by: Rob DiLauro
“I met Marilyn when we shot “Helter Skelter” together. Many years later we did a convention and kept in constant touch, She was the type of person who could always, excuse the cliche, make lemonade out of lemons. She apparently made her transition as she slept. Sleep well, little angel. Sleep into into your dreams.”
– Eileen Dietz, Friend, Co-Star “Helter Skelter”
As horror fans, there are many deep love affairs which arise from certain series and film, and that love grows very deep. It is something that never goes away, and stays with you until the end of time. We wear that like a badge of honor and pass it on to others so that they may feel the same passion that we had when we first witnessed a particular project, director, and especially a character and the actor who played them. In our case, it is usually an actress, and that is why with a saddened heart I am writing this for the world today, to honor an actress, a sweet, beautiful woman who simply loved her fans as much as we loved her. A woman who will forever live in the annals of American History, Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Marilyn Burns.
“Marilyn was truly the best “Final Girl”
– Melissa Keener, Horror Fan from Toledo,Ohio
As many of us know, Marilyn sadly passed away on August 5th, but has left us with nothing but memories that will last forever, which is truly the greatest gift that a person can leave behind. We will all remember the moment we first laid eyes on the terrifying journey of a young woman trapped in a hellish encounter with a family of psychopaths, Marilyn’s turn as Sally Hardesty in the timeless, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
For myself it was in Pennsylvania, which I am proud to say is the birthplace of Marilyn before she became the true Texan bombshell we all knew and loved. Before I was a true grit horror fan, I was a child who was afraid of EVERYTHING; blood, bumps in the night, everything that I now in some strange way or another hold dear at this point in my life.
My first encounter with the grand, low budget horror of Tobe Hooper was at the tender age of four, and I still recall the sheer terror I had felt even to this day. My mother had taken me to see “The Great Mouse Detective” at a drive-in theater, which ironically enough would be the quintessential place in my mind to view “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” now.
I sat there on the top of the car when the previews rolled before this entertaining child flick, and the first thing I heard in my ears was the creepy sound of a camera flash, and then images of what would be at that time in my life the most frightening thing I would ever witness. The images rolled as my eyes widened, and then the shrill screams of a young woman running from a chainsaw wielding maniac reached into my little mind and would not let go. I did not sleep for a week after that encounter, and as I grew to fall in love with horror a few years later, I realized that the screams that haunted me were from the throat of the great Marilyn Burns, and those cries would eventually sound like the notes of a beautiful song.
“She really took a beating from ol’ Jim Siedow during filming of the gas station scene. It showed her dedication to the role, she went above and beyond and it showed.”
– David Callahan, Horror Fan from Twinsburg, Ohio
I know it sounds strange to recall such a terrifying moment in life as a memorable thing, but it is nothing but words of respect to the testament of Marilyn’s craft. She was a true master in the ability to show the viewing world her pain as well as anguish as a character, but her turn as Sally also revealed her iconic stature.
As time blew on, my thirst for entertainment had changed. I was a fan of fear, and there was no turning back. And the same woman who shook my tiny nerves and kept me up for many nights watching every shadow would become a Goddess, a woman who would forever hold an exclusive seat in my inner house of worship, and after thirty two years, her seat was never overthrown.
“My favorite screamer in a horror film of all time. My favorite scared person in any horror film ever! There have been a lot of screaming victims and horrified victims over the years, but Marilyn made me believe it was real!”
– Robert Scott Taylor, Horror Fan from Prattville, Alabama
Although the majority remember her for her screams and almost insane behavior as Sally Hardesty, Marilyn was also a graduate of Drama, and directed as well as worked in theater. She was a true thespian who was placed into the world of horror, and good or bad, she showed nothing but poise and grace.
Marilyn was always incredible to the people who loved her; taking photographs, signing pictures, and answering questions, always with a beaming smile. She was nothing but generous and grateful for the heart as well as admiration we all had given her.
“One of the best “Scream Queens” out there. She will be missed and eternal in our memories.”
– Vince Cantu, Horror Fan from Newaygo, Michigan
Sadly, Marilyn had passed in her home and was discovered only a few days ago, not the way a queen should go. And the news of her passing rocked us to our very foundation. This was not only a loss, but a solid sledgehammer blow to our very souls. I only hope as I am sure all of you do that her mortal end was not painful, and that she truly saw the mark that she would leave behind. The mark I mention would not be centered mainly on film, it would also be on her family, her friends, and the many around the globe who adored her.
It takes a certain individual to leave such a legacy. A person with the ability of leaving love in their wake, and when it comes to Marilyn, she will leave us with a deep swell of memories and happiness, and her ocean will always spill onto our mental beaches, leaving us with nothing but comfort in the fact that she will never again suffer.
“Her roles helped shaped me into the horror fan I am today. Without “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Marilyn, my life would be missing something special.”
– Craig Skuse, Horror Fan from Adelaide, Australia
A few years ago I hosted a horror talk show and had spoken to many in the genre, but there was a time that my team and I finally acquired Marilyn. It was truly a great experience as well as a milestone in my existence. I will never forget the hour that we had the opportunity to dive into this great woman’s mind, and finally speak to the young woman who scared the hell out of me and made me fall in,love so many years ago. I am sure it is the same feeling any of us had being in her presence.
“Sally was one of the greatest characters in horror history. Marilyn put one hundred percent into that character, so much blood, sweat, and tears. She was truly one of the greats.”
– Rich Marini, Horror Fan from Taunton, Massachusetts
I hope that as a fan as well as an industry professional I did this wonderful woman justice with this piece. We were not personal friends, and we did not spend much time together. But as the fated but strong Valerie states in “V For Vendetta”, I loved her.
I wanted to show her in the light that we as horror fans know her, we all adore Marilyn in some way be it a collection, a piece of memorabilia, or even a tattoo. And we will be the ones to help keep her alive.
Marilyn Burns will never die, she will forever live on in all of us,
And as the Fortieth Anniversary of the film that made her famous looms closer, I say goodbye with all of you to her majesty.
Marilyn may be gone, but will never be forgotten. So I say thank you. Thank you to a woman who helped inspire me as well as countless others. Thank you for being one of the first to place a woman into a positive light in horror, a female survivor no matter the odds in a role meant to make her a victim. To a woman who was kind, and was nothing but a Lady.
Goodbye, Marilyn. It was a pleasure knowing you. You have survived the chainsaw of life, it is time for the diamond encrusted pick-up truck to drive you into the next world where you will reign glorious until the stars burns out, as yours never will.
Thank you for remembering Marilyn Burns with me today. I leave you all with words given to me by “Leatherface” himself, Gunnar Hansen. Enjoy life, friends. Hail Sally Hardesty, long may she reign.
“Marilyn was a wonderful person. Not just funny and bright, but also selfless and kind to everyone she knew. All of us who knew and loved Marilyn will miss her. I certainly will.”
– Gunnar Hansen, “Leatherface”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
For over four years, Rob has made his very own mark in the horror genre starting as a columnist in 2010. With nothing but determination, drive, and his knowledge and love of terror he has interviewed over two hundred horror related celebrities, turned a free podcast into a worldwide heard horror talk show. written and directed two short films, and has released a successful self published book series, which is also in talks with company, Lionsgate
Rob continues to move forward and attempt to kick down the door of opportunity, along with entertaining his army of fans which span the globe, the country, as well as the film industry itself.