A historic country house blew the opportunity to host an exhibition of "lost" Marilyn Monroe dresses after demanding thousands of pounds for the privilege.

The show, in aid of the Alzheimer's Society, was due to be held at Stanmer House, near Falmer, Brighton, attracting massive publicity for the newly-refurbished mansion.

But show organiser Andrew Hansford claims he was forced to switch venues at the last minute when Stanmer's sales manager Ansell Henry - previously a runner-up on The Apprentice - asked for £7,000 to help cover the cost of hosting the event.

Stanmer House is owned by the property millionaire Mike Holland who was last week named Brightonian of the Year at the Brighton and Hove Business Awards.

The four-day exhibition - which starts next Wednesday - is now being hosted by the Hilton Metropole Hotel, in King's Road, Brighton - free of charge.

Hotel bosses said they were "honoured and privileged" to be hosting the event and have even agreed to support a tour of the exhibition when it leaves Brighton.

Hello Magazine has already paid £7,000 to dress Peaches Geldof in the gowns, which were created by Oscar-winning designer William Travilla, for a cover shoot.

London's V&A museum has also offered thousands to put them on show.

The stunning dresses have not been seen in public for 40 years.

Mr Hansford, 40, who was asked to put together the exhibition by the designer's business partner Bill Sarris, said he was "amazed" by the turn of events.

He said: "I initially agreed to ten per cent of the gate receipts to cover costs which I thought was being generous to start with. But then I got a call from Mr Henry saying they wanted £7,000. I just thought, "You're having a laugh." In the end they said they would be happy with 25 per cent of the gate receipt, but it was too late."

He added: "I have had no problems at all in London. The V&A just said 'When?' But Brighton and Hove has shown once again it can't rid itself of its small-town mentality. Even the museum said no because they have a pottery exhibition on. We are talking about priceless pieces of pop history here. It's amazing."

Mr Henry responded to Mr Hansford. He said: "We wanted to host the event because we think it will be a great event for Brighton and we still hope it will be. As far as we are concerned we had agreed to host the event on the basis that we were to discuss covering our costs.

"Nothing had been in writing, no contract had been signed, and at no stage did we say that we did not want to host this event. We weren't looking at this from a financial point of view and we are disappointed it has gone elsewhere."

Henriette Buxey, sales and conference manager at Hilton Metropole Brighton, said: "We are chuffed to bits to be hosting this event. We have already met with Andrew Hansford and it's all systems go.

"It's a huge privilege for the hotel. We are all delighted."

Mr Sarris, a friend of Mr Hansford who was bequethed the collection, only agreed to bring the dresses out of storage to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society.

The collection of dresses includes perhaps the most iconic Marilyn Monroe dress - the white pleated halter-neck which she wore in The Seven Year Itch and which has traces of her makeup on it.

Also on show will be a gold lame gown with plunging neckline and a red sequinned dress slashed to the thigh from the 1952 comedy musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The dresses have all been left in their original state and have not been cleaned since Marilyn last wore them.

A pair of gloves even clearly show her fingerprints.

Mr Hansford, a former catwalk model, has organised countless fashion shows and now runs the Bartholomew House skin clinic in the city.

He said: "The exhibition is a chance for people to get up close to the dresses and really see them. So many people are getting excited about it because they will get to see these iconic dresses, worn by Marilyn Monroe herself. We are still confirming other venues across the UK to hold similar exhibitions in the future."

The exhibition runs at Hilton Metropole Hotel from October 3 to 7 from 10am-6pm.

Tickets are £10 and available on the door.

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