Marilyn and Bobby: The Not-So ‘New Item’

Jean Kennedy Smith
Jean Kennedy Smith

Among the items included in Julien’s November auction is a letter sent to Marilyn by Jean Kennedy Smith, apparently describing MM and her brother Bobby as ‘the new item’. This will already be familiar to many fans, as biographer Anthony Summers reprinted it in Goddess (1985.)

Martin Nolan, executive director at Julien’s, has cited the note as evidence that ‘there was in fact a relationship between Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.’ Several news outlets have followed his lead, including the Telegraph. However, other sources close to RFK do not believe they were romantically involved.

“Efforts to prove an affair between the two began in the 1960s. At the time Bobby Kennedy, who was married and had 11 children, was his brother’s Attorney General.

FBI Director J Edgar Hoover, as part of his titanic feud with Bobby Kennedy, tried and failed to catch the politician with the actress.

In his autobiography William Sullivan, Hoover’s Deputy Director at the FBI, wrote: ‘Hoover was desperately trying to catch Bobby Kennedy red-handed at anything he ever did. We used to watch him at parties.’

Eventually, Hoover concluded ‘the stories about Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were just stories.’

Much of the speculation about Monroe and the Kennedys in the following decades centred instead on her alleged relationship with President Kennedy.”

In an article for Immortal Marilyn, Marijane Gray remains sceptical.

“Most occasions where this letter is quoted conveniently leave out the first few sentences because they certainly cast doubt on any romantic relationship. Here’s what the note says in full:

‘Dear Marilyn, Mother asked me to write you and thank you for your sweet note to Daddy-he really enjoyed it and you were very cute to send it. Understand that you and Bobby are the new item! We all think you should come with him when he comes back East! Thanks again for the note-Love, Jean Smith.’

The excised portions certainly put a completely different perspective on it, which explains why they’re excised…..it takes away from a possible scandal. The patriarch of the Kennedy clan, Joe Kennedy, had suffered a stroke and had to undergo months of physical therapy. More than likely, Marilyn had heard about his health issues from her close friend Pat Lawford and sent a get well note, as she was known to be very compassionate to anyone who was ailing. Although we don’t know the date Jean’s note was written, it could have been any time from February to June 1962. This is the time period that people severely lacking in credibility and the authors who believed them reported that there were affairs going on with one or both Kennedy brothers. However, no one can explain why the alleged mistress was being invited to family events (that the wives of both men would have attended), was writing cheerful notes to their father and being thanked for it by their mother and sister.  The reference to Marilyn and Bobby being an ‘item’ more than likely refers to them amusing dinner party guests by doing the twist at [their] first meeting back in February. However, these things tend to get overlooked because they don’t support the myths, which in turn doesn’t bring in high book sales or sky rocketing auction bids.”

China’s Glimpse of Marilyn

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Ahead of the November sale at Julien’s, some of Marilyn’s personal property was showcased for Chinese collectors in Beijing on Tuesday, Louise Watts reports for ABC News.

“Around 800 items to be auctioned come from the estate of Lee Strasberg, the famed American acting coach who became a father figure to Monroe. The money will go to his widow, Anna. Other items come from the collection of David Gainsborough-Roberts, a major collector of Monroe’s costumes.

The hundreds of items include dresses and outfits, the negligee she wore in the movie Niagara and the green and black-sequined leotard she picked out herself from a studio wardrobe to wear in Bus Stop. There is a tube of her ‘non-smear’ Revlon lipstick in Bachelor’s Carnation shade, the shoes she wore to marry playwright Arthur Miller, and the pair of costume earrings that she wore to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch.

Then there are the personal notes, crayon drawings and watercolors.

Lee Strasberg’s son, David, said that he, his mother and brother found many of the items in suitcases and closets about six years ago during a clean-out, including one trunk he’d been throwing his football cleats on for years that turned out to contain some of Monroe’s personal writings.

Some items up for auction have never been seen by the public before. They include a first-edition hand-bound 1957 volume of her third husband Miller’s plays dedicated to Monroe, and a letter from a member of the Kennedy family.

