LOS ANGELES, AUG. 5 -- Hundreds of Marilyn Monroe's friends and fans paid tribute to her today on the 25th anniversary of her death, hailing the actress as a legend assured of screen immortality.
"Marilyn's spirit continues to live," said Greg Schreiner, president of a group called Marilyn Remembered, which organized the memorial service at tiny Westwood Village Memorial Park where she is buried.
Had she lived, Monroe would be 61.
Bowers of floral tributes banked the simple crypt, as a standing-room-only crowd jammed into the park's chapel to recall Monroe's celebrated but unhappy life, and death at age 36 of a drug overdose.
"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I did not die," sang Schreiner to a soft piano accompaniment.
Maurice Zolotow, who wrote the first biography of Monroe in 1960, recalled being awakened by a phone call from a reporter with the news that Marilyn Monroe was dead.
"I just didn't believe it," he said, for the actress born Norma Jeane Mortenson, with her troubled childhood and searching life, seemed to symbolize the life force.
"There was something about her," he said. "Her screen presence. A haunting innocence combined with an overpowering voluptuousness. It was unique."
Hers, he said, "was a restless, unquiet spirit, one of those artists condemned to solitude by the gift God gave her," said Zolotow.
In an emotional climax to the nearly one-hour service, actress Susan Strasberg wept as she read a eulogy written by her father, the late acting coach Lee Strasberg, for Monroe's funeral.
"She had a luminous quality, a combination of radiance, yearning, that set her apart," said the eulogy. "I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes."
The crowd that flocked to the cemetery included a few who knew her, including Eleanor Vallee, widow of Rudy Vallee, and a woman who doubled for Monroe in the movies. But most were fans, many born after the actress died, some from far away.
Yvonne DeBoer, 24, said she made her pilgrimage from Dayton, Ohio. For the occasion she wore a white halter dress similar to the one worn by Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch."
There were also several Marilyn Monroe look-alikes, including one who goes by the single name "Marilyn."
"I've looked like this all my life," said the buxom woman with cotton-candy hair. "I can't think of anyone it would be more fun to look like."
Members of the Marilyn Remembered group and an international fan club called Marilyn Forever wore T-shirts emblazoned with the actress' picture and her first name.
Across the city, various other tributes were held, including an auction of hundreds of photographs of the screen goddess for the benefit of AIDS research.
Photographer George Barris, who was the last to photograph Monroe and has published a book about her, expressed the sentiments of many at the photo show.
"She was so gentle, so fragile, so talented ... You had to fall in love with her," he said