Today’s leading news story concerns the release of US government files on the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Predictably, tabloid journalists have focused on the president’s rumoured affair with Marilyn before her death in 1962, but in fact, little of substance has emerged on the subject.
Prior to the disclosure, a reporter for gossip website TMZ spoke on camera with Clint Hill, the secret service agent who was in the car when Kennedy was fatally shot. When asked about the alleged Monroe affair, Hill said ‘That’s a fallacy. I never saw her, and I was with him a lot.’
The New York Post notes that an 11-page file was compiled on The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe, a 1964 polemic by the right-wing conspiracy theorist Frank Capell, and the first to implicate the Kennedys in her death. David Marshall, author of The DD Group: An Online Investigation Into the Death of Marilyn Monroe, has reviewed Capell’s book here, while April VeVea – author of Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life – has written about Capell here. With all this in mind, you can also read the book in full here, and judge for yourself.
Unacknowleged, a new documentary about UFOs written and directed by Michael Mazzola, rehashes a very old rumour: that the Kennedys ordered Marilyn’s death because she threatened to tell the secrets she knew about an alleged UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico. You can view a clip here.
This 2011 article by Nick Redfern for the Mysterious Universe website sums up an outlandish, and (in my opinion) highly improbable conspiracy theory.
“By far the most controversial piece of unauthenticated documentation pertaining to UFOs concerns none other than the late Hollywood legend, Marilyn Monroe. It was during a press conference in 1995 that Milo Speriglio – an investigative author now deceased, who wrote three books on Monroe’s death: The Marilyn Conspiracy; Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-Up; and Crypt 33: The Saga of Marilyn Monroe – revealed the document to the world’s press.
Incredibly, according to the document, which surfaced via a California-based researcher of UFOs named Timothy Cooper, President John F. Kennedy had guardedly informed Monroe that he had secret knowledge of the controversial incident at Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. As a result of Kennedy’s revelations to Monroe, the CIA took keen note of any and all developments as the story progressed. Or, at least, that is what we are led to believe, and what the document implies.
The bulk of the contents of the document are focused upon telephone conversations between Howard Rothberg, the former owner of a New York-based antique store, and Dorothy Kilgallen, the well-known celebrity gossip columnist of the 1950s and 1960s, who was herself the subject of a secret 167-page FBI file.
According to Speriglio: ‘[Rothberg] also dealt with a lot of photographers who used to film Marilyn. He got a lot of information about her from them, and he would feed it to Dorothy Kilgallen.’ Interestingly, Speriglio also revealed that the document was the subject of an investigation that was being undertaken by no less than ‘two federal agencies.’ To date, however, the names of those specific agencies have not been revealed.
When the document surfaced, Vicki Ecker, then the editor of UFO Magazine, said: ‘To put it succinctly, the document suggests that on the day she died, Monroe was going to hold her own press conference, where she was planning to spill the beans about, amongst other things, JFK’s secret knowledge of UFOs and dead aliens.’
Indeed, the document, ominously dated only two days before Monroe’s controversial death on August 5, 1962, tells the whole, remarkable story. Notably, at the top of the page it clearly states: ‘References: MOON DUST, Project’ (which was a genuine U.S. operation designed to capture, understand, and exploit overseas advanced technologies, such as Soviet spy-satellites.)
But, with all that said, where are things at today with respect to this most curious and extremely controversial document? Well, Tim Cooper left the UFO scene years ago, and has utterly washed his hands of the document – as well as many other questionable documents on crashed UFOs that he secured from Deep Throat-type sources in the 1990s.
And the CIA? The Agency officially denies having any files, at all, on the Hollywood hotty – despite the ironic fact that the very first document in the FBI’s ‘Monroe File’ was copied to the CIA! As for the players in the saga, they’re all gone to their graves.”
UK television’s Channel 5 will broadcast a new, hour-long documentary – Marilyn Monroe: Missing Evidence – tonight at 8 pm. It is produced by Dan Chambers, the channel’s former Director of Programmes, and David McNab, who has an extensive track record in innovative, CGI-led factual TV. Director Renny Bartlett is best known for his work on the Animal Planet series, I Shouldn’t Be Alive.
