The Myths of Marilyn’s ‘Black Wig’ Sitting

The so-called ‘Black Wig Sitting’ was part of Marilyn’s Vogue shoot with Bert Stern, completed over a weekend in June 1962 at the Bel Air Hotel. However, for many years these images were lost, as MSN reports.

“According to Stern, the Marilyn wig photos were stolen and didn’t resurface until the 1990s when professional collector Alan Schrem found them at a flea market. Stern was livid when he found the pictures in American Photo magazine and sued Schrem for $1 million. ‘They’re definitely my pictures,’ Stern said. ‘I want them back.’

The collector, however, put up a fight claiming the transparencies were found in a jewelry box he had purchased. I’m not saying whether they’re his or not. Maybe they are,’ Schrem said at the time. ‘I’m saying, prove they were stolen.’ It’s unclear if the photos were ever returned to Stern …”

The article also reports on the rumour that Marilyn was impersonating America’s First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, in this sitting. However, Stern never made this claim and so there’s no reason to believe it is anything more than one of many exaggerated stories about Marilyn’s brief association with the President.

In the photo above, we see Kenneth Battelle styling Marilyn. As he was also, famously, Mrs. Kennedy’s hairdresser, it’s highly unlikely that he would have been party to any disrespect for his most distinguished client. The wig does resemble Jackie’s hairdo, which had been copied by women the world over.

Compared to Marilyn’s other, more sensuous sessions with Stern, the ‘black wig sitting’ seems to have been a moment of light relief. Seeing a brunette Monroe is striking enough without referencing anyone else, and she also sported an artificial beauty mark on her cheek, as if spoofing her own image.