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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND (article first published : 2008-02-20)

Although SABC3 can be a tad behind the times, and I’d seen this particular docu-drama about Marilyn Monroe’s early life before, nonetheless I found Blonde a fascinating insight into young Norma Jean’s early life. And what added to the interest was that, at time of first viewing it, some of the actors in the lead roles were not as well known to me as they are now.

For instance, Patrick Dempsey, better known as the dishy Dr McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy, plays the man who fathered Norman Jean; Patricia Richardson (better known, perhaps, as the mom in Home Improvement alongside Tim Allen), plays the self-absorbed wannabe actress who finds herself unhappily pregnant and reluctantly takes baby Norma Jean home to her tiny apartment, only to let the baby spend her first weeks sleeping in a bottom drawer! She’s eccentric, to say the least, forever scrubbing the little girl down in a much-too-hot bath, then reading her the poetry of Emily Dickinson and others as bedtime stories, claiming that she herself has the soul of a poet! Ann Margret is well cast as young Norma Jean’s grandma, yet another oddball character in this poor child’s early years, whose life comes to an end when the traumatised child finds her dead on her bathroom floor. Poppy Montgomery (possibly better known as the blonde detective in Without a Trace) gives a fair portrayal of the teenage Norma Jean – though personally I think they might have found an actress who looked just a LITTLE more like the Marilyn Monroe stereotypes we’ve seen played by others.

When the little girl’s chain-smoking mother is killed in a fire started due to her ongoing carelessness, Norma Jean finds herself in an orphanage. Here she’s made fun of due to the showgirl-like clothes she carries in her suitcase - yet another residue of her mother’s fascination with the world of movies, since Norma Jean was parked off in cinemas on her own fairly frequently as a little girl so that Mom could pursue her own interests. After several possible adoptions fizzle out, eventually she’s put into foster care - but her new mom (played by Kirstie Allie) becomes alarmed when the pubescent young woman seems to be attracting too much attention from her husband, and decides that, even though the girl is not yet sixteen, it’s time for her to be married off!

Alarm bells began to ring for me when hubby has Norma Jean calling him daddy in the bedroom, even going so far as to have her pose for pin-up type photographs which he takes to impress his buddies at work, at the same time bragging about his wife’s excesses in being house-proud - but it’s rather along the demented lines of her own mother’s insanity for cleanliness.

The story thus far of a troubled and confused young woman’s life provides insight into why she offers her own care-giving services free of charge to other young mothers and, just as her husband is about to be shipped off to do duty in the Marines, becomes desperately passionate about becoming pregnant herself.

But there we leave the story, because other than this background picture of the person Marilyn Monroe would become, there’s been an absolute EXCESS written about her adult life, and tragic death in mysterious circumstances, leaving one to wonder whether it will EVER be proven that there was indeed some political conspiracy about her Kennedy involvements that required her removal before she caused FUTHER damage.

So, on now to the Matters Musical aforementioned, and this is where I’d like to touch on the piece I wrote at the commencement of this year’s Idols on M-Net, wherein I went out on a limb and speculated that it would be Jody who would win this year – and, much to my delight, this proved to be exactly the case in – it must be said – an EXTREMELY tight final between her and Andriette on December 9. I’m certain the latter will go on to have a really wonderful musical career (as will Jody, of course) but the REAL feather in this young pupil’s cap (for she’s still a schoolgirl and does not therefore even have a licence to drive the fabulous car that is just ONE of her winnings) is that, apart from the recording contract and many other prizes that go along with her title, none other than Celine Dion is giving her a REAL break by having her appear as the opening act when she tours this country in February, 2008!

Still talking music, a new album to look out for if you’re a fan of R&B and/or soul is The Evolution of Robin Thicke, for this rather good-looking youngster seems to be making waves with his latest release. Son of legendary actor Alan Thicke (the father in the TV sitcom Growing Pains), Robin has appeared twice on Oprah in quick succession… And I’ve gotta give it to this heroine of mine: she certainly seems to keep up with the pop music scene, though I’ve noticed she’s not that up in the classics, since the first time that the quartet known as Il Divo - the group that the legendary Simon Cowell spent two years scouting the world for, in order to put together a modern-day version of The Three Tenors - appeared on her show she didn’t really appear to get it! However, by the time they made a SECOND appearance, I think she must have spent just a LITTLE time listening to their music, as she managed to mime along to a small percentage of the (English) words, and she did seem SLIGHTLY more enthusiastic!

But back to the younger Thicke who – like father, like son - also sports a great Thatch! – as in a good head of thick hair!…

When this VERY personable singer recorded his first single I Wanna Love You Girl, it became an instant smash hit across America. This new release, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, is his second solo album, and on it he demonstrates a rare soulfulness as he traces the emotions of the past two years of his life – years which have been a somewhat tumultuous series of ups and downs, it would seem, and he told Oprah he badly wanted to let his lady love know just how badly HE needs to feel loved as well as to show his love for HER.

This is an album that’s been described as “being filled with incandescent magic” and I have to say that his lyrics, and the sensitive way he delivers them, have quite captivated my attention, particularly the hit Lost Without You in which he sings of his insecurities and his need to be loved and desired, (with a beautifully rhythmic Spanish guitar backing his vocals), telling as they do of his temptations, losses, and finding hope again when all the odds were against him. Another favourite is his gospel-inspired piano ballad in which he claims one has to be thankful for EVERYTHING that comes your way in life – the successes as well as the failures, the tears as well as the joys. With this sentiment I’m in total agreement – for we are, today, the sum of all our experiences, are we not?

Robin is quoted as saying that from the age of 12 he began teaching himself to play piano as a way in which to express himself, and by the age of 14 could play anything he heard on radio! Still with no formal training behind him, he began to write professionally at age 16, for high-profile artists such as Brian McKnight , and later moved on to achieve many a gold and platinum success for the likes of Usher, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson and others.

This talented individual has only recently come to my attention - but I love to challenge myself with predictions (as aforementioned, in the case of Idols) and in this instance I feel certain he’s going to achieve immense personal success for HIMSELF and not just for OTHERS for whom he’s proven his song-writing skills. - Bev Pulé




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