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Mark Bellinghaus (July 20, 1963), is a Marilyn Monroe activist and a collector of Monroe memorabilia. Bellinghaus is also a blogger, and "first rate skeptical investigator" of claims relating to Monroe. Before moving to the U.S., he was a film, TV and theatre actor in his native Germany.
Early life in Germany
Mark Bellinghaus was born in Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. His father, Meinhard Koenig, died at age 36 of heart disease, when Bellinghaus was 2 years old. At age 6, he was sent to an Evangelical boys-only boarding school in Traben-Trarbach. When he was 9, he saw a cut-out of Marilyn Monroe from How to Marry a Millionaire ("where she’s in front of those three mirrors and looks so magnificent").
At age 11, Bellinghaus became an ice- and roller-skater, but, five years later, gave up this career following a nerve infection in his back. He turned instead to acting, working in productions like the musical Fireworks by Paul Burkhard and the opera Lorelei by Alfredo Catalani at the Theater der Stadt Koblenz.
At 18, he moved to Munich, studying at the Acting Academy for three years. He played the part of Jorge's novice in the 1986 film The Name of the Rose. In 1986/87 Bellinghaus signed a guest contract at the Residenz Theatre, home of the Bavarian State Theatre, next to the National Theatre in Munich, where he appeared in three theatre productions (Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, Edmond by David Mamet, and Heinrich by Tankred Dorst).
In 1988 he played Rüdiger Burkhard in an episode of the hit show Verkehrsgericht (Traffic Court). In 1989, he was the lead in Flaming Armadillo, a made-for-TV movie, produced by SRG. In 1990, he was the lead in Pal Erdoss' Pokok (Spiders), a German/Hungarian co-production, playing with Camilla Horn and Alice Treff. Also in 1990, he starred as Volodja in the play Dear Jelena Sergejevna, directed by Ute Richter, at the Zimmertheater in Heidelberg. During this time, he guest starred in several TV shows.
In 1991 he played actress Meret Becker's brother Kurti, in the multiple award-winning Fremde, liebe Fremde (Foreigner, Dear Foreigner). In 1993, he played Malte Borrell in the TV show SOKO 5113. He played Knut Sonntag in the hit TV show Immer wieder Sonntag, written by Herbert Lichtenfeld.
The U.S. and Monroe
In 1995 Bellinghaus emigrated to the United States to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles, a city he chose because it was where Marilyn Monroe used to live (and the college because Monroe had attended the Lee Strasberg in New York). His interest in Monroe grew to such an extent that he gave up his acting career, in order to concentrate full time on collecting memorabilia and campaigning against what he saw as abuses of her memory. His lengthy, scathing reviews of books he considers inaccurate have been regularly received, but not displayed, by Amazon.com.
In 1999 Strasberg auctioned 575 lots from the Monroe estate at Christie's for $13,400,000 — a move which offended many of Monroe's fans. There was a later 288-lot auction in 2005 at Julien's Auctions. Bellinghaus combined savings and a family inheritance, winning items at both Monroe auctions and acquiring so much material — such as furniture, paintings, light fixtures, Mexican tchotchkes and hangings — from her last Brentwood home that he was able to faithfully reconstruct some of its rooms in his own home in the Cheviot Hills. One of his most famous items is the white terry-cloth robe, in which Monroe was often photographed and which was discovered next to her bed on the night she died.
Parts of his collection were shown at the Hollywood Museum in 2001 for the 75th anniversary of Monroe's birth. In 2006, he curated the Monroe exhibit for the show Idols of Gay Hollywood at the Hollywood Museum. In September 2007, Mark Bellinghaus formed Marilyn Monroe Productions, LLC, with Ernest W. Cunningham and Jennifer J. Dickinson.
Queen Mary exhibition
CMG Worldwide is a licensing company that owns the rights to a number of past stars such as James Dean, including (jointly with Anna Strasberg) most Monroe images. One of Bellinghaus's goals is to make her images available to all and public domain.
