Mr. Jimmy James as Marilyn Monroe:
"Yes it’s true, that image of Marilyn Monroe is really me - Jimmy James. It was shot by the famous photographer Greg Gorman in Los Angeles, CA around 1990 for the l.a. Eyeworks ad campaigns.
The ad appeared only ONCE in the 20 year anniversary of INTERVIEW Magazine with Ziggy Marley on the cover. Greg Gorman and l.a. Eyeworks were threatened with a lawsuit from the Monroe Estate Lawyers. They were forbidden from ever showing the ad anywhere into perpetuity — to cease and desist the ad.
I retired from performing as Marilyn Monroe in ‘98. There were too many obstacles against me during my Marilyn Years (‘83-‘98). I became exhausted. I could not fight for it anymore. After doing shows, tours, tv appearances etc…for about 17 years, I felt it was finally time to let her go. As I like to say, “I think I did Marilyn longer than she did Marilyn.”
During my Marilyn years in the mid 80s to mid 90s the world, in general, and the show business industry itself, was kind of close minded to a man in a dress - especially a man doing it as well as i was doing it. I felt I never got the respect I deserved for my special recreation of Marilyn. I was relegated to being a “look-a-like” - not an artist. I was a “female impersonator” - not an actor. Oh well…I tried my best.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a spectacular and exciting career. The ride was fun! But I also had many monumental obstacles, legal and stereotypical obstacles that were too hard for me to overcome. While my l.a. Eyeworks campaign was being shut down into perpetuity by the Monroe estate lawyers, RuPaul’s campaign was in full force. No one was shutting him down. Why? Because he OWNED his own likeness and image. The MM lawyer argued with me that I didn’t own Marilyn’s image or likeness for advertisements. Even though the ad contained a disclaimer stating it was “Jimmy James.”
I never considered that my loving and respectful tribute to Marilyn was going to turn against me one day — but it did. What once garnered me attention, accolades, sold out shows, tv appearances (I sang live, no lip sync) etc… was now dimming the lights right before my eyes.
I continued touring successfully in the clubs despite the fact that a certain nasty Monroe lawyer threatened to sue me for a percentage of all my club dates. This was very hurtful. It damaged my spirit and zest. I was beginning to realize that this venture was never going to take me very far. My Marilyn act was doomed.
One of my last triumph (as far as my Marilyn years were concerned) was making an appearance on a giant billboard in the middle of Times Square where I was featured as Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland & Bette Davis with Supermodel Linda Evangelista for a clothing campaign (1996). After that I played Marilyn for a couple more years. The LAST time I portrayed her was for my music video “Who Wants To Be Your Lover” (1998). I was done. It was over.
I retired Marilyn from my repertoire in 1998 and I never looked back. I have no regrets. During the Marilyn Years I amassed a very large archive of my Marilyn work. I’m working on a documentary of my ‘Marilyn Years’ to express the tragedy and triumph behind the boy who became Marilyn Monroe.
I still tour with my one man show of Voices. In 2007 I wrote, recorded and released a world-wide dance club hit entitled “FASHIONISTA” from my original album JAMESTOWN. The single climbed to the top of the BILLBOARD Dance charts. The song has been licensed to film and television. I own this music. Nobody can take this away from me.
In 2012 Greg Gorman and l.a. Eyeworks threw caution to the wind and unearthed the 22 year old photo now published in his new book ‘FRAMED.’
It’s now 2014 and the times have changed. People’s attitudes towards a “man in a dress” have changed. The lawyers who represented Marilyn’s estate seem to be no longer. But alas I don’t wear dresses anymore. Been there - done that. Don’t wanna do it again. It was a moment in time that will never be repeated.
What sweet revenge that an artist discovered and painted so many versions of this lost and forgotten image. An image that for 22 years was forced to be locked away and hidden into perpetuity.
Marilyn Monroe was a great artist who still to this day is bringing out the artist in so many of us.”