55th Anniversary Memorial Week: August 1-5, 2017

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The countdown is on to the 2017 Memorial Week in Los Angeles, marking 55 years since Marilyn Monroe left us and honouring her memory.  Immortal Marilyn is working hard to bring fans several memorable events, and this is the page to visit to keep up on the latest!

Memorial Week takes place from August 1-5, 2017 and is a gathering of Marilyn fans from around the world.  Immortal Marilyn is proud to plan and sponsor a number of special events during this week once again!  Check out all the details and check back regularly for updates and news!


As it has been for many years, Immortal Marilyn’s “home base” will be the Hollywood Orchid Suites Hotel.  Walking distance from Hollywood Boulevard and attractions such as the Walk of Fame, Kodak Theatre, and Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, the Orchid is ideally located for a visit to Hollywood!  The hotel is taking reservations from IM members already – book soon, as it fills up fast.

There are a number of other hotels in the are fans can consider for their accommodations, especially as the Orchid fills up, including the famed Roosevelt Hotel, the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel which is in close proximity to the Orchid Suites, and the Magic Castle.

If you would like assistance with finding a roommate to share the costs of a hotel room, please feel free to contact us at immortalmarilyn@gmail.com.

Memorial Week Events List

Immortal Marilyn is in the process of planning all of our events for Memorial Week.  Other events will be hosted by Marilyn Remembered, which has a schedule and details here.  Here is a schedule of events as they currently stand.

August 1, 2017

Marilyn’s Hollywood:  A Fact-Based Tour of Cinema’s Greatest Icon

In conjunction with the Marilyn Remembered Fan Club, join us for a guided tour of Los Angeles and Hollywood, lead by Elisa Jordan of LA Woman Tours.  You’ll learn about the people who helped shape Marilyn’s life and the places that inspired her. What you’ll see:

  • The orphanage where she dreamed of becoming a star
  • The former beauty salon where she first became a blonde
  • The restaurant where she met Yankee Slugger Joe DiMaggio on a blind date
  • The house (well, the gate anyway) where she passed into eternity.

The tour will start at 10:00 AM.  Marilyn’s Hollywood takes place in a comfortable mini coach. We will be getting out at various stops for photo opportunities, so remember to bring a camera.  Note:  Seating is limited, we recommend you purchase tickets as soon as possible.

To learn more about the tour and to reserve your seat, click here.

August 2, 2017

Immortal Marilyn Pool Party

Location: Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills (formerly the Beverly Carlton).




VIEWING OF MARILYN’S ROOM: 6-7 pm in small groups

Cost: $80 per person.

Details: The kick-off event for Memorial Week is IM’s traditional pool party!  This year we will gather around the pool at the Avalon Hotel where Marilyn herself lived in her starlet years and was frequently photographed.  This event will include a buffet-style meal and drink credit in the ticket price.  To make this day extra-special, attendees will have the opportunity to visit and take photographs inside Marilyn’s suite at the hotel, where her famous 1952 Life magazine cover was shot!  Although it’s not required, it’s traditional to attend the pool party in 1950s attire, and feel free to come in your 50s swimsuit for a dip in the hourglass shaped pool where Marilyn was photographed!  SOLD OUT, NO TICKETS AVAILABLE

A variety of fantastic raffle prizes are being gathered, and each attendee will receive ten raffle tickets as part of the ticket price.  Additional raffle tickets are available for purchase, priced as follows:

$1 each

7 for $5

15 for $10

30 for $20

Tickets will be sold at the pool party.  Cash only please.  Must be present to win!

August 3, 2017

Marilyn’s Hollywood Tour.  Hosted by Elisa Jordan of LA Woman Tours, a second tour will take place based on demand (tour requires minimum of 10 guests.  (See above for full information)  To learn more about the tour and to reserve your seat, click here.  SOLD OUT FOR THIS DATE.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes On The Big Screen.  Marilyn Remembered is hosting Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the big screen at the famous TCL (Graumann’s) Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  Details and ticket pricing as follows, ticket can be purchased at Fandango.

6:00 PM – VIP Package Tour
7:00 PM – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
9:00 PM Private Reception


$39.00: VIP Package
– Movie ticket, a large popcorn, a large drink
– Tour ticket
– Private reception with a glass of champagne
– A Marilyn souvenir

$10.00: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Showing Only

August 4, 2017

Santa Monica Beach Dinner and Sunset Toast.

