Marilyn and the ‘Warhol Women’ in NYC

Warhol Women, a new exhibition showcasing 42 portraits of Andy Warhol’s female subjects, is on display at the Lévy Gorvy Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side, through to June 15, as Lane Florsheim reports for the Wall Street Journal. (Marilyn is featured next to Warhol’s take on the Mona Lisa, and opposite Jackie Kennedy.)

“Gorvy and Lévy have arranged the show so that the first works viewers see are portraits of Jackie Onassis and Marilyn Monroe, facing one another. [Dominique] Lévy, who came up with the show’s concept, says that no other man has been able to look at women the way Warhol did. ‘Without sexualizing the subject, he was able to do these portraits where the woman is allowed to be who she is,’ she says. ‘He captures the openness, the self-consciousness, the self-assurance, the insecurity. Aren’t we all self-conscious? I think nobody [else] does that, and that’s where he becomes conceptual.’ In Warhol’s depiction of Monroe, Lévy says, he ‘sees the enormous sadness’ that she felt.”

Marilyn, Drew, JFK Jr. and a Notorious Cover Story

Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…

“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.

Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.

That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”

Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Madonna as Marilyn, 1993

And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.

Remembering Lee Radziwill, and Marilyn

Lee Radziwill, the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died last week aged 85. A socialite and interior decorator, she began a project in 1972 about her family, the Bouviers, which while shelved laid the groundwork for an award-winning documentary, Grey Gardens. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar before her death, Lee mentioned Bert Stern, and Marilyn.

“Which photograph best captures who you are?

The pictures Bert Stern took of me are sensational—he was the best for me, and for Marilyn Monroe.

Why?

For their sense of laughter and freedom.”

Moschino Channels Jackie, Marilyn in Milan

Designer Jeremy Scott has always been fascinated by pop culture. In his fall 2018 ready-to-wear collection for Moschino, unveiled yesterday at Milan Fashion Week, he draws on the many myths about Marilyn and the Kennedys, adding his own farcical spin that Jackie Kennedy was really an alien, and the killer of both Marilyn and JFK. It’s fun to imagine what Marilyn would have worn in the 1960s – she was very fond of Pucci – and Scott’s designs are a sort of postmodern blend of the Space Age and Pop Art. In terms of his Marilyn-esque designs (as modelled here by Bella Hadid), I think the evening gowns work best. But although the concept is meant to be humorous, I do wish Scott had bypassed these tired old tropes which tend to turn Marilyn into what she most feared becoming (a joke.)

White House Scandals Spoofed on ‘SNL’

The scandal involving President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star has been parodied in a skit for TV’s Saturday Night Live, in which First Lady Melania Trump is comforted by some of her predecessors. This inevitably leads to a discussion of Marilyn’s alleged (but still unproven) fling with John F. Kennedy, but at least she’s more highly regarded than Stormy Daniels, as The Daily Dot reports…

“And in this Saturday Night Live sketch, [Melania] meets former first lady Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) and other wives of former presidents. At one point, Kennedy tries to sympathize with her about being the wife of a president who has alleged extramarital affairs, like John F. Kennedy with Marilyn Monroe.

Said Melania, ‘Oh please, she was in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Donald’s girl was in Guys Like It Shaved!'”

Barbara Leaming on Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn

The October issue of Vanity Fair includes an article by Barbara Leaming about Jacqueline Kennedy, focusing on the aftermath of her husband’s murder in November 1963. ‘The Winter of Her Discontent‘ is an extract from Leaming’s upcoming book, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story.

“The untold story of how one woman’s life was changed forever in a matter of seconds by a horrific trauma.

Barbara Leaming’s extraordinary and deeply sensitive biography is the first book to document Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ brutal, lonely and valiant thirty-one year struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that followed JFK’s assassination.

Here is the woman as she has never been seen before.  In heartrending detail, we witness a struggle that unfolded at times before our own eyes, but which we failed to understand.

Leaming’s biography also makes clear the pattern of Jackie’s life as a whole. We see how a spirited young woman’s rejection of a predictable life led her to John F. Kennedy and the White House, how she sought to reconcile the conflicts of her marriage and the role she was to play, and how the trauma of her husband’s murder which left her soaked in his blood and brains led her to seek a very different kind of life from the one she’d previously sought.

A life story that has been scrutinized countless times, seen here for the first time as the serious and important story that it is. A story for our times at a moment when we as a nation need more than ever to understand the impact of trauma.”

