Mr. President: The Late Marilyn Monroe, Pt. 2

Continued from Part One.

Featured image shot by Lawrence Schiller on the set of Something’s Got To Give.

The conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death persist to this day. However, the oft-cited originators of the rumors about her alleged murder have been systematically discredited and debunked, or, in the case of Norman Mailer, who had claimed she’d had an affair with Robert Kennedy and said that she was killed by the FBI or the CIA, recanted his story in a TV interview with Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) and admitted he’d made it all up in order to publicize the biography he’d written about her in 1973. He admitted that he thought she had died by suicide.

There is a tangled web of conspiracy theories here, but cooler heads with large research budgets have prevailed and have drawn lines under all of them. We’ll go through them here, though we have to skim, because there’s… a lot.

Allegations about an affair with JFK are questionable at best. She was clearly friends with JFK’s relatives and with him, and they met in public several times, but not in private. She was interested in politics long before she met him, and that was apparently what they spoke about most. (In fact, in 2010, JFK’s former secret service men stated that the rumor was “unfounded.”) There is a slightly more credible speculation that she had a one-night stand with Bobby Kennedy, but there was no evidence of any relationship, and this is still dubious, but may have taken place as a one-off.

The source of the bulk of the allegations that persist to this day was hack writer Robert F. Slatzer who dug up a pamphlet written by a paranoid anti-communist “activist” Frank Capell who had claimed in the 1960s that Marilyn had been murdered by Bobby Kennedy. Capell’s only source was columnist Walter Winchell, but Winchell’s only source was Capell himself. An LA cop named Jack Clemmons was the first officer on the scene when Marilyn was found, and later added some claims to Capell’s pamphlet that he hadn’t mentioned in the official 1962 investigation. (That her housekeeper was washing her sheets – she wasn’t washing the ones Marilyn had died on anyway – there are photos of the scene with the sheets intact) and that he had a “sixth sense” that something was weird. That’s it.) Both of them fired off all manner of letters to the FBI making claims about the Kennedys consistently for years, and they were both indicted in California for conspiracy to libel for claiming that senator Thomas Kuchel had been arrested for a homosexual act (because Kuchel voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) Capell pleaded guilty, but Clemmons agreed to resign from the LAPD so charges were dropped. The FBI files that were released surrounding speculations about the alleged affairs Marilyn had with Bobby Kennedy were created because of the accusations of Capell and Clemmons. We’ll revisit the recently-released FBI files below.

This asshole. (Frank Capell)

When Robert F. Slatzer’s limp first book about Marilyn failed to sell to a publisher, he dug up Capell and Clemmons’s pamphlet and wove it into the story, and also suddenly remembered that he’d been secretly married to Marilyn in Mexico for three days in 1952 and had remained close friends until she died.

A quick note on this claim: All of his photos with her were from the set of Niagara, when he was doing a story on her and she posed with him. He grabbed her a lot. He used those photos to suggest that they were secret lovers, yet the date he claims they were married in Mexico, October 4th, 1952, her financial records show checks that she wrote when she was out shopping, without him, in the US. Not getting married.

Marilyn with this asshole. Robert Slatzer. One of many toady photos with her, but with only two outfit changes. This is blatantly Niagara Falls, where she was shooting when they met.

For the record, a lot of men grabbed Marilyn for photos, and she often grabbed right back. It was a thing. Here she is with singer Buddy Greco, who she also didn’t marry or have an affair with.

Buddy Greco with Marilyn Monroe. And, uh. Frank looks pissed, right?

A year after Slatzer’s trashbook dropped, a rock journalist named Anthony Scaduto used Slatzer’s book as a source for his book that repeated the allegations, and added a red diary that Marilyn supposedly kept that contained political secrets she’d heard from the Kennedys. The subsequent series of books, including one by British journalist Anthony Summers, added even more outlandish claims, and though Summers had interviewed 650 people connected to Marilyn, his narrative was taken apart by a more thorough and credible biographer, Donald Spoto.

Donald Spoto. Big ups to the sane one.

Spoto has taken pains to point out the places in which Summers contradicts his own narrative within the same book, alleges that outright lies are facts, and that the quotes attributed to Marilyn’s friends were not genuine – several went on record with him debunking what Summers said they’d done. Among Summers’s witnesses which he presented as credible were the aforementioned hack Robert Slatzer, as well as disgraced LAPD officer Jack Clemmons, and a woman named Jeanne Carmen who claimed to be Marilyn’s close friend, despite the findings of Spoto and another credible biographer, Lois Banner.

Summers’ allegations were part of a 20/20 segment in 1985 which never aired because the news executive for ABC found it didn’t pass muster and that there was no evidence to back up the claims, so they couldn’t be aired as fact. Summers took to the media to claim that the Kennedys had gotten to the news executive, Roone Arledge, and somehow pressured him to kill the story. A version of Summers’ story did end up on the air on the BBC’s 1985 documentary Marilyn: Say Goodbye to the President, despite the same lack of any evidence.

Several more books make similar and sometimes even wilder assertions would surface about Marilyn’s alleged murder. The latest emanated from John Miner, an LA prosecutor in charge of investigating Marilyn’s death, then later the death of Bobby Kennedy, and then the Manson murders. He claimed to have transcripts of audio tapes that Marilyn made, and which she had given to Dr. Greenson, and that Dr. Greenson had invited him to listen to the tapes on the condition that he never reveal their contents. Miner claims to have listened “intently” and to have made substantial notes. Miner should be as credible a witness as one could get, but there were some issues.

One of Marilyn’s more credible biographers, Lois Banner, mentioned above, knew Miner personally – they had worked at the University of Southern California together (where she still works as a Professor Emerita of History). Through Banner, it became known that Miner had once lost his law license and was barred from practicing for several years, and also that he had claimed to Banner that he had worked for the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. He had never worked for the Kinsey Institute, but the relevance of it being known for studying sex, including more unusual practices, may come into play later. Additionally, he declared bankruptcy just months before selling the alleged transcripts.

Look at gentle soul and diligent researcher Lois Banner.

Miner had initially offered the transcripts to Vanity Fair, but when they asked him to show them to Summers to “validate them” (imagine!) he failed to produce them, making it obvious that he didn’t have them. That means that the transcripts that he eventually sold to British author Matthew Smith, who wrote a whole new book around them, were written decades after Miner claimed to have listened to the tapes. The assertion that alleged transcripts could be written decades after someone hears audio tapes, even if the writer were using extensive notes to recreate the speech, is dubious at best. He might have had more credibility if he’d published his unaltered notes instead.

However, in his duties as an official investigator of the death of a high-profile celebrity, amidst allegations and rumors, he never disclosed that there were ever any tapes, that he’d heard them, nor had notes, nor transcripts of said tapes. During the official 1982 review by the LA County DA, he told the new investigators that there were tapes. He did not mention that he had transcripts of them even at that point. He said that Dr. Greenson had made him promise not to reveal the contents, but despite the deaths of all involved including Dr. Greenson, John Miner never revealed any knowledge of tapes, nor his transcripts thereof, until it came time to sell them to recover from bankruptcy.

Additionally, according to Banner, the content of the alleged transcripts seemed to parallel Miner’s personal obsession with enemas and sadomasochistic sexual fantasies about Marilyn’s having been murdered that way. Via enema. By her housekeeper. Who was actually a nurse. on the orders of the CIA.

No tapes had ever been found. Dr. Greenson had died before Miner went public, and Miner was the only person ever to claim they existed, at his financial convenience.

John Miner. Into enemas. Allegedly.

Among the allegations often quoted about her autopsy, claims such as “extensive bruising” of her body, the fact that her stomach was empty so she couldn’t have taken pills and furthermore, why didn’t the pills she was supposed to have taken leave their telltale yellow residue, and that the note about “no needle marks” couldn’t have been true because she received regular injections from her physicians. (No explanation as to why the coroners would make a claim that would arouse suspicion – she had an empty stomach – but then claim there were no needle marks when conspiracy theorists feel there should have been some.) There are also claims that Marilyn’s tissue samples “mysteriously disappeared.”

The toxicology report from the lab stated that there was Nembutal and chloral hydrate in her blood stream, and a further 13mg of pentobarbital in her liver. (Not Seconal, or Secobarbital, anywhere.) However, because of the rumors, in 1982, LA County DA John Van de Kamp ordered an initial investigation to determine whether the DA’s office should pursue a criminal investigation. After over three months and a 30-page report, no evidence was deemed credible enough to warrant an investigation.

The chief medical examiner. Dr. Boyd G. Stephens, was also coroner for the City and County of San Francisco and he performed an independent review of the autopsy evidence. He agreed with the initial findings of then-LA coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, finding that the methodology and the report itself reflected a legitimate, scientifically acceptable medical examination performed in accordance with 1962 standards. He went on to add that even with the advancements in procedure and technology present in 1982, the conclusions reached by Dr. Noguchi would not, in all reasonable probability, have been changed.

So, how can the theories above be explained? As well as the interviews with Dr. Stephens, Dr. Noguchi also addressed these rumors in his 1985 memoirs. It bothered him that there would be room for speculation, which I’ll address after his medical findings.

Dr. Thomas Noguchi, did not falsify shit.

Firstly, the fact that Marilyn’s stomach was empty not only fails to prove that she had taken the fatal doses orally, but it helps prove that she did. Specifically, her autopsy made it clear that there was hemorrhaging of her stomach lining caused by ingestion of several pills at once, and that because she had been an addict for several years already, her body would more rapidly absorb the pills than would be the case for a non-addict. Further, Dr. Stephens further pointed out in his report that an empty stomach absorbs medications faster than a full one. Additionally, Nembutal would not leave behind any yellow residue. It simply wouldn’t transfer dye in the way alleged by conspiracy theorists.

As for the needle marks not being visible, unless it’s a large gauge needle, such as the ones that draw blood, needle marks disappear quickly. Only very recent injections would leave needle marks that were still visible. Also, the only bruise he had seen on Marilyn’s body was on her lower back, and it was superficial – not the sort of bruise consistent with force – and that its placement was more consistent with an accidental bump rather than restraint or violence. There was absolutely no evidence that Marilyn regularly or even occasionally took enemas, let alone enemas administered by her housekeeper rather than a nurse.

But what about the fact that her organ samples simply vanished?

Ay. They did not “simply vanish.”

Dr. Noguchi took slices of Marilyn’s various organs during the autopsy and sent them to the toxicology lab. They tested the blood and liver samples only, which were both found to have high amounts of lethal drugs – certainly enough to kill her. He noticed that her stomach and its contents had not been tested, but the cause of death was consistent with suicide by oral ingestion of pills leading to an overdose. There was no medical finding to refute the facts alleged by witnesses, nor to refute the physical evidence of method of ingestion and effect. However, when he published his reports, the conspiracy theories escalated. Dr. Noguchi admits a “crucial mistake” in not asking the lab to do further backup of the findings by testing her stomach contents. He did not, however, neglect to correctly and fully find and prove a cause of death. Suicide, ingestion of pills leading to overdose.

Despite Noguchi’s “crucial mistake” – an assessment that he made of himself in retrospect – the claims that Marilyn’s organ samples disappeared is still not true. Head toxicologist Raymond J. Abernathy believed that the tests that were performed by the lab on her blood and liver were overwhelming evidence and proof of Marilyn’s suicide and its method that additional testing would be redundant and unnecessary. Dr. Noguchi did call Abernathy a few weeks after the closure of the case to find out if they had retained the samples. Abernathy had not. The case had been officially closed, so the organ samples were discarded as part of the normal procedure employed by the lab on closed cases.

The notion that the lab and the coroner’s office would conspire to release medical evidence on Marilyn’s blood and liver as part of a cover up would necessitate the dubious notion that a cover up would not have simply involved losing all of the tissue samples, or merely forging test results of them all rather than just two, which would lead to public speculation that there had been a cover up at all. For these allegations to be true, either these masters of manipulation would have to have botched the cover up in a colossal way and Noguchi would be an incompetent doctor who couldn’t falsify reports thoroughly enough, or if, as some allege, he was not involved and his original report was overwritten by a false one, why would the conspirators not write a completely sewn up report that would close all of these gaping holes and put the rumors to rest?

Furthermore, the most pressing finding of Dr. Noguchi’s initial report and Dr. Stephens’ subsequent affirmation of that report point to the most medically sound reason for the conclusions they reached. Injections of high doses of any drug would not deposit in such large numbers into the liver. Only 10% of an injected drug would be found in the liver after the first pass metabolism thereof. Crucially, this also applies to rectal administration. 10% would be in the liver after a rectal administration. Only oral ingestion would deposit as much into the liver as was found in Marilyn’s case.

The high levels of barbiturate in her liver is what led to her death, and was a far slower process than would have been the case had she been injected. In the case of an injection, the blood toxicity would have been very quickly elevated and she would have died very quickly. The time it takes for liver toxicity to become fatal is far higher than the time it takes for blood toxicity to become fatal. So, once again: fatal blood toxicity would not have allowed for the high levels of toxins found in the liver.

Let’s bring this home.

Marilyn Monroe’s death by suicide was, unfortunately, not out of character. It was a horrible ending to a sustained period of despair and physical illness that, when we look at the facts of her life leading up to that night, cannot be surprising, even as we wish it never happened. The accepted “facts” of conspiracy ask us to ignore her actual character and accept the characters projected onto her by the public – a combination of her movie roles and the wild, lurid fantasies attached to her by men who never knew the reality of her life. We are asked to accept that she was having affairs with every man she ever spoke to – dismissing the fact that she was known to “collect experts” who could teach her everything about things she wanted to learn (such as politics).

We are asked to believe only men found to be liars and charlatans, and those who admitted lying on national television, and those who could never produce any evidence whatsoever of their claims of conspiracy by the Kennedys and who were credibly debunked by highly conscientious writers who COULD cite their sources and back their claims with recordings and confirmed quotations. We are asked to discount years of patterns of behavior and character traits not only attested to by people actually close to Marilyn, but also found in countless interviews and statements made by Marilyn herself, in order to believe that her depression and her physical illnesses and exhaustion and overmedication were fabricated, or arranged, in order to stop her from breaking another character trait – the ability to keep secrets about the men in her life – to go public with an affair.

