The walls of the bedroom are a green that would make Kermit the frog envious; a deep golf-course lush that frames the large black and white images of Marilyn Monroe in candid and posed grace. The color serves merely as a stage, and the spotlight is on the voluptuous pin-up girl. All the better to see you with, M.M.; she coyly peeks over the top of a bedsheet in one frame, and in another, she gaily laughs, a modern Venus frozen in time. A sprawling bed sits in the center of the room, its bedspread covered in silk Japanese posters of Marilyn, brought out from storage for display. The image of Miss Monroe on the silk is languid, relaxed; her cheek rested on her palm, seemingly as calm and supple as the expensive silk she is printed on. Stacked high on a chest at the foot of the bed are rows of rare and foreign hardbound books, each one about the blonde bombshell.
An ottoman tucked in a corner of the room reveals a hidden compartment of vintage Marilyn-focused magazines. Greek, Italian, Mexican, German, French, South American — country after country, language after language, are spread out on the hardwood floor. The vanilla-tinged scent of old paper wafts as Scooter Arnold flips pages and books to reveal his treasure trove: a 1974 calendar in its original wrapping; Marilyn's first cover of Life; countless copies of Paris Match; small weeklies marked for 10 cents that are priceless to the avid collector.
Last year, CL featured Arnold in a story highlighting coolly decorated rental homes in Charlotte. With all the recent Marilyn hype (the film My Week With Marilyn hit theaters late last year, not to mention 2012 commemorates 50 years since her death) we thought we'd revisit with Arnold, an avid Marilyn memorabilia collector.
He began gathering all things Marilyn when he was 16 years old and found a poster of her in Spencer Gifts in now-shuttered Eastland Mall. That poster still hangs framed on his wall. It was just the start of his assemblage and his design style. Through the years, family, friends and clients have all added to the make-up artist's home décor, gifting M.M. trading cards and wine bottles, Christmas ornaments and cookie jars, posters and photos. His house reflects her at every turn, even in his retro-50s furnishings.
"When you think about the '50s, you think about big cars and you think about her," Arnold says, the "her" emphasized reverently. There is no mistaking whom he means.
"She is so identified with a very revered decade in America," he continues. "America was great. We were living in the land of milk and honey, and she became the representation of that. She's as Americana as you can get. I mean, Coca-cola, Levi's and Marilyn Monroe; that's the holy trinity of [1950s] America."
In the small clean house located near Central Avenue, Marilyn rules as if it's 1956 all over again. And for Arnold, her very presence on his walls is what makes it home.
"I find a lot of comfort with her image around. She's constant. You know, you go through your whole life and change is inevitable, but she doesn't ever change. A writer once said, 'It's almost like when she died we put her in a sarcophagus of youth.' She was 36 years old [when she died]. Fifty years from now you're going to look at a picture of her and that's how you'll still think of her. It's something that is a soothing constant, that's always been a very comforting thought to me. And I do associate her with home, because growing up in my house with my parents I would always have stuff with her on it around me."
Arnold pauses. "I love her. I do. I just love her."
If you'd like to have your home considered for a feature in our weekly Creative Living column, e-mail [email protected].