You could be forgiven for thinking that the legendary Marilyn Monroe is alive and kicking, residing in the trendy seaside town of Brighton, especially if you saw the woman above tottering around the town in her stiletto mules. In fact this is the renown Marilyn impersonator/double Laura Nixon, one of the UK’s foremost tribute acts. In reincarnating the eternal blonde goddess, she has perfected her craft down to a fine art, way beyond that of any other Monroe homage. Furthermore signing with London lookalike agencies, and being the face of Marilyn at party's and events, she manages to earn a daily crust from this venture, and it most certainly beats a 9-5 occupation. On top of this Laura also partakes in modelling (as herself) for her fiance & business partner/ photographer Sam Eddison. www.sameddison.com
Laura is currently booked on the grand opening night of Liverpool’s brand new burlesque and cabaret club Mo*Nique’s with the heavenly show we wished they done on earth. ‘The Frank & Marilyn Show’ opens its doors on Friday April 15th for an exclusive two nightly performance. Being a huge Marilyn devotee since the tender age of 16, this story intrigued me and I must say I jumped at the chance to review this show and interview one of the stars behind it.
Behind the show there is a little tale which Laura initially spoke about.
“I first went up to Liverpool about 2 years ago and met David (Frank Sinatra). I was booked to perform as part of a Christmas cabaret. Frank and I performed a few duets and came up with the idea of doing a show together. A few months later we were booked again as a duo and to do what was then called 'That Frank and Marilyn show'. I returned to Brighton and David and I stayed in touch and continued to talk about the show, sadly due to the geography of the situation we never got the show together.We thought it would be fun to get together and do our show again; it's been over a year since we last performed together so I’m really looking forward to it.”
MEL: What is it about Marilyn that you find captivating and inspiring?
LAURA: In all honesty I find what she was able to get away with inspiring. Marilyn has a lot of power that I very much enjoy exercising.
MEL: You are one of the leading Marilyn tribute acts in the UK, how did it all start? Do you impersonate anyone else in your shows?
LAURA: I have been impersonating Marilyn for 6 years. I started when I was 16. I dropped out of school when I was 13 and wanted to be on the stage. Marilyn came into my life and I thought "that’s the job for me". The rest is history. I have been very lucky and have had a huge amount of support and kindness from friends and family throughout my career. I am currently working on a new character, but that’s a secret at the moment.
MEL: How did you research for the part of Marilyn?
LAURA: Well for one watching the films over and over again, listening to her last ever interview was/is a huge help and source of inspiration. I think also being honest about women. We can all be children, stupid, manipulative, innocent, sexy and even cruel sometimes. I try to be as real as I can when I play her; I want to be as believable as possible.
MEL: Are you are a big Marilyn fan? If so I just wondered which are your favourite films and songs of Marilyn’s.
LAURA: It’s funny, I’m not really a big fan. I am an actress who enjoys playing a role. Marilyn is a very complex creature and a real challenge to play. I have a love hate relationship with Marilyn, she has enriched my life and I have great fun playing her but being two people can sometimes drive one a little crazy. I like 'Let’s make love' and 'Some like it Hot'. I think I’m too close to be a true fan.
MEL: Interesting that you’re not particularly a fan, I guess that would make it much easier to integrate yourself into the part without being too biased?
LAURA: Yes I agree. It’s like asking someone that works in a chocolate factory if they like chocolate. It’s complicated. I spend a lot of time pretending to be her, trying to think like her, talking and moving like her, if I were a fan too I think that would make me obsessed with her. There are Marilyn impersonators that are obsessed by Marilyn, walk around as her all the time. This is just my job and I feel by not being obsessed means I retain my own identity. I like who I am and do not want to loose myself in her at any point.
MEL: Do you think you would like her as a person in the flesh, would you have a connection maybe is what I am asking?
LAURA: I think I would really like her and we have a few things in common. Truthfully I may find her slightly frustrating as well, the constant lateness and out right vulnerability might wear thin after a while. I am attracted to strong people.
MEL: Marilyn is a massive influence still in movies, fashion and of course the ultimate iconic woman of the century. I was told that your version of Marilyn is spectacular, is there a particular way you try to project Marilyn to the audience mentally or emotionally?
