60 Years Later: Marilyn Remembered in California

In a photo essay for the Los Angeles Times, Amy Gaskin explores how fans remember Marilyn in her hometown and beyond.

“Many tell stories of how she has inspired them and has gotten them through tough times. Some are captivated by her beauty. Others feel she has been misunderstood and her intelligence underestimated.

Some simply enjoy her movies. There are few still living who knew her personally. Her crypt at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park is visited regularly and flowers still arrive nearly daily.

There is also the ‘business of Marilyn.’ Marilyn is a big tourist draw in Southern California. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, her likenesses, small and large, were displayed to bring in badly needed tourist dollars.

Greg Schreiner is the president of the Marilyn Remembered fan club. Schreiner has a vast collection of the star’s personal items. ‘I wish that I had known her, and that’s why I started collecting — so I could get to know her better,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know her, of course, but I’ve met dozens of people that did know her. They said that she had a very warm, giving, loving personality. She was the kind of person you’d want to hang around.’

Actress Renee Taylor, now 89, spoke at last year’s memorial service and recounted how Monroe shared beauty tips with her. ‘I don’t think she got credit for her great performances,’ Taylor said. She and Monroe were in Lee Strasberg’s acting class together. ‘She would stand in front of everybody and be critiqued in class. It was impressive that she would be vulnerable like that.’

Baseball great Joe DiMaggio, Monroe’s second husband, had six red roses delivered three times a week to her crypt for more than 20 years, according to Susan Hail, owner of the Parisian Florist. They delivered more than 18,000 roses in all. Then one day, DiMaggio came into the shop and said ‘that’s enough’ and discontinued the deliveries.

Monroe’s funeral and casket arrangement were one of Hail’s father’s first jobs as a florist. The family-owned shop continues to operate and provides flowers for many of Monroe’s friends and fans who continue to buy them to honor her.

The 26-foot-tall, 24,000-pound stainless steel and aluminum sculpture ‘Forever Marilyn’ was installed in Palm Springs … Cher-Javier, a Monroe impersonator in Palm Springs, said: ‘I have tons of books about her. What inspires me about her is her rise from the tragic life she led. It’s unbelievable. She was just this little orphan girl.’

Steve Gonzales cleans Marilyn Monroe’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. ‘I was born in love with Marilyn Monroe. What I’m doing, that’s just love,’ said Gonzales, who has been cleaning her Walk of Fame star for the last five years.”