This is not Leaming’s first book on the subject: Mrs Kennedy (2001) focused on Jacqueline’s thousand days as First Lady. And prior to this, another Leaming biography – entitled simply Marilyn Monroe – was published in 1999.

In her Vanity Fair article, Leaming reveals that in the months after her husband’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy considered suicide. The death of Marilyn Monroe just a year before – then widely believed to have been a clear-cut suicide – played on her mind, as she confided to a Jesuit priest, Father Richard T. McSorley, in early 1964.

“By May 19th, Father McSorley found himself growing fearful that Jackie, as he wrote, ‘was really thinking of suicide.’ The priest had briefly hoped she might be doing better, but the way she talked now spurred him to take a different view. Speaking again of the prospect of killing herself, Jackie told him that she would be pleased if her death precipitated ‘a wave’ of other suicides because it would be a good thing if people were allowed to ‘get out of their misery.’ She disconcerted the priest by insisting that ‘death is great’ and by alluding to the suicide of Marilyn Monroe. ‘I was glad that Marilyn Monroe got out of her misery,’ J.F.K.’s widow maintained. ‘If God is going to make such a to-do about judging people because they take their own lives, then someone ought to punish Him.’ The next day, after Father McSorley strove to persuade Jackie that suicide would be wrong, she reassured him that she agreed and that she would never actually attempt to kill herself.”

 

Marilyn, Joe and ‘The Serial Fabulist’

Last month I posted a less-than-stellar review of C. David Heymann’s posthumously published Joe & Marilyn: Legends in Love. The latest issue of Newsweek – due out on Friday – includes an extraordinary cover feature by David Cay Johnston about Heymann’s ‘career as a serial fabulist.’

Johnston challenges Heymann’s long-standing claim that Marilyn attacked Robert Kennedy with a knife on her last day alive:

“In both A Woman Named Jackie and RFK, Heymann recounts Marilyn Monroe’s last afternoon alive, August 3, 1962*. (Keep in mind that Heymann maintains that both JFK and Bobby Kennedy had affairs with Monroe.) In both of those books, Heymann wrote that just a few hours before Monroe killed herself, Bobby Kennedy and the actor Peter Lawford visited her home in L.A.’s tony Brentwood neighborhood. Heymann said that at one point Monroe pulled a knife and lunged at Kennedy, and that the two men wrested the weapon from her.

When he later told that tale in Joe & Marilyn, Heymann wrote that Monroe tossed a glass of champagne in Kennedy’s face.

In the back of that book, Heymann explained how the knife had turned into bubbly. ‘In an interview with the author, Peter Lawford originally claimed that Marilyn threatened RFK with a kitchen knife; he then revised the anecdote to indicate instead that she threw a glass of champagne at him.’

Unexplained is when Lawford changed this story. Lawford died on Christmas Eve 1984, long before any of the three books were published. Putting the best possible spin on things, that means Lawford revised his story before the first book was published. And if that’s the case, why did Heymann tell the knife story in the first two books?

The answer, according to Lawford’s widow, Patricia, is that Heymann made it all up. She told Newsweek Heymann could not have interviewed her husband on any of the occasions he cited because he was under her care around the clock. Asked if Heymann could have somehow gotten past her, she said Lawford was close to death and hardly able to make coherent statements, much less conduct a lengthy interview.

The Heymann archive at Stony Brook includes his handwritten notes of the purported interview with Lawford. The dying man’s supposed words flow smoothly, the way a writer’s do after polishing. Most people in interviews meander off-topic, digress and revise their stories as they draw on their memories, especially those who are sick and dying.

A handwriting expert said Heymann’s handwritten notes of the purported Lawford interview bore a striking resemblance to the writing in Heymann’s purported Hutton notebooks.”

* Marilyn’s last afternoon alive was on August 4th, not the 3rd.

Johnston also questions Heymann’s oft-repeated claim that Marilyn told Jacqueline Kennedy she wanted to marry her husband, John F. Kennedy:

“In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann drew heavily on the rich trove of books about the Yankee Clipper and the iconic blonde. He also cited interviews with writer George Plimpton; Salinger, the Kennedy White House press secretary; and [Jack] Newfield. All three men were dead by 2005. Plimpton, in a tape recording in Heymann’s own archive, declined to be interviewed. Salinger, in a letter also in the Heymann archive, said Heymann wrote ‘dramatic lies’ and refused to cooperate. We already know that Newfield wrote a column in the Post denouncing Heymann. Despite this, Heymann ‘quoted’ all three men in his book… long after they had been buried.

