Hooray for Hollywood – Part One

I wanted to say sorry that I haven’t updated my blog recently. I have been to Los Angeles, then Cromer and now home again, where I’m trying to catch up with my work! I have shared some photos from my L.A. trip on social media (Instagram @MMWriterGirl) but finally I have time to share the story of my trip, here.

My parents and I arrived in Los Angeles on 27th July 2016, and the very next day we were picked up by our friends Jill and Kip, and taken to all kinds of Marilyn locations. During the tour, we saw the site  of The Wrong Door Raid; Earl Moran’s studio; Hollygrove; Marilyn’s last home, and of course her grave at Westwood Memorial Park. I loved every single moment, but of course Westwood was the ultimate place I wanted to visit, and to go there after nineteen years was nothing short of miraculous!

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So how did I feel, standing in front of Marilyn’s crypt after all these years? Emotional would be one way of describing it. Tearful would be another. I thanked her for everything she has given me over the years; all the inspiration she has provided and the friends she has brought into my life. I just hope that it won’t take me another nineteen years before I get back there again!

For lunch we all headed to Barney’s Beanery, which was a wonderful place to eat and gossip. What a great time we all had, and the memories will live with me forever. Sitting with Jill  in a restaurant was something I had wanted to do since the late 1990s, when we first started corresponding. Now to be in one of Marilyn’s favourite eateries with my parents, and Jill and Kip, wbarneysas really quite something!

The next day we spent a quiet but fabulous time in the Glendale Galleria and Americana shopping centre. Wow, what a great place to eat and shop!! We spent a long time there and I’m still not convinced we saw everything. That’s the perfect excuse to go back again, one of these days!

That night it was time for the Marilyn musical, and what a night that was! My role in the show was as a consulting producer, which meant that I worked closely with the producer/director, Tegan Summer, while he put together the script.  In my role, I made myself available at all times of the day and night, to answer questions and give advice on the order of scenes, the names of characters, the kinds of things Marilyn said, etc., etc. I also gave advice to various people in the cast and crew. While I’d acted in amateur theatre as a teenager, I’d never worked behind-the-scenes before, so the whole experience was an interesting one. Would I like to work on another play in the future? Yes, definitely! I’d also love to direct in the future, too. You heard it here first!

Anyway….

We arrived at the Alex Theatre and I was greeted by the publicist, who shuttled me onto the red carpet, and in front of the world’s media. Now that was an experience and a half! You can see some footage of me on the red carpet here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=810v5k8Sf9M

And here (around the 4.50 mark):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EI9XMEdQJE

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Once the appearances and interviews were over, it was time to join my parents and Jill and Kip, in the theatre. Before the show began, I was taken on stage to answer lots of questions about Marilyn, which was lots of fun and something I really enjoyed. Looking out to an audience of 1400 people was somewhat daunting, but the interviewer, Mar Yvette was a lovely lady who quickly made me feel as though I was speaking to an old friend.

At the interval, lots of people came up to have their picture taken with me and ask for autographs. What a huge honour it was for me to speak to people who appreciate my work. I spoke to so many that I barely had time to dash to the loo, but it was definitely worth it! I’d like to thank each and every person who came up to say hello – before, during and after the show. You truly made my day. 🙂

The musical itself was a lot of fun, and I thought that Kelley Jakle and Kelley Dorney did a spectacular job as Marilyn and Norma Jeane. Every person in the cast was amazingly talented, and I really loved the dancers and the two actors who played the chauffeur.

IMG_20160729_183442078One thing that was very funny to see, was actress Samantha Stewart, acting as myself! The musical begins with “me” interviewing Marilyn’s chauffeur, who goes on to explain the story of the actress’s life; hence moving the action back in time. It then goes back and forth throughout the whole show, and so develops the story of Marilyn’s life, as well as the story of the relationship between “me” and Charlie the chauffeur. You can see from the photo that Samantha is a taller, younger, more glamorous version of myself! She’s also a fabulous person and I am so happy she was chosen to play me.

One question that came up often afterwards, was “is the story of you and the chauffeur based on real-life events?” Well no, it isn’t, really. That character was a fictional person, but of course I did interview hundreds of people associated with Marilyn’s life during the writing of my book, so Charlie the chauffeur kind of represents all of them, you could say.

The musical ran for one night only, but there is talk of it moving to other venues later. Will my character continue to be in the show? I have no idea, but it was a great experience to see myself played by an actress, for one night, anyway!

Part Two – Vegas!