Aleshia Brevard 1937-2017

Aleshia Brevard, the pioneering transgender actress, model and writer, has died aged 79, reports the Telegraph. She was born Alfred Brevard Crenshaw to Southern fundamentalist parents and grew up in abject poverty on a farm in the Appalachian Mountains. From an early age, Alfred dreamed of movie stars – and at 15 he took a Greyhound to California. So far, so Cherie in Bus Stop – but by the late 1950s, inspired by George Jorgensen aka Christine, America’s first transsexual, Alfred was working as a female impersonator at San Francisco nightclub Finocchio’s, and had begun the surgical  transition process.

Marilyn in 1960

In 1960, during a break from filming The Misfits, Marilyn saw Aleshia impersonate her onstage at Finocchio’s. One of Monroe’s early biographers, Fred Lawrence Guiles, first told the story in Norma Jean (1969.)

“Finocchio’s in San Francisco is one of the few tourist attractions of that city of special interest to show folk. It features some of the best female impersonators in the business. Marilyn had expressed an interest in seeing the show when others of The Misfits company came back talking about the place. Now it had been rumoured that one of the boys was impersonating her. She had seen and laughed at Edie Adams, a good friend, in her celebrated parody of Marilyn, but the Finocchio act was something special she would go out of her way to see.

Everyone in her party was a little tense as they took their ringside table at the club. [Allan ‘Whitey’] Snyder was frankly apprehensive and kept reminding Marilyn that she should keep in mind it was all in fun. And then the breathless moment arrived. The man was gusseted in a skin-tight sequinned gown, a wind-blown platinum wig on his head. The resemblance was uncanny. [Ralph] Roberts observed Marilyn’s eyes widening in recognition, and then she grinned. Her mimic was undulating his lips in the familiar insecure smile and cupping his breasts, taking little steps around the floor, wiggling his rear.

‘You’re all terribly sweet,’ the mimic said in a little-girl voice. Marilyn put her hand to her mouth. ‘I love you all!’ the man was saying as he began to point at the men in the audience in turn. ‘You … and you …’

While Marilyn might have worn her black wig and tried to control the fits of girlish laughter that would give her away, this night she had not wanted anonymity. She had told the others she might leave them later on and wander down to Fisherman’s Wharf to visit DiMaggio’s Restaurant and then perhaps Lefty O’Doul’s. Neither establishment would find a Marilyn incognito especially amusing.

The mimic, discovering his model, could not avoid playing to her. There was a rising buzz of whispers around them as the audience saw the rapt and smiling original. Regretfully, Marilyn suggested they leave. The impersonator rushed to finish his turn. It was a short one anyway. No one could sustain such a parody for very long. As Marilyn and her friends were leaving, the man, blowing kisses to the audience and then to Marilyn removed his silvery wig.”

Aleshia at Finocchio’s

The Telegraph reports that Marilyn wrote in her diary that evening that the experience was ‘like seeing herself on film.’ However, Marilyn did not keep a regular diary and this remark doesn’t appear in her private notes, so it’s more likely that she said this to one of her friends. Aleshia would share her own account in her 2001 memoir, The Woman I Was Not Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey.

“Newspaper columnists touted me as Marilyn’s double. That was flattering, but it was only good publicity. Mr Finocchio paid for such fanfare. I was young, professionally blonde, and sang, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ in a red knit sweater, but that does not a legend make. I knew the difference. Marilyn was the epitome of everything I wanted to become.

The nation’s favourite sex symbol came to Finocchio’s to catch my act. She must have read the publicity.

‘Marilyn left after your number,’ I muttered to myself.

That was true. I might be reacting to the pre-op medication, but I wasn’t hallucinating. Miss Monroe had watched me perform her song from Let’s Make Love – and fled.

‘Well, I wouldn’t be sittin’ my famous ass in some nightclub watching a drag queen sing my number,’ I mused. ‘Not if I was Marilyn Monroe! No way, darlin’, I’d have better things to do with my life.”