We are asked to assume the worst of everyone involved, to dismiss the possibility of friendship between the Kennedys – all of them – and Marilyn, despite the fact that their circle of friends overlapped again and again. And even if we give oxygen to the possibility that Marilyn and Bobby Kennedy had a night, or two, of passion, that both of them were so emotionally crippled that they couldn’t simply let it pass, and that Marilyn herself was so inexperienced with sexual affairs that she conflated it with love and had no ability to distinguish between a sexual encounter and a relationship. Read about her early life if you’re confused about her naivety. She knew very well about the expectations of men – and women – who wanted her, and did very well at managing them for her entire adult life.

That the world lost Marilyn Monroe is a tragedy, but not worse than the fact that she became so overwhelmed with despair that she felt she had to finally do what she’d tried to do a few times before, and bailed out of at the last minute. And coming in second to the worst part of this is that the rumors about her became common belief, dismissing her actual reality and her personal agency, and her real personality, and grafting onto her a twisted personification of how we see women and what we expect from them at any given moment, and those expectations contradict each other to the point of becoming untenable.

We live in a time when many of us are scared, sleeping restlessly, joking about dying, thinking about giving up – sometimes succeeding – and yet as a society, we continue to allow ourselves to believe the worst of people to the point that this sort of assumption of terrible behavior of others manifests in the worst behaviors in ourselves. To the point that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that shows in the people we have elevated to the highest positions in our culture and how they treat us and each other.

To properly honor Marilyn for who she actually was, may we not only remember how even those of us who like her, love her, adore her, “know” a lot things about her that were engineered to defame her by those that never knew her, but may we also recognize when that’s being done to us and to each other, so that we can keep our heads and our hearts aligned and see each other in truth first, before anything else that we’ve got to work through. And may we work through it together.

To Marilyn, and to you, beloved, beautiful reader, with absolute love.

Johnny, 6Witch3

Marilyn in 1952

Massive thanks to the caretakers of Marilyn’s legacy, and my grateful credit to the info found in Donald Spoto’s book Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, to Donald McGovern’s book Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View of Marilyn Monroe’s Death, and to the information treasure trove found on The Marilyn Monroe Collection.

Mr. President: The Late Marilyn Monroe

Peter Lawford introduced Marilyn Monroe before her performance of her birthday song for President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Because she was a few seconds late onto the stage, and Lawford had to stall with a few lines, when she did run onstage and join Lawford, he put his arms around her and said, “Mr. President: The late Marilyn Monroe.”

I started this article as a vehicle to debunk a few rumors and do a little light teasing about the various quotes that have been attributed to her over the years, and even published in some “reputable” press as fact, proving without a doubt that the writers of those pieces had done only the lightest of search-engine based “research” in order to present listsicles or round ups of “legendary women” and what they can “tell us about ourselves.” Frankly, all those fake quotes can tell us is that the author is a lazy researcher, and a lazy thinker to allow unsourced trickles to feed into their pieces.

But on the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, it became apparent that there is no way to tackle this issue in a light manner if we’re to be honest about it. The projections made onto Marilyn via these quotes, and “conventional wisdom” borne of false rumors about her, reflect the state of our problem with women both during Marilyn’s lifetime, and still today. We keep treading the same ground with our women legends. They’re difficult. They’re bad. They’re created around sex, and only exist for it. They’re tragic, but only after they’ve been wrung out and cast aside, slut-shamed and lied about. And even after they die, the tragic tales are only embraced insofar as it allows our society to treat them as some sort of morality tale – that women can only have a tragic end if they aren’t good, and pure – but not too good and pure, mind you – and that they definitely should have known it was coming and wised up.

These difficult women, these crazy ex-girlfriends, these grown women unable to cope with their overwhelming attachment to men who had to get on with their lives and away from them. We see them again and again. We see them still. We hear their stories every day, yet we fail to see the patterns of how the fuck we treat women in light of the abuse and/or hardships they endure.

In wading through these fake quotes, I found a very real one from Marilyn that addressed this very thing in regard to celebrities:

“This is wrong, because when I was a little girl I read signed stories in fan magazines and I believed every word of them. Then I tried to model my life after the lives of the stars I read about. If I’m going to have that kind of influence, I want to be sure it’s because of something I’ve actually said or written.”

In that spirit, we’ll dig into some quotes, but before we really begin the dismantling of outlandish rumors, let me start with something rather important, that goes to character assassination and that I want to make clear at the outset, as it’s among the more disturbing rumors:

“There were rumors that she had multiple abortions, but she never had one. She had two miscarriages, and an ectopic pregnancy requiring emergency termination, but no abortion.” -Dr. Leon Krohn, Marilyn Monroe’s gynecologist, speaking to biographer Donald Spoto

That should really be the last word on that.

So, what about these fake quotes?

1. “To all the girls that think you’re fat because you’re not a size zero, you’re the beautiful one. It’s society who’s ugly.”

