Leah and I were in Hollywood yesterday and came across a newsstand that had about 15 magazines with Jennifer Aniston on the cover. The headlines blared:
Jennifer Breaks Her Silence
Jen Reveals Secret Heartache
Jen Tells All
These stories stem from a recent interview Aniston did with Vanity Fair in which she spoke publicly about her divorce from Brad Pitt for the first time. A feeding frenzy then erupted with every celebrity rag trying to spin a story from her few comments. I haven’t read the original article but I’m sure that Jen did NOT “tell all” to the Vanity Fair reporter or anyone else. Just another example of our lust for details of the personal lives of the celebrities we inexplicably place on pedestals. Or am I being naïve? Was every cover piece vetted by Aniston’s publicist despite the actress’s pleas for privacy?
Even though I’m not particularly interested in Jennifer Aniston’s personal life, I don’t dare try to adopt a superior tone. You only have to read a few of the entries on this blog to see how captivated I am by the cult of celebrity. And while I’ve yet to run out to purchase the new Vanity Fair, I was riveted to the page one article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about another actress who is still the Ground Zero of celebrity obsession.
Marilyn Monroe died 43 years ago this weekend. The anniversary of her death rarely passes without all sorts of kooks coming out of the woodwork. First there’s the woman, now almost 60, who claims to be the daughter Marilyn gave birth to in 1947. Story has it that she was placed by the mob into an Italian family in Queens but the “pretty lady” used to visit the little girl regularly throughout the 1950s. I remember years ago when this woman was interviewed by Tom Snyder on the old NBC “Tomorrow” show and I was amazed she had climbed that high on the network food chain. She was in her 30s then and made the mistake of trying to look like Marilyn which only made her look a bit like a drag queen. You’d think that if it were true this poor woman would have found a distant relative of Marilyn's and had a DNA test done. But who knows? Loretta Young was able to keep the love child she had with Clark Gable a secret until her death.
Then there are the Marilyn impersonators who are swarming Hollywood Boulevard this weekend like peroxide locusts, posing with tourists for a small fee, their heavy makeup puddling on their faces in the intense heat. Most wear facsimiles of the famous “Seven Year Itch” dress, the one that blew upwards when Marilyn stood over the subway grate (a scene that so infuriated Joe DiMaggio that he stormed off the set and begged Marilyn to leave the film). Leah and I have our favorite Marilyn—she hangs out next to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and looks so much like the actress that we’ve been known to follow her for a full city block. I always try to talk to her just so I can hear her “Thank you ever so” in perfect Marilyn pitch (even though that voice itself was a fake that Marilyn put on as part of her image control). Kendall and I were at a screening of one of Monroe’s films recently and met Marilyn’s actual stand-in from the 50s. She looked very much like Marilyn back in the day so it was fascinating to get a glimpse of how Marilyn might look if she were still alive today (she’d be 79 years old if you can believe it).
Despite all the hoopla surrounding these anniversaries, I’ve rarely seen such a provocative front page article about Marilyn in a publication like the Los Angeles Times. Apparently a former Los Angeles County prosecutor named John Miner, now 86, believes that Marilyn Monroe did not commit suicide but was a victim of foul play. Miner was one of the principal investigators of Monroe’s death in 1962. He interviewed Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who had in his possession a series of stream-of-consciousness audiotapes Marilyn had recorded shortly before her death as part of her therapy. Greenson played the tapes for Miner only on the condition that he would never reveal their contents. The tapes were allegedly destroyed and no transcripts were thought to exist…until now.
Miner kept his promise to Greenson until the psychiatrist’s death. But when recent books about Monroe tried to implicate Greenson himself in the movie star’s demise, Miner got permission from Greenson’s widow to reveal his secret transcript of the tapes. These are the transcripts just published by the L.A. Times. Pretty amazing, but I haven’t seen such an abuse of privileged information since excerpts of Jackie Kennedy’s letters to her clergyman were released. In the wake of her husband’s assassination, Jackie said she was in so much pain that she contemplated ending her life. Marilyn, on the other hand, seemed anything but despondent on the tapes, and she was making lots of plans for her future including a commitment to study Shakespeare with Lee Strasberg:
I'll pay him to work only with me. He said I could do Shakespeare, I'll make him prove it…Then I'll produce and act in the Marilyn Monroe Shakespeare Film Festival which will put his major plays on film...I've read all of Shakespeare and practiced a lot of lines. I won't have to worry about the scripts. I'll have the greatest script writer who ever lived working for me and I don't have to pay him…I've some wonderful ideas for Lady Macbeth and Queen Gertrude. I feel certain I'll win an Oscar for one or more of my Shakespearean women.
