By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Even in a culture whose media is saturated with stories about celebrity, the paranormal and the occult, it’s hard to imagine Sherrie Lea Laird without the Internet. It was through a Web site that she met Dr. Adrian Finkelstein, a Malibu psychiatrist specializing in “past-life regressions.”
She e-mailed the doctor in 1998, telling him that for years she had been oppressed by feelings that another person was fighting for possession of her mind and body. Eventually Laird believed she was the reincarnation of the actress, whose presence caused Laird to experience crushing chest pains, which Finkelstein diagnosed as pain relived from the moment of Monroe’s death.
Laird and Finkelstein spent the next year telephoning and e-mailing each other. Then, in order to concentrate on her singing career, Laird cut off contact with the psychiatrist until 2005. When she re-established communication, Finkelstein, like Bram Stoker’s Dr. Van Helsing, sensed his patient was mentally slipping away, and he flew to Toronto twice to exorcise Laird’s demons. He placed Laird under hypnosis in a darkened hotel room he had booked for the occasion.
There, Laird lay on a Holiday Inn bed and journeyed back in time. Her sepulchral voice barely vented through unmoving lips as she answered Finkelstein’s questions. Sherrie/Marilyn revealed she had been the lover of both John and Robert Kennedy and had sex with then Senator John Kennedy in the back seat of a car, although she admitted that Bobby was more fun in bed. She also relived the asphyxiating final moments of her death, the pain of which prompted Dr. Finkelstein to bring her out of her somnambular state. As an unexpected bonus, he discovered, after also placing Laird’s 20-year-old daughter, Kezia, under hypnosis, that Kezia was the reincarnation of Norma Jean Baker’s mother, Gladys.
Adrian Finkelstein’s office sits in a small Malibu business complex along the Pacific Coast Highway, tucked between a carpet dealer and a foot masseuse. A native of Romania who emigrated to Israel in 1961, Finkelstein exudes a mixture of Old World charm and New Age credulity. As the zoom of coastal traffic swishes outside, Finkelstein explains his belief in Laird’s story.
“There are about 35 known individuals claiming to be Marilyn Monroe,” he says, “but most people claiming to be reincarnated celebrities are crackpots — they are psychotic.” Nevertheless, he says that he immediately believed Laird. For one thing, she didn’t want to be Marilyn Monroe, and for another, she didn’t appear psychotic and she possessed apparent photographic recall of details from Monroe’s life.
There were also what Finkelstein calls “biometrics” — genetic markers passed down from one person to his or her reincarnation that are found in bone structures and physical mannerisms. Equally persuasive, to the doctor’s thinking, was the fact that Laird and Monroe shared the same astrological north-south moon nodes and north-south house moon nodes. If this wasn’t a smoking gun, what was?
Finally, all those coincidences — what Finkelstein calls “synchronicities” — were impossible to dismiss. Sherrie was a singer, while in the movie Bus Stop Monroe had played a singer — whose name was Cherie. Laird had also once been married to a serviceman and so had Monroe, and both women had had an Aunt Anne in their families. Not only that, but Kezia — the reincarnation of Monroe’s mother — had been born exactly nine months after the 1984 death of Gladys Baker. The synchronicities just kept piling up.
Finkelstein, who enjoys physician’s privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, has worked on about 4,000 cases of past-life regression, in which patients, under hypnosis, travel back in time to meet themselves in a previous existence. He says he has encountered himself in 24 previous lives, most notably as a French physician during the reign of Louis XIV. Armed with videotapes of his sessions with Laird, and with transcripts of thousands of phone calls and e-mails, Finkelstein published a book late last spring called Marilyn Monroe Returns: The Healing of a Soul. About the same time, another woman claiming to be Monroe’s reincarnation contacted Finkelstein and sent him a seminude photograph of herself. However, this woman was deluded, he decided — the biometrics just weren’t there. “She was kind of plump,” Finkelstein says.
To the unschooled eye, Laird and Monroe might not appear that similar either, even when Laird wears her neck-strap dress. Still, Laird was surprised when, after her hangover breakfast in Las Vegas, she spoke to a friend in Ottawa while stopped at a gas station. “How do you feel about the news?” the friend asked, and told Laird to pick up that day’s L.A. Times, which featured a 2,050-word Calendar-section story about Laird, headlined “Giving More Life to Marilyn?” Soon, after she drove the 275 miles through desert and mountains to L.A., people would be seeing lots of Sherrie Lea Laird and that Marilyn dress.
Westwood Memorial Park is 2½ acres of lawn, firs and squirrels located at the end of the Avco Theater’s parking-structure driveway. Once an obscure pocket cemetery, the graveyard became many entertainers’ final destination of choice following Marilyn Monroe’s interment in an aboveground crypt. Dean Martin is here, along with Billy Wilder, ?Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood. About a dozen years ago, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner purchased the wall crypt immediately next to Monroe’s, which is covered with kiss imprints. When he is asked about his choice, Hefner, who never met Monroe, sounds every bit the pragmatist.