Size zero didn’t exist during Marilyn’s lifetime. Additionally, the common myth that she was a size 14 (or even 16) is misguided. She wore an Italian 1960s size 14 top. It was a little large on her, as photos show. However, her measurements as shown on her modeling card were 36-24-34. She was her heaviest in 1959, and that year, she wore a dress that was made for her, tailored to her body, to an event honoring her then-husband Arthur Miller. This dress is in a collection and the waist measures at 28.5″. The following year, she shed the extra weight, and by 1962, after she’d had two surgeries (more about that below), she wore an acid green Emilio Pucci top that was later auctioned off at Christie’s. The size shows 14, but it’s a 1962 Italian size 14. Today, it’s displayed on a size 6-8 dress form.

Remember when Elizabeth Hurley said this in 2000?

“I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat. I went to see her clothes in the exhibition and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. (laughs) She was very big.”

First of all, gross. She decided to form her mouth around a disgusting attack one of the most beautiful women that ever lived, in addition to fat-shaming normal-sized women today, and saying she would kill herself if she was (that) fat – wow – but she was also wrong. Even giving this trash take the benefit of the doubt, if she saw one of the two garments below, she is too much of a simpleton to have considered how they fit Marilyn at the time. One is a maternity dress that was baggy on her, and the other was a wide-cut overcoat – with a belled bottom that clearly flared out like a swing coat.

(Big ups to The Marilyn Monroe Collection for this size info and videos.)

Anyway, had Marilyn been a size 14 as we see them today, society would have been very different in a lot of ways. But she wasn’t. This quote may speak some truth, but it wasn’t Marilyn’s truth.

2. “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”

I mean, sure. But she didn’t say that. Dr. Timothy Leary did. Yes, that Timothy Leary.

3. “Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.”

Wow. That sounds practically tailor-made for Marilyn. She really didn’t say it?

Nope. But it was tailor-made for her. Silent film star Clara Bow said it about Marilyn just after Marilyn’s death in 1962. (Clara herself didn’t die until 1965.)

4. “Give a girl the right shoes and she will conquer the world.”

This is a twist on this quote: “Give a girl the correct footwear and she can conquer the world,” which is actually attributed to Bette Midler in a newspaper article from 1985.

5. “Well behaved women seldom make history.”

This was actually a quote from a paper by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a historian writing about Puritan funeral practices in 1976. This was so misquoted so regularly that Ulrich wrote a book in 2008 with the entire quote as the title, which examines the stories of women who “challenged the way history was written.” But still, prints with this quote and attribution to Marilyn persist.

6. “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.”

This one is a little harder to source, but the best info I could find was that it was said by Bessie Coleman. Now, this may seem a dubious quote from Bessie Coleman too, given that she was actually famous for being the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the first American of any race or gender to be awarded pilot credentials from the Federation Aeronitique Internationale in France, which required a very high level of skill with maneuvers. (She’d only trained for ten months in total.) However, when she returned, she received a silver cup as a kind gift to recognize her achievement. It was from the cast of Shuffle Along, a musical which featured Josephine Baker in one of her earliest roles. From then on, the two spent time together frequently, reportedly living the high life in the flapper era. Josephine was so influenced by her that she went on to earn her pilot’s license in 1933, and Bessie absolutely embraced the feminine dress of her day. In fact, she was a licensed manicurist and beautician before she ever got to sit in a plane. Could she have said it? Maybe. But Marilyn definitely did not.

7. “We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.”

This is when it starts getting gross. This is the vaseline lens take on what she actually said, which was in response to a party invitation that she was turning down: “Unfortunately, I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demanded was our right to twinkle.”

Oh, you didn’t know she was physically involved in civil rights protests? Because some asshole turned that strong, clear message into a pithy meme and everybody ran with it.

8. “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can be put together.”

During Marilyn’s lifetime, film, audio tape and print were well-employed to archive even the most arcane details of a celebrity’s life. Certainly we don’t have complaints of lost Marilyn interviews or footage like we do of stars of the silent film era. Archiving was in full swing. Yet there is no record of this being spoken or written by Marilyn anywhere. Also, this is out of character. She remained trusting, and optimistic, even as depression was taking her over. She had eternal hope for the possibility of love. Which leads us to the next fake quote.

9. “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love. Listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”

Again, no source. It appears in no known interview. But it was out of character. She didn’t reduce herself to simply “wanting a man,” but she did not give up on love. She was simply not this cynical, even in her final year. Or month.

10. “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Holy shit. Even a cursory read of her earliest childhood would tell you that she never, ever fetishized “madness.” In fact, she was terrified of it in her mother, whose mental illness issues created a very difficult situation for Marilyn as a child, but also of it in herself. Though it’s public speculation that Marilyn’s “madness” was inevitable and possibly genetic, there is no evidence to support that. Her mental health issues can be directly traced to events in her life, more than genetic profiles. Regardless, this idea of the genius of madness wasn’t normalized for women. Men could be mad geniuses, but there was no way a woman would be seen in a positive light, and this quote is out of character AND career-damaging if she’d said it.

