Bill Pursel 1925-2017

Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn during the early years of her career, has died aged 91, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“William Albert Lloyd Pursel was born July 24, 1925, in Marshalltown, Iowa. His family moved to Las Vegas in 1939. After graduating from Las Vegas High School, class of 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in The European Theatre during World War II. He became a sales manager for KLAS Radio and covered several atomic bomb explosions at the Nevada Test Site. He was a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant with The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company. He was president of The Life Underwriters Association of Nevada. He was active in The Las Vegas Jr. Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of The Sports Car Club of America in So Nevada, a charter member of Trinity United Methodist Church, and belonged to both the Masonic Lodge and the Elks Lodge. He served two-four year terms as a trustee at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital (UMC).”

Snapshots given to Bill Pursel by Marilyn in 1947

Bill’s memories of Marilyn – they dated on and off for several years – were unknown to to the public until he spoke with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. They met in 1946, when 19 year-old Norma Jeane was staying with a family friend in Las Vegas while waiting her divorce from Jim Dougherty. Bill later visited her in Los Angeles, and was waiting at the house she shared with Ana Lower when she returned from a meeting at Twentieth Century Fox with a contract and a new name.

She was dropped by the studio a year later, but pursued her craft at the Actors Lab, even once asking college student Bill to enroll. They remained close after she began a romance with Fred Karger in 1948, and she later asked Bill to protect her from a ‘beach wolf’ – none other than actor Peter Lawford, who would play a significant role in her final days. Bill saw her as both dedicated and vulnerable in Hollywood, recalling a distressing phonecall during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949. And then, just as their relationship seemed likely to turn serious, Marilyn called it off – leaving Bill with nothing but a couple of signed photos (now owned by collector Scott Fortner.)

Marilyn’s parting gift to Bill

Bill heard from Marilyn just once more, shortly after she began dating Joe DiMaggio. By then, Bill was happily married. He later recalled seeing her singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy on television, just months before her death in 1962. He felt no bitterness, and knowing her sensitive nature, he was saddened but not surprised by her tragic demise.

Mr Pursel died last Thursday, June 1st – on what would have been Marilyn’s 91st birthday. He is survived by his wife of more than sixty years, Mabel ‘Mac’ Salisbury Pursel; and his children, William ‘Bill’, Kristie, and Kim (‘Bill’) Toffelmire, her stepchildren and their children, and several nieces and nephews.

Michelle Morgan has written an emotional tribute to Bill Pursel:

“He has been a constant presence in my life since 2005, when I first contacted him during the writing of my Marilyn book. What started out as an interview, turned into a friendship between Bill, his beautiful wife Mac, his family and my own … My work has been deeply enriched because of Bill’s stories, and my life has been changed because of his friendship. He was a huge supporter of my career, and gave me lots of advice in recent years … Good night, Bill. Thank you for your wonderful friendship. You were one of the best friends I ever had.”

You can pay your respects to Bill here.

Buddy Greco 1926-2017

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Marilyn with Buddy Greco, 1962

Buddy Greco, the jazz pianist and lounge singer, died in Las Vegas last week aged ninety.

Armando Greco was born into a musical family in Philadelphia in August 1926, and began piano lessons at four years old. He turned professional in his teens, and had his first hit single in 1948. He was hired by Benny Goodman, and accompanied a young Marilyn Monroe during an audition for the band (she didn’t get the job.)

In 1951, Greco launched a solo career as a nightclub artist. He also released albums and appeared on television. His 1960 version of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ sold over a million copies. He regularly performed alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and other Rat Pack luminaries at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

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On the weekend of July 29, 1962, Greco was playing with Sinatra at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. One of Sinatra’s guests was Marilyn Monroe. Buddy reminded her of their earlier meeting, and took a series of snapshots featuring himself with Marilyn, Sinatra, and Peter Lawford. These photos are believed to be the last ever taken of Marilyn, who died just a week afterward.

Greco enjoyed his British tours so much that he bought a house at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, while also maintaining a home in Palm Springs, California. He is survived by his seven children and his fifth wife, Lezlie Anders, whom he married in 1995.

You can read Buddy Greco’s account of the Cal-Neva weekend here.

