Sun | May 22, 2022

Tony Deyal | Singing the blues

Published:Saturday | May 14, 2022 | 12:06 AM
The 1964 painting Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol is carried in Christie’s showroom in New York City.
The 1964 painting Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol is carried in Christie’s showroom in New York City.

We hear a lot about ‘blue’ movies and ‘blue’ moons but now we have a piece of ‘blue’ art which actually blew the top off the value of American paintings. Andy Warhol, the artist who became the leading figure in the ‘Pop Art’ movement, defined art...

We hear a lot about ‘blue’ movies and ‘blue’ moons but now we have a piece of ‘blue’ art which actually blew the top off the value of American paintings. Andy Warhol, the artist who became the leading figure in the ‘Pop Art’ movement, defined art as “what you can get away with”. He also insisted, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Even though he died in 1987, and most of us thought he had earned and got his time in the global limelight, he has now shown how wrong one could be in measuring time and people, especially people. Warhol might have suffered in his earliest days but now he is no longer catching his art. Extremely rich people, billionaires really, are doing it for him.

Earlier this week, another of Warhol’s beliefs came true. He had said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” On Tuesday this week, the Associated Press announced that “Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’, known as an iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe, sold for $195 million.” It is not just the fact that a man who wore only green underpants could have created a blue artwork, but he has now exceeded his 15 minutes by creating not only the most expensive piece from the 20th century ever auctioned, but the most expensive work by a US artist ever sold at auction.

The previous bestseller was the 1982 painting of a skull-like face, ‘Untitled’, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which had sold for $110.5 million. Had Basquiat still been around (he died in 1988, one year after Warhol) he surely would have been angry with himself for not making the skull-like face a little prettier or giving his painting a real name instead of leaving it untitled.

My wife Indranie and I were in the living room when I read the article and I immediately asked her why she hadn’t taken up painting instead of journalism. She quickly responded, “So why you didn’t take it up?” I was even faster. “I always write,” I said. She thought I had said that I am always right and replied, “Yes. You always feel so!” For a moment, I thought of telling her, “Girl, from the moment I met you, I was so taken by you that I thought you were Miss Right. What I didn’t know is that your first name was ‘Always’.” Fortunately, I did not yield to temptation or insist on being right. I left.

DIDN’T GO FAR

I didn’t go far. I went to my bookshelves and computer, not to take some quick art lessons but to go back in time to my teenage years when Marilyn Monroe had a hate/love relationship with her 15 minutes of fame and ended it herself in despair and darkness.

In looking back at her life, experiences and advice, the one thing I learnt is that she never was the dumb blonde she was accused of being. She had some interesting observations that are still relevant, like, “Boys think girls are like books. If the cover doesn’t catch their eye, they won’t bother to read what’s inside.” and “A girl doesn’t need anyone who doesn’t need her.” Then there are the quips you can take any way you want, “I don’t stop when I’m tired. I only stop when I’m done.”, “A wise girl knows her limits, a smart girl knows that she has none.”, “If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never got anywhere.”, and, “What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”

As a father of two daughters, I found some advice from Marilyn for my adult ‘girls’. She insisted, “I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” She also had this bit of advice for them, “Beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour, although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured. Not real glamour; it’s based on femininity.” I see and can understand that but what I find irresistible is her way of looking at life from her own mirror, “A smart girl leaves before she is left.”, “I’ve been on a calendar, but I’ve never been on time.”, “It’s not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on.” and “One of the best things that ever happened to me is that I’m a woman. That is the way all females should feel.” She even had some excellent advice for my younger son, “The real lover is the man who can thrill you just by touching your head or smiling into your eyes – or just by staring into space.” She also said, “A strong man doesn’t have to be dominant toward a woman. He doesn’t match his strength against a woman weak with love for him. He matches it against the world.”

FORCED TO LEAD

Yet, there are not just glimpses but clear indications how she felt about the life she led or, as some of us think, was forced to lead. She explained, “I never wanted to be Marilyn – it just happened. Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane.” She remembered sadly, “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.” Then there was this, “There is a need for aloneness, which I don’t think most people realise for an actor. It’s almost having certain kinds of secrets for yourself that you’ll let the whole world in on only for a moment, when you’re acting. But everybody is always tugging at you. They’d all like sort of a chunk of you.” And this, “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” And finally, “I am alone; I am always alone no matter what.” It was followed by, “On August 5, 1962 movie actress, Marilyn Monroe, is found dead in her home in Los Angeles. She was discovered lying nude on her bed, face down, with a telephone in one hand. Empty bottles of pills, prescribed to treat her depression, were littered around the room.”

Yet, for my girls and for all women and men who are willing to look beyond the Hollywood glamour and sex, the Kennedys and what they brought and took from her, Marilyn’s advice will never die, “Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”

Tony Deyal was last seen thinking that every young lady should listen to and, for what it is worth, learn from Marilyn, “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.” Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com