Marilyn and Aleshia

When Marilyn died, Aleshia was recovering from her long-awaited operation and would recall, ‘I felt as though I’d lost a close, personal friend.’ She later became a Playboy Bunny, and appeared in a film produced by Robert Slatzer, a man notorious for his exaggerated stories about Marilyn, claiming they were secretly married and linking her death to the Kennedys.

“Most of my audition time had been wasted by Slatzer’s bragging about his marriage to Marilyn Monroe,” she wrote. “‘Joe DiMaggio maybe; Bob Slatzer, never,’ I thought. My Marilyn, I believed, would never have married the man I personally regarded as a blustering, rotund, B-grade movie maker. I didn’t believe a word he said.'”

Nonetheless, Slatzer gave Aleshia a part in his 1970 film, Bigfoot – as a seven-foot mother ape! “A munchkin from The Wizard of Oz would play my Sasquatch child,” Aleshia cringed. “There would be no Academy Award for this acting stint. In film history, no Sasquatch has ever received the coveted statuette. The only appeal to the potboiler was its cast. John and Chris Mitchum, brother and son of screen luminary Robert Mitchum, were in the debacle … John Carradine taught me to play poker – and I paid dearly for the privilege.” After enduring long days in full gorilla makeup without filming a scene, Aleshia contacted her agent and, much to Slatzer’s chagrin, the Screen Actors’ Guild intervened.

Aleshia went on to work in television, and after earning a master’s degree, she taught film and theatre studies to supplement her income. She was married four times, and followed her successful autobiography with a novel and further memoir. After her death on July 1, author Gary Vitacco-Robles, who interviewed Aleshia for his 2014 biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, paid tribute on Facebook: “She was a brave and lovely woman. May Aleshia’s memory be eternal.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Trinkets and Keepsakes

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Among Marilyn’s possessions were many items of sentimental value.  She kept this ballerina paperweight in her New York apartment next to a framed photo of 1920s Broadway star Marilyn Miller, who inspired her own stage name. In a strange twist of fate, she would also become ‘Marilyn Miller’ after her third marriage. She later gave the paperweight to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts, calling it “the other Marilyn.”

49D0AD3E-208B-4C7D-8A6E-BF4B8C120722-17167-00000949DDBC3B1D_tmpThis silver-tone St Christopher pendant was a gift from Natasha Lytess, Marilyn’s drama coach from 1948-54. (St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers.) Marilyn cut ties with Lytess after discovering she was writing a book about their friendship. She later gave the pendant to Ralph Roberts, telling him, “I’ve outgrown Natasha.

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This gold and silver-tone Gemini pendant reflects Marilyn’s close identification with her astrological sign, symbolised by twin faces. “I’m so many people,” she told journalist W.J. Weatherby. “Sometimes I wish I was just me.

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Marilyn was exceedingly generous to her friends, as the story behind this bracelet reveals.

“A rhinestone bracelet owned by Marilyn Monroe and gifted to Vanessa Reis, the sister-in-law to May Reis, Monroe’s personal assistant and secretary. In a letter to the consigner dated November 28, 1994, Ralph Roberts writes, ‘Reference Marilyn robe and bracelet. As best I recall, late one Saturday afternoon Marilyn and I were in the dining area of the Miller 9th floor suite at the Mapes Hotel. She had just changed into a robe, sitting on one of the chairs and I was massaging her back and shoulders. She showed me a bracelet she’d brought to Reno with thought of possibly wearing it as a [undecipherable comment] for Roslyn [Monroe’s character in The Misfits]. Upon discussing it, she and Paula [Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s acting coach and friend] had decided somehow it wouldn’t be appropriate. Just then May Reis entered with Vanessa Reis (the widow of Irving Reis, May’s greatly loved brother and film director). Vanessa had come up from LA for a long weekend visit – there’d been some talk of our going out to some of the casinos to do a bit of gambling. Vanessa told Marilyn how lovely she looked in that robe. Marilyn thanked her + impulsively held out the bracelet, Take this + wear it as a good luck charm. I was wearing it during dance rehearsals for Let’s Make Love, smashed into a prop, so a stone is loosened. I wish I could go with you, but Raffe is getting some Misfits knots out. And I should go over that scene coming up Monday. They left. Marilyn asked me to remind her to have the robe cleaned to give to Vanessa. Whitey, Agnes, May – all of us – knew from experience we couldn’t compliment Marilyn on any personal items or had to be very careful. She’d be compulsive about giving it, or getting a copy – to you.’ Accompanied by a copy of the letter.”