Location: Mariasol Restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier

Time: 5:30 – 8:30 PM

Cost: $40

Details:  Join us for a private dinner in the Del Sol Room at Mariasol Restaurant, located over the water on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier with unparalleled views of the beach and the Pacific Ocean .  Ticket includes a buffet dinner, non-alcoholic beverages (a bar with private bartender will be available on an individual tab basis), and a sparkling wine toast at sunset, all hosted by the fabulous staff at Mariasol.  After dinner, join us as we go out to the beach put our feet in the sand where Marilyn once walked and raise a second glass to her memory on the eve of her passing.

Tickets can be purchased via Paypal at lkasperowicz@gmail.com.  Please email for information on purchasing by mail. TICKET SALES ARE CLOSED.

August 5th, 2017  

Memorial Service at Westwood Memorial Park.  The annual memorial service for Marilyn Monroe, held by Marilyn Remembered, will take place at 11 am in the chapel at Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park. Inside seating for the service is fully reserved at this time, but attendees can still listen to the service from outside.

An Evening With Marilyn: A Special Charity Event at Hollygrove.  A charity event at Hollygrove, formerly the Los Angeles Orphan’s Home, hosted by Marilyn Remembered.  Details can be found here.  SOLD OUT.


LOVE OUR LOGOS???  Check out IM’s Memorial Week store at Red Bubble featuring all of Melody Lockard’s incredible designs and get your souvenir gear!

To keep up on the news, join the discussion, and enjoy the excitement of planning this amazing week of Marilyn events, please join us in our Memorial plans Facebook Group!



Book Review: Murder Orthodoxies: Sex, Lies and Marilyn by Donald McGovern

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Murder Orthodoxies: Sex, Lies and Marilyn

Among the thousand or more books about Marilyn Monroe, there are certain strands – from coffee-table monographs to cultural criticism. One theme is so persistent, however, that it has become a sub-genre in its own right. Armed with dubious confessions and conspiracy theories, their authors argue that Marilyn’s untimely death was the result of foul play in high (and low) places, and these allegations have been seized upon by readers, as well as journalists and documentarians.

A handful of writers have directly challenged these assumptions. In 2005, David Marshall collected the findings of some dogged fans in The DD Group: An Online Investigation Into the Death of Marilyn Monroe. More recently, the internet radio show Goodnight Marilyn has featured input from psychotherapist and Monroe fan-turned-biographer, Gary Vitacco-Robles, and forensic pathologist Dr Cyril Wecht.

First-time author Donald McGovern follows in their footsteps with Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View of Marilyn Monroe’s Death, a rigorous excavation of the myths and legends, meticulously structured and packed with intricate detail over 566 pages.

It all began at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mister President’ to John F. Kennedy as hundreds of well-wishers looked on. Among them was gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, who described this sensuous performance as a literal seduction. Less than three months later, Marilyn took a fatal overdose of barbiturates, and died alone in her bed.

That September – as noted by Monroe biographer Donald Spoto – three men met in Los Angeles to discuss Hollywood’s communist problem. Those men were Frank Capell, editor of a right-wing newsletter, Herald of Freedom; Maurice Ries, head of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals; and Jack Clemmons, a Los Angeles police sergeant who had been the first to arrive at Marilyn Monroe’s house after her death was reported. All three were vehemently opposed to the Kennedy administration; and according to Ries, the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had been Monroe’s lover.  

Capell relayed this story to columnist Walter Winchell, who was close to Marilyn’s ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. Winchell had been a staunch Monroe fan until 1955, when she divorced Joe and met her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, who would be soon investigated by the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. Even after the couple separated, Marilyn’s liberal associations were followed with some interest by the Bureau’s long-time head, J. Edgar Hoover.     

Over the next year or so, Winchell published snippets of innuendo about Marilyn in his column, fed to him by Capell. After John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, the red-baiters’ attentions turned to Bobby, who was contemplating a Senate run. Several months later, Capell produced a short pamphlet implicating the younger Kennedy in The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe. It drew little interest, and by 1968 Bobby was also dead, while Capell and Clemmons had been disgraced for their part in a plot to defame another politician.

The rumours should have ended there, but in 1973, the novelist Norman Mailer dropped some of Capell’s insinuations into his ‘factoid’ biography, Marilyn. A year later, hack reporter and small-time film producer Robert Slatzer took up where Mailer left off with The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe. And in the age of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, the scandal that began as a political smear suddenly became a media goldmine.

In 1982, the allegations that Marilyn had been murdered (at the behest of the Kennedys, by the Mafia, or CIA) were reviewed in a threshold investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. No credible evidence of homicide was found, but this only served to fuel the fire. In 1985, Anthony Summers published his blockbuster, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, relying heavily on the testimony of Slatzer, Jeanne Carmen (Marilyn’s self-professed ‘best friend’); and Senator George Smathers (a former friend of the late president.)

