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Wednesday, January 3, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rick Anderson

Marilyn Monroe's Publicist Revealed Twist In His Pr Coup

One of the obituaries on Roy Craft last week said he was supposed to have been a publicist of some sort for Marilyn Monroe.

``Supposed?'' It doesn't seem right to let the man slip into his grave on that elusive qualifier.

When he died the other day, Craft, 81, editor emeritus of the weekly Skamania County Pioneer down in the little Columbia River town of Stevenson, took with him a rare distinction.

Not only did he do film promotional work for such enigmatic figures as Elvis Presley and Howard Hughes, he was, indeed, Marilyn Monroe's press agent, from 1952 through 1957.

More memorably, he engineered what became a legendary moment in the legendary life of the former Norma Jean Baker.

It was just a photograph.

But it made Marilyn Monroe, and to some extent, Roy Craft, famous.

There is also an odd and little-known twist to the story.

Craft mentioned it once in one of our many telephone talks since 1973.

Whenever there was another new story or book promising the latest startling details on her life, her alleged affairs with Jack and Bobby Kennedy or her suicide - murder? - I'd call Craft for a comment.

He'd just laugh a little and say ``Well, I was there. And I didn't see that.''

He conceded to being partial about Monroe, however. ``Of course, I have a deep loyalty to Marilyn,'' Craft explained once.

``During our five years together, before her disintegration and her death (1962), she was consummate in her abilities. She was entirely different from the dumb blonde she played on the screen.

``I remember her as a bright, terribly bright woman, with a great humor to her.

``When I handled her in her happy days, she was extraordinary. Any fine dramatic actress will play the role to which she's assigned. And when you get `personalities,' I think it's a mistake to have them play anything but themselves - an Elvis, for example.

``To me, Marilyn created Monroe, and I thought her great charm was comedy, a classic comedienne.

``And she was so captivating with the press. I could take her to New York or Seattle and have four interviews back-to-back and she would delight each of the four people. Each would get a different story and a different anecdote. She was simply masterful at this.''

It was on one of those New York promotional trips, in 1954 for the movie ``The Seven-Year Itch'' that Craft had his finest hour in public relations:

The Photo.

During one of our conversations, Craft told me the story behind The Photo.

``We had just come from an interview when some of the press photographers caught up with us on a Manhattan street.

``Marilyn was wearing this light, white dress, tied up around the neck, like one she wore on film.

``I positioned her over the grating and told her `Vamp a little.' Then the dress blew up around her and the rest is history.''

With the dress billowing out to the sides, exposing one leg above the thigh, and Marilyn striking one of her famous I-Want-You poses, the shot resulted in a photo that 36 years later is still popular as life-size poster art.

But as Craft explained:

``It (The Photo) was just dumb luck.

``I didn't realize that was an air grating when I stopped Marilyn and had her pose on it. The photographers snapped away and she twirled around a bit and it was routine stuff.''

``Then all of a sudden, a subway train passed below. The wind rushed up through the grating and lifted her dress over her legs. The flash bulbs went off like crazy. It happened so fast some of the guys missed it.

``I took the credit . . . But the thing is, I never thought it up. I didn't even know there was a subway below!''

Craft paused thoughtfully. Somewhere, he said, there's a subway driver he owes a few drinks:

``He has no idea what he and his train did for Marilyn Monroe's career.

``Or, for that matter, mine.''

Rick Anderson's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Northwest section of The Times.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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