‘I Met Marilyn’: Interviews With Neil Sean

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Neil Sean is a British entertainment and royalty pundit for broadcast media in the UK And USA. He is also the author of three books: How to Live Like a Celebrity For Free (2012); Live at the London Palladium (2014); and The Downing Street Cats (2016.)

Co-authored with Michael Dias, he has now published I Met Marilyn, a collection of interviews with stars who knew and worked with MM. These include Mickey Rooney, Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, Jane Russell, Lauren Bacall, Johnnie Ray, Ethel Merman, Jack Cardiff, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, George Cukor and Cyd Charisse; and other celebrity acquaintances, such as Jerry Lewis, Eartha Kitt, Andy Williams, Sandra Howard, Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, James Garner, Rock Hudson, Charlton Heston, Ricci Martin (Dean’s son), Buddy Greco, and Frank Sinatra Jr.

Mr Sean clearly has lengthy experience in the show-business world, with some interviews dating back to the late 1970s (and of course, most of his interviewees are now deceased.) His media profile has garnered coverage for I Met Marilyn in Scotland’s Weekly News and Sunday Post. He explains that the transcripts were made from his own notes and tape recordings. Unfortunately, the book is filled with run-on sentences, and punctuation so erratic that it’s often hard to distinguish between his own observations, and quotations from others. There are no pictures of Marilyn inside, but the interviews are accompanied by photos of Sean with various stars.

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As with Boze Hadleigh’s recent book, Marilyn Forever, the tone is often speculative and gossipy. Many of the interviewees seem to believe that Marilyn’s alleged affairs with President Kennedy and his brother Robert were common knowledge in Hollywood, and yet there is little direct evidence.

Jack Lemmon, who was a neighbour of Peter Lawford, claims to have seen Marilyn “frolicking” with Bobby in Lawford’s pool. This story has been told by his son Chris, who was a small child at the time. I have never before seen it attributed to his father, and this apparent indiscretion seems uncharacteristic of the gentlemanly Lemmon. There is also a question of plausibility: could he really have identified them from over the fence?

To his credit, Mr Sean shows some scepticism towards the more outlandish claims of Mickey Rooney, for example. Singer Eddie Fisher recalls that while married to Elizabeth Taylor, he performed a double-bill at The Sands in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra. Fisher told Mr Sean that Marilyn flirted with him all evening, but photos from the event show her gazing at Sinatra.

Whereas Boze Hadleigh depicted Marilyn as ahead of her time in embracing the gay community, Neil Sean portrays her as being unable to understand why closeted actors like Rock Hudson weren’t attracted to her. Both authors seem to be imposing their own views upon the past, but the fact remains that whatever her personal inclinations, Marilyn was never discriminatory. She had several gay friends, and defended her Misfits co-star Montgomery Clift against homophobic bigotry during a private interview with W.J. Weatherby (published posthumously in his 1976 book, Conversations With Marilyn.)

Perhaps the most insightful comments come from other women. “I was so upset [by Marilyn’s death] because she could have reached out, but the thing is she always wanted you happy first – she was selfless in that way,” singer Eartha Kitt told Sean. “I remember receiving one of her old fur coats to wear at a premiere because she heard me saying I did not have one. What a kind gesture, and to someone just starting out in the business.”

Cyd Charisse, who co-starred with Marilyn in the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, also gives a sympathetic account. However,    the interview includes several quotes attributed to Marilyn by Lawrence Schiller in his 2012 book, Marilyn & Me. (Cyd Charisse died in 2008.)

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I Met Marilyn is certainly an interesting read, but should probably be digested with a large dose of salt. Marilyn was essentially a loner, and didn’t have many close friends in Hollywood – and besides, stars are as susceptible to wild rumours as everyone else, especially when asked to provide a fresh perspective on an actress who died over fifty years ago.

“I think it all goes so quickly so it’s better to live in the moment,” Lauren Bacall told Mr Sean. “And when people ask me about what, say, Marilyn Monroe was like, it’s not like we were the best of friends or anything. I mean, we made a movie together which was very successful, but it was a long time ago…”

I Met Marilyn is available now in paperback and via Kindle.

