One-on-One with Kassandra Carroll: A Tribute to Marilyn Monroe
Born in Dublin, KASSANDRA CARROLL received her first introduction to Marilyn Monroe at age five while watching her films with her mother, a big fan who also happened to bear a resemblance to the late movie icon. Her mom sang Monroe songs with Carroll’s father, who played the double bass in a jazz band; much like Jack Lemmon did in Some Like It Hot, Carroll’s favorite Monroe film. At age 11, a mother/daughter trip was made from Ireland to Hollywood for Carroll’s 11th birthday just so the young girl could place her hands and feet in Marilyn’s famous hand and heel prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
After studying acting and performance at the College of Music Ireland along with stage and television roles Carroll hopped a plane to Palm Springs and felt Los Angeles calling…. She was asked to enter “The Spirit of Marilyn Contest” and since then, has been in high demand appearing and performing as a ‘tribute’ to her childhood idol. MM fans converse with Carroll as if she were Monroe herself and she is constantly asked to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ a la Marilyn to which she happily obliges. Carroll recently appeared as Monroe in the short film Baby Cries directed by Serge Rocco and is now working with P.M. Howard (as the late great Dean Martin) putting together a traveling show depicting what may have been post-Something’s Got To Give, of which, upon Marilyn’s untimely death, Martin dropped out of the film that was eventually recast with Doris Day and James Garner playing the leads. A little known connection between the late singer Ella Fitzgerald and Monroe is just one of the surprises that audiences will be treated to during this new stage production. Carroll is currently up for the role of Monroe in a feature film and musical based on the last year of the movie star’s life. The Toluca Lake resident kindly sat down with The Tolucan Times for this interview.
Car Designer George Barris, a friend of Marilyn’s, and you have a special relationship….
I met George three years ago and had the privilege to be around all of his classic cars. He said, “You know you do have her energy … I’ve seen a lot of impersonators, but you could be a ‘tribute’ to Marilyn.” I loved the fact of being a ‘tribute’; not an impersonator. I was asked to enter a contest, called George and he told me I have the aura of her. When I found out it was about the spirit of Marilyn I went for it! George hired me to be Marilyn in Vegas with ‘Stars and Their Cars.’ We made a little trip to Hollywood Boulevard and pulled up to the Grauman’s in the Batmobile. I thought every character wanted to get pictures by the car, but I was absolutely shocked because they all wanted to be photographed with Marilyn as I got out of that car! I started crying….
Ever hang out in front of Grauman’s to pose for pictures with MM fans?
I’ve gone down there every so often to get my fix of putting my hands and feet into hers. I buy my undergarments [nearby] at Frederick’s because I understand that Marilyn did and people stop me in the street and ask for autographs. Characters [working in front of Grauman’s] have asked for a photograph with Marilyn like Spider-Man, Batman, even Elmo! There is already a lady there who does Marilyn, though I have taken pictures with people just for fun when I’m down there because of Frederick’s.
You have a very special room in your home dedicated to Marilyn.
The original blueprints to Marilyn’s house in Brentwood are almost identical to mine and both of our streets are a lady’s name; hers was Helena. My Marilyn room looks a lot like her bedroom [where she passed away], but I wanted to celebrate her life; not her passing. Mine has the Spanish terracotta tile and the wood ceilings are very similar to hers.
I have a turnstile from a vintage shop somebody gave me; I mimicked my white music room to her room at the Roosevelt Hotel!
Fans have showered you with Marilyn memorabilia.
People have given me some beautiful items; I can’t believe it! I have a lovely Marilyn doll, little Marilyn trinkets for my Christmas tree, gadgets like a Marilyn clock, pictures of her and someone sent me a lithograph of Sammy Davis Jr. with Marilyn for my birthday last year!
Your Marilyn Monroe publicity photos were taken by actor Richard Roundtree. How did that happen?
I was introduced to him at a restaurant by a mutual friend who let me know Richard was also a wonderful photographer! How beautiful to pose for the camera while there is someone so striking and handsome behind it … and I love his voice. I used to sneak in to watch Shaft when I was a kid!
What are you doing to celebrate Marilyn now?
We are putting together a show that is a kind of celebration of Something’s Got to Give (Monroe’s final film appearance) with Dean Martin that she didn’t finish. I think Dean Martin was very good for her morale during the filming of that movie. We did a Rat Pack show in Palm Springs recently, had a wonderful time and I thought we should do a show with just Marilyn and Dean. Had their movie been a success, which I know it would have, I think she would have liked to go on to Broadway, Vegas or on the road performing her songs she sang in her movies. What I’m doing now is as if Marilyn survived and continued; what would have happened from 1962 on….
How was Monroe instrumental in Ella Fitzgerald’s life?
In the late 1950s Monroe loved her music, but Ella couldn’t get a gig in Los Angeles. Marilyn went to a venue’s owner and asked, “If I promise that I will be here every night will you hire Ella Fitzgerald?” True to her word, Marilyn showed up every night. It was a bar in L.A. that is still there under a different name now; I think it’s off 7th Street. There was a song that Ella sang called ‘The Man That I Love’ which was Marilyn’s favorite. Recently, P.M. Howard, who played Dean Martin in our Rat Pack shows, suggested I sing that song with a Marilyn-vibe, celebrating both women!
Where can people see you perform as Marilyn?
On Feb. 22 we are doing a fundraiser in Orange County and on March 8 we are performing (also in OC) for the troops! In April I believe we will be in San Diego. All these dates are coming in! People want us to perform at parties and venues; it’s just so exciting!