Among the many statements presented as fact in Joe and Marilyn that might have raised eyebrows at CBS was the one on Page 315. Heymann quoted the late actor and masseur Ralph Roberts as saying that Marilyn Monroe called the White House and ‘actually told the First Lady she wanted to marry the president,’ and that Jackie Kennedy, humoring the actress, said ‘she had no objection.’

Yet years earlier, in 1989’s A Woman Named Jackie, Heymann attributed that story to Lawford. Only in that version ‘Jackie wasn’t shaken by the call. Not outwardly. She agreed to step aside. She would divorce Jack and Marilyn could marry him, but she [Monroe] would have to move into the White House.'”

Johnston also probes some of Joe & Marilyn‘s other main sources:

[Emily] Bestler, Heymann’s longtime editor, insists that independent fact-checking established the reliability of Joe & Marilyn, but most of Chapter 3 is fabricated. It consists primarily of long quotes attributed to ‘Rose Fromm, a German Jewish refugee’ who Heymann said treated Marilyn Monroe as a therapist. Heymann writes that Fromm told him:

I have to stress that I work as a psychotherapist in Europe but not in the United States and I made that perfectly clear to Marilyn. My doctorate in clinical psychology had been awarded abroad and I had no interest in going through the process all over again.

Heymann wrote that Fromm moved to Los Angeles for six months in 1952, when she treated Monroe, whom she met through two Hollywood journalists she describes as friends, James Bacon of The Associated Press and Sidney Skolsky, then a syndicated Hollywood columnist.

Fromm was born in Sztetl, Poland, not Germany. She arrived in America at age 17, according to her 2007 autobiography. She graduated from the Dante School in Chicago in 1931 and the University of Illinois medical school in 1938, facts supported by photographs and her medical licensing records. Nowhere in her autobiography did Dr. Fromm mention Marilyn Monroe, James Bacon or Sidney Skolsky.

In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann cites Joe DiMaggio Jr., the slugger’s only son, as a source on more than 50 of the book’s 393 pages. Joe Jr. died in 1999, long before Heymann started work on the book, and he routinely turned reporters away. Public records contradict many of the quotes attributed to him in the book – Heymann wrote that he left Yale for San Francisco, almost immediately married a woman he barely knew, quickly divorced her and joined the Marines. In fact, records and interviews with his friends show, he moved to Los Angeles, joined the Marines before Monroe died (he was photographed in uniform at her funeral) and nine months after her death married a 17-year-old San Diego woman in Southern California.  George Milman, a Beverly Hills lawyer who was Joe Jr.’s roommate back then, and Tom Law, a contractor who worked with him, said Joe Jr. was circumspect about his father and devoted to his stepmother.

Heymann also wrote that Joe Jr.’s mother, Dorothy Arnold, took her son and Milman on overnight trips to Mexico where, panty-less, she would do handstands in an apparent effort to channel Monroe’s sexual allure. Milman, chuckling, said he recalls a few trips to Baja, but not the rest of that tale.”

Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?


Try this fun quiz at Vanity Fair

Inspired by Mad Men, Pamela Clarke Keogh‘s Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn: Timeless Lessons on Love, Power and Style will be published by Gotham Books on October 28.


“The hit TV show Mad Men recently featured an ad campaign with two images of a model in her underwear. As a brunette, she sips from a china teacup. As a blonde, she swirls a cocktail. Debutante or bombshell? Sometimes women want to be both. On the surface, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe could not be more different, but they had more in common than just JFK. Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? is a fun way to explore the classic madonna/ whore conundrum while becoming fabulous in all aspects of life.

Readers start by taking the definitive quiz to determine where they fall on the Jackie/ Marilyn spectrum, and then it’s on to customized advice on beauty and style, sex and marriage, power and career, decorating and entertaining, and more. Any woman who has aspired to Marilyn’s sultry allure or Jackie’s unstoppable elegance (or who wants to balance sexy and serious) will love these entertaining lessons on channeling your inner Jackie or Marilyn in any situation, from throwing a dinner party to penning a love note. Sidebars compare Jackie’s and Marilyn’s dating tips, lists of favorite books and music, diet plans, and even makeup know-how. Packed with charming two-color illustrations, this is the book that gives every woman her own star power.”