Marilyn, Drew, JFK Jr. and a Notorious Cover Story

Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…

“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.

Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.

That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”

Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Madonna as Marilyn, 1993

And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.

Marilyn Haunts the Front Pages

Following a recent cover story in Yours Retro magazine,  the 60th anniversary of Some Like It Hot also makes the front page of the latest Weekly News, plus a centrefold tribute from Craig Campbell.

On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?

Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.

Thanks to Fraser and Johan

Remembering Marilyn in Hemet

In this week’s Valley Chronicle, Mark Lentine looks at Marilyn’s connection to the California town of Hemet. Although she was named Norma Jeane Mortensen at birth (after her mother Gladys’ estranged husband, Edward Mortensen) it is widely believed that her real father was C. Stanley Gifford. He and Gladys had a relationship while working at Consolidated Film Industries in Los Angeles.

Over the years, Marilyn made many attempts to contact Gifford, without success. Gifford had remarried and managed the Red Rock Dairy in Hemet. It is believed he did not want to upset his wife and children by letting Marilyn into his life.

Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece Miracle has claimed that they finally met in the year before Marilyn passed, and it has been reported that in 1965, a dying Gifford confessed to his pastor, Reverend Don Liden of the First Presbyterian Church, that he was indeed Marilyn’s father. Gifford was buried in the San Jacinto Valley Cemetery.

“Monroe was seen many times in the Hemet area, most times staying at the Soboba Hot Springs. She was seen making clandestine calls or stopping at bars (most frequently mentioned in the reminiscences of locals is Chappies Bar) and asking for a Charles Stanley Gifford.

‘My dad and mom were out at the Soboba Hot Springs for dinner, a very upscale dining spot in town. My dad started to get out of the car but was stopped by someone who looked familiar. The gentleman had gone to dad’s side of the car to let a woman out of the car. When the woman stepped out of the car, dad realised why the man had looked familiar; it was Joe DiMaggio, and he was holding the door open for his wife, Marilyn Monroe …’, said a smiling former Hemet mayor, Robert Lindquist.

I asked Lindquist if he believed that Gifford was indeed Monroe’s father. ‘Oh yes, it was quite well-known here in town. I delivered newspapers and was a child at the time, but I clearly remember Mr. Gifford very well; he was always very neat and had a small mustache; very debonair …'”

Gianni Russo Claims Affair With Marilyn

Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.

Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)

Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)

Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.

Gianni Russo in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.

Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.

What She Said: Marilyn and Chanel No. 5

Marilyn by Bob Beerman, 1953

Over at Garage Magazine, Tatum Dooley traces the origins of Marilyn’s famous quote regarding her favourite perfume…

“When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously replied, ‘I only wear Chanel No. 5.’

The quote originates from a retelling by Monroe to Life Magazine in April 1952. The question wasn’t posed by Life; instead Monroe offered it up as a anecdote: “Once this fellow says, “Marilyn, what do you wear to bed?’ So I said I only wear Chanel No. 5.”‘

A bastardized version often tidily conflates Monroe as both speakers: ‘What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.’

Monroe is the subject of the second advertisement in a multi-part campaign, titled ‘Inside Chanel,’ levied by the brand. The ad, at just over two minutes, makes Monroe a posthumous face of the venerable perfume. ‘We may never know when she said the phrase for the first time,’ the video states about Monroe’s famous reference to the perfume, going on to cite all the times they have proof it happened: April 7th, 1952, in Life Magazine. October 1953, at a photoshoot for Modern Screen. April 1970, Marie Claire.

‘°5, because it’s the truth… and yet, I don’t want to say nude. But it’s the truth!’

But…it’s the truth lingers on the screen.”

The True Story of Marilyn’s Nude Calendar Scandal

The story behind Marilyn’s nude calendar scandal is retold by Pierre Vulag, owner of the Limited Runs poster company, in an interview with Alec Banks for High Snobiety. It’s a good read, with a couple of minor corrections: firstly, Marilyn was shooting Clash By Night when the news broke in early 1952 (not Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which came later); and secondly, while Marilyn told reporters she had posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley because she was behind on her rent, it was actually to get her car out of hock. (Her friend Sidney Skolsky had advised her that the rent story would play better with the public, and it worked!)