When Warren (and Natalie) Met Marilyn

Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962
Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962

Hollywood legend Warren Beatty has given a rare interview to Vanity Fair‘s Sam Kashner, in which he revealed a brief encounter with Marilyn shortly before her death in 1962.

“Peter Lawford had invited him out to his house in Malibu for a night of tacos and poker, and Monroe was there. ‘I hadn’t seen anything that beautiful,’ Beatty recalls. She invited him to take a walk along the beach, which he did. ‘It was more soulful than romantic.’ Back in the house, he played the piano. (He’s a good pianist, by the way, enamored of jazz greats such as Erroll Garner.) Marilyn sat on the edge of the piano in something so clingy that Beatty could tell she wasn’t wearing underwear.

‘How old are you?’ she asked.

‘Twenty-five,’ he answered. ‘And how old are you?’ he asked cheekily.

‘Three. Six,’ she said, as if not wanting to bring the two numbers together. By then, the tacos had arrived, and no one really played poker that night. Warren noticed that Marilyn was already a bit tipsy from champagne, even before the sun had set.

The next day, the producer Walter Mirisch’s brother Harold called. ‘Did you hear?’ he asked. ‘Marilyn Monroe is dead.’ Warren was one of the last people to see Marilyn alive—a story that Beatty tells only reluctantly. He really is one of Hollywood’s most discreet people, in a town and an industry marinated in its own gossip.”

In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summers that he had contacted Beatty about the rumour of him meeting Marilyn at Lawford’s home just a few hours before she died. Beatty responded that this was true, but did not wish to speak further at that time.

By his own account, Lawford had invited Marilyn to his home that evening but she declined. It may be true that Beatty met Marilyn not long before she died, as she was a regular guest of Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat. However, it seems unlikely to have occurred on the night of her death.

In 1962, Beatty was dating actress Natalie Wood, whose biographer Suzanne Finstad gives a similar account of their meeting (including the conversation about age), but stated only that it occurred at some point over the summer, and most significantly, she added that Wood was also present.

UPDATE: An extract from the newly-published book, Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life, is featured in People magazine this week. Taken from a previously unseen essay by Wood herself, it includes her thoughts on Marilyn’s death, and may shed new light on Beatty’s story as well. (A former child actress, Natalie had a featured role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, the 1947 film in which Marilyn made her screen debut.)

“‘I had known her and seen her days before her death,’ Wood writes. ‘Her beauty, charming wit, and joy of life seemed paradoxical to the tense loneliness which she faced in her life, and was to me, clearly apparent. I realized that her tragedy reminds us all how vulnerable we are, and I chose to try to be stronger.'”

And finally … ‘doyenne of dish’ Liz Smith has also questioned the timing of Beatty’s anecdote, in her latest column for New York Social Diary.

“Beatty places the meeting on the night before her death — or the night of, really. He says he received a call ‘in the morning’ from an agent, telling him Marilyn had died. But the facts say otherwise. MM actually refused an invite from Lawford the Saturday night she died.

It’s most likely that Warren, fiftysomething years on, just forgot the exact evening. It is a very tender and considerate memory, in any case. This gallantry is typical of Warren, whose exes almost always adored him, even as they became his exes.”

 

RUMOUR: Did Sinatra Propose to Marilyn?

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This year marks the centenary of another man in Marilyn’s life: Frank Sinatra. The anniversary is being marked by a slew of publications, including Sinatra: The Chairman. Second in a biographical series by James Kaplan, this tome is 992 pages long, and has been previewed in the New York Daily News.

“During Sinatra’s dalliance with Monroe, there are conflicting reports as to who wanted it more. Kaplan sides with Milt Ebbins, a talent manager, who claimed, ‘There was no doubt that Frank was in love with Marilyn.’

‘Yeah, Frank wanted to marry the broad,’ Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra’s chief henchman, said. ‘He asked her and she said no.'”

However, Kaplan’s claim that Frank wanted to marry MM – ‘to save her from herself’ – is nothing new. J. Randy Taraborrelli previously suggested this in his 1997 book, Sinatra: The Man Behind the Myth. Kaplan also speculates that others believed the opposite – that it was Marilyn who pursued Frank – but the sources for this allegation are not named in the article.