I do feel a little sleazy reading Marilyn’s private comments to her shrink, not to mention reprinting them here. But they are mostly flattering to the film star, and do a lot to broaden our idea of what made her tick. Marilyn is obviously an intelligent, introspective person. In addition to Shakespeare, she talks about other authors she is reading including Joyce and Dolstoevsky. She is clearly someone who wants to be taken seriously despite her movie star image that she had a big hand in creating. At 36 years old, Marilyn surveyed the parts of her that the public seemed to be most interested in:
I stood naked in front of my full length mirrors for a long time yesterday. I was all made up with my hair done. What did I see? My breasts are beginning to sag a bit. My waist isn't bad. My ass is what it should be, the best there is. Legs, knees and ankles still shapely. And my feet are not too big. OK, Marilyn, you have it all there.
She mentions Clark Gable, with whom she had recently completed “The Misfits” with great fondness.
He was so nice to me and I didn't deserve it. I was having problems with Arthur and being sick and I held up the shooting a lot. Clark protected me from Huston who kept giving me a bad time… In the kissing scenes, I kissed him with real affection. I didn't want to go to bed with him, but I wanted him to know how much I liked and appreciated him. When I came back from a day off the set, he patted my ass and told me if I didn't behave myself, he would give me a good spanking. I looked him in the eye and said, “Don't tempt me!” He burst out laughing so hard he was tearing.
Because of his performance I've seen “Gone With the Wind” over and over again. He was perfect. It makes me so mad I could scream—those Academy fuckers didn't award him the Oscar. He should have won hands down.
Marilyn talked about her famous husbands in the tapes and confirmed that she and Joe DiMaggio still had feelings for each other:
Joe D. loves Marilyn Monroe and always will. I love him and always will. But Joe couldn't stay married to Marilyn Monroe, the famous movie star. Joe has an image in his stubborn Italian head of a traditional Italian wife. She would have to be faithful, do what he tells her, devote all of herself to him. Doctor, you know that's not me.
It's different with Arthur. Marrying him was my mistake, not his. He couldn't give me the attention, warmth and affection I need. It's not in his nature. Arthur never credited me with much intelligence. He couldn't share his intellectual life with me. As bed partners we were so-so. He was not that much interested. You know I think his little Jewish father had more genuine affection for me than Arthur did.
Am I getting too salacious here? But wait—you ain't heard nothin' yet! How have I lived on this planet for almost 46 years without ever hearing a word about the brief affair between Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe? Yikes!
We went to Joan's bedroom…Crawford had a gigantic orgasm and shrieked like a maniac…Next time I saw Crawford she wanted another round. I told her straight out I didn't much enjoy doing it with a woman. After I turned her down, she became spiteful. An English poet best describes it: hath no rage like love to hatred turned; and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned – most people wrongly credit that to Shakespeare. William Congreve is the author. That's me, Marilyn Monroe, the classical scholar.
Joan Crawford’s orgasm? Remember, folks, I’m getting this stuff from the L.A. Times, not the National Enquirer!
Of course, the main thing people will be interested in is what Marilyn said about the Kennedy brothers. She waxed on about JFK’s promise as President:
This man is going to change our country. No child will go hungry. No person will sleep in the street and get his meals from garbage cans. People who can't afford it will get good medical care. Industrial products will be the best in the world. No, I'm not talking Utopia — that's an illusion, but he will transform America today like FDR did in the 30's…I tell you, Doctor, when he has finished his achievements he will take his place with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR as one of our greatest Presidents.
But Marilyn was confused about how to deal with her personal relationship with Bobby Kennedy.
I guess I don't have the courage to face up to it and hurt him. I want someone else to tell him its over. I tried to get the President to do it, but I couldn't reach him. Now I'm glad I couldn't. He is too important to ask…Maybe I should stop being a coward and tell him myself. But because I know how much he'll be hurt I don't have the strength.
Pretty incendiary stuff if it’s true. Marilyn’s other comments about Bobby are so frank that I can’t bring myself to reprint them here. Several people place Bobby at Marilyn’s house on the day that she died. They apparently had an argument and Kennedy stormed out, not that I think he had any direct connection to her death. John Miner is the only person alive who heard Marilyn’s tapes and only he knows if these are accurate transcripts. In releasing them, Miner is hoping to get public support for exhuming poor Marilyn’s corpse to run further tests that may prove her death was not a suicide after all. Yikes, it seems rather grisly to even contemplate exhuming a body 43 years after death. Shouldn’t we just leave the woman alone?
Looking at the lengthy article about Marilyn in the Los Angeles Times, I notice on the opposite page a piece on the famine and genocide taking place in Darfur. Oh hell, that is the story I should be reading and commenting on. I feel sickened as I think of how many people devoured the Monroe article and bypassed the other story completely. What is the percentage of people in this country who even know where Darfur is? Oh wait, isn’t that where Angelina Jolie just got her new baby?