Summers’ bestseller spawned several other conspiracy volumes, including Crypt 33 by the private investigator and self-publicist, Milo Speriglio; Double Cross by Chuck Giancana, putting his mobster brother Sam in the frame; and a salacious memoir by would-be actor Ted Jordan, who declared himself Marilyn’s lifelong lover and claimed to be in possession of her ‘red diary’, previously mentioned by his rival for the spotlight, Bob Slatzer. Another celebrity P.I., Fred Otash, claimed he had wiretapped Marilyn’s house and helped to ‘sweep’ the property of incriminating evidence after her death.

In Victim (2004), Matthew Smith featured extracts from alleged tapes made by Marilyn before her death to psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson. Rather like the red diary, those recordings have never been located; but John Miner, an attorney who had attended Monroe’s autopsy, claimed to have heard them. His mooted transcript was published in full a year later in the Los Angeles Times. Lionel Grandison, another peripheral figure, reimagined the ‘red diary’ in Memoir of a Deputy Coroner (2013), arguing that Marilyn was a secret government agent.

Other popular conspiracy books, such as Donald Wolfe’s The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe (1998) and Jay Margolis and Richard Buskin’s The Murder of Marilyn Monroe: Case Closed (2014), have fused various murder theories, including the rumour that Dr. Greenson was yet another of Marilyn’s lovers – and also her killer. A common thread, first proposed by Slatzer, was that she had threatened to hold a press conference disclosing her affairs with the Kennedys, and matters of national security (including, according to some ufologists, her knowledge of the alien landings at Roswell.)

During the final months of her life, Marilyn was embroiled in a bitter legal battle with her studio; she was having daily sessions with Greenson, and relying on large doses of sleeping pills from her physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg. She had suffered from depression for most of her life, and had a history of overdoses and suicide attempts. She may have met John and Robert Kennedy on just four occasions; their daily itineraries are in the public domain, and her routine is also well-documented. Only one sexual encounter with the president can be reasonably ascertained. Whatever her private demons, Monroe would surely have realised that such an indiscretion would end her career. Her own sporadic journal entries (collected in the 2010 book, Fragments) contain no references to either Kennedy.  

McGovern looks finally to her autopsy report, compiled by renowned pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi, for the true cause of her death. As a long-time drug user, Marilyn had a high tolerance which enabled her to ingest multiple pills in succession. Conspiracists have pointed to the disposal of some organs as proof of a cover-up, but as Noguchi pointed out, the toxicologist’s analysis of her liver and blood samples made further tests unnecessary.

With dry wit and exhaustive scrutiny, McGovern exposes the insupportable and absurd aspects of what has nonetheless become an urban myth. McGovern’s book will not, of course, be the last word on the subject; but it offers a timely redress to decades of shallow sensationalism. And in an era when ‘fake news’ is poisoning the fabric of public life, McGovern’s systematic unravelling of the calculated distortions that have so clouded Monroe’s legacy provides us with a very modern cautionary tale.  

The Death of Marilyn Monroe: It’s Time to Speak Her Truth

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We have done a disservice to the memory of Marilyn Monroe, and by that disservice, to all of those who followed her.

This statement is true of many things in her life, from her career to her private life, but it is never truer than when it comes to the subject of her death.

Marilyn Monroe died on August 5th, 1962 by her own hand.

It has taken me a long time to say those words and accept their truth.  They were never easy to accept, even when they were first published in the very first news reports of her death.  Because they were so hard to accept, it was so much easier to believe the conspiracy theories when they surfaced.  So much easier to look for another explanation and try very hard to find evidence that would back it up.

Let me be clear – that evidence does not exist.

Marilyn Monroe died by her own hand.

It’s a fact.  A cold, hard fact that is 100% backed by all of the scientific evidence and verifiable facts regarding what happened in her final hours.  For many years I didn’t want to believe it, but the more time I spent studying it, researching it, and putting aside the rumours and lies, the clearer it became.  And as I finally accepted that she did, in fact, purposefully swallow those pills, the clearer it also became that we have done her a terrible disservice by our search for an alternate truth to her death.

And we have done a disservice to those who followed her, most recent in the litany of names being Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  And to those whose names we do not know, because they did not live and die on a public stage.

Because we could not let it be true that Marilyn Monroe suffered from mental illness that resulted in the ending of her own life in 1962, we buried her truth and denied the lesson of her life and death.

Because we could not believe that someone so beautiful, so famous, so loved could feel so lost and hopeless as to take her own life, we forced many after her to continue to smile over their pain.

