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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Photographs of Marilyn Monroe appearing relaxed and lounging around a New York apartment nine months before she died were unveiled on Friday after being held in a private archive for more than 45 years.
Photographer Len Steckler shot the black-and-white images of Monroe when she unexpectedly arrived at his apartment in December, 1961, to visit his friend, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Carl Sandburg. Steckler is offering them for a sale as a limited edition series called "Marilyn Monroe: The Visit."
The pictures to be sold -- four single images and two triptychs, or pictures in three parts -- show Monroe wearing pointed, thick-rimmed sunglasses and a short sleeve dress while talking and laughing with Sandburg. Also offered will be 250 prints of each piece.
"It was serendipitous with these two icons in their moment and me there with my camera," Steckler told Reuters, saying he was "like a fly on the wall" while he shot Monroe, then 35, and Sandburg, 83, while they chatted and held hands.
Steckler, a former commercial fashion and beauty photographer who is now "about 80" and lives in Los Angeles, said on the afternoon Monroe visited, Sandburg had mentioned in a casual manner that they would soon have "a visitor."
"Hours later I went to open the door and there I was face to face with Marilyn Monroe, and she looked more ravishing than on the screen," he said. "She said 'I am sorry I am late. I was at the hairdressers, matching my hair to Carl's.'"
Monroe's hair does indeed appear like Sandburg's in the pictures, almost white, said Steckler, and he added that after he took the photos, they all drank Jack Daniels whiskey.
"As we know, Marilyn loved older men, she loved the intellectuals -- and Carl was very parental with her," said Steckler. "It was a lovely thing to see."
The actress died in August, 1962, and Sandburg, who won Pulitzer prizes for his poetry and for a biography of Abraham Lincoln, died seven years later.
Steckler said he decided to sell the photos after his son discovered the negatives in a recent appraisal of his work, and Steckler thought "the current generation" needed to see them.
"I had forgotten about them," he said. "And I thought this would be a good thing to show and for them to talk about."
The pieces range in price from $1,999 to $3,999 and have never been published for public use.
They are on sale at www.thevisitseries.com and by phone with collectibles dealer Eagle National Mint, who is offering a certificate of authenticity for each print.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen