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Cult of Personality: Crypt Above Marilyn Monroe Sells For A Lot Of Money

August 27, 2009

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962.  Forty-seven years later, the crypt above hers sold on eBay for $4.6 million.  Some will find this an example of the free market at work, others will criticize it as insane waste and overindulgence.  In either case, it’s a logical outgrowth of our obsession with celebrities.

Even though it appears that the winning bidder caught auction fever and paid more than he or she could afford (eBay is trying to find the most serious of the second-place bidders) the fact is that someone paid a boat-load of money simply to lie in repose above Marilyn Monroe.  Yes, both Playboy and People named her the sexiest woman of the 20th Century, but what good is that when you’re rotting in a casket?  Can someone “enjoy” spending eternity on top of Marilyn Monroe (well, when you phrase it that way…)?  Obviously, because 11 different people bid $4.5 million to do just that.

Our current young sex symbol Megan Fox, born 24 years after Marilyn died, says in her David Letterman interview that Monroe is iconic: “Her image is art at this point.”  She’s right.  Monroe’s face is tattooed on Fox’s right forearm.  Lindsay Lohan, another 23-year-old sex symbol, recreates Marilyn photo shoots (maybe NSFW).  The Marilyn-Lifting-Weights and Marilyn-Blowing-Skirt photos appear everywhere from restaurants to bars to bowling alleys.  Her Warhol paintings show up on drinking glasses, cigarette cases, and handbags.   Almost 50 years after Marilyn’s death we have romanticized her, idolized her, to the point that people will spend many lives’ fortunes simply to have their corpses stored near hers.  We’ve minimized her humanity, her foibles, and lionized–and marketed–her beauty, her allure.

This certainly wasn’t unexpected, but is it even remotely what Marilyn would have wanted?  Doesn’t matter: fame has never been about what the celebrity wants.  It’s about what we want from them, which may be part of the reason Monroe found the grave at age 36.  I’d like to think that she is at peace, but with people spending princely sums of money just to be dead near her, I don’t know that she’ll ever find it.

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