In 2005 CMG backed a show called "Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit", consisting of 350 items owned by a Chicago collector, Robert W. Otto, although authentication doubts had caused the Hollywood Entertainment Museum to turn it down. The new venue was the liner Queen Mary berthed at Long Beach. It was promoted as the "biggest and best collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia on display, ever." The value of the exhibit was announced as $10 million, and the show was successfully inaugurated on 10 November 2005, with a panel discussion held by CMG CEO Mark Roesler, Hugh Hefner, Robert Otto, Mary Jane Popp and June DiMaggio (DiMaggio had been the source for 30 of the show items). News coverage was positive, and an extension was announced, prior to a move to Las Vegas and a world tour.
Bellinghaus attended the launch with a Beverly Hills Courier photographer's press pass. He became convinced that some memorabilia on display was fake. The exhibition's electrical hair curlers (which were billed as holding strands of Monroe's hair) were made of plastic. Bellinghaus' subsequent inquiries revealed that Clairol had not manufactured such curlers until 1974, 12 years after Monroe's death.
Bellinghaus was joined by 68-year-old Ernest W. Cunningham, the author of a book, The Ultimate Marilyn, who feels equally strongly about Monroe ("It’s as though they’re talking about your mother or sister"), and says that they were brushed off by the Long Beach Police Department when they reported their findings. Bellinghaus went on to publish his views on Blogcritics, in February 2006, with the title "Marilyn Monroe's Memory Defrauded in Long Beach - The Truth Is Here", stating that over 95% of the memorabilia on display was not authentic, and estimating its real value as $25,000 – $30,000. Two months later, Bellinghaus published his second blog, this time co-authored with Ernest Cunningham, and titled "Marilyn Monroe Exhibit Exposed As $8.75 Million Lie". His blog was picked up and mentioned by other websites like Defamer and MetaFilter. Michael Shermer's eSkeptic magazine partly reprinted Bellinghaus' blog and also praised the author's debunking of psychic James van Praagh. Subsequently he was interviewed by KCAL-TV news about his claims. The Clairol hair curlers were removed from the exhibition, as well as some other items he had named as fake. After this, the show's planned tour was canceled.
Bellinghaus said of the Queen Mary exhibit, "They are bringing down the value of my collection. That’s why I have to tear them down". He hired an attorney to file a lawsuit, but was not the plaintiff. On 26 May 2006, a class action lawsuit was filed by Cunningham and 63-year-old Emily Sadjady (an equally fervent Monroe fan), claiming damages for everyone who had bought a (nearly $23) exhibition ticket and alleging that the exhibition curator "knew when he purchased the items he displayed in the Exhibit, that the items were fake and did not personally belong to Marilyn Monroe". This lawsuit was scheduled to take place at Los Angeles Superior Court on 7 May 2007, partly funded by Bellinghaus. The case was settled after the judge dismissed the class action claim and the claim against Mark Roesler.
A world tour of 'Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit,' which was originally planned to last twelve years, and tour at least 39 cities globally, was subsequently canceled. 15 June 2006 was the final day of the exhibition. Michael Shermer called Bellinghaus's actions a "brilliant exposé".
In December 2006, Bellinghaus and Cunningham questioned the authenticity of Marilyn, Joe and Me, a book and prospective movie by June DiMaggio and Mary Jane Popp, who deny they were involved in the Queen Mary exhibition.
Videos on YouTube, purportedly filmed at a memorial service on August 5, 2007, commemorating the forty-fifth anniversary of Monroe's death, show Bellinghaus "shouting obscenities at bystanders and demanding that the police be called".
In October 2007, Bellinghaus contested the authenticity of "The Lost Collection", an exhibit of seven dresses made by Marilyn Monroe's designer William Travilla, which were advertised as worn by Monroe in her movies. The exhibition took place at the Brighton Hilton Metropole, and then in Leeds. It included the dress Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch, also known as The White Subway Dress, valued at £1.5 million. Bellinghaus said the collection was not genuine and that the dresses were never worn by Monroe. The exhibition organiser, Andrew Hansford stated that the memorabilia are "100 per cent genuine".
In April 2008, Bellinghaus, Cunningham and Dickinson dismissed as fake the discovery of a Marilyn Monroe sex tape.
In October 2008, Vanity Fair's 25th anniversary issue had Monroe on the cover and a feature article detailing the history of two filing cabinets full of Monroe documents and personal items. One of these was the typewriter, said to be used by her to write letters to leading figures: Bellinghaus wrote an article pointing out that Monroe could not type, as well as pointing out inconsistencies with other items featured.
