Marilyn Fans Respond to Celebrity Deaths

This last week has seen at least three suicides among people in the public eye, including fashion designer Kate Spade, chef Anthony Bourdain, and Inés Zorreguieta, younger sister of the Dutch Queen. Perhaps inevitably, this tragic news has led to some rather irresponsible headlines about an alleged epidemic, with some journalists citing the reported spike in suicides among young American women shortly after Marilyn’s death.

Marilyn’s death was ruled a ‘probable suicide’, although wild rumours and conspiracy theories have abounded ever since. While I personally would never rule out any possibility, having studied the evidence over many years I consider it highly unlikely that Marilyn was murdered. (This is my own opinion, and I don’t presume to speak for the membership of Everlasting Star.)

The recent unfortunate events have led to some soul-searching within the Marilyn fan community, and a serious examination of the mental health problems she faced. At the same time, an excellent article in the latest issue of American History explores her addiction to prescribed drugs, now the leading cause of death in Americans aged under 50 (see here.)

Psychotherapist Gary Vitacco Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, discusses these issues in a new blog post, ‘Myth-Busting Suicide.’

“I hear the public reactions to a publicized suicide such as, ‘He seemed happy’ and ‘She was planning for the future.’ The suicide seems incongruent with a recent, apparently positive mood state. However, people are at higher risk when they appear to being doing well and planning for the future. They now have the energy to complete the suicide which they didn’t have when they were experiencing major depressive symptoms.”

Scott Fortner addresses Marilyn’s death specifically on his MM Collection Blog today:

“In spite of the evidence that proves she died of an overdose of prescription drugs consumed orally, conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death are plentiful … Sadly though, these conspiracy theories, in a way, help keep her legend alive. Fans simply can’t accept the fact it was either intentional or accidental, and I am regularly surprised at the frequency in which people I talk to bring up, and believe, the outrageous theories.”

Over at Immortal Marilyn, Leslie Kasperowicz believes that fans need to confront these issues openly to support those at risk and end the stigma of suicide.

“Marilyn’s death could have – should have – been one of the biggest blows to that stigma.  But instead, by choosing to look for conspiracies and murder, we took away her impact.  An impact that may have helped the people named above and so, so many others, had we let the blow fall.  Who were we protecting?  Not Marilyn. She is already beyond protection.”

Marilyn’s Misfits at the Christmas Tree Inn

Photo by Eve Arnold

The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.

The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.

The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.

From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.

MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”

As Gary Vitacco-Robles writes in Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, this was the Millers’ last public outing as a married couple, and so the memories were bittersweet.

“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …

Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.

‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.

‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”

Mara Lynn’s ‘Diamond’ Role With Marilyn

The actress and dancer Mara Lynn, who had a small part in Let’s Make Love, is profiled in today’s Winchester News-Gazette. Born Marilyn Mozier in Chicago in 1927, she is believed to have attended Winchester High School in Indiana. After studying classical dance with George Balanchine, she found fame on Broadway in Inside USA (1948.) This led to more musicals, and a long career as a dance director and performer in Las Vegas.  She broke into movies with the camp classic, Prehistoric Women (1950), and appeared on television as a glamorous sidekick to comedians Groucho Marx and Milton Berle.

Let’s Make Love is perhaps her most notable film. The article claims that Mara ‘gave acting lessons to Marilyn Monroe at Marilyn’s New York apartment,’ but this seems highly unlikely. She may have helped Marilyn to limber up for her dance numbers, however.

In Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Vitacco-Robles summarises Marla’s brief scene with Marilyn and Yves Montand.

“Clement [Montand] is used to women who are interested in him for his money and is moved by Amanda’s [MM] noble intention. He claims to sell costume jewellery between acting jobs and offers to sell her the diamond bracelet for five dollars. ‘The box looks like it’s worth more than that!’ she says, agreeing to buy it. Another dancer (Mara Lynn) admires the bracelet as a gift for her sick mother, and Amanda graciously offers it to her. Later, the dancer tells Clement her mother is long deceased. To retrieve the bracelet, he explains that its gems were exposed to radioactive atomic rays to produce their sparkle and will make the skin on her wrist peel. Horrified, the dancer removes the bracelet from her wrist, throws it at Clement, and takes back her money.”

