I was only 12 when Marilyn Monroe died. It was one of those things that stick with you because of what it represents to you. For me, it was the first time the idea of death really became real in my mind. To see such a young, beautiful, and famous person die made me realize that you don't have to be really old to die. You could die at any age. You could even die when you're 12.
I had experienced something similar a couple of years before, when Lucy and Desi got divorced. I suddenly realized that divorce was real and could happen to anyone, even my own parents.
Marilyn Monroe, of course, turned out to be much more than just another movie star. She became an American icon, like Coca-Cola or Babe Ruth. Her image is everywhere, not just in her home country, but around the world. She represents America in the minds of many people.
The funny thing is that she wasn't what you would call a great actress, or a great singer. But she was a great presence. She lit up the screen just by being there. Watching her perform, you discover that you can't take your eyes off her. In this video from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in perhaps her most iconic role as a seductive golddigger, she's singing "Bye Bye Baby". Go ahead, try to look away. I dare you.
Her death, of course, while ruled a suicide, remains wrapped in mystery. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that she was either murdered or perhaps the victim of an accidental overdose, and conspiracy theories abound.
But Marilyn Monroe has become immortalized. She lives on through her movies and ubiquitous image. If she had not died 45 years ago today, at the age of 36, she'd be 81 now. It's kind of hard to imagine what she might look like, but I'm guessing she'd still be pretty damn hot.