As Bette Davis said in the movie All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”
Although Mark Bellinghaus did an admirable job in his expose of fraud in the Marilyn Monroe memorabilia industry, “Marilyn Monroe’s Memory Defrauded in Long Beach – The Truth Is Here,” he misconstrued some information and has gone beyond the scope of issues in his article and has attacked good, honest people and companies. I thus feel compelled to write to let others know about some of the issues at hand. However, before I go further, let me introduce myself.
I am an avid Marilyn Monroe fan and collector/seller. However, as a modestly salaried public school teacher, I’ve not become a big time collector or seller. Through the buying and selling of limited star memorabilia, I’ve had the pleasure, most of the time, of meeting some very nice people. One person I had the pleasure of meeting was Robert Otto. Having met Robert Otto and knowing a little bit about him, I wonder, as do many others now, what’s really going on “behind the scenes” at the Queen Mary Exhibit. Unfortunately, it’s been pretty quiet on that front. On this front, it has been anything but quiet. I must write, though, that I do have some issues with Mark Bellinghaus’ investigative techniques, the mudslinging, and the promoting of his cause.
Mark writes (in his article) about Joe Franklin items, “Otto also mentioned NYC radio host Joe Franklin, who has sold many items from the famous guests who had appeared on his show. But here again, not ONE item came with a picture of Marilyn wearing it. Not one!”
For an item to be authentic there does not have to be a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing it. Sure, when it’s “the real deal,” it’s nice, but a mere picture does not guarantee authenticity, as there have been fake items sold on eBay that include a supposed photo of Marilyn wearing said item. To imply that an item is authentic merely because it “appears” there’s a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing it is misguided.
When Mark refers to Robert Otto’s collection, writing, “The other items are from eBay and from questionable sellers, some of whom are being investigated by the FBI,” he is referring to evidence that I provided him with, as I am the one who filed the complaint with the FBI concerning a certain seller on eBay selling items with forged COAs. I have spent a lot of time, energy, and money looking into certain sellers on eBay and have even paid a forensic document examiner to examine questionable signatures to ascertain authenticity. Fraud, on any level, is wrong.
As Mark states, “Mixing lesser authentic items into a collection grounded in fraud is still fraud.” Yes, this is true and I am not arguing that. As a matter of fact, I called Mr. Otto on a few different occasions and warned him about questionable items that he had won on eBay. However, I have not been to the Queen Mary Exhibit, so I cannot comment on whether or not those questionable items are on display.
Mark writes, “I have in my possession signed witness statements from several Marilyn collectors who can identify items in the Queen Mary exhibit as being bought through eBay.” So what? Mark needs to clarify this point. Yes, I myself could identify questionable items bought through eBay and I could identify some real/authentic items purchased via eBay as well. Please keep in mind that just because something is purchased through eBay does not mean that it’s fake.
A key point here is that I warned Robert Otto about fake items that he won on eBay. If he is knowingly exhibiting those fraudulent items, then YES, it is definitely wrong. Perhaps, though, and this is a BIG perhaps, Otto didn’t find any questionable items in his collection and truly wants to believe that all of his items are real (just playing devil’s advocate on that one, as it is not likely). However, unless there is solid evidence to prove that a specific exhibited item is fake, Mark should not “muddy the waters” with erroneous information.
Mark is incorrect about the crystal necklace that he mentions and has pictured in his article. In the article, he claims that it came from Elaine Barrymore, but he does not know this for sure. He falsely assumed that it was a crystal necklace with an Elaine Barrymore COA that I once owned even though I have repeatedly informed him that it is not the same necklace. By falsely assuming such and by stating, “an Elaine Barrymore necklace, worn and owned by anybody BUT Marilyn Monroe,” he is slandering Elaine Barrymore and is accusing her of selling fake items. Mark has no proof whatsoever that Elaine Barrymore sold fake items.
Mark sent me an email stating that he once owned an Elaine Barrymore item and that, to this day, he believes that the item was authentic. Mark also states, “Mr. Otto has quite a collection of Barrymore items.” He has no proof of this accusation either, and this statement further taints Elaine Barrymore’s good name. Through me, he does have proof of an individual who forged Elaine Barrymore’s signature and sold fake items and he mentions this in his article, but he clearly distorts the facts when he mentions the rest of the above information and misrepresents all Barrymore sourced items as fakes.
