THE LATEST entry in the huge catalogue of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia is now available in area record stores.
"Goodbye Marilyn" is a breezy pop tune with a memorable melody that manages to remember Marilyn without becoming maudlin or morbid. The song is also an entry into the record business for the local pop duo of Hooke and Scalfi, who wrote and recorded it, and for producer Charles Stinson, the obsequious hairstylist and businessman.
Because Stinson is leaving his Charles the First salon to join Suissa Hair and Skin Salon, he commissioned Helen Hooke and Sindy Scalfi to write a song as a farewell to the Marilyn Monroe mural painted on the side of his Connecticut Avenue salon (Stinson also has a mosaic of Monroe at the bottom of his swimming pool). He released the record (on Charles the First Records) to coincide with the 21st anniversary of Monroe's death, which is today.
"When Charles first approached us with his idea for the project," Scalfi says, "we responded like anyone else might at first--oh, no, isn't everybody just sick of hearing about all that?" But after accepting Stinson's offer to produce the record, both singers became more interested as they began to research Monroe.
Hooke claims to have had a closer sort of contact with the late movie star. "I had this incredible dream one afternoon while we were still writing the song," Hooke says. "I took an afternoon nap, and when I woke up I felt I had really met Marilyn Monroe. She seemed a little distant, I don't remember her saying anything, but I felt like she blessed the project."
Stinson has a keen eye for publicity, and he set to work remodeling the duo: giving them free haircuts and makeovers and squeezing them into shiny spandex pants for performances. "He made us look like Hollywood without being in Hollywood," Scalfi laughs. "Our friends tell us they still respect us, though. Stinson will keep cutting our hair . . . I don't think he'll keep cutting our records."
Since most rock outfits are recording videos to accompany their songs, Hooke and Scalfi considered that angle as an attention-getter. "Our idea was to be singing while they were painting over the mural behind us," Scalfi says, but Stinson's ex-partner, Roi Barnard, has since decided to let the mural remain.
"We want a record deal, but it's so hard to break in," says Scalfi, who has mapped out the duo's strategy for success. "We'll have to make a master tape of about four songs and maneuver it into the right hands. And it seems to be very important to play New York a lot, to get the attention of the A&R artist and repertoire people at the record companies."
The demo tape will be financed by Bob Yesbek's Omega Studios in Kensington, where the single was recorded. "We'll record our most commercial light-rock stuff," Scalfi says. "We do have more esoteric music in the bag, but we're really gonna try and go for the big one."
"We're just finding out how hard it really is to get air play these days," Scalfi says. "It's the way the radio stations work now--it's all heavy demographics and research."
It's a Catch-22 situation for a fledgling act. "Without radio air play, the major record labels aren't interested," Hooke says. "But you can't get on the radio if you don't already have a name or if a major label doesn't sign you."
Rochester-born Hooke recorded several albums for RCA with the all-female New York rock band The Deadly Nightshade, singing and playing bass, electric violin and guitar, while Scalfi was setting out on her own from her native Louisiana, playing electric piano and recording solo tapes.
The two have known each other for three years and met while gigging around in Manhattan. Scalfi hired Hooke to play bass with her and a partnership was born. Originally known as Magenta Rose (and called Magenta Yenta by friends), they played at colleges, Folk City in New York, tennis pro Evonne Goolagong's private nightclub at Hilton Head, S.C., and are regulars at Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe.
The duo polished their recording skills while serving as "guinea pigs" for the Omega Studio's class for fledgling recording engineers and producers, and have done voices for quite a few commercials locally.
Now they live in a small, equipment-filled house in Falls Church, and have developed the almost-eerie rapport of close-working partners, often interrupting and completing each other's sentences. "Our relationship is very Robert Altman--overlapping conversation and all," says Scalfi. "Even while we're singing--we make the same mistakes," Hooke adds with a laugh.
Both singers admit it is often frustrating to play the small engagements, like the cramped overhead shelf at Afterwords. "It's challenging, creating an audience out of a nonaudience," Scalfi says.
"I mean, these people are browsing," Hooke chimes in. "So we've tried to create something positive out of it."
But the two keep playing and singing above the din of the bookstore, switching airy California harmonies and instruments easily. And when it sounds particularly right, people put down their books or their forks, and listen.