Marilyn’s Brentwood Home For Sale (Again)

Marilyn’s final, ‘modest’ home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood – bought less than a year before her death, and the only property she ever owned – is back on the market for $6.9 million, Mark David reports for Variety. (It was last sold in 2010 for $3.8 million. For the definitive account of her time at Fifth Helena, read Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Hacienda by Gary Vitacco Robles.)

“The bottle blond bombshell personally searched for and purchased the 1929 Spanish hacienda style home in the coveted and star-studded Helenas district in early 1962. Some reports say she paid $67,000 and others $90,000.

Privately and securely situated at the end of an itty-bitty cul-de-sac behind a high wall, secured gate and canopy of trees on what marketing materials declare as the ‘largest parcel of all the Helena streets,’ the red tile roofed, single-story residence measures in at an extraordinarily modest by today’s celebrity standards 2,624 square feet. Renovated, updated and expanded over the years by the various owners, the residence retains a number of original architectural details such as thick white stucco walls, casement windows, some fitted with wrought iron grills, terra-cotta tile floors, Gothic arch doorways, and vaulted, exposed wood ceilings.

The Helenas, a series of 25 tiny cul-de-sacs that run from San Vicente Boulevard to just above Sunset Boulevard at the eastern edge of the posh Brentwood Park neighborhood, has long been attractive to Tinseltown types.”

Richard Meryman Dies at 88

Meryman1

Journalist Richard Meryman – who was the last person to interview Marilyn, and went on to become an acclaimed biographer – has died aged 88, reports the New York Times.

The son of artist Richard Sumner Meryman, ‘Junior’ was born in Washington, and grew up in Dublin, New Hampshire. He graduated from Andover and Williams College, was an All-American lacrosse player, and a World War II Navy ensign. In 1949 he was hired by Life magazine,  and became its human affairs editor. Meryman is credited as a pioneer of the taped interview.

On February 10, 1962, Meryman wrote a letter to Marilyn requesting an interview. On May 17, Marilyn arrived in New York for John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala (which took place two days later.) That evening, she and publicist John Springer met Meryman and his assistant, Barbara Villet, at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, and arranged an interview.

On July 4, Meryman interviewed Marilyn at her new home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. On July 9, Meryman brought her a transcript of their discussion. She received a copy of the article on July 14, and it was published in Life on Friday, August 3 – the day before she died. In the magazine’s next issue, Meryman published his own reminiscences of their encounter, entitled ‘A Last Talk With a Lonely Girl.’

Thirty years after Marilyn’s death, Meryman’s tapes were broadcast  in an HBO documentary, Marilyn: The Last Interview. ‘My experience with stars is that – through all the publicity and the hype and everything – the public senses the essence of the person,’ Meryman told CNN’s Larry King in 2001. ‘And the essence of Marilyn is she communicated a kind of truth. And truth is very powerful.’

tumblr_lerof2fhex1qcqlr9o1_500

Meryman’s interview was published as a compendium of quotes from Marilyn herself, without his questions. It gives the reader a sense of hearing Marilyn’s own voice, perhaps for the first time. She talked about her difficult childhood, the double-edged nature of stardom, and her recent dispute with Twentieth Century-Fox. In 2007, the ‘last interview’ was included in ‘Great Interviews of the 20th Century‘, a series of pamphlets published by The Guardian.

life aug 17 62

Perhaps inspired by his work with Marilyn, Elizabeth Taylor collaborated with him on a 1964 book, Elizabeth Taylor: An Informal Memoir. Louis Armstrong was among many other celebrities interviewed by Meryman, and a short book, Louis Armstrong: A Self-Portrait, was published following his death in 1971.

Meryman’s subsequent biographies included Mank: The Wit, World and Life of Herman Mankiewicz (1978) and Enter Talking, a 1987 collaboration with acid-tongued comedienne Joan Rivers.

His first wife, artist Hope Brooks, died of a malignant melanoma in 1975, leaving behind two daughters. Meryman wrote about his grief in a 1980 memoir, Hope: A Loss Survived. In the same year, he was remarried to art consultant Elizabeth Burns.

Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life,  Meryman’s biography of the American artist (best-known for his 1948 painting, Christina’s World) was published in 1998. Meryman had befriended Wyeth in 1964. Wyeth died in 2009. In 2013, Meryman published an illustrated compendium of their discussions, Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait.

Meryman also wrote a novel, Broken Promises, Mended Dreams (1984.) He died of pneumonia in Manhattan on February 5, and is survived by his second wife, his two daughters and two stepsons, and grandchildren.

Revisiting Marilyn’s Last Home

The Huffington Post profiles Marilyn’s charming, Spanish-style home at Fifth Helena Drive in  Brentwood, Los Angeles, with exterior and interior photos of the house today.

“The one-story white stucco house was built in 1929. When Marilyn Monroe bought it, it had three bedrooms and two baths plus a detached guest house. The legendary actress used one bedroom for herself, installed her housekeeper-companion Eunice Murray in a second bedroom and the third bedroom was used as a ‘telephone room,’ according to various reports. There was, and still is, a kidney-shaped swimming pool in the backyard that Monroe reportedly never used.

Reports say that Monroe threw herself into making her house a home. Shortly before her death, she traveled to Mexico to buy authentic furnishings and art work — some of which were found still in their shipping boxes when they found her body. The last check she ever wrote was for a white chest of drawers.

She even had an herb garden planted on the gated property that sits at the end of a cul-de-sac.”

Feng Shui at Fifth Helena Drive

A more spiritual perspective on Marilyn’s last home, currently up for sale, from Dana Claudat.

I must admit to having mixed feelings about this property. While it is a beautiful house, where Marilyn once lived, it is also the place where her life ended. Whoever finally buys it will have to accept that it will always carry these associations with MM, and it inspires a sometimes morbid curiosity in people.

The house is located in a tiny cul-de-sac in Brentwood, a quiet, upmarket residential suburb of Los Angeles. Some of its more recent occupants and neighbours have not been happy about the constant visits by sightseers, and I can understand that.

However, public interest shows no sign of waning. Ideally I would like to see this house restored to its 1962 form as a national heritage site, in the way that John Lennon’s childhood home in Liverpool, UK is now maintained.

But while Monroe is fast becoming one of America’s greatest icons, historians have been slow to recognise this. The endless auctions of recent years, where Marilyn’s personal property has been dispersed among private collectors, are a similar example of opportunities squandered.

And with no surviving relatives to protect Marilyn’s legacy, I can’t see a sea-change occurring anytime soon. In death, as in life, Monroe seems to be alone and unprotected.