Mark simply misinforms concerning a Marilyn Monroe belt mentioned in his article, of which he posts pictures. Mark states, “I bought the belt at the Christie’s sale.” He DID NOT buy that belt from the Christie’s sale. He bought that belt from Roslyn Herman. To state that he himself bought it at the Christie’s sale is an outright lie. Why not give credit where credit is due? Why not thank Roslyn Herman for the beautiful Marilyn Monroe item that he was so fortunate to acquire?
Mark also contradicts himself in his article. He writes, “I’ll say it again: none of the items originated from the estate of Marilyn Monroe, owned by Anna Strasberg, client of Mark Roesler.” However, the Pucci dress that Otto owns and has on exhibit did come from the estate of Marilyn Monroe and he contradicts the above statement when he writes, “In all fairness, the exhibit has a few real Monroe-owned pieces, but Otto purchased them when they were offered the second or third time around (when nobody placed a bid on them). There’s a green Pucci combo which originally sold as Lot #288 in the big Christie’s auction in 1999.” How Mr. Otto came about the Christie’s items is irrelevant, but the fact that some of Otto’s items DID come from the Christie’s sale IS relevant. Mark clearly contradicts himself with the above information.
Mark also gives misleading information when he states, “Also in the Queen Mary exhibit is a pair of white cat-eye sunglasses, also in brand-new condition. I have in my collection two pairs of original and real glasses (also originating from the estate of Marilyn Monroe), with deterioration that has almost destroyed them – but that is the beauty of it; because that is also a sign of its authenticity.”
To make the false assumption that something is fake just because it looks new is preposterous and naive. I own a necklace from the 1999 Christie’s auction and it is in pristine condition. Mark also owns items that are in pristine condition from the Christie’s auction. To write that deterioration is a sign of authenticity and newness is a sign of something being fake is simply wrong. Materials, environmental conditions (UV exposure, temperature, etc.) and other factors must be considered to ascertain age. Essentially this is a determination that can only be made by experts, period.
Mark also states about Marilyn Monroe and rhinestones, “She sang songs about rhinestones, but she didn’t wear them.” Most any person — from Monroe fan to the casual observer — can see that Marilyn Monroe wore rhinestones in movies and to special events. To say that she did not wear them is just incorrect as there are photos proving otherwise. Also, some rhinestone pieces were sold at the big 1999 Christie’s sale (see pages 20, 57, 151, 158, 162, 163, 165 in the Christie’s catalogue for some examples).
Mark also attacks Hugh Hefner without cause. He states, “Hugh Hefner is included in this documentation of wrongs committed against Marilyn and the paying public because he has always freely admitted his indebtedness to Marilyn, when her sensational ‘Golden Dreams’ nude photo helped launch her career and his.”
Admitting indebtedness is not a crime and, if anything, Marilyn has reaped more benefits from Hefner’s magazine than money could ever purchase. Mark also comments that Hefner, “gives credit to Marilyn for his magazine’s success, but threw her to the wolves.” Once again, this is an opinion. If anything, Hefner helped to solidify Marilyn Monroe’s status as a legend.
To also make the Queen Mary exhibit seem like a scheme is truly pushing it. Mark writes, “Though the scam was poorly planned from the beginning, it seems that they are getting away with it.” I do not think that anyone got together and decided to set sail and scam the world. I do not believe that some of the people mentioned directly in the article are schemers, yet his article portrays them as such.
I contacted Mark Roesler — as Mark Bellinghaus very well knows — because someone wrote a valid comment on Bellinghaus’ article asking if anyone ever thought about contacting the gentleman. Thinking that it was a good suggestion, I contacted Mr. Roesler and, ultimately, found him to be quite personable. As I concluded from our correspondence, he knew nothing of Robert Otto having included fake items in the exhibit. Now, don’t get me wrong here – In my opinion, Mark Roesler should have carefully examined items/COAs before putting anything on exhibit and backing it. I do not know his company’s policy for authenticating items, but, yes, it appears that it needs to be revamped.
