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Celebrating Marilyn Monroe at Sedona’s Goldenstein Gallery


John Baumgarth sold 9 million calendars throughout the 1950s, making Marilyn the best-selling calendar girl and earning Baumgarth the moniker “The Man Who Made Monroe.”

John Baumgarth sold 9 million calendars throughout the 1950s, making Marilyn the best-selling calendar girl and earning Baumgarth the moniker “The Man Who Made Monroe.”


Originally Published: May 29, 2019 8:06 a.m.

Born Norma Jeane Baker on June 1, 1926, Marilyn Monroe would be turning 93 years old this year. This iconic actress is celebrated through the beautiful, rare and historic “Golden Dreams” collection represented by Linda Goldenstein and Goldenstein Gallery.

Who could have imagined that a chance encounter would result in what has been called “the most famous picture since the Mona Lisa,” transforming a 22-year-old aspiring Marilyn Monroe into one of Hollywood’s greatest film icons and helping a young man named Hugh Hefner launch his Playboy empire along the way?

Photographer Tom Kelley met Monroe on Sunset Boulevard in October 1948, after a minor auto accident. Marilyn told him she had an audition. He gave her $5 cab fare and his business card. In May 1949, Marilyn was behind on rent and her car in repossession. She found Kelley’s card and appeared unannounced at his studio. A model called in sick for a Pabst beer poster photoshoot and Marilyn got the job.

Two weeks later, Kelley called Marilyn saying that John Baumgarth, a major calendar publisher, had seen the Pabst poster and wanted Marilyn to pose for an upcoming calendar.

The photo shoot would be discreet, but definitely … nude. Marilyn considered and working with Kelley’s wife Natalie, on May 27, 1949, Kelley shot the now famous Red Velvet photos. Marilyn didn’t want to be recognized and used the name “Mona Monroe” to hide her identity.

Not long after, Kelley’s color transparencies of unknown nude models arrived at Baumgarth’s Chicago offices. Among them was “Golden Dreams” featuring the then-unknown Marilyn. Although it wasn’t Baumgarth’s first choice, based on the calendar selection committee he agreed to run Marilyn’s image in the 1951 calendar line. Baumgarth’s preferred image “The Charmer” featuring Maxine Strong outsold Marilyn’s Golden Dreams by 2 to 1, until it was later revealed that the model in Golden Dreams was in fact Marilyn Monroe.

In early 1952, Marilyn faced a career crisis when suspicions arose that she was the nude model in calendars hanging throughout America. Hollywood executives were upset. Marilyn was sure it would end her career.

During a 1952 interview with Aline Mosby of UPI, Marilyn admitted she was the calendar girl and used the interview as a platform to explain herself.

“A few years ago, when I had no money for food or rent,” Marilyn told Mosby, “a photographer I knew asked me to pose nude for an art calendar. His wife was there, they were both so nice, and I earned $50 I needed very bad.”

The story “Marilyn Monroe Admits She’s Nude Blonde of Calendar” was circulated globally.

The public reaction was immediate national forgiveness. The sensation of the pictures, her interview, and the related controversy transformed her almost overnight into a true Hollywood star and changed forever the nation’s attitude toward sex, nudity, publicity, and stardom.

“These historic images convey the story of a complex women that hugely impacted the world in a short span of time. We see an exquisite and timeless view of Marilyn, free yet sensitive, filled with dreams for her future. A future that would make her a star, see her married to Joe DiMaggio and leading playwright Arthur Miller and remain an icon to millions – 60 years later,” says Linda Goldenstein.

Narrowly escaping destruction, the color separations represented by Goldenstein are the unique, original separations first created by hand in 1950 and used by Baumgarth to produce the Golden Dreams calendars featuring Marilyn Monroe.

Baumgarth sold 9 million calendars throughout the 1950s, making Marilyn the best-selling calendar girl 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 man named Hugh Hefner bought the rights to reproduce the Golden Dreams image for $500 from John Baumgarth Company, to be used as the “Sweetheart of the Month” in Playboy magazine.

That first issue sold over 54,000 copies and the profits provided Hefner the funding to continue publishing and ultimately launch his Playboy Empire.

In 2010, Al Babbitt purchased the original and unique film positives and negatives used by Baumgarth Co. to produce the 1950s Marilyn Monroe Golden Dreams pin up calendars.

Babbitt will speak at Sedona PhotoFest on June 15 at 1p.m., in the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, about the history of Marilyn Monroe, the iconic Golden Dreams collection and the color separation process.

Original Monroe large format color separations will be exhibited.

These pieces are part of the “Messenger Art Collection” represented by Goldenstein Gallery, 6,000 works of art created over 100 years by diverse calendar and promotional companies.

Visit SedonaPhotoFest.org and MarilynMonroeRedVelvet.com or call Goldenstein Gallery at 928-204-1765 for information.