Marilyn Monroe’s former home saved from demolition in LA

Marilyn Monroe moved around a lot during her life, about 43 times in total. I think the instability she experienced in childhood became a subconscious pattern that was hard to break. She only ever purchased one home, in January of 1962, and it’s the house where she died in August of that year. It’s a landmark, albeit a very dark one. Someone bought the home in July and intended to immediately tear it down, and a demolition permit was issued. But then the Marilyn fan community sprang into action, inundating the LA City Council with thousands of phone calls. Councilwoman Traci Park responded by filing a motion to designate the house as a historic building, and the rest of the City Council voted unanimously in favor. Marilyn’s house has been saved–at least for now. If it is designated as a historic place, the new owners (who almost certainly knew that it was Marilyn’s house) won’t be able to destroy it. I have complicated feelings about all of this.

Demolition of the Los Angeles area home where Marilyn Monroe spent her last months has been put on hold by Los Angeles City Council, following a last-minute motion aimed at designating the house a Historic-Cultural Monument.

Councilmember Traci Park, whose district includes Brentwood where the legendary actress’s former home is located, said the house was sold in July and the new owners recently filed a request to have it demolished.

“Unfortunately, the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit before my team and I could fully intervene and get this issue resolved,” Park said in a news conference on Friday.

When word of its looming demise broke on Wednesday, Park’s offices were inundated with calls to save the fabled bungalow that once belonged to the pop culture icon.

“At this point, it may be into the thousands,” Park said of the volume of phone calls. “All of our phones in city hall and the field office have been ringing off the hook for the last 48 hours.”

On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved Park’s emergency motion to begin the process to designate the house a historic building.

Demolition is on hold until the city’s Office of Historic Resources conducts a study and analysis of the home, according to Park.

It remains unclear who the new homeowners are as the purchase was made under a limited liability company (LLC).

“We have not been contacted at all by the property owner,” Park told CNN. “Most certainly they were aware of who owned the home previously and who lived and died there.”

[[From CNN]

I wonder who is in this murky LLC. I’m glad it’s not being demo’d yet, but the way people mythologize this house makes me uneasy. It’s hard for me to put into words. I’ve seen a lot of people in the Marilyn fan community refer to the Fifth Helena Drive house as “our Graceland” but that doesn’t sit quite right with me. Marilyn was proud of her little house–2300 square feet is quite modest for a superstar. She was enjoying fixing it up and making it her own that summer of 1962. One of the last things she did before her death was to buy a bunch of succulents and trees for the backyard from a local nursery (according to Donald Spoto’s well-researched biography). But because it’s where she died, it will always be a tremendously sad place and I think the energy of what happened that night has marked that house forever. I could not live there.

I get why people in the fan community feel so passionately about protecting it. In recent years people have done disrespectful things to Marilyn’s legacy. That terrible Blonde movie came out, packed full of lies, judgment, and explicit scenes that exploited Marilyn (and Ana de Armas for what it’s worth). Then Kim Kardashian destroyed one of Marilyn’s most iconic dresses just to get attention and probably damaged another dress of Marilyn’s just to get an Instagram photo. I think Marilyn’s fans just want to preserve anything that mattered to her at this point. In practical terms, the house on Fifth Helena could never become a museum like Graceland because it’s on a tiny dead end residential street with no parking. I think that Marilyn should have a museum, I think she is that important to the culture. But with how her estate was handled, most of her personal affects are in the hands of private collectors now (or “museums” that will loan out their artifacts to any Kardashian that asks). But some of her makeup and clothing is on display at the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building, if anyone is interested.

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Photos credit: Holland / Avalon, Topfoto Archive / Avalon and Getty

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