Jack Dempsey, a former world heavyweight champion boxer, wrote to Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees teammate, Jerry Coleman, in 1954. “Have been reading a lot about Marilyn, Joe and yourself, here in the east,” Dempsey remarked. “Best of luck to you and your family, and send Marilyn’s autograph along.

47506260-4B71-4779-B8DB-0A5CDFC4355B-17167-000009531D6A9016_tmpThis small pine-cone Christmas tree, held together with wire and dusted in glitter, was given to Marilyn as a surprise by Joe DiMaggio one year when she had no plans, or decorations. Christmas can be a lonely time, and Joe made sure to bring some cheer.

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This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.

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Author Truman Capote sent Marilyn a personally inscribed 1959 album of himself reading ‘A Christmas Memory‘ (an excerpt from his famous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

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Marilyn owned a leather-bound, monogrammed copy of Esquire magazine’s July 1953 issue, featuring an article about herself titled “The ‘Altogether’ Girl.”

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Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea to entertain American troops was one of her happiest memories. This photo shows her with the band and is accompanied by a letter from George Sweers of the St Petersburg Times, sent after their chance reunion when Marilyn took a short break in Florida in 1961.

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This endearing note accompanied a gift from Marilyn to Paula Strasberg, who replaced Natasha Lytess as her acting coach in 1956: “Dear Paula, I’m glad you were born because you are needed. Your warmth is both astonishing and welcomed. Love & Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”

In April 1955, novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Marilyn, asking her to sign a photo for his young nephew.

“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. … I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Television host Edward K. Murrow sent Marilyn a Columbia Records album, featuring excerpts from speeches by Sir Winston Churchill, in November 1955. She had been a guest on Murrow’s CBS show, Person to Person, a few months previously.

 

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Marilyn’s custom-bound edition of Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays included a personal dedication. Miller had drafted a fuller tribute, but it was nixed – possibly because his first divorce was not final when it was published.

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“This book is being written out of the courage, the widened view of life, the awareness of love and beauty, given to me by my love, my wife-to-be, my Marilyn. I bless her for this gift, and I write it so that she may have from me the only unique thing I know how to make. I bless her, I owe her the discovery of my soul.”

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Costume designer Donfeld sent Marilyn this handmade birthday card one year, together with a small note that read, “M – I hope this finds you well and happy – My thoughts are with you now – Love, Feld.”

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This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.

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This souvenir brochure for the small town of Bement, Illinois was signed by Marilyn when she made a surprise appearance in 1955, during a festival marking the centennial of an historic visit by her idol, Abraham Lincoln.

Comedian Ernie Kovacs sent this rather cheeky letter to Marilyn in 1961. He would die in a tragic car crash in January 1962, aged 43, followed by Marilyn in August.

“The letter, addressed to ‘Marilyneleh’, invites Monroe to a get together at his home on June 15, giving the dress code as ‘… slacks or if you want to be chic, just spray yourself with aluminum paint or something.’ He continues, ‘I’ll try to find someone more mature than Carl Sandburg for you. … if Frank is in town, will be asking him. … don’t be a miserable shit and say you can’t come. … Look as ugly as possible cause the neighbors talk if attractive women come into my study.’ He signs the letter in black pen ‘Ernie’ and adds a note at the bottom: ‘If you don’t have any aluminum paint, you could back into a mud pack and come as an adobe hut. … we’ll make it a costume party. … Kovacs.'”