LAURA: Thank you, good question. I like to play her as I think she really was. I like to play her as a real person rather than an icon. I project her faults and vulnerability as well as her brilliance. I often make myself/Marilyn the butt of the joke, but done is such away that it makes her more loveable, not look like a fool. Marilyn can get away with saying and doing pretty much anything so I like to push the boundaries when I am performing, say things that they never thought Marilyn would say. Mentally I think she was very unstable, I find wine helps me project this. [laughs]
MEL: How indeed do you prepare yourself before the show to transform into this blonde goddess creature?
LAURA: I have been doing it for long enough now that transforming is very easy. My make up and costume takes me about an hour to put on.
Someone once asked me "When you perform do you feel Marilyn's pain?" I laughed my head off. I'm just an actress.
MEL: What’s been the hardest part to get accurate for Marilyn?
LAURA: I think the balance between her sometimes childish innocence and her strong sexuality.
MEL: Have you ever met anyone who has compared you to the real Marilyn who knew or met Marilyn?
LAURA: Yes that happens a lot. I look very different out of costume so people don't tend to recognise me when I'm not working. People sometimes ask me if I’m a man, I always find that very funny. I guess it is a pretty camp thing to do for a living. People say very strange things to me, which I love. Its one of the perks of the job [laughs]. I met a very drunk woman once who said she had met Marilyn, I liked to believe her.
MEL: What songs do you sing in the Frank & Marilyn Show? And do you sing with 'Frank' or solo?
LAURA: Pretty much everything Marilyn ever sang and a few songs I wrote myself. I love "My heart belongs to Daddy", I really enjoy singing it.
Both. We have a lot of fun.
MEL: I believe you are the girlfriend/partner of photographer Sam Eddison does he consider you his muse at all? I've noticed a range of stunning photos featuring you on his web site.
LAURA: Yes, we are engaged. He is a very talented man and we very much enjoy working together. When I just asked if I was his muse he said "of course you are!” Sam also is my producer; he produces my show "Alive & Swinging" which we do every month down here in Brighton.
Sam built the web site, does all my pictures and PR. He is very much apart of my work.
MEL: Tell me more about your ‘Alive & Swinging Show’ that sounds interesting?
LAURA: The show is about Marilyn escaping from heaven back down to earth for one night of fun. All info can be found on the website www.aliveandSwinging.co.uk . It’s a completely separate thing to the Frank and Marilyn show. The only thing that’s the same is that I am in both as Marilyn.
MEL: Which collection of Marilyn's own photos do you rate highly (I have a selection of the black and white images featuring Marilyn in stockings and a top hat in my bathroom)
LAURA: I very much like 'The Last Sitting' shoot and the ones for Vogue Magazine - beautiful. I am a huge fan of photography and some of her photos are truly stunning.
MEL: Have you ever done commercials or advertising as Marilyn?
LAURA: Yes, in Bulgaria. I endorsed 'Marilyn' cigarettes over there.
MEL: I believe you are The unofficial Miss Brighton & Hove, you sang to the Mayor of Hove? - What’s this about?
LAURA: I gate crashed Brighton Town Hall on the Mayors Birthday and sang to him. It got big press and the mayor is now a big fan. It was the best publicity stunt I ever did.
MEL: Have you ever been to Hollywood/L.A? If so visited any of her birthplaces, homes, tours, gravesite ect?
LAURA: No. I find that a little creepy. My connection with Marilyn is professional not emotional. That's fairly uncommon for impersonators I find, as I said, I’m just an actress.
MEL: Marilyn had some fantastic whimsical quotes, I just wondered do you have a favourite Marilyn quote. (for the record one of mine is "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul")
LAURA: Yes, her quotes are good. I don't think I have a favourite. "I thought they were M&M's!" perhaps. [laughs]
MEL: And finally.....Marilyn's death was such a tragedy, a sparking life force cut down in her prime. If you had to live Marilyn's life back in the day how might you have done things differently?
LAURA: That’s a tricky one to answer. I guess I wouldn’t have got married to men so quickly and stayed away from the booze and drugs. I believe Marilyn killed herself, no women would have been happy having lived through what she went through. I would have found some help and sort out true friends. Then again everyone’s life is there own, Marilyn's life was hers to do with it what she wanted. Who really knows if she was happy or not, perhaps it’s not for us to say.
Break a leg for next week – we’ll be out in our best clothes, cheering you and frank on!
Let's remember Marilyn Monroe - the true original blonde bombshell.
Interview by Mel 08/04/11
Photos by Sam Eddison