Me, Vanessa, Marilyn & John

"Namesake" (for MM), Collage (in progress), 5 x 7 inches, April 15 2012

"Namesake" (for MM), Collage (in progress), 5 x 7 inches, April 15 2012

This week I watched a concert* on TV given by French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis.  I sat spellbound by the star’s stylish looks, lithe figure and wavy blonde hair as well as what emerged from her lips (along with the familiar gap between her two front teeth): a voice like no other: childish and sultry – a contradictory combination of little girl and woman.  From the moment I heard it long ago I fell in love with it.  Of Paradis’ songs that pivot around the theme of love, my favourite is “Marilyn et John” inspired by the secret love affair between Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy.  In the late 1980’s, at the tender age of fifteen this tune raised Paradis to international fame.  Listening to its lyrics, I became intrigued by how someone so young could relay this story as though she too, like a fly on the wall, was an intimate part of their relationship.  Its broken lyrics gave me glimpses into their lives as lovers … mysterious phone calls, Monroe singing in her bath, dreams of a secret marriage and more; it was a dangerous liaison.  After watching the concert, I ripped through YouTube replaying all the versions of “Marilyn et John” I could find.  Taking delight in Paradis’ various recordings over the years; younger ones where she sounded sweet and vulnerable like the young Marilyn herself or older and deeper voiced like the Marilyn that might have been.  Whatever the case, each is a reverent homage to the late star.  Soon I found myself also browsing through Wikipedia and discovered Monroe inspired Paradis’ foray into show business.  Upon uncovering this, the girlish, sexy singing styles of both women fell into place.  As an actress who took her trade seriously, I think Monroe would’ve been proud of the blossoming of Paradis’ career.  A hopeless romantic, I wondered if perhaps Vanessa may be the reincarnation of Marilyn and got goose bumps.  I thought of the many female stars that have emulated Monroe… Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Nicole Kidman, Lady Gaga to name a few – her legacy has been a powerhouse for women (and men) to draw from and re-create in their own image.  All week, I listened to “Marilyn et John”.  As I collaged, I drew on the images Paradis conjures of Monroe and remembered my own connection to her.  Did you know Marilyn is my first name?  And, yes, I was named after this star whose light shone so brightly it traveled across oceans and continents over the Arabian Sea to the shores of Pakistan to bewitch the imagination of my young parents.  So much so, that instead of naming their first born after one of their Christian saints as was the custom, they christened her after a Hollywood sex goddess!  I was born a few years after Monroe’s death and, upon learning she was my namesake, I’ve been haunted by the story of her life.  It’s as if, along with the naming, a part of Marilyn slipped into my soul.

*Note: 2010 Vanessa Paradis’ Versailles Concert: “Marilyn et John” (at 3:21 minutes on video)

My Favourite Marilyn Monroe Movies:
“Some Like It Hot”; “Bus Stop”, “Niagara”; “The River of No Return”

My Favourite Marilyn Monroe Songs:
Diamond’s are a Girl’s Best Friend”; “The River of No Return

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