In his 1992 biography of MM, Donald Spoto argues that Frank was ‘apparently the more smitten’ in their on-off romance. Milton Ebbins told Spoto that in 1961, Sinatra failed to show up for lunch with President Kennedy at Peter Lawford’s home, because Marilyn – who was briefly Sinatra’s house-guest in Los Angeles – had gone out without telling him.

‘It wasn’t worry for her safety,’ Ebbins recalled, ‘he was just that jealous of her whereabouts! To hell with the president’s lunch!’

Joe DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, 1958
Joe DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, 1958

In Sinatra: The Chairman, Kaplan repeats the long-held assertion that the romance ended after Marilyn grew closer to her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. This led to a rift between Joe and Frank, ending a long friendship. However, Marilyn told reporters that there was ‘no spark to be rekindled’ with DiMaggio.

After Marilyn died, Frank was furious that Joe did not invite him to the funeral. Kaplan reiterates the long-held rumour that Sinatra – along with the Lawfords, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Mitzi Gaynor – were turned away from the ceremony. However, contemporary news reports did not mention this at all.

So did Sinatra propose to Marilyn? Based on all available evidence, I think not. Although Frank may have entertained thoughts of marriage, I don’t believe Marilyn was ready to commit herself. And after his failed marriage to another Hollywood beauty – Ava Gardner – I suspect he wasn’t about to risk more heartache.

Perhaps the last word should go to legendary columnist Liz Smith, who knew Sinatra well:

“I would take issue with some of Kaplan’s observations about Ava Gardner and particularly Marilyn Monroe — believe me, if Sinatra really proposed to MM and she refused him, it wasn’t because she was ‘saving’ herself for re-marriage to Joe DiMaggio. But in the face of the rest of this compelling book, that’s real nit-picking.”

Marilyn, Joe and ‘The Serial Fabulist’

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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.”

Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love

Heymann Legends

Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love is the final book by celebrity biographer C. David Heymann, whose previous subjects included Elizabeth Taylor and the Kennedy family.

Born in Manhattan in 1945, Heymann was a literary scholar whose first books, about Ezra Pound and Robert and Amy Lowell, were published in the 1970s. “I learned from this,” he told the New York Observer in 1999, “never write a book about a poet if you want to sell books.”

In 1983, Poor Little Rich Girl – his biography of heiress Barbara Hutton – was withdrawn by its publisher because of factual errors, as Heymann’s New York Times obituary explains:

 “That December the book’s original publisher, Random House, recalled and destroyed 58,000 copies of the book because of factual errors. Chief among them was Mr. Heymann’s assertion that Edward A. Kantor, a Beverly Hills doctor, had prescribed excessive drugs for Ms. Hutton in 1943.

Dr. Kantor, who became Ms. Hutton’s physician in the late 1960s, graduated from medical school in 1954. In 1943, as the news media reported after the error came to light, he would have been 14.

Mr. Heymann, who did not dispute this and other errors ascribed to the book, attributed them to researchers he had engaged to conduct interviews on his behalf.

After the book was withdrawn, Mr. Heymann later said, he attempted suicide. He moved to Israel for a time; there, he told interviewers afterward, he worked for Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

On Thursday, Mr. Heymann’s wife said that while he had sometimes spoken to her of having worked for Mossad, she could not confirm that assertion.

In 1984 Mr. Heymann’s biography of Ms. Hutton was republished, in what was described as a revised and corrected version, by Lyle Stuart, an independent publishing house known for renegade titles.

The flap over Mr. Heymann’s Hutton book put his earlier work under scrutiny. After that book was withdrawn, news organizations reported on a charge by the Pound scholar Hugh Kenner that had received comparatively little attention at the time:

In 1977, writing in the magazine The Alternative: An American Spectator (a forerunner of The American Spectator), Mr. Kenner accused Mr. Heymann of having taken an interview with Pound by an Italian interviewer, published in Venice, and presented it in his book as if it he had conducted it himself.

Mr. Heymann denied the accusation, calling it retribution for a negative review he had written of one of Mr. Kenner’s books.”

