"Marilyn Monroe-the exhibit" on the Queen Mary opened its doors to the public on November 11, but it had already been denounced as a fraud the night before at a press preview.
(Marilyn Monroe "scared and shocked" in 1949 for a Life magazine photo shoot by Philippe Halsman for "Eight Girls Try Out Mixed Emotions" article. Photo courtesy of the Mark Bellinghaus collection.)
Robert W. Welkos, a prominent Los Angeles Times writer, was given a personal tour that night by collector Mark Bellinghaus, who pointed out the blatant and clumsy attempts at deception. Welkos laughed, shook his head, rolled his eyes in wonder - yet did nothing, said nothing, to warn readers and the tens of thousands of visitors who would plunk down an outrageous $22.95 each to be admitted to the exhibit.
Mr. Welkos’s first article, written before the press opening, gave a warm handshake to Robert W. Otto, the owner of the dubious Marilyn collection. In his first article about the exhibit, on 11/11/05, the Los Angeles Times withheld the facts and proof against the exhibit that was delivered first-hand. Welkos had come to Bellinghaus' home days before the opening of the exhibit and seen the real hair rollers of Marilyn Monroe.
And for two hours he was shown photo-documented memorabilia of the legend from some of her Puccis to the amazing cape she wore in The Prince And The Showgirl , even the last piece Marilyn Monroe wore alive (as described by Eunice Murray in her book ) - a white terrycloth bathing robe.
For two hours Bellinghaus shared his collection with this reporter, only to be portrayed as a scoffer, a jealous collector and quoted out of context. That is outrageous and not acceptable.
We were still hopeful when we saw the question mark placed behind the name of Marilyn Monroe in the first article's headline. But Otto made one outrageous claim after another and people seemed to believe him - it's scandalous that the Estate of Marilyn Monroe is backing up his ridiculous tales.
We approached the Times the first day of the exhibit and gave them solid proof of fraud — including the now infamous 1974 hair curlers — but a follow-up, and a warning, were never printed. Welkos failed in his two articles about the exhibit to point out the scam and crime that the public is facing.
There are, however sincere and truth-hungry journalists with guts who do report about real scandal, and who try to warn the public about them. The Los Angeles Independent newspaper ran a cover story by Mary Frances Gurton headlined “Expert: Marilyn Show Memorabilia Fake."