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Always gracious to her fans, Marilyn gave child actress Linda Bennett a magazine clipping with the inscription, “I saw you in The Seven Little Foys. Great – Marilyn Monroe.” She also signed this photograph, “Dear Linda, I wish you luck with your acting. Love and kisses, Marilyn Monroe Miller.”

Marilyn, Ralph Roberts and the Missing Coat

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Marilyn arrives in London, 1956

Today, items from Marilyn’s wardrobe sell for thousands – millions, even. But as Hap Roberts – nephew of Marilyn’s masseur and close friend, Ralph – tells the Salisbury Post‘s Mark Wineka, the  Burberry trench-coat which she gave him is now lost.

It’s not clear exactly which coat this was – but Marilyn wore a trench-coat during her time in England, while filming The Prince and the Showgirl – and again for a scene in Let’s Make Love (1960.)

In one interview, Ralph claimed that Marilyn picked it up from Arthur Miller’s home in Roxbury, Connecticut after their divorce, but she decided to give it to Ralph when she found it smelled of another woman’s perfume. (This is odd, because in her own account of the same visit, Marilyn’s half-sister Bernice Baker Miracle said it was a fur coat, and that MM gave it to her dog, Maf, to sleep on.)

“Roberts became Monroe’s official masseur in 1959, and for the last three-plus years of her life, during her various romantic entanglements, Ralph would give her massages daily, becoming a close confidante and friend to Monroe.

Together, they ran errands, ate meals, attended parties and took plane trips across the country between New York and California.

Toward the end of his life, Ralph Roberts returned to Salisbury and lived in a little house off Parkview Circle, not far from Hap’s offices with Statewide Title. They would meet every afternoon around 4 p.m. to talk, and every Sunday at 5 p.m. Ralph would show up at Hap and his wife Annette’s house for martinis.

Ralph Roberts always brought his Sunday New York Times with him and would leave the newspaper with the couple so they could read it later. Once, Roberts carried with him an art deco martini set Monroe had given him.

Roberts also possessed a box of chandelier crystals Monroe had collected. The actress thought the crystals carried healing properties, and in the years after her death, Ralph sometimes would hand them out as gifts to friends.

Ralph Roberts died April 30, 1999, at age 82. About a month later, Hap and his cousin Claudette began the somber task of cleaning up and going through their uncle’s house. They noticed a woman’s Burberry trench coat in the closet and figured it was a friend’s coat, left at Ralph’s house in the past.

They placed it in the things going to Goodwill.

About a month later, Hap found a list of Marilyn Monroe items Ralph had inventoried. On the list was ‘Burberry trench coat.’

Hap could only ease the heartache of having given away the coat by thinking to himself  that ‘at least it’s keeping somebody dry and warm and Ralph would like that.'”

Hap Roberts Remembers Ralph, Marilyn

Rob18In an article for the Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka interviews Hap Roberts, nephew of Ralph Roberts.

“On one New York visit , Ralph Roberts took Hap to the spacious New York apartment of Lee Strasberg … The Strasberg residence also held a white baby grand piano that had once belonged to Marilyn Monroe.

Through much of his life, Ralph Roberts seemed consistently drawn to famous or soon-to-be-famous people, through a combined career of acting and massaging. Marilyn Monroe was his most famous connection.

For the last three-plus years of Monroe’s life, Roberts served as her personal masseur and, probably, closest friend. By most accounts, Roberts was the last person Monroe tried to contact the night she died in 1962 of a drug overdose in Los Angeles.

As a boy in the spring of 1960, Hap Roberts wrote to his Uncle Ralph after hearing he had a part in the movie The Misfits.  Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe were the stars.