In November 2008, there was a dispute between Bellinghaus and the son of Jeanne Carmen over claims that Carmen was a confidante of Monroe. Carmen's son questioned Bellinghaus' credibility and motivations.
Notes and references
- Shermer,Michael(2008) "Was Vanity Fair Hoaxed in its Marilyn Monroe Cover Story? ", 8 October 2008. Accessed online 19 November 2008
- Mikulan, Steven (2007)"Immortal Mayhem" LA Weekly, 10 January 2007. Accessed online 11 January 2007
- "Name of the Rose, The 1986 Credits", Showbizdata.com
- "Serienlexicon: Verkehrsgericht" Kabel 1
- "Flaming Armadillo (1989)", Crew United
- "Pokok", Complete Index To World Film
- "BFI | Film & TV Database | DREAM OF JAMAICA (1990)", British Film Institute
- "Fremde, liebe Fremde (1991) (TV)", IMDb
- "SOKO 5113: Die Mutprobe (1993)", IMDb television show episode
- "Immer wieder Sonntag" (1993)", IMDb television series page
- "Expert: Marilyn Show Memorabilia Fake", by Mary Frances Gurton, 15 February 2006, Los Angeles Independent
- Livingston, David (2006-06-08). Unveiling "The Idols of Gay Hollywood", Getty Images. Accessed 2008-11-20
- "Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit", CMG Worldwide
- "Mystique, Mystery Surround Marilyn Monroe Exhibit", 11 November 2005, KUTV
- "Marilyn Monroe's Memory Defrauded in Long Beach - The Truth Is Here", Mark Bellinghaus, 6 February 2006, Blogcritics
- "Marilyn Monroe Exhibit Exposed As $8.75 Million Lie", Mark Bellinghaus, 14 April 2006, Blogcritics
- Defamer.com (2006)"Defamer.com - Short Ends: Waiting For Indy", 7 Feb, 2006. Accessed online 10 March 2008
- Metafilter.com (2006) "Miss Artichoke of 1948", 10 February 2006. Accessed online 9 March 2008
- Berlin, Eric (2006) "BLOGCRITICS MAGAZINE Press Release", 14 February 2006. Accessed online 9 March 2008
- Shermer, Michael (2006)"eSkeptic magazine - Debunking a Marilyn Monroe Exhibit", 27 April 2006. Accessed online 10 March 2008
- "Marilyn Monroe Exhibit Aboard Queen Mary Raises Questions", Bellinghaus TV interview by Rick Chambers, 17 April 2006, KCAL-TV(video)
- "Marilyn Memorabilia Furor Deepens", by Mary Frances Gurton, 5 April 2006, Los Angeles Independent
- "Controversy Dogs New Marilyn Monroe Book, Highlights Hollyweird". The Citizen (The Citizen Media Group). 2006-12-04. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
- Zonkel, Phillip (2006-05-31). "L.B. Monroe Exhibit Raises Eyebrows". Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
- The Associated Press, (2006)"Monroe Exhibit Sued Over Authenticity", 31 May 2006. Accessed online 5 March 2008
- Zonkel, Phillip (2005)"The collector of Marilyn Monroe" Long Beach Press-Telegram, 16 November 2005. Accessed online 9 March 2008
- Overley, James (November 7, 2008). "Was she Marilyn Monroe's BFF, or just a bigmouth?". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- Hines, Nico,(2007)"'Lost collection' of Marilyn Monroe's dresses to go on show" Times Online author Nico Hines, 2 October 2007. Accessed online 8 March 2008
- McTaggart, Suzanne (18 March 2008). "Marilyn Monroe dresses labelled 'fake'".  (Yorkshire Evening Post). Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Sunday Express,(2007)" 'FAKE' CLAIM OVER MONROE SHOW", 9 October 2007. Accessed online 8 March 2008
- Sarno, David (2008-04-18). "Defamer's bunk debunk of the Marilyn Monroe sex tape". LA Times. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- Kashner, Sam (October 2008). "The Things She Left Behind". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- Overley, James (November 10, 2008). "Son fights to prove mom's Marilyn Monroe tales weren't lies". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 2008-11-13.