mogollo has paid tribute to the event with this vibrant illustration – one of many Marilyn-inspired images he’s created. And below, Donald Spoto describes the evening in an extract from Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1992.)

“Opening night of the Ringling Brothers circus at Madison Square Garden was a benefit for the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation. Among all the stars who turned out none was more visible or roaringly approved by the eighteen thousand spectators than Marilyn: in a little scenario designed by impresario Mike Todd (with Milton Greene supervising), she made a grand entrance in a tight, sexy outfit of feathers and spangles, riding atop an elephant painted shocking pink. ‘It meant a lot to me because I’d never been to the circus as a kid,’ she told the nation a week later.”