Heymann went on to write A Woman Named Jackie, a bestselling biography of Jacqueline Kennedy; and Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor (1995), both of which were made into TV movies.

He first became known to MM fans in 1999, when RFK: A Candid Biography of Robert F. Kennedy was published. In this book, he claimed that Peter Lawford told him that he and Kennedy had visited Marilyn on the day she died, and that she had threatened Kennedy with a knife.

This interview is often cited by those authors who believe Marilyn was murdered by order of the Kennedys, though others doubt that Kennedy visited Marilyn that day (he was photographed on a friend’s ranch near San Francisco with his family on the same weekend.)

The controversy surrounding Heymann deepened in 2009, with the publication of Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story. Many Kennedy scholars disputed his claim of an affair between Robert Kennedy and his brother’s wife. “It’s a new low, and you just wonder how far people are willing to go,” Laurence Leamer, author of three books about the Kennedys, told the New York Daily News.

Heymann died in May 2012. Joe and Marilyn was originally due to be published in April 2013, but the release date was repeatedly pushed back. It has now been published, and was heralded by a rather scurrilous article in the New York Post:

“In one of the book’s more outrageous claims, DiMaggio spent $10,000 on a life-size sex doll made in Monroe’s image. One year after Monroe filed for divorce, he showed it to a stewardess he was seeing.

‘She’s Marilyn the Magnificent,’ DiMaggio said. ‘She can do anything Marilyn can do, except talk.'”

Joe and Marilyn contains numerous factual errors. For example, Heymann claims that Ana Lower took Norma Jeane to visit her mother in a mental hospital. In fact, it was Grace Goddard; Ana did not meet Gladys until much later. Heymann also writes that Marlon Brando sent Marilyn a fake signed photo of Einstein as a joke. In fact, the prankster was Eli Wallach. He later claims that John Huston first directed Marilyn in Ladies of the Chorus (actually, it was The Asphalt Jungle.)

Among the book’s more bizarre claims are that Marilyn smoked dope with Arthur Miller; that Miller’s young son was a cross-dresser; that she ran naked through the Mapes hotel and casino; and had sex in public with Jose Bolanos.

Heymann claimed to have interviewed many people close to Joe and Marilyn, including press agent Rupert Allan; make-up artist Alan ‘Whitey’ Snyder; George Solotaire’s son, Robert; Dom DiMaggio; Joe DiMaggio junior; Marilyn’s mime teacher, Lotte Goslar; and her masseur, Ralph Roberts.

However, many of the quotes attributed to them seem paraphrased from previously published material. And most of these people were known for their discretion, which makes much of what is said therein hard to believe.

In the case of Lotte Goslar, there is no evidence that she was a longterm confidante of Marilyn’s. Doris Lilly, author of the 1951 novel, How to Marry a Millionaire, is also named as a close friend, without corroborating evidence. Other alleged sources, such as psychiatrist Rose Fromm and journalist Kurt Lamprecht, also seem to have appeared from nowhere.

While Heymann acknowledges that Robert Slatzer’s story of a secret marriage to Marilyn has been debunked, he nonetheless asserts that Slatzer’s story of a clash with Joe DiMaggio is true. He also claims to have interviewed Jeanne Carmen, Marilyn’s self-styled ‘best friend’, whose stories have also been widely discredited.

As Margalit Fox noted in her New York Times obituary: “Though some critics admired Mr. Heymann’s biographies for their comprehensiveness, others were far more caustic. Their concerns included his use of single rather than multiple sources in reconstructing historical events, and his reliance on hearsay accounts by people not directly involved in incidents he was describing.”

With all this in mind, I cannot recommend Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love as a reliable biography. It is so utterly riddled with mistakes, exaggerations and distortions that it soon becomes impossible to tell whether any of it is real. I suspect that what little grains of truth this book may contain are largely thanks to the earlier work of other, more rigorous authors.

