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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

$1M suit filed over nude Monroe photos

By Robert Marchant

A famed celebrity photographer is suing two photographers from northern Westchester County to get back nude photos of Marilyn Monroe taken weeks before her death in 1962.

Claiming the pictures of the iconic sex symbol are "unique and irreplaceable," photographer Bert Stern filed a $1 million civil lawsuit to recover seven pictures that show Monroe wearing little more than a smile and a gauze scarf.

He says the photos, taken at the "Last Sitting" session, are in the possession of Don Penny of Briarcliff Manor and Michael Weiss of Mount Kisco and that they have not returned them despite his demands to do so.

"He wants them back," said Stern's lawyer, Stephen Weingrad.

The pictures were taken at the Bel-Air Hotel in July 1962, six weeks before Monroe's death of a drug overdose. The photos of Monroe striking a variety of erotic poses were published with permission in Eros magazine shortly after her death, a publication long since defunct, as well as in a book that Stern published.

It remained unclear how a handful of the pictures fell into the possession of Weiss and Penny.

"They're not talking - yet," Weingrad said.

The lawsuit claims the photos are worth $100,000 apiece.

The two men contacted Stern several months ago, asking him to authenticate Monroe photographs, Weingrad said.

Stern had recently photographed actress Lindsay Lohan for New York Magazine in the style of Monroe at the Bel-Air, and the photos caused a sensation. Weingrad said the two Westchester photographers brought Stern two original prints, along with photocopies of seven images from the Last Sitting.

Stern realized that the pictures were from the Eros spread in 1962. He kept the two that were brought to him and demanded the return of seven others. Weingrad said the photographers asked for money or permission to keep several of the originals, but that his client balked.

Stern filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan last week, demanding the unconditional return off all of the photographs and their negatives.

Stern, 78, is seeking $1 million or more in punitive damages, interest costs and attorney fees.

According to a profile in Westchester Magazine in 2007, Penny, 53, was described as a freelance and fine-arts photographer. His work has appeared in Elle and In Style magazines, according to the profile, and he has taught at the Steinhardt School of Education and Art at New York University.

A Web page for Michael Weiss, 64, says he has worked as a photographer for a number of gourmet magazines and advertising firms, besides a sideline as a fine-arts photographer.

Neither Penny nor Weiss returned calls for comment.

Reach Robert Marchant at rmarchan@lohud.com or 914-666-6578.

Original here

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