See also:

*Marilyn Monroe Photographer Lawrence Schiller: Our Interview

*Marilyn Monroe's Never-Before-Seen Poolside Nude Photos

As the media undoubtedly will note this week, Aug. 5

marks the 50th anniversary of the sad, premature death of Norma Jeane

Baker, aka Marilyn Monroe, the multitalented movie star and L.A. native.

Her films go unwatched by most people under 50 these days. So why, or more to the point, how

do we care about Marilyn Monroe now, anyway? Answer: as a subject of

biographies, an iconic face on walls and shirts, a color-drenched

silkscreen portrait by Andy Warhol. For those who dig a little deeper,

she is yet another vaguely situated satellite in the shadowy universe of

(drum roll) Kennedy conspiracies. And yet …

Lost is

the real-life story of an unwanted girl who was abandoned at birth by a

mentally unstable mother (a film cutter at a Culver City movie studio),

raised in a Hollywood orphanage and in foster homes in Hawthorne and Van

Nuys, who, through ferocious drive, made it to the pinnacle of

Hollywood stardom, married two celebrities and sang “I Want to Be Loved

by You” to the world before dying unhappy, drugged-out and alone at 36.

While some excellent and thorough biographies like Anthony Summers' Goddess and Donald Spoto's Marilyn Monroe: The Biography cover her life from its Dickensian start to its rocker-burnout finish, Keith Badman's Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years

(St. Martin's Press) focuses exclusively on 1961-62, the disastrous

last two years of her life. As former rock biographer Badman

exhaustively documents, these were the spinning-out-of-control years,

when the superstar's ill-advised liaisons with the sexually sleazy

president of the United States, his flirtatious but morally upright

younger brother Bobby and their much sleazier friend Frank Sinatra and

his Mafia buddies put her in harm's way. Her drug dependence didn't

help, either.

The book is, therefore, necessarily 80 percent

depressing, chronicling everything Monroe did wrong and everything wrong

that was done to her. In the former category we have two chapters'

worth of Monroe's erratic behavior during the filming of the last movie

in which she was supposed to star, Something's Got to Give, a

project she herself derailed with ridiculous, diva-ish demands, along

with a string of no-shows during production, which resulted in her quite

rightly being fired. (The book quotes twice-burned screenwriter

Nunnally Johnson: “I used to be sympathetic with actresses and their

problems. But Marilyn made me lose all sympathy for actresses.”)


second category takes up much of Badman's book, and he prides himself

on both debunking and confirming several decades-old rumors and

conspiratorial chestnuts, particularly the Kennedy kind. While

acknowledging that Monroe most likely had a Don Draper-worthy one-night

stand with the president in Palm Springs in 1962, he proves the

impossibility of other alleged liaisons between the two, with

well-documented specifics that earlier biographers should have caught.

The author's triumphant verdict: one boink but no affair.


many claim that Monroe and Attorney General Robert Kennedy also “met,”

pelvically, at a party at actor Peter Lawford's place on PCH in February

1962, Badman makes a strong case that the ever-righteous RFK never did

anything more intimate with her, then or later, than talk politics. He

quotes Monroe as telling columnist James Bacon, “I like him, but not


Badman does, however, recall in minute detail RFK's

angry visit to Marilyn's home the day before she died, the purpose of

which was to tell her to stop trying to contact JFK, on whom she had by

then quite deluded romantic designs.

And yet: In the realm of

Marilyn-/Kennedy-noia, nothing a conspiracy theorist would dream up

could be as nightmarish as Badman's account of the most horrific episode

in this woman's tragic life, only alluded to in earlier books: the

night of molestation and possible rape that descended on her at

on-/off-again boyfriend Frank Sinatra's Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe in

June 1962. Reading the unbelievable description of Monroe, very drunk

following a late-night performance by singer Dean Martin, being molested

by Mafia thugs and photographed in her hotel room with a prostitute in a

sordid, sloshed, faux-lesbian encounter is pretty horrifying. Rat Pack

indeed, Frank!

For all the author's admirable detective work, the

book can be a bit of a grind, with his insistence on laundry-listing

every receipt, every bill, every flight number. It would have been good,

too, if the publishers had spent a few bucks to translate this

originally British book into American English. Even for Anglophiles,

encountering “from the off …. the play hit the buffers” and “a scrum

of reporters” can be distracting.

Still, all the heroes and

villains from that smoky, shabby time are here: Monroe's pill-dispensing

shrink Dr. Greenson, loyal ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, slimy Peter Lawford

and troubled husband Arthur Miller, all bewildered or damaged by their

encounter with our one-in-a-billion “eternal feminine” just before her

bright, quavering yellow flame went out, as Badman persuasively argues,

by her own hand. “The girl was an addict of sleeping pills,” he quotes

director John Huston, “and she was made so by the God-damn doctors.”

See also:

*Marilyn Monroe Photographer Lawrence Schiller: Our Interview

*Marilyn Monroe's Never-Before-Seen Poolside Nude Photos

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