Marilyn (and Dorothy) at the Plaza

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 Housereports 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.

‘Empty Glass’ Movie Optioned

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.”

Marilyn Conspiracy Theories: ‘Everyone Was Murdered!’

‘The Marilyn Conspiracy’, Milo Speriglio, 1986

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.'”

Marilyn and ‘Majestic 12’

Marilyn by Ted Baron, 1954

Robin Ramsay casts a sceptical eye upon one of the more exotic conspiracy theories linking Marilyn with JFK and UFOs in The Fortean Times, in response to allegations recently made in the UK’s Daily Mail.

In his article, Ramsay traces the Monroe connection to journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, who knew Marilyn professionally throughout her Hollywood years – though they were not close friends – and was one of the first to investigate the Kennedy rumours after her death.

However, the rumour appears to be based on documents compiled by Majestic 12, a secret committee formed at the orders of President Harry S. Truman in 1947, after the Roswell Incident. The FBI has since declared documents authorised by MJ-12 ‘completely bogus’ – though UFO enthusiasts will disagree.