Hap asked whether Ralph could have Monroe autograph a picture to him and also one to his 9-year-old girlfriend, Kay Snider.

A month later, the pictures came in the mail. His said simply, ‘To Hap, Marilyn Monroe,’ but she also had signed the cover of a Life magazine with her and actor Yves Montand.

Hap Roberts still has it.”

Ferragamo Launches Marilyn-Inspired Shoe

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Edgardo Osorio has launched a capsule collection for Salvatore Ferragamo, recalling the legendary Italian designer’s reputation in Hollywood as ‘shoemaker to the stars’, reports AccessWDUN. The range includes a Marilyn-inspired pump with sheer netted panels.

Ferragamo’s grandson James claims that Marilyn bought a pair of Ferragamo shoes from a shop in Madison Avenue, NYC, for $45 in the late 1940s. Marilyn didn’t live in New York permanently until 1955, but James says he has the receipt to prove it. He also repeats the rumour that Marilyn had one heel cut several milimeters lower than the other to achieve the famous Monroe wiggle. Marilyn’s masseur, Ralph Roberts, also mentioned this, although this alleged anomaly has not generally been noted by auctioneers.

Perhaps Marilyn should have the last word: “I learned to walk when I was nine months old, and haven’t had a lesson since.”

Writing Marilyn: Carl Rollyson

Rollyson 2nd ed

Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress, Revised and Updated, the upcoming new edition of Carl Rollyson‘s 1986 biography, now has a book trailer. You can see it here.

Rollyson has also spoken about the process of writing about Marilyn in an interview with the How Did You Write That? blog.

“HDYWT:  How did you come up with the idea for Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress?

Carl: While Norman Mailer’s biography of Monroe has been much maligned, it is, in fact, an important work not only about Monroe but about the genre of biography …Mailer used one word to describe Monroe that no other biographer had used. He called her ambition ‘Napoleonic.’  That was very astute.  The more I read about her, the more I could see his point.  She really did want to conquer the world and, in many ways, she has succeeded…I spent the summer of 1980 reading the literature about Monroe. I realized that even the most important books about her, including Mailer’s, missed the most important part of her biography. She had this terrific desire to be an actress.  Did she, in fact, become an actress, or just a star?

HDYWT:  How did you get started on the project?

Carl: I was fortunate that I knew Bruce Minnix, director of the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Bruce had told me long before I ever dreamed of writing about Monroe that he knew two of her friends. So I called on Bruce, who put me in touch with Ralph Roberts, Marilyn’s masseur and confidant, and Steffi Sidney, the daughter of Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, who helped Monroe invent some of the more dramatic stories about her life. They, in turned, connected me with others, like Rupert Allan, Marilyn’s most important publicist. Just as important were my contacts with Maurice Zolotow and Fred Lawrence Guiles, two of Marilyn’s early and most important biographers. They were wonderful to me, sharing their insights, and providing me with still others to interview. Guiles let me visit him in the hospital while he was recovering from a heart attack, and later he sent me a recording of his interview with Lee Strasberg, Marilyn’s most important acting teacher.

HDYWT:  How do you organize your research?

Carl: The breakthrough moment came when Susan Strasberg read part of an early draft. I had interviewed her about her memories of Monroe and Actors Studio, and we got along very well — in part, I think, because she could see I was going to write about Marilyn as an actress in a way no one else had done before. I sent her an early draft of the book, and she said: ‘When you tell the story of her life and her acting you establish your voice. But then there is also this other stuff that sounds like a treatise. Who are you trying to impress — your colleagues?’ That’s when I threw out about two thirds of the book and rewrote it as a narrative. As soon as I had my story, the organization of research fell into place.”

Marilyn, JFK and The Palm Springs Story

Whenever the home of a star from Hollywood’s golden age goes on the market, it is now routine for estate agents to claim that Marilyn Monroe visited them there – often adding that she and said celebrity enjoyed a passionate affair on the grounds.

