|Birth: ||Sep. 12, 1919|
|Death: ||Feb. 4, 2010|
Los Angeles County
Sylvia Barnhart, the woman who first dyed Marilyn Monroe's hair blonde, has died. In recent years she was a favourite at meetings of the Marilyn Remembered fan club in Los Angeles, California.
In 1945, Norma Jeane Dougherty was a 19 year-old model in Los Angeles, working for the Blue Book Agency. Her hair was then naturally mid-brown. That winter, she was offered a series of shampoo print advertisements with photographer, Raphael Wolff, on condition that she bleach her hair first. Norma Jeane's boss, Emmeline Sniveley, explained that blonde models were currently in vogue because they photographed well in any colour or light.
Norma Jeane was sent to Frank & Joseph Hair Stylists, just across the street from The Ambassador Hotel, on Wilshire Boulevard, where the Blue Book Agency was based. Over an eight-month period, Sylvia Barnhart straightened and bleached Norma Jeane's hair to a golden blonde. During this time, Norma Jeane also changed her name to the more glamorous ‘Marilyn Monroe', and signed her first film contract with Twentieth Century Fox. Marilyn later confided to friends that she had initially disliked her new name, and was unsure about going blonde.
But when Sylvia moved to Frank & Joseph's other salon on Hollywood Boulevard, Marilyn followed her. Eventually Marilyn had her hair lightened to a dazzling platinum blonde, or in her own words, ‘pillow-case white'. For several years afterward, Marilyn kept a weekly appointment with Sylvia on Saturdays at 1:30 pm. ‘She'd come in like two or three hours late and still expect to be taken care of,' Sylvia recalled. ‘But she was just magnificent, breathtaking to look at.'
In his illustrated guide to Marilyn's Los Angeles addresses and haunts, Hometown Girl (2004), Eric Woodard wrote that ‘nearsighted Sylvia was inspiration for Pola, MM's character in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953.) One day Monroe saw her bumping into furniture while without her glasses and even borrowed a spare pair to rehearse with.'
Woodard also stated that the Wilshire Boulevard salon where Sylvia met Marilyn is now part of the Wilshire Plaza, while the Hollywood location is now a toy store.
One afternoon in 1946, Snively sent Norma Jeane to Frank & Joseph's Beauty Salon to have her hair done for a modeling assignment for Rayve shampoo. Frank & Joseph's had built a solid reputation by styling the hair of such Hollywood notables as Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, starlet Judy Clark, and even professional wrestler Gorgeous George.
On that day in 1946, a timid Norma Jeane walked into the salon and asked if something could be done to make her look better for her shampoo shoot that evening. Tint technician Sylvia Barnhart and shop owner Frank immediately set out to straighten Norma Jeane's hair, which Barnhart has described as "brown and kinky."
The strong solution used in the process also lightened her hair, giving it a reddish-blonde cast. Norma Jeane was quite pleased by the effect and wanted to go blonder. Over the next four to five months, Barnhart changed the color of the young model's hair to a golden honey-blonde by lightening and toning it a step at a time.
Barnhart disputes the oft-told tale that Norma Jeane did not want to be a blonde and that she resisted any suggestion to change her hair color. To the contrary, Norma Jeane felt a lighter color helped accentuate her eyes, which Barnhart has described as "beautiful [and] luminous."
Sylvia Barnhart and Norma Jeane Dougherty became friends during this period; Barnhart often bought lunch for Norma Jeane. Though sometimes angered by Norma Jeane's penchant for lateness, Barnhart never remained angry for long. She recalls that Norma Jeane had her and Frank "wrapped around her finger."
Barnhart continued to style Norma Jeane's hair for the next five to seven years, long after the shy, timid Norma Jeane had become starlet Marilyn Monroe.
Westwood Memorial Park
Los Angeles County
Plot: Scatter Garden
Created by: Dear Jayne
Record added: May 17, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 90308056