Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mom and Marilyn

(Above) Marilyn Monroe poses for a publicity photo with Karol Ann Dragomir, Miss Michigan 1953 at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, NJ.
Click for larger view

LAST WEEKEND I WAS VISITING MY GOOD FRIENDS BRIAN AND PAULA PALMER of Wilmette, Illinois, just north of Chicago. Brian is president of National Speakers Bureau, Inc., and Paula is a musician, teacher and mother of two wonderful kids.

Anyhoo, we got to talking about photography and Brian happened to mention that he had a photo of his mother with Marilyn Monroe. I was intrigued! He went on to tell me that his mother was Miss Michigan in 1953 and, of course, she later went to Atlantic City to compete in the Miss America Contest. His mother, the former
Karol Ann Dragomir, was just 19 and from the small town of Benton Harbor, MI when she won. It just so happened, he went on to say, that Miss Monroe was the celebrity guest for the national beauty contest.

The beautiful Monroe was there for a variety of activities including, on this particular day, photos with each contestant. The contest was then and remains to this day, carefully crafted to present a wholesome and scholarship oriented perception of each young lady. Monroe was scheduled to be there the entire week, and served as Grand Marshall of the parade.

Then Brian told me the last piece of the story that I found to be so interesting. He told me that the Miss America officials found MM’s dress and exposed bosom a bit too risqué for their standards, and by mid-week she was simply asked to leave. “Wow! Now we got something!” I thought.

I asked Brian if I could call his mother and a few days later I did. Ann was delightful to talk to. She said that Marilyn was quite aloof with each of the girls as they waited their turn to be photographed with her. MM was a famous movie star, she was “Marilyn Monroe” and she played the part well. But, she added, all the pageant girls agreed that Marilyn was absolutely beautiful.

And yes, she confirmed the story of MM getting booted off the pageant festivities and added this additional piece of information. Mrs. Palmer told me that it was the parade that actually did Marilyn in. She went on to say that as the float Monroe was on passed the throngs of street admirers, MM did what she always did—she pleased the crowd, especially the men. As she waved, she would lean forward on one elbow allowing additional glimpses of her famous cleavage. Apparently, Monroe’s unabashed demeanor was the straw that broke the prudish pageant official’s back. They asked her to leave.

As for Marilyn, I just wish I could have told her: “you GO, Girl!”


Larry the Artist said...

What a great story. It's obvious from the photo that the images these two women were portraying are about as opposite as you can get. Everything about them screams their contrasts.

Jan said...

I so agree!
Fascinating story, great image.

Anonymous said...

WOW! what a great story and photo find...Gary

John Foster said...

Yes, it is a great story. You can't blame Marilyn for being MM! In a side note though, Karol Ann IS a beautiful woman herself (or she wouldn't be in the Miss America pageant!). She told me in her sweet, self-effacing way: "Standing next to MM was like 'the country mouse' next to the 'city mouse.' She went on to say about the contrast in women: "It was 1953!! The time was so conservative and we Miss America contestants were tightly controlled by the pageant regulations."

secretleaves said...

It's a great story. I have to point out that Ann is every bit as beautiful as Marilyn--even in her demure and buttoned up dark suit.


James Ballard said...


I'm reasonably certain that "Miss Dragomir" was my music appreciation teacher at St Clair Shores Elementary (5th grade, first semester)back in the 50s...It was rumored among the boys that she had been "Miss Michigan", but at that age I was never able to confirm that.

Can anyone confirm that she ever taught "Music Appreciation" in St Clair Shores Elementary ?

She was so beautiful... I recall looking around the classroom every time she entered, and I could see every boy just staring and gaping...every boy ! It was the same when ever she walked down the hall !

Every boy had that juvenile crush on her, and I claim no exception...

~James (Rickey) Ballard

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