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Its cold in here, 50 or 60 degrees, but were all dressed for the L.A. sun, shivering in T-shirts. Omar, satisfied that we all understand Spanish, dispenses with his English translations. Well be interviewed one by one, he says. We must be over 18 and have a government-issued ID. The ones from MacArthur Park dont count, he jokes. No one smiles.
As the interviews progress, we view a hygiene video. It shows a worker leaving the bathroom without washing his hands, then informs us of his crime. Cochino, a middle-aged woman hisses, which means, of course, pig. We all laugh.
When its over, two men are asked to stay. The rest of us, unlucky, are told that well be called if were needed and are encouraged to apply again in a month. We remove our disposable headgear and file out, happy to be in the warm sun. On the way to my car, two trucks filled with pigs pull in through the gates. Snouts protrude ridiculously through the slats of the trailers. At first I think its the trucks brakes squealing, but as they pass me its clear that the noise I hear is the pigs crying, not cute barnyard oinks and squeals, but screams of panic and fear. Pigs too, it seems, can smell Farmer John.
Aspiring: Marilyn, Is That You?
The Hollywood Entertainment Museum is celebrating what would have been Marilyn Monroes 75th birthday with an exhibit whose highlights include the Doomed Ones pink silk dress from Lets Make Love, a snapshot of Norma Jeans wedding at age 16, and the famous nude photos that nudged her career along more efficiently than the mostly ho-hum movies she was lumbered with. I did my part by helping to judge the Marilyn look-alike contest that kicked off the show. My genial fellow jurors: Stanley Rubin, who produced River of No Return, a 1954 Western in which Monroe appeared with Robert Mitchum; his wife, Kathleen Hughes, a leading lady of 1950s; and Greg Schreiner, of Marilyn Remembered, a group of Monroe-memorabilia collectors who helped mount the exhibition.
Twelve pinkish-white female bodies not a hectic drag queen among them, mores the pity wriggled and minced in shimmering sequined sheaths, mewing cooperatively in answer to beauty-pageant questions from the events ebullient MC, honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant, whose cheeks were quickly festooned with scarlet kisses.
Though its no stretch to imagine why anyone would want to mimic Monroes pre-feminist glamour its a great escape from life I had to wonder why these cheery, commonsensical women identified so ä
ardently with someone so clearly marked for tragedy. Aside from one very tall, gangly and endearingly nervous teenage novice in a curly platinum wig that owed more to Harpo Marx than to Hollywoods greatest sex goddess, this was a pretty wised-up crowd, far more adept than their idol at keeping the image separate from the life. And yet one beaming young nymph in a white dress with halter top, cummerbund waist and pleated skirt assured the mayor that she wasnt going to end up like Marilyn: because Im engaged. None of the contestants wanted Monroes life, but what was striking was their tender sympathy for her predicament, and a uniform refusal to look down their noses at one of the most condescended-to and exploited casualties of the dream machine.
Commanded to make our decision in full view of the contestants, we jurors went into shock and plumped for the obvious winner, a young pro in a shocking-pink silk floor-length number, who preened for the cameras as if shed been doing this sort of thing all her life. She has, more or less: Like several of the other women, shes a regular on the Marilyn look-alike circuit, and has won a bunch already. Given more time to deliberate, we might have put our money on an older, resplendently bouffant blond with a dry wit, who gallantly observed that she was closest to the age Marilyn would be now, and owned that she was only here to scout for new recruits for the look-alike talent agency she runs. I usually only do Dolly Parton, she protested. Gazing from our seats below at her majestic bustline, we believed her.