Money men can't let Marilyn rest in peace

So much for the candle in the wind. Marilyn Monroe would be 71 on 5 August were she still alive. But the blaze of publicity never wanes.

In death, 35 years on, she continues to re-invent herself. Not a week goes by in America without a new product appearing on the market bearing the trademark of the world's most enduring dead bombshell. Among the recent additions there have been Marilyn credit cards, Marilyn Merlot wines and, for those lonely cybercadets, a Marilyn mousemat.

The Barbie manufacturers introduced two Marilyn dolls this year, dressed as she appeared in The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Her eternal sexual summer never seems to fade. She was on the cover of Playboy in January and has since turned up in Sports Illustrated's winter swimsuit issue and, played by Drew Barrymore, on the cover of George, a glossy political magazine published by the son of a former lover, John Kennedy.

No female celebrity has generated a more thriving industry of imitators. A company in Boston called "Marilyn Monroe Impersonations" claims to be able to offer its services worldwide.

Which is not to say that she cannot impersonate herself. For she continues to play new roles, the latest a TV perfume ad in which she comes digitally alive to repeat the famous reply she gave in 1952 when asked what she wore in bed. "Why, Chanel No.5, of course."

Mercedes Benz's advertisers have bought a slice of the action too. An ad that is in the works opens with a Marilyn head shot and then zooms in on her beauty spot, which turns out to be a tiny Mercedes logo that moves across her face to the hum of a car engine.

Hugh Hefner, commenting on the Mercedes commercial, said it was better than the one with a digitised Fred Astaire selling vacuum cleaners "but somewhere down the road it becomes excessive".

He should talk. Earlier this year he bought himself a crypt alongside Marilyn's at Los Angeles's Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary. Reports as to how much he paid range from $20,000 (pounds 12,000) to $1m. To which the deathless goddess's response would surely have been: "Hef, get a life!"

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