James Patterson on Marilyn, Jackie and JFK

James Patterson holds the New York Times record for the most books by one author to top their list. His novels account for 6% of hardback fiction bought in the US, and he is the most-borrowed author in UK libraries. He works with numerous co-authors, most recently the former American president, Bill Clinton. Now Patterson has turned his hand to non-fiction, co-writing a biography of another political dynasty with journalist and TV producer Cynthia Fagen. An excerpt from House of Kennedy has been published in Town & Country magazine, covering the Madison Square Garden gala celebrating John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday, when Marilyn topped a star-studded bill, singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President.’

In truth, there’s little here that isn’t already known (and what more can be said, really?) But I would like to point out that MC Peter Lawford’s running gag about ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ was pre-rehearsed, and not an attempt to cover up for any tardiness on her part. It is also often noted that the First Lady did not attend the gala, but this was common practice. Regarding Jackie Kennedy, who never held any malice towards Marilyn, there are a couple of interesting quotes that are new to me at least, though the sources aren’t named here.

Marilyn with the president’s brother-in-law, Stephen Kennedy Smith, after her Madison Square Garden performance

“‘It had been a noisy night, a very “rah rah rah” kind of atmosphere,’ recalls Life magazine photographer Bill Ray. ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. There was this long, long pause and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, “Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,” and everybody just went into a swoon.’

Despite raised eyebrows, Jackie tells her sister, Lee, ‘Life’s too short to worry about Marilyn Monroe.’ Instead of attending Jack’s fundraiser, Jackie and the children are at the First Family’s Glen Ora estate outside Middleburg, Virginia, enjoying what she calls ‘a good clean life.’ As spectators, including her husband, ogle Monroe at Madison Square Garden, Jackie is winning a third-place ribbon at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show.

Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Stephen, are in attendance at the Madison Square Garden event as well as at Arthur Krim’s reception, where White House photographers also capture Stephen posing alongside Monroe.

The next day, Jackie is furious—not with the president, but with his brother. ‘My understanding of it is that Bobby was the one who orchestrated the whole goddamn thing,’ Jackie tells her sister-in-law over the telephone. ‘The Attorney General is the troublemaker here, Ethel. Not the President. So it’s Bobby I’m angry at, not Jack.'”

Larry Tye on Bobby Kennedy, and Marilyn

In a new biography, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, author Larry Tye briefly addresses the rumours of an affair between Marilyn and John F. Kennedy’s younger brother. (It should also be noted that they only met on four verified occasions, so the allegations are speculative at best.)

“No one knows what happened for sure what happened when the doors were closed. The FBI tried to find out, but its reports on Bobby mainly repeated wild rumours, including those caught on wiretaps and bugs of Mob figures that Bobby easily refuted …

The most exotic speculation revolved around a relationship between Bobby and Marilyn Monroe, who was said to be having an affair with both brothers, consecutively or simultaneously, depending on who told the story. Again, the accounts were second-hand or based on tape recordings that supposedly vanished years before … The accusations don’t stop with infidelity. Bobby helped her commit suicide or outright murdered her – to cover up his affair, or JFK’s, or her ties and theirs to the Mafia – various authors and journalists have charged, starting in 1964 and continuing unabated. Then he concealed his complicity in her death, so the story goes, with help from the FBI, the Los Angeles police, and his own investigators and aides. The rumours swirled so feverishly that the Los Angeles County district attorney reviewed all the claims and counter-claims in 1982, twenty years after the sex siren’s death. ‘Her murder would have required a massive, in-place conspiracy…’ the off-the-record report concluded. ‘Our enquiries and document examination uncovered no credible evidence supporting a murder theory.’

… Eleanor McPeck, a Massachusetts landscape architect and historian, makes no claims of knowledge of any ties Bobby had to the movie star. She does assert that nearly a decade before he met Marilyn, he was fascinated with her. When McPeck was a teenager living a couple of blocks from them, Bobby and Ethel [his wife] would have her over for dinner and to play a game of ‘Who Would You Rather Be With?’ You could name anyone you found interesting, she says, and it was all in fun. Ethel’s favourite was Andy Williams, who later became a close friend of hers and Bobby’s. Bobby’s, she adds, was ‘Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe, repeated over and over and over again.’

Ethel has lived with the rumours for over fifty years, and she says she long ago stopped listening to or reading them. She tried to block them out then, too, although they must have hurt. She never disclosed any suspicions.”