Icon Vol. 2: Marilyn’s Biography on Kindle

Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe: Volume 2: 1956 to 1962 and Beyond, the second volume of Gary Vitacco Robles’ excellent 2014 biography, is now available via Kindle from Amazon stores worldwide. You can also purchase the first volume as an ebook here.

Gary Vitacco-Robles on Marilyn, and ‘Icon’

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Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of the acclaimed two-volume biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, has been interviewed by ES staffer Sirkku Aaltonen over at her MM Book Blog, and has shared the exciting news that he is currently working on a third installment about Marilyn’s untimely death.

“Nearly the week I completed the editing process for ICON Volume 2, significant new information surfaced. Even now, with the approaching auction of the contents of Marilyn’s New York and Los Angeles filing cabinets, we have new information and evidence available which will be published in the auction catalogues. Collector Scott Fortner contacted me about the documents related to Marilyn considering the purchase of a Manhattan townhouse in late 1961, around the time Dr. Greenson was encouraging her to purchase a home in Los Angeles. How I wish I had access to that material during my research! Although Volume 1 is in its second edition, there is potential for Volume 2 to have one as well. As you know, I’ve been involved in the Goodnight, Marilyn Radio investigation into Marilyn’s death since February of 2015. I’ve appeared as Nina Boski and Randall Libero’s frequent guest and current weekly panel member for three seasons and will participate as an investigative team member for the Seeking the Truth Conference in Los Angeles in September. I’ve now acquired the 641-page LA District Attorney’s investigation materials and final report from 1982 and had the privilege of consulting with forensic experts such as Dr. Cyril Wecht; psychiatrist Dr. Reef Kareem; and suicide expert Dr. Scott Bonn. This 21st century investigation will yield new results and impact our perceptions about her death. This research is worthy of a Volume 3, of which Ben Ohmart, my publisher (BearManor Media), is very interested in supporting. So, I am currently researching and outlining ICON: The Life, Times & Films of Marilyn Monroe Volume 3/The 1982 & 2016 Investigations into Her Death. That’s just a working title. Each volume in denser and longer than the previous one; I believe the third will be the biggest of the trilogy. Things naturally align in threes, so I’m happy for a third volume.”

Marilyn at 90: Fans Pay Tribute

Photo by Jackie Craig
Westwood photos by Jackie Craig

Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.

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Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…

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And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)

13347020_10153652033312688_3184974542303152467_nThe L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived.  Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity  has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.

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Immortal Marilyn listed 90 Marvellous Marilyn Moments on their blog, and compiled a fan-focused tribute video. In Bendigo Park, Australia, staff member Marisa left a memento at the feet of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture,  ‘Forever Marilyn‘.

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Many other fansites, like All About Marilyn and Marilyn Mexico, were also in celebratory mood.

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Mexico loves Marilyn…

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Snapchat users (including reality TV star Kim Kardashian) got busy with a special Marilyn Monroe filter…

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The Milton Greene Archive shared this previously unpublished photo of Marilyn with a canine friend, originally taken for a Life magazine spread on Asian gowns in 1955.

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The estate of Sam Shaw remembered a ‘dear friend.’

sam shawTwo of Marilyn’s most respected biographers, Michelle Morgan and Gary Vitacco-Robles, paid their respects via social media.

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Novelist Megan Abbott chose her favourite photo of Marilyn.

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The estate of Humphrey Bogart also remembered her fondly…

13339528_1353642397983387_775224521514747818_nArtists Alejandro Mogollo and Ileana Hunter shared Marilyn-inspired pieces.

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Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt

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And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.

“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”

‘Goodnight Marilyn’ Returns

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Goodnight Marilyn, the internet radio show which explores unanswered questions about Marilyn’s death, has returned for a third season. In the opening episode, an expert panel including biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles and Immortal Marilyn staffers Leslie Kasperowicz and Marijane Gray joins regular host Nina Boski in a discussion of the District Attorney’s report following the re-opening of Marilyn’s case in 1982.

