My knowledge about the life and times of Marilyn Monroe is basic at best. I know somewhat more about cryptic crosswords. Generally, my first task each morning involves downloading the Guardian puzzle. The crossword has a different setter every day, each with his/her own quirks and each trading under a nom-de-plume, often a story in itself. There is even one called ‘Brendan’. Last week, in the course of solving ‘Paul’ (who is actually John in real life; no, no Beatle allusion), one clue, which could only be solved by first working out a cross-reference, was ‘model, no more’ (6). As, by this stage, the cross-reference (megastar) had been solved, the answer was straightforward – Monroe.
Marilyn’s appearance in this particular crossword, I later found out, was because Sunday 5 August coincided with the 50th anniversary of her death. The intervening years have certainly solidified her status as a ‘megastar’, albeit one whose brightness shone only fleetingly. To this day, myriad references to her permeate popular culture, my small contribution to the iconography being the photograph I took on the Barcelona metro in 2006. Everyone who was anyone photographed her, including the Swiss Robert Frank, whose iconoclastic The Americans quite possibly did more than any other book to change for ever how we view photography.