The synopsis seems to indicate a theory akin to Donald Wolfe’s in his controversial book, The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, while the claim of recordings made inside Marilyn’s home suggests either detective John Miner’s widely-disputed ‘transcripts’ of tapes made by Marilyn for psychoanalyst Dr Greenson (still not found), or Private Investigator Fred Otash’s unconfirmed allegations of wire-tapping.
At this stage, it’s very unlikely that any new or conclusive evidence will emerge. I remain sceptical, but will give you my verdict after I’ve seen the documentary.
“Investigating the evidence that supports some of the world’s most notorious conspiracy theories. Though she officially committed suicide, some people have long claimed that the FBI, the Mafia and even the Kennedy family may have been involved in Marilyn Monroe’s death. This programme looks at some of these claims, and also reveals the contents of tape recordings made inside Monroe’s house on the fateful day of August 5, 1962, which suggest her psychiatrist may have been responsible for her death, working under pressure from eminent individuals in high places.” – Radio Times
British author Matthew Smith’s Victim: The Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe (2003) was an update of his 1996 book, The Men Who Murdered Marilyn. After a further US release, Marilyn’s Last Words (2005), Victim remains in print and on Kindle – proof, if nothing else, that scandal will always find an audience. (Smith has also written books about the assassination of President Kennedy.)
Victim, like Smith’s other Monroe books, is based on the alleged tapes she made for Dr Ralph Greenson. However, the tapes have never been found, and Smith (along with other authors) relied on the memories of John Miner, an assistant to the prosecuting attorney during the original investigation into Marilyn’s death, who claimed that Greenson had played him the tapes. Miner created the ‘transcript’ decades later.
In 2005, Melinda Mason wrote ‘Songs Marilyn Never Sang‘, an article disputing the credibility of the Miner transcripts, for her MM and the Camera website.
Now a thoughtful review of Victim has been published on the Literary Lollipop website…
“Published in 2003, Victim is already more than ten years old, but the content could’ve been from the 1970s or 1980s…I’m skeptical of the legitimacy of Monroe’s words because of a point Smith makes himself throughout this book, on more than one occasion. He admits and argues how easy it is to splice tapes together, to form sentences and thoughts that weren’t originally intended. There were a few moments when Monroe’s statements felt orchestrated, conveniently sexualized or titillating. I could be completely wrong, but that is my interpretation – forever the pessimist.”
Actor Robert Wagner is now 84, and still busy – both onscreen, and in print. He began his career at Twentieth Century-Fox in 1950.
On June 14, 1951, Wagner made a screen test alongside one of the studio’s most promising starlets. “I was the guy they always used when the studio was making screen tests of new actresses,” he told author Warren G. Harris in 1988. “And believe me, no job is more dead-end than that. The only interesting thing that came out of it was when they were testing a new kid and asked me to do a couple of scenes with her. Her name was Marilyn Monroe.”
On the strength of this test – a love scene – Wagner was cast alongside Marilyn in a romantic comedy, Let’s Make It Legal, starring Claudette Colbert. The pair never acted together, but became friends and were often pictured together at Hollywood parties. Wagner, who had affairs with many beautiful actresses, was never romantically involved with MM.
“Nothing happened easily for Marilyn,” he said later. “It took a lot of time and effort to create the image that became so famous.”
In recent years, Wagner has published two books: Pieces of My Heart (2008), an autobiography; and the just-published You Must Remember This, a memoir of Hollywood’s golden age, in which he recalls Marilyn’s tragic death.
“It’s odd how your mind associates certain people with certain events. In August 1962 I was in Montecatini, Italy, the same time as Sheilah Graham [the Hollywood gossip columnist.] I was on the terrace of my hotel when she leaned out a window and yelled, ‘Marilyn Monroe died! Marilyn Monroe died!,’ to the world at large, in exactly the same way she would have announced that her building was on fire. That was how I found out that the girl I had worked with twelve years earlier, and who had since become a legend in a way nobody could have foretold, was gone.”
Wagner is no stranger to tragedy. His wife, Natalie Wood, drowned in 1981 during a yachting trip. Her death, like Marilyn’s, is the subject of endless speculation.