Because we could not acknowledge that she was, in fact, seriously mentally ill, and that it was an illness that should be treated like any other, we left the stigma intact.  And that stigma continued to affect all who followed her.

Because we refused to acknowledge that a smiling face and apparent hope for the future can hide a life and death struggle, we were not able to see that struggle in others.  And they fell to that struggle.  And still we wondered, why?

Because we didn’t see that there isn’t always an obvious, predictable path to that moment of ending your own life, we looked instead for all of the other possibilities, and we denied Marilyn the real impact her death could have had.

And it could have had a different impact.  It’s possible that the deaths of people like Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain – among so many others – may eventually have that impact.  Slowly, piece by piece, these deaths will deal the blows that chip away at the misconceptions surrounding mental illness and 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.

We have done her a terrible disservice, and all who followed her.  But we can turn it around.  Let her death be a part of the lesson we all must learn about the people around us struggling in hidden pain.

Marilyn Monroe died because she succumbed to mental illness.

If that sentence was “Marilyn Monroe died because she succumbed to cancer.”, we would not hesitate to say it.  There should be absolutely no difference between those two sentences, but there is.  And we are all to blame.

Marilyn Monroe took her own life.  She died because she succumbed to mental illness.

Say it, and say it without shame.  Because there is no shame for Marilyn and there never was, there is only shame on all of us who continue to think that it’s better to find an imagined murder conspiracy than to let the truth of her death help others.


-Leslie Kasperowicz, IM President




Author Q&A With Michelle Morgan Sunday May 6th!

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JOIN US this Sunday (May 6), on the Immortal Marilyn Facebook page, for a Q&A session with author Michelle Morgan, whose newest book The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist hits US shelves May 8th!

Michelle Morgan is the prolific author of many carefully researched old Hollywood bios, including her Marilyn books Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed and Becoming Marilyn. She’ll join us here at IM to answer any questions you may have about her new book, any of her books, or Marilyn herself.

Our Michelle Morgan author Q&A will take place on Sunday, May 6th at 1 pm Central Time (US), 7 pm UK time.

COME BY AND WIN: Everyone who pops by to say hi will be entered to win one of 4 Seven Year Itch posters AND a copy of Michelle’s new book!!

Check out Michelle’s new book on Amazon, available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Marilyn-Monroe-Unl…/…/0762490594

Visit Michelle’s Official Author Page here on FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/124973377514850/

Book Review: The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist

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Would Marilyn Monroe have called herself a feminist?

The answer is probably no; in Marilyn’s day and age the word was basically unheard of.  It didn’t come into popular use until a few years after her death.  Even if it was in use, it seems unlikely she would have seen herself that way given the times in which she lived.

Was Marilyn Monroe a feminist?

That’s an entirely different question.  Marilyn Monroe came into adulthood in the era when women went to work to step up for the war effort.  And she didn’t wait around for her husband to return; a taste of independence and freedom sent her instead into her first divorce and the long, hard fight for a career in Hollywood.

But it isn’t young Norma Jeane’s strength in the face of incredible adversity that is the focus of Michelle Morgan’s newest book on our girl – it’s The Girl.  Named for Marilyn’s character in The Seven Year Itch, Morgan’s book focuses on the events surrounding the making of that film, and those that followed.  Without a doubt, it was an absolutely life-changing era in Marilyn’s life, and while those watching it happen may not have recognized its import, hindsight shows it for what it really was.  Marilyn Monroe stood up to Hollywood, took control of her life and career, and emerged victorious.

Experienced Marilyn biographer Michelle Morgan traces that era in great detail; following Marilyn through the end of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, her flight to New York, the founding of Marilyn Monroe Productions, and the incredible success of The Seven Year Itch that cemented her position as a box office draw without compare.  It was the success of the film that was a major part of the power Marilyn was able to wield over the Fox powers that be, eventually winning her the contract changes she had been fighting for since before she and DiMaggio said “I do” and more creative control over her films.

This book takes a more detailed look than any before at the years that changed the trajectory of Marilyn Monroe’s career.  Morgan approaches it with her usual solid research and attention to detail, digging up nuggets of information that will leave even the most seasoned fan saying “I didn’t know that!”  The book explores the creation  of Marilyn’s production company with photographer Milton Greene – and the factors surrounding the end of that partnership –  as well as her conversion from a Hollywood sex symbol to a New Yorker running in the highest intellectual circles.  It also looks in depth at the film that was at the center of all of it; Marilyn’s last film on her “slave” contract with Fox.  In retrospect, it’s hard to believe the amount of change that took place in Marilyn’s life in the span of about two years.

