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Marilyn Monroe Fans Want to Bring Iconic Dress to NYC

By Amy Zimmer | June 2, 2011 7:12am | Updated on June 2, 2011 7:11am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

TURTLE BAY — It's been called the most famous costume in the history of the silver screen — Marilyn Monroe's white dress that famously flew upwards as she stood above a Manhattan subway grate.

Now a group of New Yorkers wants to bring the dress, which Monroe wore atop a grate at Lexington Avenue near 51st Street in "The Seven Year Itch," back to the city.

The dress isn't going to come cheap. An auction house expects the William Travilla-designed frock to fetch up to $2 million when it goes on the block in Beverly Hills on June 18.

"We want to make sure it stays in New York and goes to a good home," said Darlene Newman, who has been spearheading the Save The Dress campaign in an attempt to raise enough money through small donations to buy it.

The group won't say how much it has raised so far, but organizers said it has been "in talks" with museums that would possibly house it.

"It should be in a museum like the Smithsonian, but in New York," Newman added. "Why would we want it to end up in someone's closet?"

On Wednesday, which would have been Monroe's 85th birthday, the group tried to get the word out while standing beside a mannequin dressed in a replica of the halter top dress.

The mannequin stood atop the same Lexington Avenue grate where the movie's iconic publicity shots were taken in September of 1954.

Monroe's dress, the crown jewel of Profiles in History's June 18 auction in Beverly Hills, is expected to fetch $2 million, the auction house said.

The beaded gown she wore while singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy fetched nearly $1.3 million in a 1999 auction.

Newman also runs an entertainment technology company, inQuicity, that creates smart phone apps locating spots where famous things have happened. Monroe's subway grate was one of the first locations her company mapped out, she said.

She was joined at the press conference by Miss New York 2009 Alyse Zwick and actress Liza St. John, who has played Monroe on stage and screen. Both said Monroe was a big influence on them.

"Marilyn was very much of the people," said Scott Trent, who is also working on the campaign. "She was an entrepreneur and formed her own production company.

"Despite her movie persona, she was known for taking on the studio bosses, making she got to approve directors of any production she appeared in."

The campaign has several events coming up, including a Marilyn Monroe-themed June 11 scavenger hunt.

Debbie Reynolds, herself a movie star, bought the dress in 1974 for a reported $200, and is now putting it up for auction along 700 other historic props and costumes.

Newman said if the campaign doesn't win the dress at auction it will refund people's contributions or donate them to a cause Monroe would have supported, like foster children or Alzheimer's.

Andrew Hansford, the curator of the Travilla estate who brought the replica dress, read notes from the designer about making the dress.

"'I had to portray Marilyn as pure and lovely almost like talcum powder,'" Hansford said. The designer considered it a "silly little dress," Hansford acknowledged, "But Marilyn adored it. It made her an international icon."