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Embraceable You

[whitespace] Marilyn Monroe She slips off the bus and into a neighborhood bar. With its dingy lighting and battle-worn pool tables, it's the kind of place where dreamers like Cherie might have hung out.

You took the part
That once was my heart
So why not
Why not take all of me
"All of Me" (Simons)

By Sarah Phelan

THE 1:50PM BUS FROM LA draws into the station covered in dust. A gray ghost, it's empty except for one passenger sitting up front behind the driver. The doors glide open, the driver jumps out, chomping on a cigar, and a passerby politely scolds him for smoking on the job, and at a bus stop no less.

"Lissen, lady, I'm Groucho Marx, and this is a free country!" he yells back. Clearly, Groucho hasn't a clue about San Jose's easygoing citizenry or its no-smoking laws. And that's OK, because Groucho is a phantom, here to instruct his passenger in the ways of auditioning for a Marx Brothers film. As he explains, "This role calls for a young lady who can walk by me in such a manner as to arouse my elderly libido and cause smoke to issue from my ears."

With a toss of her platinum locks, his passenger sashays down the bus stairs and within a hair's breath of Groucho's famous mustache, leaving him with smoke billowing out of his ears. Yes, she's none other than the fabulous Marilyn Monroe, and even dressed down in cut-off jeans and a white shirt, she exudes sexuality like a comet trails light.

"It's a relief to be out of Hollywood. Everyone is always tugging at you," she confides, glancing at Groucho meaningfully. He grins widely as he pulls out of the station in the Rat Pack Fantasy Express bus.

Marilyn announces she's got stage fright and needs a drink--she's here incognito, she whispers, to audition for a serious acting role--a part in City Lights' upcoming production of Othello. Marilyn incognito? With those unmistakable curves, pouting lips and shellacked peroxide hair? Not likely.

She slips off the bus and into a neighborhood bar. With its dingy lighting and battle-worn pool tables, it's the kind of place where dreamers like Cherie--the misunderstood chanteuse played by Marilyn in Bus Stop--might have hung out. Hey, there's even a picture tacked to the wall of Marilyn in a glittering gold lamé gown. But when Marilyn, inspired by two vodkas, gives a tinny, off-tune rendition of "That Old Black Magic"--her hit song from Bus Stop--there's no rambunctious cowboy to bully the patrons into listening to her in respectful silence. Indeed, the handful of beer-drinking locals ignore her in favor of a baseball game on the recently installed big-screen TV.

Undeterred, Marilyn strolls over to the jukebox and drops in a quarter. Suddenly Sinatra is crooning, and Marilyn saunters back to the bar, as hot as any Santa Ana. By the time she kicks off her stilettos, the bartender is kneeling at her feet, trying to fix the tear in the Naugahyde with an oversize roll of duct tape.

Marilyn winks.

"My first husband, Jim Dougherty, would laugh if he could see me getting smashed because of the Bard," she confides. "He saw himself, not me, as the ham--he once won first prize in a high school Shakespeare festival for his delivery of Shylock's revenge speech in The Merchant of Venice."

She sighs. "I married him in 1942 when I was only 16. Then he went to New Guinea with the merchant marine, and I got a job inspecting parachutes in a factory. One day this photographer showed up. He wanted morale-boosting shots of pretty women working for the war cause, so you could blame it on World War II."

She laughs huskily and leans back into a bust-revealing pose. "You could call me a protofeminist, because suddenly I had my own paycheck and a blossoming career. Instead of babies, Hollywood became my dream, but I had no idea how to protect myself from the sharks," she says, eyeing how the men in the bar are beginning to close in.

Back on the street, Marilyn heads for the movies. She plops down seven bucks to see Godzilla.

On the street afterward, a girl runs by, carrying a backpack that is sprouting Godzilla claws. Marilyn tells anyone who will listen and not just look: "I don't look at myself as a commodity, but I'm sure a lot of people have."

Dead right, they have and still do.

Maybe Marilyn will land the part of Desdemona, Othello's falsely accused wife, but there is the chance she'll end up typecast as a sexy Shakespearean slut. But then San Jose isn't Hollywood.

If Hollywood killed Marilyn, then maybe San Jose could heal her. She knows that, for as she hops back on the ghost bus, the woman who stood by husband Arthur Miller during the McCarthy era shouts, "Don't ever sell your soul, San Jose."

A Marilyn Monroe Kind of Place

Almaden Feed and Fuel
18950 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-8950)

Antonio's Nut House
321 California Ave., Palo Alto (650/321-2550)

Bella's Club
1872 W. San Carlos St., San Jose (408/998-3425)

Black Watch
141 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/354-2200)

Bob's Surf & Turf
2400 Monterey Road, San Jose (408/286-0470)

The Caravan
98 Almaden Ave., San Jose (408/995-6220)

Cardinal Lounge
3197 Meridian Ave., San Jose (408/269-7891)

Cherry Bowl
623 Knickerbocker Dr., Sunnyvale (408/739-5700)

1711 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View (650/940-9778)

Dukes Cocktail Lounge
2175 Monroe St., Santa Clara (408/554-1772)

Flamingo Lounge
2103 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara (408/241-0687)

The Hut
3200 The Alameda, Santa Clara (408/296-6024)

JJ's Blues Lounge
3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose (408/243-6441)

La Copa Linda
7990 Monterey St., Gilroy (408/847-4706)

Lina's Place
1362 S. Main St., Milpitas (408/262-4158)

Longhorn Lounge
Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd. at Fremont Ave., Sunnyvale (408/738-0590)

Mac's Club
339 S. First St., San Jose (408/99 8-9535)

Malibu Grill
5735 Camden Ave.,
San Jose (408/448-7300)

170 W. St. John St., San Jose (408/947-1667)

Murphy's Law
135 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/736-3822)

Seven Bamboo
162 Jackson St., San Jose (408/279-9937)

1151 Lincoln Ave., San Jose (408/279-0996)

South Side Café
7028 Santa Teresa Blvd., San Jose (408/226-5424)

46 N. Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara (408/243-4595)

Vahl's Cocktail Lounge
1513 El Dorado, San Jose (408/262-0731)

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From the June 11-17, 1998 issue of Metro.

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