Some may say that Marilyn Monroe wasn’t a feminist, and by much of today’s definition, she may not have been.  For her era, however, her stalwart refusal to bend to the pressure of men who could have destroyed her career is nothing short of remarkable.  Morgan sheds light on a side of Marilyn that is rarely discussed, the actress and the woman whose life and career were truly remarkable aside from all of the sensational tabloid trash that has dominated the narrative about Marilyn for so long.

The Girl falls into the rare category of Marilyn Monroe books that show her as a real person who worked hard and took her career and her legacy very seriously.  It should take its place proudly on the shelf of any Marilyn fan.

The Girl is set for release on May 8, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.

-Leslie Kasperowicz for IM

Book Review – Of Women and Their Elegance

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Of Women and Their Elegance

Norman Mailer

With photographs by Milton H. Greene

Simon and Schuster 1980


The thing with Mailer is like the thing with Hemingway—you either love him or you can’t stand him. It’s hard to be ambivalent about a larger than life figure, be it Mailer, Hemingway or, yes, Marilyn Monroe. Mailer is full of himself, pretentious at times, an icon and touchstone of his times, one of those guys who try so hard at being the ultimate macho man that you can’t help but be put off while wondering at the same time why he is so preoccupied with making sure his image is one of Primal Man. And he was talented. Very.

Marilyn was one of the ones who couldn’t stand him, primarily due to his forever heavy handed attempts to meet and be a part of her life. What comes through in the accounts of her response to Mailer is the idea that she thought him a macho ass who was far too full of himself. Personally I get a kick out of him and think some of his work brilliant, (The Naked and the Dead, The Executioners Song, The Idol and the Octopus), while some of it is incomprehensible, (Harlot’s Ghost), or just flat out bad, (The Deer Park). And, as most of you know, Mailer was somewhat obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. The only difference between him and any man of his generation was that he published two books about the object of his obsession while all the others merely dreamed. Let me make on more point about Mailer: He was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, the movie star, the sexual fantasy. He never met, let alone knew or had any insight into the actual woman behind the Hollywood veneer.

The best known of Mailer’s attempts to get Marilyn down on paper was his first, Marilyn, and to be honest, it is primarily remembered due to its lush illustrations capturing Monroe the still photograph model non-parallel. Seven years later, feeling he hadn’t quite captured her, Mailer brought out Of Women and Their Elegance. And, like everything else he ever produced, it is a work that you either love or really pisses you off. The later opinion is the result of the unique angle Mailer attempted—the text is written as if it were Marilyn’s actual thoughts and for most fans, knowing how little she actually thought of him, the idea of his penning her inner most thoughts is slightly galling.

Does he carry it off? I don’t think so but then maybe you will. Should you try and find a copy or leave this one out of your collection? I say find it and treasure it—not so much for the oddity of a man who styled himself as one of his generation’s macho icons but as the attempts of a lovelorn fan trying hard to understand the woman he never met. And the photographs. Ah yes, the photos. The book is chock full of Milton Greene’s work, THE Monroe photographer in my opinion and that of many MM fans. What may sound strange coming from me is that what is truly wonderful here is that not all of the photos are of Marilyn but a good sample of Greene’s non-MM work. By including his work with such luminaries as Marlene Dietrich, Anna Magnani, Judy Garland, Sophia Loren, and Jane Fonda, you can see that Milton’s genius could and did expand from his legendary work with Marilyn.

The text, the reader is told, “while based on episodes in Marilyn Monroe’s life, and on the reminiscences of Amy and Milton Greene, does not pretend that these are the actual thoughts of Miss Monroe…” And while the Marilyn depicted here is the Marilyn of Norman Mailer’s imagination and likely a far cry from the actual human who was Marilyn Monroe, it is an interesting concept especially when you keep reminding yourself that this is work of a man infatuated with an image, who longed to meet and possibly know the real woman yet never had the opportunity. That is the true reason for my own fascination with this book, knowing how much he wanted to meet her and couldn’t help but realize that she in no way felt the same. It is the work of a man saddled with an unrequited love/lust infatuation trying to understand the woman who held herself forever out of his reach or understanding.


-David Marshall for IM

Book Review: Making Sense of Marilyn

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How do you solve a problem like Norma Jeane, when even her name is in doubt? More than a thousand books to date have been devoted to this question. As Ezra Goodman, at the height of her fame, wrote so prophetically: “The riddle that is Marilyn Monroe has not been solved.” Andrew Norman’s Making Sense of Marilyn is the latest attempt. With a background in medicine, Dr Norman is now a prolific biographer. Marilyn would surely be proud, if rather surprised, to find herself among a litany of subjects as lofty and diverse as Jane Austen and Winston Churchill.

