An interview with David Gainsborough-Roberts, said to own the largest collection of Marilyn Monroe-worn movie costumes.
Julien’s Auctions’ Marilyn Monroe auction to be held Nov. 19 and 20 in Los Angeles is the culmination of a 60-year “love affair between David Gainsborough-Roberts and the iconic screen goddess. Growing up in the British village of Kent, he attended a movie at the Dreamland Margate amusement park at the age of 10. The movie was “Ladies of the Chorus,” a 1953 musical obscurity that marked Monroe’s first major screen role. Such was the ascendancy of Monroe’s stardom that the film was later re-released to capitalize on her appearance. “The girl everyone’s talking about,” the posters trumpeted.
Gainsborough-Roberts began collecting Monroe artifacts in 1988. His collection is one of two treasure troves that will be auctioned in November (the other is from the estate of legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg) Public exhibitions of the items are currently touring the world, from London and Ireland to the Queen Mary 2.
There is something about Marilyn, who would have been 90 on June 1. Her undimmed legacy has made her more than collectible. She is a “blue chip investment,” Darren Julien, President and CEO of Julien’s Auctions told Millionaire Corner. “We see more and more investors looking for ways to diversify their portfolios and Marilyn Monroe is considered a blue chip when it comes to investing in celebrities.”
According to Spectrem Group wealth market research, collectibles are comparable with precious metals as the most popular alternative investment among Millionaire investors. But for Gainsborough-Roberts, amassing his collection has been a labor of love. Via email, he reflected on Monroe with Millionaire Corner.
“I am a born collector and have always been interested in Hollywood movie stars, the most iconic of them all being Marilyn,” he said. “So it is only natural that she was at the top of my list and has remained there for more than 30 years. She has all the ingredients that make a superstar; glamour, sex appeal, gorgeous looks, tragedy, and sadly a premature death.” (Monroe, at the age of 36, was found dead in her home on Aug, 5, 1962).
Gainsborough-Roberts bought his first piece of Monroe-mabilia in 1988. “I attended my first auction at Christie’s in London,” he said. “I bought Marilyn’s costume from the film, ‘Bus Stop.’ It was standing room only and filled with the press. I was spellbound by the whole occasion. I kept putting up my hand (to bid). It was then that I knew I was hooked on Marilyn.”
His is said to own the largest collection of Monroe-worn costumes. He has more than 58 items. All, he emphasizes, have documented provenance to prove their authenticity (“Otherwise I never would have bought them,” he stated). His favorite, he said, is the sheer black beaded cocktail dress in which she sang “I’m Through with Love” in ‘Some Like It Hot,” the Billy Wilder classic that the American Film Institute ranked as the funniest American comedy of all time. Darren Julien expects the dress to be sold at auction for between $200,000-$400,000. Other items to be auctioned include that costume from “Bus Stop,” a green satin leotard that could sell up to $100,000, as well as the silver and white beaded dress she wore in “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which could fetch up to $200,000. Julien estimates that the entire collection could fetch at least $3 million.
Gainsboroough-Roberts, now in his 70s, confessed it will be “sad” to part with his collection. “It’s time to share it with the world,” he said, “and what better time than in Marilyn’s 90th birthday year. (But) I will always keep a very special place (in my heart) for Marilyn. For me, it has been an emotional journey over the past 30 years. I have met some wonderful people during my research, in particular, Ralph Roberts, who was her closest friend and the last person to speak to her. We spend many hours together talking about Marilyn. For me, as a born collector and historian, having built up such an iconic collection of someone about whom I have very special feelings, the last 30 years have been a marriage made in heaven.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.