Marilyn Monroe’s dress, pill bottles and bra to be auctioned by Athlone man in LA

Julien’s Auctions, headed by Martin Nolan, is selling a selection of the star’s belongings

In May 1962, Marilyn Monroe created a stir when she sang her breathless rendition of Happy Birthday to president John F Kennedy for his 45th birthday at Madison Square Garden in a provocative flesh-coloured gown.

The same skin-tight dress, embellished with more than 2,500 crystals, and which the troubled actor was famously sewn into, went on display at the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style in Kildare, before it was auctioned by Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles in 2016.

The garment made history when it achieved $4.8 million, making it the most expensive dress ever to sell at auction. It now resides at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum in Hollywood.

Within three months of wearing the Jean Louis-designed “naked” dress, the actor was dead. Ruled a probable suicide at the time, several conspiracy theories were proposed following her demise that still continue today, linking everyone from the Kennedy family to the mafia and the CIA.


Although the sultry performance ignited longstanding rumours of an affair between John F Kennedy and Monroe, with Irish-American journalist Dorothy Kilgallen describing it as “making love to the president in the direct view of 40 million Americans”, it was the last time Kennedy and Monroe met.

Kilgallen, who was investigating the death of John F Kennedy, was later also found dead. Her death was said to have been caused by a fatal combination of alcohol and barbiturates – the same fate as Monroe, who died three years earlier.

The fascination with Monroe and any memorabilia relating to her goes on: on November 1st, Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, headed by Athlone man Martin Nolan, will auction a selection of the star's belongings, in a Property From the Life and Career of Marilyn Monroe sale.

The actor was fired in 1962 by 20th Century Fox, while filming the ironically titled Something's Got to Give. Despite this, her films grossed more than $200 million (about $2 billion today) in a career that spanned just over a decade.

Listed in the catalogue are a selection of dresses worn by the actor, most notably the red-sequined dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the 1953 musical comedy with Jane Russell that would catapult Monroe to superstardom ($60,000-$80,000).

Other gowns from There's No Business Like Show Business, River of No Return and Some Like It Hot also feature, and will be exhibited at London's Mayfair Hotel ahead of the auction.

Secondhand market

The fascination with one of Hollywood’s most tragic female icons has seen a huge secondhand market for her clothing, where pairs of stockings have sold for in excess of $1,000, and four pairs of gloves achieved £32,500 through Christie’s in 2013.

One of her brassieres – a black Hollywood-Maxwell, Debutante, Whirlpool bra, size 36C, with its original price of $5.95 sewn on the label – is listed at $1,000-$2,000, but has already attracted seven bidders, and is currently at $1,500 despite six weeks remaining to the auction date.

An ornately carved corner chair owned by the actor, which was the scene for her last ever photoshoot – for an interview published by Life magazine two days before she died – is also listed.

The green velvet upholstery is slightly torn – as a result of an encounter with high heels worn by Monroe – but the chair has already attracted a bid of $17,500 on the auctioneers' site ($8,000-$10,000). Monroe sat on this chair and asked Richard Meryman, the writer for Life magazine: "Please don't make me look like a joke."

But the fascination with the star, as is the case for her peers of the last century such as James Dean and Elvis Presley, who appeared to be trapped in scripts of self-destruction, lends itself to a certain level of morbidity.

The sale reflects this, with medical prescriptions and prescription bottles from the year of her death, most notably a lot for a script written by Dr Hyman Engelberg for the drugs that would eventually kill the actor ($2,000-$3,000). Engelberg was also the doctor to announce her death to the world on August 5th, 1962.

JFK’s possessions

Also listed are items previously owned by John F Kennedy, such as his 1961 inaugural cigarette box ($400-$600) and the programme for the birthday at which Monroe sang in 1962 ($200-$300).

The paradox that is Marilyn Monroe still endures today; on one hand she was the beauty icon for a generation of women, and one of the most famous stars of Hollywood, but she was also punctuated by a troubled private life, an unstable childhood and an intense struggle for professional respect.

In her memoir My Story from the 1940s she describes Hollywood as “an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses”, echoing recent sentiments by actors in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which highlighted claims of women being forced to sleep their way into the business.

But possibly the line that best sums up the actor, in terms of how she saw herself as a commodity, is: “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.”

Pieces from the actor's life will be auctioned in Beverly Hills and online on November 1st. See