The difficulty of understanding who Marilyn really was, Norman believes, is compounded by unreliable sources. Her 1954 memoir, My Story, was ghost-written with Marilyn’s co-operation before being shelved at her request, and later revised for posthumous publication. But the confusion had begun when she was a child, and her troubled mother Gladys, whether deliberately or by mistake, told her that her estranged father had died in a car accident. “In her early years [Marilyn] was insecure and introspective,” Norman observes, “and unable even to make sense of herself.” As a starlet, she followed the studio’s Cinderella narrative and claimed she was an orphan. This was done partly for publicity, but also to protect living relatives. Unfortunately, these fabrications also hurt others close to her, like foster carer Ida Bolender, with whom she had lived until she was seven years old.

Norman relies mainly on primary sources, including accounts from Marilyn’s first husband, Jim Dougherty; her half-sister, Bernice Miracle; actress Susan Strasberg; and photographer George Barris, described as her ‘confidante.’ In the months before she died, Marilyn worked on a magazine shoot with Barris. He also interviewed her extensively for a book project, which was finally published many years later. However, the details of Barris’ arrangement with Marilyn are even hazier than the origins of My Story. And while she does seem to have put her trust in Barris, he had only met her once before their collaboration.

“When a little girl feels lonely and that no one cares or wants her,” Marilyn told Barris, “it’s just something that she can never forget as long as she lives.” In 1935, she went to live with her mother for the first time. Gladys worked as a film cutter in Hollywood and had put down a deposit on a new home. But after a few happy months, her mental health rapidly declined. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. A family friend, Grace Goddard, took over Marilyn’s care but this did not prevent her from being shunted between foster homes and an orphanage. As no one was willing to tell the truth about her mother’s illness, for several years the young girl was unsure whether Gladys was still living.

Compounding her sense of abandonment was the spectre of sexual abuse. Returning to My Story, Norman considers her experience of being molested by a boarder in a foster home. The account is deliberately vague, with some details probably altered. Jim Dougherty dismissed the claim that she had been raped, on the grounds that she was still a virgin when they married. But this does not preclude other forms of abuse.

Her first marriage, at sixteen, was arranged when Grace, her legal guardian, moved to another state. Marilyn had been dating Jim, a neighbour and five years her senior, for several months. “It wasn’t fair to push me into marriage,” she told Barris, admitting she was “scared to death about what a husband would do to me.” According to Jim, the marriage was happy at first, but his decision to enlist in the Merchant Marine triggered his wife’s fears of rejection. While he was serving overseas she began working as a model, and the marriage collapsed.

While her early film career was arduous, she surrounded herself with creative mentors who encouraged her ambitions. Her perceptive analysis of the characters she played belied their essential shallowness. She would describe Angela in The Asphalt Jungle as a “rich man’s darling”; All About Eve’s Miss Caswell as an “untalented showgirl”; in Monkey Business she was Miss Laurel, a “slightly dumb secretary”; and as Rose in Niagara, an “amoral type.” Her fragile identity was often at odds with her public image as a sex symbol, and fame only intensified this conflict.

Even with lesser material, Marilyn gave her all to each role: and when stardom was hers, she shone like no other. None of her inner turmoil is evident in The Seven Year Itch, made while her brief marriage to Joe DiMaggio was falling apart. “Marilyn enters into the spirit of the film,” Norman remarks, “proving once again that comedy was her forte.” In 1955 she moved to New York, and committed herself to method acting and psychoanalysis – a dual process that could be, as Norman comments, “equally painful and distasteful.” Bernice Miracle felt that Marilyn had lost confidence in herself, but her career continued to soar.

Her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, found her next performance, in Bus Stop (1956), “deeply moving.” But filming of The Prince and the Showgirl led to clashes with her co-star and director, Sir Laurence Olivier. Norman believes that “the film is made bearable only by Marilyn’s gaiety.” The Miller marriage was overshadowed by Arthur’s legal battle with the House Un-American Activities Committee, which he finally won with Marilyn’s loyal support. “Instead of showing anger at the way her husband had been treated,” Norman remarks on her public demeanour, “she was the epitome of dignity and charm.”

Behind the scenes, Miller was alarmed by her psychological dependence on acting coaches Lee and Paula Strasberg, and her growing addiction to sleeping pills. Watching Marilyn perform ‘I’m Through With Love’ in Some Like It Hot, Norman observes that she looked “genuinely sad.” Curtice Taylor, whose father Frank produced The Misfits, considered her a “natural actress,” but this deeply personal project (written for her by Miller) would mark the end of her longest relationship.

