Working Out with Marilyn Monroe

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1st Apr, 2014

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It’s pretty neat when you come across rare photos of one of the most iconic and recognisable faces in history, and it doesn’t get much more rare and interesting than Marilyn Monroe herself, lifting weights in a terry cloth bikini…

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Marilyn and her guns of steel were photographed here in 1952 by Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine. Hundreds of pictures were taken that day in Marilyn’s cheap two-room apartment on the outskirts of Los Angeles, but only one would be used and feature on the cover of the magazine, which would catapult her into major stardom. These images stayed on the cutting room floor and remain largely unseen even today.

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“What impressed me in its shabby living room was the obvious striving for self-improvement,” Halsman later wrote recalling his shoot with Marilyn. “I saw a photograph of Eleanora Duse and a multitude of books that I did not expect to find there, like the works of Dostoyevsky, of Freud, the History of Fabian Socialism, etc. On the floor were two dumbbells.”

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“She flirted with all three of us. And such was her talent that each one of us felt that if only the other two would leave, something incredible would happen. Her sex-appeal was not a put-on– it was her weapon and her defense.”

–Philippe Halsman

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And let’s just get another close-up of that very questionable terry cloth bikini…

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(I’m still trying to process that terry cloth bikinis were ever actually a thing)

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But back to Marilyn and working out. Having seen proof that the blonde starlet did work out to maintain her famous figure, I went looking for more about her routine and sure enough, in September 1952, the now defunct Pageant Magazine published a lengthy feature written by Monroe herself, sharing her fitness tips… (scanned thanks to the Monroe pages)

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Frankly, I’ve never considered my own figure so exceptional; until quite recently, I seldom gave it any thought at all. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat. Now I have to worry about eating too much. I never used to bother with exercises. Now I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. I have evolved my own exercises, for the muscles I wish to keep firm, and I know they are right for me because I can feel them putting the proper muscles into play as I exercise.

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She Doesn’t Like To Feel Regimented

EXERCISE. Each morning, after I brush my teeth, wash my face and shake off the first deep layer of sleep, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise. It is a simple bust-firming routine which consists of lifting five-pound weights from a spread-eagle arm position to a point directly above my head. I do this 15 times, slowly. I repeat the exercise another 15 times from a position with my arms above my head. Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I’m tired. I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.

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How to Feel Blond All Over

SPORTS. I have never cared especially for outdoor sports, and have no desire to excel at tennis, swimming or golf. I’ll leave those things to the men. Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think sun-tanned skin is any more attractive than white skin, or any healthier, for that matter. I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over.

By nature, I suppose I have a languorous disposition. I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness. Depending on my activities, I sleep between five and ten hours every night. I sleep in an extra-wide single bed, and I use only one heavy down comforter over me, summer or winter. I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns; they disturb my sleep.

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A Set of Bizarre Eating Habits

BREAKFAST. I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it’s hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.

DINNER. My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.

P.S. It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright’s ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes. I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods.

Via The Selvedge Yard, Marilyn Monroe Pages

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