By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Life in Los Angeles offered her a close-up of those places and celebrities, along with memberships in the club culture of Palos Verdes, whose art association and swim and country clubs Marilyn gladly joined. It was a time, after all, when a divorcée could, as she did, raise two boys in an ocean-view apartment on a teacher's salary. Even the L.A. Teachers Association breakfasts, held at the Biltmore Bowl, seemed exciting: "I liked it -- I felt like I was a big-city girl!"
Her father's death brought Marilyn back to Ohio in 1962, but when her mother also passed away, seven years later, she returned to teaching in L.A., moving into the Wilshire Towers. "I was one block from the Brown Derby and the Ambassador Hotel -- all you could think of was how they were so famous." The center of her life became the Round Table West literary club's monthly gatherings at the Ambassador's Cocoanut Grove, whose former glory, like an incandescence traveling from some distant, dying star, still dazzled Marilyn. One afternoon she sat at a table while Sammy Davis Jr. rehearsed a show, and got his autograph on a soggy napkin. "This is gonna be a wet one!" Sammy quipped.
In 1971, after two years of teaching on several city campuses, Marilyn called it quits when she saw that L.A.'s schools were becoming more dangerous places. She then made what seems like an off-the-chart career change for an educated woman, though it put her in a position to glimpse show-biz glamour from the inside. She remembers her first interview as a housekeeper for the wealthy. â
"Raquel Welch lived in a house in back of the Beverly Hills Hotel," Marilyn says, "and just had on a little pair of jeans, a T-shirt, with her hair pulled back with a rubber band -- and no makeup. She said she felt uncomfortable with hiring someone older than herself, and so I didn't get the job."
Before long, though, Marilyn was putting her belongings in storage and moving out to cowboy actor Dale Robertson's Chatsworth ranch, where she landed a job working for the Oklahoman and his wife, Lou. "They were both Southern and very lovely," Marilyn recalls. "They had quite a few dinner parties with rich horse people. He became friends with a family who gave him a brand-new, custom-made Cadillac Eldorado. They were a foreign family -- by that, I mean they had foreign blood. So he had this gorgeous new Cadillac that he drove as a personal car, and then of course Mrs. Robertson had a Lincoln."
Life seemed idyllic, on and off the spread. Marilyn remembers the Beverly Hills Halloween party at the Jimmy Durantes' to which she escorted Dale's daughter Rebel, and how Mrs. Durante had to yell because Jimmy was hard of hearing. But the Robertsons' rustic acreage was Marilyn's true world, a home whose nearby neighbors included actor Chad Everett and the Gelsons, who owned the tony markets. "There was the regular ranch house, and then there was another house down by the stables, where they had James, their houseman. Now, when I say 'man,' I mean he was the colored man who had worked for Mr. Robertson for 25 years. He had his own house, took care of the cars and supervised the horses. He was lovely to me -- I was always 'Miss Marilyn.'"
But the Robertsons' marriage eventually hit the rocks, and Marilyn was out of a job. Next came work with singer Helen O'Connell in Brentwood, and afterward a stint with comedian Norm Crosby. Marilyn spent a particularly grand time at the West Hollywood home of R&B composer-arranger Gene Page, who worked with such superstars as Aretha Franklin and Barry White. "They were a black family," Marilyn recalls, "but there was no tension with the Pages, because they had friends of all races over at the house and took me along with them to the Shubert to see Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra." She also remembers Page as a very private man who kept four pianos in the house. "He was touted as a performer, but he didn't like performing, because he didn't want girls clawing at his clothes, tearing them off. Not at all."
IT WAS WHILE AT THE PAGES' THAT MARILYN WROTE A 536-page murder mystery titled The Copper Triangle, set in a private men's club in the mountains of Colorado. As she describes the book: "It's the story of the beautiful hostess Claire Breese. Her club's members are sophisticated singles, couples and out-of-towners who drive in, helicopter in or come by limousine. They have all these wonderful parties, and of course there's a lot of sex, and camaraderie."
Those 536 immaculately typed pages celebrate comfort, luxury and, yes, sex. The setting's Copperwood Estate, whose corporate color scheme is cream and lavender, is a swinging world of cinnamon suede suits, white llama-wool upholstery and royal-blue satin sheets; with each turn of the page one meets characters who are more beautiful, handsome, talented and rich than those already introduced, and everyone gobbles down enormous breakfasts of steak, eggs, potatoes, toast and marmalade. Brand-name perfumes exist side by side with push-button technology and rocket packs. The reader enters a fantasy whose characters, as beautiful, sensuous and wealthy as they are, voyeuristically gaze upon yet another fantasy world -- that of the softcore porn films they view. One of these royal-blue movies' stars may well be a role Marilyn envied: "She was the darling of musical comedy and feted on all continents. She owned one of the magnificent houses in Paris. She had a weekly salon where choice men were invited for dinner at 9, and dallying later. She surrounded herself with other pretty actresses. Her guest list was full of beautiful people." So far, the manuscript, penned over a mere nine-month period, remains unpublished.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city