“Every press person I talk to ends their questions with ‘why do you still think people are fascinated by Marilyn Monroe?’ It’s exactly that. When the studio insisted that she deny it, she said ‘I will not, and it is me. I have nothing to be ashamed of.’ It was that honesty that the public could relate to … You think of all the Hollywood actors that people still relate to today – James Dean, Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart. Those people bled on the screen. They were honest and their personality was like ‘this is who I am, take me or leave me.’ And it’s that thing that she had and people loved.”

Marilyn Slept Here: Sinatra, Crosby Homes for Sale

Unlike her celebrity peers, Marilyn preferred to live modestly. Nonetheless, you may recall that a Los Angeles home she shared with Joe DiMaggio was recently put on the market (see here) – and it has now been joined by two luxury estates with connections to Marilyn. As reported in Architectural Digest, Frank Sinatra’s former Los Angeles home is on sale for $12.5 million.  (It was last put up for sale in 2012, as reported here.)

Marilyn stayed in Sinatra’s guesthouse (shown at top) in 1961. They were having an on-off relationship, and Frank was abroad on tour. She later spent a few months renting an apartment in the Doheny Drive complex he owned, as a neighbour to his secretary, Gloria Lovell.

“Old Blue Eyes himself lived in the sprawling home in the 1950s and 60s and frequently hosted his famous friends … the home seems preordained to shelter celebrities from the Hollywood hullabaloo, as it rests at the end of a near mile-long driveway atop a private promontory that overlooks the vast 1,325-acre Chatsworth Reservoir nature preserve.

Constructed in 1949 by William Pereira, Byrdview is only one of four homes the famed architect designed. Sitting on seven acres, the midcentury-modern house comprises three structures: the main house, a guest house (with its own pool), and a cabana … Outdoors, beyond the pool, there’s a parking space for 100 cars and enough agricultural-zoned acreage that, should the new owners like their wines, a vineyard could be built.”

Secondly, the Rancho Mirage estate of Bing Crosby (near Palm Springs), where Marilyn and John F. Kennedy were among the weekend guests during the March 1962 Democratic Convention, is on sale for $5 million ( although the property has been available for some time, as reported here.) This is the only verified occasion when Marilyn and the president spent a night at the same address, and rather predictably, it’s being promoted as ‘the tryst house’, according to Bloomberg. (Incidentally, Sinatra had hoped to host Kennedy and was reportedly furious that he chose Crosby, a Republican, instead!)

“The 6,700-square-foot estate, spread across more than an acre, was built for the crooner and his second wife, Kathryn, in 1957. The single-story home, with a 1,400-square-foot master suite along with four other en-suite bedrooms, has been on and off the market since 2010, when it was first listed for $3.4 million. It’s also been available for rent through Airbnb for $3,400 a night.”

Marilyn, Hefner and the Sex Tape That Never Was

Marilyn is the victim of yet another ‘fake news’ story today, as it’s been reported that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dumped a sealed casket containing his vast collection of sex tapes into the sea before he died.  ‘Marilyn [Monroe] was definitely in them as well as many superstars who graced the pages of his magazine,’ an unnamed source told UK tabloid The Sun. While Hefner’s admiration for Marilyn is well-known, there’s a big hole in this story: by his own admission they never met.

Fake News: Marilyn in the ‘Examiner’

The US scandal sheet, National Examiner, has a typically ludicrous front page story this week. Inside, it is claimed that Marilyn killed her Misfits co-star Clark Gable with pills and sex. Needless to say, there was no affair between Marilyn and Gable, who was happily married and expecting his first child when he tragically died shortly after filming wrapped in 1960.

This is just one of many headlines over the years which has sought to blame Marilyn for Gable’s death. While her chronic lateness certainly tested his patience, Gable’s own poor health, his heavy drinking and smoking habits combined with his insistence on doing his own stunts, all contributed to his fatal heart attack.

The source for this story, the Examiner claims, is actor Charlton Heston, who supposedly told all on his deathbed in 2008. However, Heston never worked with Marilyn and was only seen with her once, at the Golden Globes in 1962. Why the legendary actor would have been talking about a woman he barely knew in his dying breath is never explained.

Thanks to All About Marilyn