Chris Lemmon’s Poolside Memories

Marilyn with Jack Lemmon in 'Some Like it Hot'
Marilyn with Jack Lemmon in ‘Some Like it Hot’

Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris, is currently starring in a one-man show, Jack Lemmon Returns, at the Laguna Playhouse. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he shared his memories of growing up among the stars, including one decidedly fishy story about Marilyn and her alleged paramour, President John F. Kennedy:

“I was walking by Marilyn’s house. We used to live at Harold Lloyd’s old house, my mom rented it from him, and sure enough there’s this helicopter in a low lazy circle and these guys in funny suits and funny glasses standing around watching Marilyn Monroe and JFK having a frolic in the pool. I was six or seven years old and these guys went, ‘I think it’s time for you to leave,’ and they yanked me out of there.”

Chris Lemmon was born in June 1954, so this would place the story around 1960-61. Marilyn was filming in Hollywood at the time, but did not have a permanent residence. She returned to her home New York in October 1960, and did not move back to Los Angeles until summer of 1961. (John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as president in January of that year.) She then rented an apartment at North Doheny Drive, West Hollywood, for the rest of 1961. But she did not have a pool there, and according to her neighbours, lived very quietly.

In early 1962, Marilyn bought a modest bungalow in the middle-class suburb of Brentwood. She did have a pool there, but seldom used it. In any case, the pool was in the back garden, and could not be seen from outside. The house was located off the beaten track, in a quiet cul-de-sac. A high gate at the front of the bungalow ensured maximum privacy.

Peter Lawford's pool
Peter Lawford’s pool

Chris Lemmon may be thinking of Peter Lawford’s much grander residence, which was indeed located in Santa Monica, right by the beach. Marilyn often visited the Lawfords there, from late 1961 until her death. And of course, Lawford was married to Patricia Kennedy. Her brothers, John and Robert Kennedy, also visited the house whenever they were in Los Angeles.

Marilyn met Jack and Bobby at the Lawford home on a handful of occasions. However, even if she had ‘canoodled’ with JFK there, it’s hard to believe that he would have drawn attention to the fact by having a helicopter flying ahead. And while she was a regular guest, it was never ‘Marilyn’s house.’

Would it be too cynical to suggest that he had few memories of his father’s erstwhile co-star (after all, Some Like it Hot was filmed when Chris was just four), and when pressed for an anecdote, drew on the well-worn gossip surrounding his former neighbours, the Lawfords?

Christopher Andersen On Jack, Jackie and Marilyn

The New York Daily News has published excerpts from Christopher Andersen‘s forthcoming book, Those Precious Few Days: The Final Year of Jack With Jackie – including the allegation that President John F. Kennedy‘s affair with Marilyn ‘seemed to bother [Jackie Kennedy] the most’.

While I understand that the (alleged) Monroe-Kennedy affair was sensitive because Marilyn was so famous, I find it harder to accept that his wife was less worried about a brief fling (in his view, at least) than his long-term relationships with mistresses including Judith Campbell and Mary Meyer.

Also, the fact that Andersen uses Jeanne Carmen as a source makes his claim less credible to me. Carmen styled herself as Marilyn’s best friend, but there is no evidence that they were anything more than distant acquaintances (if, indeed, they met at all.)

The infamous ‘first lady’ quote attributed to Marilyn by Carmen should not be taken at face value. And while Peter Lawford knew both Marilyn and the Kennedys very well, his own recollections seemed to change as time went by.

Jackie spoke sympathetically of Marilyn after death, in public and private. In later years she would edit two books featuring Marilyn. In a recent article, historian Carl Anthony suggests that the MM-JFK affair has been greatly exaggerated – which, given their mutual celebrity, is hardly surprising.

Obviously, I can’t judge this book as a whole from these excerpts – and for the record, I do think there was an affair. There’s no question that Kennedy was a compulsive philanderer. However, I think the subject needs some perspective – and that this story has created a stir on the anniversary of Marilyn’s death may tell us more about the media culture we live in today than it does about what happened then.

Here is the extract:

“‘She didn’t like Jack’s fooling around. She was damn mad about it,’ said Jack’s close friend, George Smathers. ‘But she was willing to look the other way as long as he was careful.’