Furthermore, the idea of imperfection being beautiful to her is laughable. It’s well documented how careful and deliberate Marilyn was at applying makeup and dressing herself. She would agonize over details of her makeup until they were perfect. She was absolutely a perfectionist in terms of her appearance, and her acting. We may wish to read this quote as permission to be imperfect, and a little weird, and to let ourselves off the hook a little bit with our standards, but Marilyn would never have done this for herself. Never.

11. “Nothing lasts forever, so live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the drama, take chances and never have regrets because at one point everything you did was exactly what you wanted.”

You probably understand by now why this is out of character, far too cynical and YOLO for Marilyn, and no way she said this. But “avoid the drama” wasn’t even a phrase at any point in her life in this context. The only way she would have said “avoid the drama” is if she were speaking about taking a comedy script over a dramatic one (which is another thing she likely would not have done).

Arguably the most famous fake quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe?

12. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at time hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.”

This has been traced back to someone’s OK Cupid bio from 2009, but no attribution before that, and no interview with or written piece by Marilyn Monroe exists with this quotation. This might sound great, but it’s more Carrie Bradshaw than Marilyn Monroe. It also deals with the projection of Marilyn that we’re dealing with in popular culture rather than the real woman.

Marilyn was not selfish. Not ever. Not even the men that hated her for whatever reasons would assert that she was. She had a huge capacity for compassion, and she demonstrated care for others above herself throughout her entire life. She didn’t consistently let people take advantage of her, but she absolutely picked others over herself when she could “afford” to do so, emotionally and financially. This is borne out in her devotion to her stepchildren from her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller both – all children would consistently talk about how wonderful she was to them.

It’s also evident in the way that she used her position to call attention to injustice, to champion individuals in asserting their rights, or opening opportunities for them, and also in the fact that she took financial care of everyone connected with her past that had helped her, or that was related to her by blood or family bond. She also, in her will, left 25% of her estate to former psychiatrist, Dr. Marianne Kris, “to be used for the furtherance of the work of such psychiatric institutions or groups as she shall elect.” Knowing Marilyn’s enormous love for children, Kris chose the Anna Freud Children’s Clinic of London. (Big ups again to The Marilyn Monroe Collection for the direct quote from her will.)

A detail often omitted from her famous trip to entertain and visit with the troops in Korea was that she visited wounded soldiers in hospital, and when she came across a soldier who had been suspended facing the floor in order to alleviate his pain and allow for healing, she laid herself down in her fur coat and spoke to him from her position flat on the floor.

But still, she had this… reputation.

A difficult woman.

Despite her best efforts to be a professional at the top of her game, her endless, lifelong quest to improve her craft (including intense acting training from four acting coaches, even up to her last year of life), she could not fully overcome physical ailments that took their toll on her mental health. She was chronically ill and was particularly susceptible to ENT issues – sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, cold and flu – and suffered with insomnia that prolonged these illnesses and zapped her immune system, leaving her exhausted. She was prescribed barbiturates to sleep, and amphetamines to wake up – a familiar cocktail in those days, and one that claimed Judy Garland among countless others, before the effects of this rollercoaster of chemicals were fully understood and, even when they were, exceptions were made for the rich and famous.

Among her personal effects, collected and catalogued, were a prescription bottle for phenergan, used to treat allergy symptoms (also, motion sickness, nausea, vomiting or pain, and as a sleep aid – think diphenhydramine plus), and prescription eye drops, and not one, but two custom tissue box covers. She consistently had the sniffles, and it wasn’t for the usual “Hollywood reasons.”

Her visit to the troops in Korea, which she later described as “the highlight” of her life, resulted in pneumonia, which took her down for days after her return home. During the filming of A Ticket to Tomahawk, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Bus Stop, she got walloped with bronchitis or the flu, depending on the year, and had to take time off of filming. After the famous updraft skirt scene in The Seven Year Itch (which took three hours standing barelegged being blown with cold air to film) she caught a chill. Her final film, Something’s Got To Give, started filming a week late because of an acute sinus infection and a fever. She was able to turn up for one day on the set when her doctor advised her that she needed to be in bed for at least a week. (In fact, she would be seriously ill for the following six weeks.)

Marilyn in the famous updraft shot publicity event for The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn in Korea, with American soldiers

In most instances, studio execs and some colleagues cast doubt on her illnesses, suggesting that she was just drunk, or high, and lazy, and unprofessional. She was famously fired from the production of Something’s Got To Give, and shooting was shut down, and in that case, the studio went further, stating outright what was only buzzed about before. In fact, she actually gave a quote at the time: “Executives can get a cold and stay home and phone in, but the actor? How dare you get a cold or a virus! I wish they had to act a comedy with a temperature and a virus infection!”