Among the quirkier items are a receipt for a bottle of champagne, her 1947 contract with Twentieth Century Fox and a recipe for stuffing jotted down on a slip of paper with an insurance company’s letterhead. Her final checkbook shows her payments to the window cleaner, her maid and the New York Telephone Co. She paid $200 to herself marked as ‘cash for trips.’

‘Marilyn kept everything. She was a hoarder,’ said [Martin] Nolan. ‘She bought a pound of butter, she bought a bottle of tonic water she kept the receipt. It’s incredible. We have a pair of strap sandals that she wore when she was Norma Jean, probably 1943, 1945. And all the money she made and how famous she became and she kept those.’

Although Western movies were banned in China during Monroe’s heyday, her pop culture image and aspects of her life are well-known among many Chinese.

Darren Julien, founder and CEO of Julien Auction’s, said about 40 percent of their client base are Chinese collectors interested in Western pop culture, and particularly Monroe.

‘A lot of people relate to her because she had actually a very difficult life in a lot of ways. She never had a lot of money, but she captured the hearts of so many people around the world,’ said Julien.”

famous-photographer-portraits-behind-photographs-tim-mantoani-3Meanwhile, photographer Douglas Kirkland has spoken to Shanghai Daily about Meeting Monroe, a series of classic images by himself and Milton Greene, currently on display at Shanghai Tower.

“There was a very unique quality about Marilyn. She was a sex symbol but there was a sweetness about her that was very compelling. There is no one like her. It was not only her beauty, but her vulnerability that made her special. It was often said Marilyn was great with still photographers — and she was. She didn’t see stills as being a waste of time. She enjoyed the still camera, perhaps more than motion.”

When Whoopi Met Marilyn…

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Whoopi Goldberg attended the opening night of Marilyn: Character Not Image (which she curated) at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City this weekend, reports NJ.com.

“‘We have pieces of her as the actress, but it’s not the actress acting,’ she said. ‘It’s the woman reacting to what’s happening around her.’

Pointing to a Greene shot of Monroe with playwright Arthur Miller, Goldberg said, ‘This is the Marilyn you know.’ Then, pointing to a photo of Monroe coming out of a pool, beaming and wearing a black-and-white bikini, she said, ‘That’s the Marilyn you don’t.’

The exhibit also includes some of Monroe’s drawings and videos of the late screen star narrated by readings of her poetry. The dress, though, is the star of the show.

Made of soufflé gauze and 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, the gown is displayed on a mannequin standing on a white pedestal. When Goldberg saw it, she said, ‘She had a big derrière.’

Monroe’s legendary performance — ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’— came at a Democratic Party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden held 10 days before Kennedy’s 45th birthday.

The gown is up for auction in November. It last sold in 1999 for nearly $1.3 million, then a record. Martin J. Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, which is handling the sale, believes it will go for up to $3 million, though he thinks it’s worth far more. He called it the ‘holy grail’ of collectibles.

‘It’s a piece of art, but it’s Hollywood, it’s pop culture, it’s Marilyn Monroe, it’s the Kennedys — everything wrapped up into one piece of fabric,’ he said. ‘It’s truly amazing.’

Nolan added that, despite Goldberg’s comment on Monroe’s backside, the actress was petite in May 1962, weighing about 112 pounds.”

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Meanwhile, Priscilla Frank has reviewed the show for Huffington Post.

“The drawing above, titled ‘Lover watching his love sleep,’ was made by Monroe herself in the late 1950s, with Conté crayon on paper. The sepia-toned image depicts a woman who may or may not be Monroe herself, unclothed and reclining leisurely while her lover watches on, entranced.

It’s a simple drawing, but powerful nonetheless, not only in its aesthetic qualities but in what it reveals about its maker. The artwork hints at a different Marilyn than the bold vixen we see on screen. Rather, a Marilyn who is thoughtful, introspective, and creative ― an avid reader and obsessive writer. “