Lohan's "macabre" Monroe snaps an Internet hit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They may be tasteless in many people’s eyes, but Lindsay Lohan’s nude photographs recreating a famous series of Marilyn Monroe taken shortly before she died in 1962 have paid off for the publisher.

Actress Lindsay Lohan appears on the cover of New York magazine's Spring Fashion issue in this image released February 18, 2008, as part of an exclusive photo portfolio by Bert Stern, restaging the photographer's famous series of photos of Marilyn Monroe. REUTERS/Bert Stern for New York magazine/Handout

Lohan posed for Bert Stern, the same photographer who pictured Monroe 46 years ago in what became known as “The Last Sitting”, because six weeks later she died of a drugs overdose.

Wildly popular on the Internet, the new images have also proved controversial, with bloggers and columnists arguing they were inappropriate given Lohan’s visits to rehab last year and the recent death of Heath Ledger from an accidental overdose.

Stern wanted to do the project with Lohan and approached New York magazine about publishing the photographs. The pictures have been so popular that the magazine’s Web site crashed, receiving around 20 million daily page views on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The average daily page view in January was 1.2 million.

“This is record daily traffic for us,” said magazine spokeswoman Lauren Starke.

Forbes calculated that based on the magazine’s published rate card, the extra traffic generated by the Lohan pictures on Monday and Tuesday would be worth over $500,000, although may have negotiated different rates.

Starke confirmed that Stern earned the normal fee for the pictures, while 21-year-old Lohan was not paid at all.

The photographs feature Lohan’s naked body hidden behind semi-transparent chiffon scarves.

The New York Times joined the debate this week, calling the images of Lohan-as-Monroe “macabre”.

“The pictures ask viewers to engage in a kind of mock necrophilia,” wrote columnist Ginia Bellafante in a scathing article. “For the 10,000th time we are forced to ask: Lindsay, what were you thinking?”

Lohan’s parents have been widely quoted giving their opinions of the shoot. While her mother said they were “tastefully done”, her father has refused to look at them.

Lohan served less than two hours in jail and completed 80 hours of community service at the Red Cross after pleading guilty to drinking and drug charges stemming from a July car chase and a crash in Beverly Hills in May.

She could be back in the headlines for the wrong reasons on Saturday when the Golden Raspberry awards, which celebrate the worst in film making, are announced.

Lohan’s critically-mauled film “I Know Who Killed Me” received a total of nine nominations by the mock Oscars -- worst screen couple, picture, horror movie, screenplay, director, remake/rip-off, supporting actress and two nods for actress.