Protecting a Hollywood icon from the indignity of spattered special sauce
Author James Bartlett Illustration Luci Gutiérrez
LOS ANGELES – Scott Michaels looks down at Marilyn Monroe’s star on the Walk of Fame and grimaces. There’s ketchup splotched on it, a burger wrapper obscuring the letters. “When she got the star in 1960, this was a theater,” he says, gesturing at a nearby fast-food joint and kicking the wrapper away. “Now…”
Michaels runs an outfit called Dearly Departed Tours, through which paying guests explore what his company website calls the “spectacular exits” of Hollywood celebrities. Lately, though, he’s become preoccupied with a campaign to move Monroe’s star from its current spot to somewhere more fitting.
“She’s the symbol of Hollywood around the world,” he says. “Her star deserves to be outside the Chinese Theatre, not a McDonald’s.” He plans to lobby the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Walk of Fame, and aims to get Hugh Hefner on board. A website, movemarilyn.org, is in the works.
This is not the first time Michaels has concerned himself with preserving the memory of a departed celebrity. He has repeatedly raised funds to mark the graves of forgotten actors, including Schlitze Surtees—aka “Pinhead”—who was featured in the controversial 1932 movie Freaks and whose image Michaels has tattooed on his right arm. “It’s just my way of giving back,” he says.
A tall, bulky man with a bristling goatee, Michaels swears that he will not rest until Monroe’s besmeared memorial takes its rightful place outside the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. “If movies are a religion, then Grauman’s is its church,” he says. “Godzilla and the Munchkinws are there. The most famous film star of all time should be too.”