Hairstylist to the stars. Salon owner. Guinness World Book of Records-holder. Speed skating champion. Roller Derby star. Throughout his life, Peter Mangone of Fort Lauderdale wore many hats. But what he may be best remembered for was his life-long fascination with Marilyn Monroe. That fascination went viral in 2002 when he discovered a five-and-a-half-minute film he had made of the iconic movie star in 1955. Mangone was 14 at the time — Monroe, 29.
It all happened when Mangone started skipping school and staking out the Gladstone Hotel on East 52nd Street in New York City where Monroe was living after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio and her dismissal from her contract at 20th Century Fox.
One morning Mangone took an eight-millimeter Revers camera from his brother and headed downtown and met Monroe just as she was leaving the hotel to go shopping. She spotted Mangone, waved and winked at him, and invited him to join her.
At some point the film mysteriously disappeared, and Mangone just thought he had accidentally thrown it away. Much to his surprise and delight, his brother stumbled upon the film almost 50 years later in their father’s house. Up until that point he had never even watched it.
Mangone never saw Monroe again after he recorded the film, but his fascination never died.
“I was always aware of his fascination with Marilyn Monroe and the film,” said his partner of 33 years Dan Pye. “Every time we visited New York City and walked past the hotel he’d say ‘Fuck if I only hadn’t thrown that film away.’”
Mangone recently lost his battle with lung cancer. He was 73. Pye is devastated.
“I’m just going to miss his love of life, love of people, his young vibrant glass is always half full attitude,” Pye said. “He was my greatest cheerleader.”
After Mangone rediscovered the film, which was still in mint condition, he and it became famous. He appeared on the Today Show and was interviewed by Katie Couric and numerous media outlets wrote about his story including the BBC and New York Times. Even now, ten years later, the film is still making the rounds. Its latest stop is at the Danziger Gallery in New York City from Jan. 10 to Feb. 9 in an exhibition called “Marilyn Monroe Rediscovered: The lost film of Peter Mangone (New York, 1955).”
Mangone supported several charitable organizations, including the Gamma Nu Foundation, National Gay Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, and The Pride Center in Wilton Manors.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a long term supporter of The Pride Center, Peter Mangone,” said Robert Boo, Executive Director of The Pride Center. “Peter was a valued member of our Founders Circle. Our heart goes out to Dan Pye during this time of loss.”
There will be a celebration of Mangone’s life sometime in January.
“I learned from Peter to always look and see the best in people,” Pye said. “That there is good in everybody, maybe not right on the surface, but it’s always there.”
Mangone is survived by Pye, his three children and their spouses, Dennis, Gregory and Maria, and Jill and Intesar, one grandson, Gregory Jr., one granddaughter, Jasmine, and his brother Louis as well as two wheaten terriers Katie and Lucas and one cat, Pussy Cat.
To learn more about Peter, his film and his life visit MarilynMonroeNYC1955.com.