The person I considered the most talented actor in my class was Marilyn Monroe. She would walk into class with Arthur Miller’s shirts tied at her waist, her feet in flip-flops, the sweet musky smell of Lifebuoy soap wafting after her. Her hair pulled back with a rubber band, was always a little wet, as if she’d just stepped out of the shower.
One afternoon I was sitting in my place on the Lower East Side when my phone rang. I picked it up, and a voice said, “Hi Lou, It’s Marilyn.” “Marilyn who?” I asked, and when she answered, “Marilyn from class.” I had a genuine fit. She was asking me to be in her love scene in Tennessee William’s The Rose Tattoo at our next class. She was probably being nice to me because I wasn’t one of the stellar students in class, like Sidney Poitier, and no one else was asking me to do love scenes. But here she was, inviting me to play the sailor to her hot-blooded Serafina delle Rose.
I was a kid then, full of juice. I considered myself hot to trot, but I knew there was no way on earth I could play that scene. I was so star-struck, I wouldn’t have gotten out one word onstage. I must have stammered or something, because she got off the line pretty fast, and I think it was Marty Landau who ended up playing the scene. (I happen to think Mr. Landau is one of the most consummate actors I have ever seen on stage or screen.) To this day, if I catch a whiff of Lifebuoy soap, my olfactory senses take over and I am undeniably aroused.