Natalie was the child star of Marilyn’s first film, Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay! She admired Marilyn, and spoke with her at a party weeks before her death.
Natalie married Robert in 1957 and they divorced five years later, but were remarried in 1972. There are shades here of Marilyn’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio, who had grown close to her again in the years before her death.
Dr Thomas Noguchi, so-called ‘Coroner to the Stars’, performed autopsies on both women. He was demoted in 1982, after speaking too freely in the media about the case, and in that year’s reopened investigation of Monroe’s death. His career has since recovered, however.
In Pieces of My Heart, Wagner criticised Noguchi:
“Noguchi was a camera-hog who felt he had to stoke the publicity fire in order to maintain the level of attention he’d gotten used to. Noguchi particularly enraged Frank Sinatra, who knew the truth and, in any case, would never have allowed anyone who harmed Natalie to survive.”
Natalie’s case would also be reopened in 2011, when the captain of the boat claimed that a fight with Wagner had led to her drowning. The official cause of death was later amended from accidental drowning to ‘drowning and other undetermined factors.’ Wagner was ruled out as a suspect.
In You Must Remember This, he speculates on the proliferation of conspiracy theories in the internet age:
“Intellectually, I understand the perception that the rich and privileged are invincible. That’s why some people need to believe, for example, that Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the Kennedys…The randomness of life and death can be terrifying, so a certain kind of person seizes on minor discrepancies of memory or the garbled recollections of marginal personalities to cast doubt on a reality they don’t want to acknowledge.”
One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!
John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the House, reports Hernando Today.
“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.
Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.
‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’
One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.
Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’
‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”
Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)
After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.
Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.
Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.
Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.
In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.
However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.
The Empty Glass, J.I. Baker’s thriller about Marilyn’s death, has been acquired by Winkler Films, reports Deadline. I haven’t read the novel yet, but it has had some good reviews. However, I’m a bit wary about conspiracy theories being propagated on the big screen (even in a semi-fictional context.)
“The paranoid thriller is narrated by the young coroner who is among the first on the scene at Monroe’s bungalow when the actress is reported dead, and how his quest for the truth about her death puts his own life at risk. ‘The Empty Glass reads like a Billy Wilder screenplay,’ said David Winkler. ‘It’s got suspense, action and dramatic plot turns that will appeal to great directors, and rich dialogue that will attract great actors. We knew immediately that nobody could adapt the book better than the author himself, Jim Baker.’
‘When I was writing The Empty Glass, I very much had Goodfellas in mind structurally, so the fact that Winkler Films has optioned the book makes it feel like it’s come full-circle. I’m thrilled to be writing the adaptation my first time out of the gate for such esteemed producers,’ said Baker. Irwin Winkler produced Goodfellas and is currently in production of The Wolf Of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.”
The 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death in August has, perhaps inevitably, led to yet another wave of speculation. As Maureen Callahan writes in the New York Post, ‘the hot trend in publishing is making sure the famous didn’t die of natural causes.’
“Though hard to quantify, our obsession with homicide has seemed to grow exponentially over the past couple of decades: Turn on the television any given night, and there are at least a few hour-long procedurals involving grisly homicides on the air — so reliable in formula and execution they almost take on the coziness of chicken soup. The true-crime genre has cut across age, class and education levels since its introduction in the 18th century; in the 20th, Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ and Norman Mailer’s ‘The Executioner’s Song’ brought into focus the true nature of our fascination, which lays with the murderer, not the victim.
True crime, however, is infinitely more popular among women than men, and David Schmid (a professor at the University of Buffalo specializing in true crime and celebrity) reports far more females than males in his classes.
He thinks it may be ‘pedagogical — women are looking for a way to negotiate the fear of being a victim and can take [warnings] from what the victim did to make themselves vulnerable. Stories help with that.’
And stories in which we spin out elaborate theories to explore the deaths of celebrities may, in the end, simply be our crudest yet best efforts to make sense of the greatest mystery of all. ‘We attempt to read mysteries into everything, because with that comes the notion that there are answers to be found,’ says Schmid. ‘That life isn’t as random and meaningless as it can seem, but there’s a pattern to events — and if we can decode those, we can arrive at the answer and prove there’s a point to it all.'”