June 1, 2016 marks what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. Her early death has frozen her in time, making it difficult to fathom the idea of Marilyn Monroe being 90 years old at all–and further, while it is confounding to think of Marilyn Monroe as a 90-year-old, 90 is young enough that she might still have been alive today, if that night on August 4, 1962 had gone differently.
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most intricate and complex personalities in all of film history. I have been fascinated by her story ever since I was old enough to comprehend it. Her psychological demons consumed her, but she put forth a million dollar smile that belied her internal struggles. She was a gifted actress, but was stuck in the sex symbol roles that would bring 20th Century Fox the most profit. Childhood memories of living in an orphanage and in foster care, reminding her that she had been an unwanted child named Norma Jeane Baker, haunted her as she lived the life as the most sought-after actress on the screen. Ultimately, these dualities destroyed her.
The child who became Marilyn Monroe was born to a 24-year-old film cutter named Gladys Baker on June 1, 1926. Gladys had severe mental illness, and was unable to care for her new daughter. After living in several foster homes, she was placed at the Los Angeles Orphan’s Home Society in 1935, near the corner of Vine and Melrose. There, she lived in a girls’ residence hall that overlooked Paramount Studio alongside several dozen other children, many of whose situations were similar to hers. She stayed for 2 years before going back into foster care, living long term with the aunt of her mother’s best friend. She returned for visits several times over the course of her life, signing the guest book as “Norma Jeane Baker” on her first visit, and “Marilyn Monroe” every time after that.
The mission of the orphanage began to shift in the years following Norma Jeane Baker’s stay there, and became known as the Hollygrove Home For Children. It began to focus less on children who had no parents, and more on children like Norma Jeane who had parents who were unable to care for them. Its goals became more family-driven, providing resources and support to families in need of help. The home itself closed in 2005, but the organization continues to do great and needed work in the Los Angeles area.
On the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday, EMQ FamiliesFirst Hollygrove is holding a fundraising drive in her honor. The modern Hollygrove is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “the social-emotional, behavioral and mental health needs of young children, teens and their families,” and aims to “heal the whole child-and the whole family – through a full range of behavioral and mental health services.” It has thought of a lovely and fun way to participate in the fundraising drive–using the hashtag #ModernMarilyn, participants are encouraged to post a picture inspired by Marilyn Monroe, along with the link to the fundraising page.
If you are so inclined, contributing to this fundraising drive would be a wonderful way to honor Marilyn Monroe’s memory this year, and a great contribution to a vital Los Angeles institution. Please follow this link to contribute or share the page with someone who can, and honor a legend while at the same time honoring Los Angeles children and families.
Happy 90th birthday, Marilyn!