Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.
Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)
Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)
Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.
Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.
Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.
Tapes recorded in 1998 by Jeff Platts, nephew of George Masters, suggest that the celebrity stylist was with Marilyn the night before she died:
“About a month before he passed away, he sat down and recorded some discussions with Platts. Recently, Platts shared a portion of the tapes with me, specifically one that dealt with Monroe’s last night.
In a frail but controlled voice, here’s what Masters remembered about the last night he saw Monroe alive.
‘The night before she died, the last time I saw her, was in Lake Tahoe at the Cal-Neva Lodge. She was there with Sam Giancana, who was the head of the Mafia.'”
Masters was one of Hollywood’s top hairdressers, and he styled Marilyn’s hair for her ‘Last Sitting’ with Bert Stern in June 1962. He can also be seen with Marilyn in photos taken at a Miami airport earlier that year, en route to Mexico.
Though she admired his skills as a stylist, Marilyn never seemed to confide in Masters as much as some of her other aides, eg make-up man Whitey Snyder or masseur Ralph Roberts. According to Platts, Masters did not remember Monroe fondly:
“George and Marilyn had a love-hate relationship. He described her as the coldest person he’d ever known. He said she’d never really loved anyone but herself. She would do whatever was necessary to keep all the attention focused on her. Her public image was a complete fabrication. George stayed with Marilyn because she was his biggest client (financially as well as level of celebrity).”
Over at The Examiner, Elisa Jordan offers her opinion on these latest allegations:
“Let’s start here: Pat Newcomb (Monroe’s publicist) said she slept over at Marilyn’s house that night, but doesn’t address whether or not Marilyn was there—only that Marilyn woke up about noon.
Actually, although Newcomb has spoken very little, at least publicly, about her relationship with Marilyn, she has stated that she and Marilyn went out to dinner at a local restaurant that Friday night. Some people maintain that the women were with Peter Lawford. And even other stories report that Bobby Kennedy was there. I tend to believe it was a low-key evening at a restaurant with Marilyn and Pat, but I wasn’t there. The important thing to remember is that in all versions of the story, Marilyn and Pat were out together on the night of August 3. How could Marilyn have been in Lake Tahoe?
And let’s address Lake Tahoe. Epting does ask some important questions. Were there other people on the plane, for instance? It’s unclear. I would like to take that a step further. What about the pilots? Were there flight attendants? Airport employees?
Masters claims he drove Marilyn home from LAX, but who picked her up in Lake Tahoe? Wasn’t there a driver? Where is he? What about the employees at the Cal-Neva? Cooks? Waitresses? Maids? Bellhops? No one saw Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous movie star, at the lodge that night? No other guests saw her? These types of people were able to place her at the Cal-Neva a week earlier. Why not on August 3, too?”
Jordan also adds some thoughts on Master’s credibility:
“If Epting’s reporting is correct—and I believe that it is—then Masters died broken and drug addicted. And if George Masters and Marilyn Monroe had a ‘love-hate’ relationship as reported in Epting’s article, was Masters merely trying to get the last word over Marilyn? Did he merely want to involve himself in one of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century?
Sound like a credible witness to you? Not to me, but I admit that I’m cynical about stories people tell about Marilyn Monroe—especially stories concerning her death. At this point there are so many that it’s nearly impossible to keep them straight.
Now George Masters has added himself to that list. Is it any wonder why people are so fascinated with Marilyn Monroe’s death? The victim is an American icon. The suspects and coconspirators are also celebrities, including a beloved President of the United States. It is a story that instantly makes you famous if you claim to be involved in it. And everyone, it seems, wants to be involved.”
My personal view on these tapes is that though interesting, I am highly sceptical of Masters’ claims. I find it hard to believe that Marilyn really did visit Lake Tahoe the night before she died, because there are no other witnesses. I think she probably spent the evening with Pat Newcomb, and perhaps stayed at home because Pat was unwell that weekend.
Pat Newcomb is still alive and in her eighties. She has never spoken publicly about Marilyn’s death and I doubt she ever will. The truth, I suspect, is more mundane – and even more sad – than the conspiracy theories espoused by Masters et al.
I think Newcomb is the only person still living who knows the truth about Marilyn’s final days. Even if she did tell all, the rumours would carry on regardless. So while her silence may be frustrating to those of us who would like to see the record set straight for once and for all, I can understand her reluctance, and even respect it.