Jackie conceded to Dr. Frank Finnerty, to whom she confided the most intimate details of her marriage, that her husband was so promiscuous and his extramarital conquests so numerous there was no way either she or he could possibly identify them all. But more than any of JFK’s other lovers, Marilyn Monroe ‘seemed to bother her the most’ — in large part because Marilyn was a loose cannon who could go public at any time, causing a scandal that would obliterate her husband’s reputation, destroy her marriage and hold her up to public ridicule.

And she was right to fear Marilyn Monroe. The actress had always grappled with severe psychiatric and emotional problems, made worse by alcohol and prescription drug abuse. At thirty-six, she realized her sex symbol days were numbered and began to see a new role for herself: as the second wife of the president. Confiding the most intimate details of the affair to her friend Jeanne Carmen, Marilyn was convinced JFK was about to leave Jackie for her. ‘Can’t you just see me,’ she asked Carmen, ‘as first lady?’

Peter Lawford claimed that Monroe called the White House and told Jackie of the affair, of Jack’s alleged promises to her. ‘Marilyn, you’ll marry Jack, that’s great,’ Jackie reportedly responded in that breathy voice that sounded not unlike Monroe’s. ‘And you’ll move into the White House and you’ll assume the responsibilities of first lady, and I’ll move out and you’ll have all the problems.'”

Fred Otash: The Marilyn Tapes

Yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter contained allegations – not new, but still sensational – regarding the notorious ‘private eye’ Fred Otash’s alleged tapes of Marilyn and John F. Kennedy.

“Now unveiled for the first time to The Hollywood Reporter by the detective’s daughter, Colleen, and her business partner Manfred Westphal (a veteran publicist with APA, whose parents were Otash’s neighbors), the records fill 11 overflowing boxes that for two decades have been hidden inside a storage unit in the San Fernando Valley.”

In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, biographer Anthony Summers claimed that Otash began surveillance on her in 1961. And crime novelist James Ellroy is currently adapting his novella, Shakedown, for an HBO series about Otash’s exploits in 1950s Los Angeles.

Otash wrote a manuscript, Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, before his death in 1992. It has never been published.

Stephen Galloway, author of the article, doesn’t mention whether he actually listened to the tapes, or read Otash’s notes on the case. Without confirmation that the recordings exist – and hard evidence that they are, indeed, of Marilyn – I remain unconvinced.

I also think that her personal life should remain private – but as we all know, sex sells.

Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s article:

“TAPING MARILYN MONROE

‘Marilyn wanted a mini-phone listening device,’ Otash claims in the notes, adding that he spied on her even while she was paying him to install recording equipment so that she could tape her own phone calls. ‘You could hide it in your bra. The microphone was a wristwatch. You could also put a suction cup on the phone. Later on, she wanted a sophisticated system put in her house. We wired up her phone because it started looking stupid with a suction cup.’

Otash listened in on Marilyn having sex with Kennedy when he was watching Lawford’s house in Malibu, allegedly while working for Howard Hughes, who was seeking general information with which to discredit the Democrats. ‘When the original Lawford house was wired, Monroe was not part of the plan,’ Otash says in the files. ‘It was to find out what the Democrats were up to on behalf of Howard Hughes and Nixon. Monroe became a by-product.’

The files include notes that he left for Colleen, in which he says he was conducting surveillance of Marilyn Monroe on the day she died.

‘I listened to Marilyn Monroe die,’ he claims in the notes, without elaborating, adding that he had taped an angry confrontation among Bobby Kennedy, Lawford and Monroe just hours before her death: ‘She said she was passed around like a piece of meat. It was a violent argument about their relationship and the commitment and promises he made to her. She was really screaming and they were trying to quiet her down. She’s in the bedroom and Bobby gets the pillow and he muffles her on the bed to keep the neighbors from hearing. She finally quieted down and then he was looking to get out of there.’

Otash only learned that Monroe had died when Lawford called him in the early hours of the following day and asked him to remove any incriminating evidence from her house. There is no record of what was removed, and the alleged tapes have since disappeared.

Shortly before Otash’s death in 1992 at the age of 70, he told Vanity Fair: ‘I would have kept it quiet all my life. But all of a sudden, I’m looking at FBI files and CIA files with quotes from my investigators telling them about the work they did on my behalf. It’s stupid to sit here and deny that these things are true…'”