By the time Marilyn’s dependency on barbiturates really took hold, she already had a reputation for being difficult because of her chronic illnesses. Further, director Billy Wilder’s exasperation with her during the shooting of Some Like It Hot did indeed stem from her frequent late starts (noon) and her early departures from the set. What he didn’t know at the time was that she was pregnant, and her then-husband Arthur Miller didn’t want her to work at all – he gave her “permission” to work a few hours, after which she would become exhausted. This was an already precarious pregnancy – one which she very much wanted to succeed – and when she miscarried three months in, it was devastating and she was racked with guilt because, as she told friends, she thought she caused it by taking her prescribed pills “on an empty stomach”. Her physicians knew she was pregnant. She would have had no clear way to learn the real risks of barbiturates in pregnancy, nor alcohol. (She said she took sherry during her pregnancy.)

Marilyn miscarried twice and lost one pregnancy (ectopic – the pregnancy was outside of the fallopian tube and therefore not viable, and lethal to continue) three years in a row from 1956, 1957 and 1958. The films she completed in the following two years, Let’s Make Love and The Misfits didn’t do well at the box office, and during the filming of The Misfits, she was in the hospital for a week. This was her last completed film, written by Arthur Miller – from whom she divorced in January of 1961 – and the film is not her usual lighthearted fare. It’s a bleak, tense film with the most genuine acting of her career, and perhaps one of the best lines she’s ever embodied in its delivery. Addressing the men in the room: “You are only happy when you can see something die. Why don’t you kill yourselves, and be happy?”

Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits

1961 was a terrible year for Marilyn, not just because of depression one would think of as normal when one’s career is suffering the fickleness of the public and the media who preferred the dumb blonde they could wolf-whistle over without all these emotions and shit, and not just because of signing her marriage’s death warrant. She suffered immensely from endometriosis – a condition still not fully understood for what it is – a condition which presents with excruciating pain and usually the loss of fertility among those who suffer it. It was, perhaps, a previously undiagnosed contributor to her miscarriages, and likely caused her to suffer elevated menstrual pain every month. She finally had surgery to address it in this year, and then also had her gall bladder removed. She spent weeks in the hospital, and checked herself in for psychiatric care to address her depression. When she got out, she left Manhattan and returned to LA. This is when she was to begin shooting Something’s Got To Give, and when she caught the sinusitis which felled her for six weeks. Multiple doctors confirmed the illness, but she was publicly mocked for faking it by her studio and the press ate it up.

She returned to work (after a quick stop to sing Happy Birthday to JFK at Madison Square Garden) and resumed filming when she had a relapse and couldn’t shoot. Fox fired her, then sued her for breach of contract. (Dean Martin refused to reshoot the film with Lee Remick, who’d been called in to replace Marilyn, and the studio sued him too and then folded the production entirely.)

The studio went into full on defamation mode, claiming that Marilyn’s drug addiction and “lack of professionalism” and – they really said this – “mental disturbance” were to blame for their failure to heed the advice of physicians to postpone the start of filming. Despite this, she made several attempts to drag herself onto the set, and keep up with public appearances, and unsurprisingly, relapsed. After this relentless mudslinging by Fox, Marilyn did a series of interviews in the magazines with the highest profiles of their day – Life, Cosmo and Vogue. She made enough headway to renegotiate her contract with Fox, and planned to return to shoot Something’s Got To Give in September of 1962. She also had plans for a new film, and a Jean Harlow biopic.

Unfortunately, she died in the first week of August of 1962, before any of these plans were realized.

But despite Fox giving her a new contract and agreeing to resume shooting the very film she was fired from for allegedly never showing up except when she was high or drunk, only to leave abruptly, their ugly, and very public accusations were accepted as fact. It was only finally debunked by the unreleased footage she had shot being made public in 1990. It proved that she had been on set, she was far from incoherent, and had shot several scenes. Interestingly, it was Henry (not Harvey) Weinstein that made the truth known: the head executive of Fox, Peter Levathes, was inexperienced and the studio had severe financial troubles they could not surmount, and had used Monroe’s illnesses as an excuse to first cut costs by replacing her big paycheck with a smaller one for Lee Remick, and then killing the film altogether.

Will you look at this? There she is, on the set, acting, and also visibly ill.

Marilyn Monroe on the Set of Something’s Got To Give

Marilyn Monroe on the Set of Something’s Got To Give. Her actual illness is clearly visible, but was chalked up to her being “high” and “drunk” despite the film footage showing her lucid and performing her scenes normally.

So, we know Fox Studios was a trashfire and that she fought to regain her position and reputation from them. Still, rumors assuming the worst of her never really went away, even as she’s turned into a tragic figure. Part two of this article gets deep into tinfoil country. Get your hats ready.

This amazing photos is by Jeff Hall

Part Two –>

The Inimitable James Baldwin

Today is the anniversary of James Baldwin’s birthday. He was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, who also rose to prominence as a civil rights activist in the 60s, and who was adored by fellow active artists and creators such as Nina Simone, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Dick Gregory, Margaret Mead, Marlon Brando – the list goes on and on.