At the end of the article, Mark writes about himself, “Mark Bellinghaus owns one of the most extensive, important and comprehensive Marilyn Monroe collections in the world.” Interesting. He has asked me what I think about his items going on exhibit. Surely, that would be great – alas is that his true hidden agenda? I was told by one of his “friends” and a blog commenter that he wishes to sue big time in order to get money and to buy more Marilyn Monroe items. That’s not defending Marilyn Monroe – that’s just plain greed. Intentions can be a big thing and it’s hard to follow someone when intentions look sketchy.
As far as promoting his own cause, I believe Mark is supporting his cause by leaving comments under different names. To do so is false and misleading and this kind of behavior, being deceptive, is exactly what he is supposed to be crusading against. I was told by a person who supported this cause and was “friends” with Mark — whose name shall remain anonymous at this time — that Mark even listed a comment under a real person’s name/hijacked another person’s identity. I was also informed by the source mentioned above that the site was contacted by that person (whose name was used) about the above occurring. The comment was removed.
Mark has called me and written emails, as well as to other people, asking me to write as many comments as possible on his article because, at first, he wanted to elevate his article to the Blogcritics.org top ten list. When he achieved this, just being in the top ten was not enough and he eventually wanted first place, which, in itself, is understandable and not a crime. However, to repeatedly ask others to leave comments, comments not even associated with the cause mind you, and to leave comments yourself under different names, is misleading at best. He called me and asked me to discuss trivial information about Marilyn Monroe with him on the blog site one night and he even used different names when doing so. Yes, I should have known better.
Unfortunately, the cart seems to be dragging the horse when it comes to the comment section. The cause shouldn’t be about thousands of comments. Whether one comment or 10,000, this is a newsworthy cause. However, the newsworthy side is being sidetracked by the mudslinging fest.
As far as I can tell, there is not one single “saint” now associated with this cause, myself and Mark included. Unfortunately, some mudslinging has gone on “behind the scenes” as well. Mark has now accused me of all sorts of things that are NOT true (i.e. poisoning eBay against him, joining “the other side,” selling questionable items myself, etc. – the list is outrageous and insulting). He has come to false conclusions time and again. Every time that I try to help him or explain something, he just continues to rant and rave and doesn’t let me get a word in edgewise.
I believe, once again, that his cause IS a newsworthy story, but Mark needs to refrain from being volatile, correct any false information presented in his article, stop slinging mud on innocent bystanders, not do what he forbids others to do, not say/write terrible things about people helping/supporting his cause (via emails, phone messages, and phone calls), falsely accusing people, etc. Let the media see this cause for what it is rather than a mudslinging contest gone awry – the cause does not deserve to be viewed that way.
The bigger picture has now been overlooked. Mark and others are really on the right track with the hair rollers, the tackle box with a supposed note in it from Marilyn Monroe, gaudy looking bejeweled shoes that Marilyn Monroe wouldn’t have worn, a red dress that is a poor knock-off rather than a Marilyn Monroe worn piece, a presentation that looks too familiar to a layout in a magazine promoting the 1999 Christie’s auction, etc. However, all of these noteworthy points that should be shining like a neon sign are overlooked because of all of the other issues presented here that are detracting from the real one – the cause itself.
So, items were taken out of the exhibit? Is that how this menagerie is corrected? Unless this cause can get itself together, then that may sadly be the case. The cause has been derailed, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t get back on the right track.
Yes, kudos again to Mark for finding out the information on the hair rollers, as that damaging evidence speaks for itself – loud and clear. And yes, fraud is fraud and should not be tolerated, but this is not about that. THIS IS about what is not mentioned, what is poorly researched, what is misconstrued or taken out of context, the mudslinging against innocent bystanders, and what readers do not know, yet should. These are the things that should stop as it does not do his cause justice and it’s not fair to anyone… involved or not.
Hopefully, Mark can look beyond “constructive criticism” and get refocused as he has good points, but sometimes he lets his enthusiasm get the better of him. When involved in a mudslinging contest, in the end, no one is the winner.
Yes, it was a “bumpy night,” but, for me, the nonsense stops here.