Generally, it’s false. However, there are a couple of exceptions: the most notable being Bing Crosby’s Palm Springs estate, visited by Marilyn in the spring of 1962. Among the guests was President John F. Kennedy, taking time off from the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.

Lindsay, owner of the provocatively titled, but actually very informative IAmNotaStalker blog, has visited many Marilyn locations, and posted many great photos taken from outside Uncle Bing’s former pad just recently.

Even the most sceptical observers concede that Marilyn may have had a fling with Kennedy that weekend. Her masseur and close friend, Ralph Roberts, has said that Marilyn called him from the house in flirtatious mood, and that a ‘friend’ bearing that familiar Bostonian accent joined in the conversation.

This may even have been Marilyn’s only liaison with the president, as none of their other alleged trysts have been confirmed by such a trustworthy source.

 

Marilyn and Ralph Roberts

Marilyn first met fellow actor Ralph L. Roberts at the home of Lee Strasberg, and in 1959 he became her personal masseur. She loved to hear stories about his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, and called him ‘brother’ – in fact, her final phonecall may have been to Ralph. He died in 1999.

Ralph’s nephew, Hap Roberts, will appear in a forthcoming documentary, Marilyn: Birth of an Icon, and extracts from an unpublished memoir, Mimosa, have been posted on Roberts’ website.

In today’s Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka looks back at their close friendship.

“Only two weeks ago, documentary filmmakers from Paris were here, interviewing Ralph Roberts’ nephew, Hap, who saw his uncle almost every day for the last three years of his life in Salisbury.

French Connection Films also spoke to Chris ‘Steve’ Jacobs, the man Hap Roberts has made archivist for his uncle’s papers and all things Marilyn.

Long after Monroe had died and mainly as a way to correct and set straight things written about her, Ralph Roberts started several versions of a memoir, which he titled Mimosa.

‘There’s constant interest in that manuscript,’ Jacobs says.

Hap Roberts and Jacobs hope to publish the memoir some day, though putting the Marilyn years in chronological order and dealing with Ralph’s writing style have been difficult.

‘He never took advantage of his relationship with Marilyn Monroe in any shape or form,’ Hap Roberts says of his uncle. ‘We don’t want to profit from it, either. We just want to do what Ralph would want done.’

Roberts actually met Marilyn Monroe for the first time at [Lee] Strasberg’s New York apartment in 1955. He wrote in his memoir that she was ‘one of the most radiantly beautiful creatures’ he had ever seen.

‘And when I say creature, that was it,’ Roberts wrote. ‘An animal. The blue-whiteness one sees sometimes in the stars of a desert night. White-blond hair, clear-white complexion framing violet-blue eyes.’

Roberts became Monroe’s official masseur in 1959, and for long periods, during her various marriages and romantic entanglements, would give her massages daily.

Roberts and Monroe forged a bond. She called him ‘Rafe,’ the British pronunciation for his name.

They connected on the Willa Cather books they read, their spirituality and, believe it or not, Salisbury.

As Roberts massaged her at night, he spoke to her about his hometown and all of its places and people – down to men such as Irvin Oestreicher and Julian Robertson Sr. to the roasted peanuts at the Lash store and the winged statue on West Innes Street. Together, Roberts and Monroe ran errands, ate meals together, attended parties and took plane trips across the country between New York and California.

Roberts was with Monroe the night she practiced singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ the version she would famously croon to Kennedy.

They watched the 1960 Democratic National Convention together when Kennedy won the nomination. They were on the set together every day of The Misfits, Clark Gable’s last movie.

In addition to massaging Monroe between scenes and being her chauffeur, Roberts played the part of an ambulance driver in The Misfits.

Hap and Annette, who also became close to Ralph, knew not to probe him for his memories of Monroe.

When he did talk about their relationship, they tried not to interrupt, savoring every detail and recognizing how much he loved and respected Monroe.