There’s a photo of James with Marlon Brando at this link.

James Baldwin dancing with Lorraine Hansberry. Photograph by Steve Schapiro. Available in the book Schapiro’s Heroes.

The adjective most applied to Mr. Baldwin in popular media is “eloquent,” and  though it’s been and can be a loaded word, it’s not been overcome by a better one. But though “eloquent” can join “articulate” in the list of words that surprised White academics apply to Black folks who can make their points very clear and conduct debates with solid arguments and factual examples, as though it was a shocking trait for them to have, the fact of the matter is that James Baldwin was eloquent to the extent that he could have listeners jumping to their feet to applaud him, and have readers putting their books down for a moment to let the rapture wash over them. He was an incredible writer, but also, and perhaps most importantly in the relatively new age of accessible film recorders and television cameras poised to debate race, he was eloquent in speech, off the cuff. He never faltered, he very rarely uttered a crutch word – in fact, I can’t remember an “um” from him, though there must have been one at some point, surely.

Nina Simone and James Baldwin seated on a couch facing each other, in conversation. James is holding the stub of a cigarette and smiling impishly at Nina.

Nina Simone and James Baldwin, a still from the documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?

The impact that James Baldwin had at the time, and still has today, is massive and cannot be overstated. His thoughts stand up today because so much of the issue has not been resolved in the US, but also, his ability to throw down arguments comes from the fact that his view is both furious and kind, both accusatory and sympathetic, to all the parts and players in the country in which he found himself. And as he grew up and began to understand what race meant, his keen observations about the nature of humanity and how things got corrupted and twisted up for the oppressor and the oppressed, blossomed into perfect points that he could unspool and fit into any allotted time slot, long or short, and make people understand. He could debate absolutely anyone, and I’ve never seen him “lose” an argument. The notion that there can be a winner in a debate about racial disparity in the US is another matter – no one can win until we all do. No one can be free until we all are. As long as there is a target, there is a war which no one can win. Baldwin’s non-fiction work and speech reflects that though there is ample reason to be angry when injustice is present, there is the capacity for great love among human beings and it should be uplifted whenever possible.

Contact Sheet of Photos of James Baldwin by Jack Manning in 1972, taken for the New York Times. From the article Looking Again at James Baldwin

Baldwin was also a writer of fiction, of beautiful stories of ordinary people, the people he knew and could project himself into. One of these stories is If Beale Street Could Talk, about a young couple, Tish and Fonny, in Memphis, Tennessee, who are on track to start a life together when Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned. One of Baldwin’s greatest fans, a sublime artist in his own right, is film director Barry Jenkins, who directed the exquisite film Moonlight. Today, Mr. Jenkins released the first trailer from his film adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, and you can already see that it’s gotten the tender care it deserves in Mr. Jenkins’ capable hands.

Cover of the book If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

The higher resolution of the video trailer, available for full-screen viewing on YouTube, is right here:

The film stars KiKi Layne as Tish, Stephan James as Fonny, and also stars Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Teyonah Parris and Finn Wittrock, among others, and is slated for initial release on January 11, 2019.

For more James Baldwin, we are rich with media to explore more on this incredible thinker on the anniversary of his birthday and beyond.

Here are some of his greatest moments captured on film:

We mentioned Margaret Mead above. There exists a book which is now out of print called A Rap On Race and it’s the transcript of a discussion between Margaret Mead and James Baldwin. We’re happy to provide a link to the audio version of this talk, which they had in 1971. While the discussion is very much of its time, it’s still pertinent, and still valuable to revisit because of its relevance today.

If the above link disappears for any reason, you can grab the mp3 version of the audio file of A Rap On Race right here.

And no blog entry about James Baldwin would be complete without his masterful side eye expression in this gif, taken from the 1963 interview with Kenneth Clark above. Here it is in context:

Baldwin: The future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dull as the future of this country. It is entirely up to the American people, and not our representatives, it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they’ve relied on so long. What Black people have to do is try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a “nigger” in the first place. Because I am not a “nigger,” I am a man. But if you think I’m a “nigger,” it means you need him. The question you’ve got to ask yourself, the White population of this country has got to ask itself, north and south, because it’s one country and for a Negro, there is no difference between the north and the south. It’s just a difference in the way they castrate you, but the fact of the castration is the American fact. If i’m not the “nigger” here, and if you invented him, you, the White people invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether I was able to ask that question.

James Baldwin’s epic side eye

Clark: As a negro, and as an American, I can only hope that America has the strength and the positive…

Baldwin: The moral strength.

Clark: …to ask and answer that question…

Baldwin: Simply to face that question. Face that question.

Clark: …in an affirmative and a constructive way. Thank you very much.

Baldwin: Thank you, Ken.

Happy birthday, James.