Miller’s controversial 1964 play, After the Fall, depicts the doomed marriage of a suicidal star and her guilt-ridden husband, and Norman believes it holds the key to Marilyn’s troubled psyche (and why Miller was unable to save her.) Following their divorce, she moved back to Los Angeles and grew close again to DiMaggio, whom Bernice described as “full of common sense and concern.”

Norman briefly mentions George Barris’ claim that she was in a “serious romance” with John F. Kennedy, but seems reluctant to pursue it further. It is doubtful that Barris had any direct knowledge of the alleged affair. Nonetheless, Norman argues that she looked “pinched and drawn” during her iconic performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden in May 1962. By June, she had been fired from her unfinished comedy, Something’s Got to Give, due to repeated absences from the set.

In the weeks before her fatal overdose in August, Marilyn was seeing her psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson almost daily. Her physician, Dr Hyman Engleberg, was trying to wean her off barbiturates, but also prescribing Chloral Hydrate. At times Marilyn’s speech was slurred, and she became drowsy and uncoordinated – a side-effect of the drugs she was taking. Miller had noted during their marriage how she seemed oblivious to the physical ravages of her habit, while Norman argues that barbiturate abuse may have exacerbated her recurrent depression.

There was a documented history of mental illness in Marilyn’s family, and her mother Gladys was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. While some biographers now speculate that Marilyn may have suffered from Bipolar Disorder, Norman explores the alternate possibility of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD.) This condition generally manifests in early adulthood, and is so-named because it sits on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. Its defining features include unstable self-image; feelings of emptiness; fear of abandonment; bouts of anxiety, and impulsivity; instability in relationships; severe dissociative feelings; and recurrent suicidal behaviour.     

“Marilyn was a gifted, caring and intelligent person, with deep sensitivity and a poetic soul,” Norman writes, noting that “creativity is so often forged in the crucible of pain.” No matter how high she climbed on the ladder of success, insecurities constantly dragged her down and she needed close supervision to keep her from self-harm. In Making Sense of Marilyn, Andrew Norman refers frequently to Monroe’s own words, recorded in interviews and her own journals and poetry.

Over a concise 160 pages, and with a selection of photographs, the author cites his sources fully. Setting aside a few minor factual errors, this is a finely drawn portrait of a remarkable woman who wanted most of all to be loved. And as Dr. Norman concludes, “this yearning, and her vulnerability, captivated the world.”

– Tara Hanks for IM

Book Review: Marilyn Norma Jeane by Gloria Steinem

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Marilyn: Norma Jeane

By Gloria Steinem

Photographs by George Barris

1986 Henry Holt and Company

ISBN 0805000607


By this time you realize that there are literally countless books focused on the life, career, and physical beauty of Marilyn Monroe. There have been novels, coffee table picture books, memoirs with chapters devoted to the legendary movie star, conspiracy tomes, silly books, scholarly studies, scandal books and gossipy books, books written by friends, pseudo friends, maids, even one by her dog. So this month, looking back on all these choices, I wanted to talk about one that really stands out for me, now and when it was first published.

Not your average Marilyn biographer: Gloria Steinem receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

You have to be of a certain age to fully grasp the impact Gloria Steinem’s book had when it first came out, but then one of the perks of growing older is filling in those younger on things that happened in the past when you too were young. In 1986 Gloria Steinem was in her early fifties, the icon of the feminist movement, a women of considerable intelligence who had stood at the head of a movement that had literally been changing America’s perception of women for well over twenty years. For her to have written a book about Marilyn Monroe was nearly as surprising as say, Elizabeth Warren writing a book on Taylor Swift. The author and subject just didn’t seem to mesh, the differences between them so vast that one wasn’t sure if it was a joke, a put on or a put down. The bigger surprise was that with one book Gloria Steinem presented Marilyn Monroe with the respect she’d ached for all of her life. What’s more the book forced people to stop and consider that there might be more to Marilyn than anyone had ceded her during her lifetime let alone over the twenty-four years since her death. If Gloria Steinem, THE feminist intellectual of the day, was telling us to take another look at the wiggle-giggle gal of the 1950s, maybe we’d misjudged Monroe; maybe there really was something there of depth that had escaped all the countless newspaper reporters, movie critics, gossip columnists, and moviegoers.

