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.”

Fighting for the Real Marilyn

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

Immortal Marilyn president Leslie Kasperowicz gave a powerful speech at the memorial service marking the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death earlier this month. You can read the full text here.

“Once upon a time, a false story about Marilyn could only be spread as fast as paper publications could disseminate; and tabloid stories were easily recognizable as fake news. Today, a fake news story about Marilyn spreads in seconds across the globe, and just as quickly becomes ‘fact’ as the tabloid source is obfuscated in the anonymity of the internet share, reblog, ReTweet. The reputation of the source hardly matters anymore. Her true story is lost in the clickbait sensationalism, and I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

When last I stood here, Photoshopped photos of Marilyn were rare and easy to spot. Today, a new fan’s first image of Marilyn is as likely to be a fake photo as a real one; the fakes so widespread that even Google images has a photoshop in the number one spot for results. Marilyn’s head is seen on the bodies of others, she is shown with people and in situations that never happened in her lifetime; she is seen brandishing guns, throwing gang signs, covered in tattoos. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Fake quotes spread around the world so fast and so thoroughly that when searched, she is the only source to be found. Inane, vague, and utterly ridiculous statements are attributed to her, she is turned into a talking head for what a new generation thinks of as inspirational words she would never, in reality, have spoken. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Our Marilyn Monroe is more than an icon, more than a brand, more than a name, more than a character. Our Marilyn Monroe wanted only to find love, to be respected for her work, to be treated with dignity, to be an honest and realized human being – to be treated as such, and to work at being an actress. She was not a joke, no matter how hard some tried to make her one. And she was worth more as a human being to those who love her than her glamorous image ever earned after her death.”

‘Goodnight Marilyn’ Returns

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.

True or False: Did Marilyn Have Affairs With Women?

Over at Immortal Marilyn today, Leslie Kasperowicz asks if there is any truth to the rumours that Marilyn had affairs with women (such as her dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess), and why the facts still matter.

“There is zero evidence to support Marilyn having sexual relationships with women. Marilyn herself stated clearly that she was not a lesbian … Is it possible Marilyn at some point had a sexual encounter with a woman?  Sure.  Is there any real evidence of it?  No.

We aren’t refuting these tales because we care whether or not Marilyn had sexual relationships with women.  Marilyn herself was known to be open-minded about sexual orientation … It’s not a question of whether or not Marilyn’s fans care who she slept with.  It’s a question of the truth, and of debunking the lies and rumors that surround Marilyn.

And the truth is that there is no evidence to show that any of the claims of affairs with women are true.”

‘Love, Marilyn’: A Fan Favourite

Artwork by Ned Piyadarakorn

Leslie Kasperowicz has reviewed Love, Marilyn for the Immortal Marilyn website.

Love, Marilyn is not the standard documentary.  It tells Marilyn’s story, yes, but not so much in a biographical sort of way.  It follows the general timeline of her life, including footage of Marilyn herself with her own words about those times.  But it isn’t a sensational, nitty-gritty type of look at her.

Love, Marilyn is honest about her problems, the struggles we all know she had.  It also makes it clear how hard she worked, how much she wanted to be loved and respected.  She is neither demonized nor canonized.  She is humanized.

This is the documentary that Marilyn deserves.”

Interviewing Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland took some of the most sensuous photos of Marilyn in 1961, and these images are collected in With Marilyn: An Evening, due out on July 25th. (This promises to be an improved version of his 2006 book, now out of print.)

Leslie Kasperowicz recently interviewed Kirkland for Immortal Marilyn, where he talked about the book and his memories.

“Although Marilyn had struggled for many years to be taken seriously as an actress, she never lost sight of the fun side of being a star.  If there was some sadness in her, returning to Los Angeles at the end of her marriage to Arthur Miller and returning to her sex symbol status, it doesn’t show in the photos found in this book.  And Douglas Kirkland doesn’t think she was sad about putting her body in the spotlight again, or at least that side didn’t show.  Instead, she was excited to be photographed after a long time away from the camera.  ‘I am sure that was part of her, but that was not the Marilyn I spent the evening with.  The Marilyn I was with just had an intense heat.  She’s seducing, and that is what remains in these pictures.'”


Immortal Marilyn at the Movies

Leslie Kasperowicz attended a screening of My Week With Marilyn this week, and has posted her review at Immortal Marilyn:

“It would be easy to blow off this film because some of the plot is exaggerated or downright untrue.  And as fans, we often cannot see past our desire to protect Marilyn from the dumb blonde image, from the exploitation of her life to make a buck.  I ask you to try, to go in to this film and watch the story without letting gut reactions and protectiveness get in the way.  If you can’t or don’t want to do that, ‘My Week with Marilyn’ is not for you.  But if we as fans can be honest with ourselves about Marilyn’s struggles and vulnerability while still maintaining our love for her and pride in her, then I think we can see in Michelle Williams portrayal a true effort to make Marilyn a real person.  I don’t see exploitation in this film, and what a relief.”