The Lexington Hotel in New York City, in collaboration with Linda Goldenstein, owner of Goldenstein Gallery, had the pleasure and honor to exhibit Marilyn Monroe's "Red Velvet & Golden Dreams" Collection. This collection features rare color separations of Marilyn Monroe from 1950, which were on display in the “Norma Jeane Suite,” where Monroe herself once lived. Valued at over $4 million, the collection was shown exclusively at The Lexington Hotel for a limited time from March 26 to April 7, 2019 along with additional pinup calendars and memorabilia. It is currently available to view by appointment in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The “Golden Dreams” Color Separation Collection includes 21 original large format film positives and negatives created in 1950 by the John Baumgarth Company to produce Monroe’s “Golden Dreams” calendars. These films were created through a labor-intensive process known as the “indirect separation” process, which involved multiple stages of photo development and refinement and many hand corrections to obtain the desired results. The collection has museum-quality archival acrylic mounting, as pictured to the left. The Collection is available to collect (or purchase).
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The first time photographer Tom Kelley met Marilyn Monroe was on Sunset Boulevard in October 1948, when she was involved in a minor auto accident. Kelley was one of the witnesses and Marilyn told him she had an important audition to get to and without her car she had no way get there and no money for cab fare either. He felt sorry for her and gave her $5 and his business card. Marilyn forgot about him until May 1949, when she found herself behind on rent and her car in repossession. She came across Kelley’s business card in her purse and rather than call him, decided to simply appear unannounced at his studio. He told her that a model he was to photograph for a Pabst beer poster had called in sick and offered Marilyn the job.
Two weeks later, Kelley called Marilyn to say that John Baumgarth, a major calendar publisher from Chicago, had seen the Pabst poster and Baumgarth wanted Marilyn to pose nude for an upcoming calendar. The photo shoot would be discreet, but definitely... nude. Marilyn thought it over and after some convincing from Kelley’s wife Natalie, on Friday, May 27, 1949 found herself posing for Kelley for just under two hours. Marilyn didn’t want to be recognized and used the name “Mona Monroe” to hide her identity.
Not long afterwards, a group of Kelley’s color transparencies of unknown nude models arrived at Baumgarth’s offices in Chicago. Among them was an image entitled “Golden Dreams” featuring the then- unknown Marilyn. Although it wasn’t Baumgarth’s first choice, based on the vote of the calendar selection committee he agreed to run Marilyn’s image in the 1951 calendar line. Sales were slow at first, and Baumgarth’s preferred image “The Charmer” featuring Maxine Strong outsold Marilyn’s Golden Dreams by a 2 to 1 margin until it was later revealed that the nude model in Golden Dreams was in fact Marilyn Monroe.
Narrowly escaping destruction on more than one occasion, the color separations in the Messenger Collection are the unique, original separations first created by hand in 1950 and used by Baumgarth to produce the Golden Dreams calendars featuring Marilyn Monroe for their entire production run, including the variations known as “Entrancing” and “Lure of Lace.” Baumgarth sold an estimated 9 million copies of the calendars throughout the 1950’s, making Marilyn the best-selling calendar girl of all time and earning John Baumgarth the moniker “The Man Who Made Monroe.”
Reproducing Marilyn’s refined features, supple texture and luxurious tones was no small feat – print artisans painstakingly created and corrected the many layers of film for the full color printing process – a masterpiece of printer’s art.
In December 1953, an astute young man named Hugh Hefner bought the rights to reproduce the Golden Dreams image for $500 from the John Baumgarth Company, to be used as the “Sweetheart of the Month” in the first ever issue of Playboy magazine. That first issue sold over 54,000 copies and the profits provided the funding for Hefner to continue publishing the magazine and ultimately launch his Playboy Empire.