Mailer’s Marilyn  was the first to try to explain this. But his book, filled with incredibly gorgeous photos one after another, was, after all, written by Norman Mailer, a great intellectual, granted, but whose prose, especially when writing about Marilyn, tended to be even a bit more purple than his usual output. Mailer, love him or not, made it clear that he was infatuated with Monroe and in between his drooling wolf observations of her life, made it even more clear that he’d wanted her as badly as every male of his generation and to heck with her mind or any other qualities. That he ended his book with a contrived conspiracy theory that he’d later admitted he’d made up only because scandal sells almost as well as sex and he’d needed the money, did him and his subject a disservice.

But Steinem doesn’t share Mailer’s testosterone infused perspective. Ms. Steinem, in 1986, stated flat out that Marilyn Monroe not only deserved our respect, she deserved a second look by all those who had pooh-poohed her impact not only on American film but American culture and history. Before Steinem’s book, it was a given that the majority of women both during Marilyn’s lifetime and after held a sort of resentment against her, considered her more of a joke than an actress. Marilyn Monroe was a male fantasy, a buxom blonde with a child’s innocence, someone men joked about and elbowed their pals over while women found her somewhat vulgar and rather embarrassing.

Steinem addresses this perception directly. She admits that as a young women she did find Marilyn Monroe, in her tight dresses and cooing voice an embarrassment. But when she admitted that there was something there, something that wasn’t allowed to come through in those early 50s films, she began to view Marilyn Monroe as an incredibly strong figure who had risen to the very top of her field in a heavily male dominated industry. Most readers in 1986 tended to forget what a powerful figure Marilyn Monroe truly has been. Sure Bette Davis and others had fought their studios and helped actors break out of the studio restraints, but when Marilyn risked everything to follow her own path by deserting Hollywood and heading off to New York, she proved that a woman could be a one hell of a powerful force to reckon with.

We, in 2017, know this but it took someone of Steinem’s stature to point the fact out to Middle America. If the online groups had been around in the 1980s, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a surprise that the majority of her fans are women, that it took a feminine perspective to see beyond the moistened and parted lips, the bleached hair and perfect proportions. And that is what Steinem brought to the table. There are drawbacks to the work; like most authors covering the Monroe story in the 1980s, she too sources a lot of her research to Robert Slatzer and there’s a lot of Kennedy finger pointing, a connection that was still a major shock even ten years after it had first reached the popular press. But beyond that, Steinem brought a near lyrical sense of Marilyn, aided greatly by illustrating the majority of the book with the wonderful George Barris sessions from the summer of 1962.

Steinem could have, like Mailer, used any of the hundreds of talented photographers who had worked with Marilyn, each with their own unique perception of the ultimate star. But by using the Barris photos taken shortly before Marilyn’s passing, Steinem was able to illustrate that there was a stronger connection with the everyday woman than anyone had noticed before. Sure, Marilyn looks beautiful and desirable but she also looks like a woman in her thirties with windblown hair on a cold day at the beach. And when she and Barris got together for a second session in the Hollywood Hills, Marilyn doesn’t come across so much as the va-va-voom sex symbol of the day as an easily accessible woman of her era in her Jax slacks and Pucci jerseys.

Steinem presents a Marilyn most often overlooked– the Marilyn of 1962 rather than say 1954 or 1957. Even in 1986 the Barris photos show a woman who could easily be contemporary and that brings Steinem’s point across even stronger; there is very little difference between the hurdles and obstacles a woman alone in Hollywood faced in Marilyn’s day and the untold crap a woman has to put up with in the workplace of 1986, let alone 2017.

There’s another reason why I want to point this book out and encourage anyone who hasn’t found it yet to make an effort to do so: Steinem is a great writer. The talent she has shown in her essays for Ms. Magazine, the periodic pieces that appear in the New Yorker, or in the several collections of her work and her recent autobiography, is possibly even more evident here. The book has the feeling that Steinem  has allowed herself the sheer space to fully explore her own feelings rather than restrict herself to a single column. Let me give just one example:

“In the 1930s, when English critic Cyril Connolly proposed a definition of posterity to measure whether a writer’s work had stood the test of time, he suggested that posterity should be limited to ten years. The form and content of popular culture were changing too fast, he explained, to make any artist accountable for more than a decade.

“Since then , the pace of change had been accelerated even more. Everything from the communications revolution to multinational entertainment has altered the form of culture. Its content has been transformed by civil rights, feminism, an end to film censorship, and much more. Nonetheless, Monroe’s personal and intimate ability to inhabit our fantasies has gone right on. As I write this, she is still better known than most living movie stars, most world leaders, and most television personalities. The surprise is that she rarely has been taken seriously enough to ask why that is so.”


– David Marshall