Billy Wilder, Marilyn and ‘that Bourbon’

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In an article for Fredericksburg.com, Gary Olsen repeats an oft-told tale about Billy Wilder’s on-set travails with Marilyn:

“Film director Billy Wilder was tearing out what little hair he had on his head while filming a scene in Some Like It Hot. His ire was directed toward Marilyn Monroe, who was botching her lines as she was looking for a bottle of bourbon in a bureau.

He decided to tape her written line inside the drawer. On the next take, she opened the wrong drawer. Finally, he papered every drawer with the line, so it wouldn’t matter which one she opened. Eighty-three takes later, she nailed the line: ‘Where’s that bourbon?’

Wilder’s adventures with Monroe’s work habits during the film’s production are legendary…But Monroe’s performance in the 1958 film is cited as the best in her career. Wilder was astonished at what he saw live, versus what he witnessed viewing the rushes on the screen. ‘[Monroe’s performance] looks like nothing on the set,’ said Wilder, ‘and then when it goes on the screen, it all comes out in neon light. It’s fantastic how celluloid loves Monroe. Just incredible.'”

Like so many of Wilder’s anecdotes, this story – and in particular, the exact number of takes Marilyn allegedly required – has grown over time. However, there is no question that Billy found her difficult to work with, although the results were always stellar.

With Marilyn out of the picture for so long, she was never really able to tell her side of the story. In Volume II of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM, author Gary Vitacco-Robles reviewed the episode in detail – drawing a more complex picture of their fraught collaboration than has hitherto been noted.

“Biographer Sarah Churchwell observes that the scene was filmed with Marilyn’s back to the camera, enabling her to easily dub the line in post-production. Wilder’s demand for repeated takes suggests an overt power struggle between director and star. Donald H. Wolfe theorises that Marilyn staged the repeated takes in order to control the interpretation of her character and as a way to defy Wilder’s direction. She would deliver an incorrect line in the manner Wilder instructed for a series of takes (‘Where’s the whiskey?’ ‘Where’s the bottle?’) and purposefully wear down her director. In later takes, she would deliver the line verbatim to the script in the manner in which she believed fit her characterisation. Donald H. Wolfe observed: ‘She knew she was right and believed that a star of her stature had the prerogative of playing the scene the way she felt it.’ It was a battle of the wills but in the end, Marilyn won.”

On the Radio: ‘Goodnight Marilyn’

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Goodnight Marilyn is a new, weekly internet radio show, hosted by Nina Boski and focusing on Marilyn’s glittering career and untimely death (with a feature film also planned.) Recent guests include biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles, Marilyn Remembered’s Greg Schreiner (who owns one of the world’s largest MM collections, and also organises the annual memorial service in Los Angeles), and Immortal Marilyn’s president, Mary Sims.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Icon’

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Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of this year’s outstanding, two-volume biography – Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – has been interviewed by Bill Biss for Edge Media Network. In the article, Gary reveals his starting point for this mammoth project:

“EDGE: It’s interesting that the very first chapter you wrote was on her film ‘Niagara.’ How did you happen to begin there?

Gary Vitacco-Robles: ‘Niagara’ was a film-noir done in color that had a lot of symbolism in it. Also, I thought it was a great depiction of post-war fear of sexuality and about women’s emerging sexuality. There was so much to deal with and that was kind of on the level that I wanted to explore Marilyn’s life. The movie was considered so scandalous at the time. I thought it gave me a lot of dimensions. Her films would be the anchor and I would just thread between the films what was going on in her personal life.”

Having worked as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, Gary used his professional expertise to build a nuanced portrait of MM:

“I’m really not aware of a mental health professional writing about Marilyn. Her story is just so right for that. There’s these armchair psychologists… mostly men are writing about Marilyn and they are very misogynistic. They will believe any speculation that maybe she was very sexually promiscuous, but then they’ll completely dismiss any information that she was an abuse survivor. That appalled me. You can’t really tell Marilyn’s story without talking about childhood abuse.

Now, we know so much about complex trauma and she was a survivor of complex trauma and that accounts for so much of her life. It just puts everything in place. People want to judge her or they don’t look at her life in the context of that. This is a woman who suffered from a mood disorder, horrible childhood abuse and still was able to make it, become successful and inspire people. The fact that she had a tragic ending does not dismiss the fact that she was incredibly resilient.”