Ralph Roberts felt great remorse that he wasn’t home the night of Monroe’s death to answer her call. He lived close to the actress and could have been to her house quickly.

‘I do think he probably carried that to his grave,’ Hap Roberts says.

Hap Roberts tells a funny story, too, of another Monroe gift to his uncle. After Ralph’s death, Hap was gathering his uncle’s clothing together for a donation to Goodwill.

He noticed a woman’s Burberry trench coat in the closet, but he figured it was a friend’s coat, left at Ralph’s house in the past. He placed it with the other things for Goodwill.

‘About a month later, I found a list of Marilyn Monroe items,’ Roberts says. ‘Sure enough, on the list was Burberry trench coat.’

‘Well, Marilyn’s coat is now protecting some unsuspecting lady in Salisbury from inclement weather.’

When Ralph Roberts died April 30, 1999, at his home, he was 82. Hap Roberts said he sat alone in his uncle’s house and cried until he couldn’t cry any longer.

Roberts noticed the stacks of memoir papers spread out everywhere in the living room. In the den, he also saw the open Willa Cather book that his uncle had been reading.

Up to the end, Ralph Roberts was chasing his friend, Marilyn Monroe.”

Richard Adler 1921-2012

Marilyn rehearses with Richard Adler

Richard Adler, the Broadway composer and producer, has died aged 90, reports The Guardian. Best-known for hit musicals The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, Adler also produced the birthday gala for President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

In their 1992 book, Marilyn: The Last Take, Peter Brown and Patte Barham wrote that Adler first approached Marilyn at the Actors’ Studio in November 1961.

‘I told her I wanted her to sing Happy Birthday straight and clear-voiced,’ Adler recalled. In the spring of 1962, he sent Marilyn a recording of the song, with the message, ‘You should sing this precisely as I did. Full out. No baby-voiced breathlessness, please!’

As Marilyn flew to New York in May, Adler was besieged by angry messages protesting Monroe’s appearance at the President’s birthday. (Some were reportedly from leading members of the Democratic Party.)

Adler called Kennedy, who insisted, ‘It’ll be fine. Everybody’ll love it.’

With Adler and Jack Benny

Marilyn staged a private rehearsal in her apartment for Adler, accompanied by pianist Hank Jones. Monroe’s defiantly sexy rendition led to a ‘bitter row,’ according to her masseur, Ralph Roberts.

‘I went home certain we were headed for one of the most embarrassing disasters of all time,’ Adler admitted. In fact, he was a witness to history in the making.

One of the event’s co-organisers, Clive David, told Keith Badman, author of The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe, ‘As a gimmick, Richard Adler originally wanted Marilyn up on the top balcony with all the lights in the room surrounding her when she sang. But it never happened. Marilyn hated that idea.’

Of course, the show went ahead and Marilyn was a sensation. ‘It was like a mass seduction,’ Adler remembered. ‘With Marilyn whispering Happy Birthday and the crowd yelling and screaming for her, I realised then that the President was a better showman than I was.’

She concluded her brief, dazzling performance with an adaptation of ‘Thanks for the Memory,’ rewritten by Adler with the lines, ‘Thanks, Mr President/For all the things you’ve done, the battles that you won/The way you deal with US Steel, and our problems by the ton/We thank you so much…’

Investing in Marilyn

Dress from ‘There’s No Show Business’ (1954)

David Gainsborough Roberts, whose collection is on display at the Marilyn – Hollywood Icon exhibit, in Bath’s American Museum, talks to Paul Fraser Collectibles:

“So, there’s been enormous interest in film stars in general. It’s a very, very good investment – and Marilyn is probably the best investment in the world…That’s why, with a lot of the small stuff I’ve bought of Marilyn’s, I bought from Ralph Roberts. He was one of the only 14 people to go to her funeral, one of her closest friends. So if Ralph told me that was it, that was it.”