Let Marilyn Rest in Peace

Creepy crypt sale is a sign of celebrity worship gone wild

By Jere Hester
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 8:45 PM PDT
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Marilyn Monroe is still being exploited, nearly a half century after her death.

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Celebrity worship has come to this: some folks with more money than they know what to do with apparently are willing to spend millions to spend eternity near Marilyn Monroe.

Bidding on the crypt above the tragic beauty’s final resting place gives a twisted new meaning to the price of fame. A Japanese man who offered $4.6 million on eBay reportedly backed out Tuesday – but 11 others who bid at least $4.5 million are in the running for the ghoulish prize.

Monroe, along with James Dean, Elvis Presley and others, have become objects of public obsession in death, with their images being exploited in increasingly bizarre ways. They’re called icons, but they’ve really become commodities, bought and sold by people looking to somehow capture a fragment of lost glory and youth.

Sadly, perhaps the most surprising thing about the Monroe auction is that it took 47 years for someone to realize the occupied crypt above hers could command big bucks.

The sale comes amid unseemly battles over the merchandising of Michael Jackson, who hasn’t been buried yet, more than two months after his death at age 50. He’s supposed to be laid to rest Sept. 3, but that won’t be the end his story. No doubt the marketing of Michael has only just begun.

It’s a natural impulse to want to maintain a connection to popular figures, particularly ones taken before their time. Visiting landmarks associated with the celebrities (like, say, Elvis' Graceland), buying memorabilia, and even making pilgrimages to gravesites have become accepted forms of fan tributes – even if the best way to remember lost artists is through movies, music or whatever medium of magic they created.

Buying neighboring graves is just downright creepy.

Let Marilyn rest in peace.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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