Marilyn Monroe: Suicide, the Kennedys, and a Red Notebook

mmpicmonkey-imageIn my book collection, which is pretty big, I’ve probably got more books about Marilyn Monroe than any other single subject although I only have two of her movies on DVD. Some like it Hot directed by the Great Billy Wilder and her very last completed movie, The Misfits. I suppose I’m just more interested in her, the woman herself rather than her films. The woman born Norma Jeane Mortensen, according to her birth certificate, who went on to become the movie star Marilyn Monroe.

Funnily enough, June the 1st, only a few days ago as I write this post, would have been Marilyn’s 89th birthday. It’s hard to imagine Marilyn, this icon of movie star allure as an old woman. Marilyn will never age and our image of her is fixed not only by her movies but by the many clips and photographs of her that fill cyberspace. She was a woman loved by the camera but she had a hard battle to become the person she wanted to be, a serious actress in charge of her own fate as a movie star and in control of her career and her roles.

It seems to me after reading many books about Marilyn, she lived her life in compartments and in each separate compartment were different and separate people. You may have read a book about her by Robert F Slatzer, ‘The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe,’ who claimed to have married Marilyn only to have had the marriage annulled at the request of her movie bosses. Slatzer was kept in a separate compartment from Bill Purcell, who features in my most recent Marilyn book purchase; IMGA0351‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed’ in which the author refers to a long time relationship between him and Marilyn. Slatzer and Purcell, and indeed her three husbands, Jim Dougherty, Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, were all kept by Marilyn in separate compartments which only occasionally connected.

Marilyn claimed she only wanted to settle down and have children but stardom was something she could never give up. She had worked so hard for it and when her struggles to have a child failed, or when her relationships themselves failed, her movie career was always there to fall back on.

She died in 1962 aged 36. The coroner said she died as a result of a probable overdose. Indeed, she had a history of overdosing and Arthur Miller, her third husband, saved her from death more than once. Many writers have attributed her sacking from her final film ‘Something’s Got To Give’ as a contributing factor in her suicide but in fact Marilyn had been reinstated to the film at an increased salary. On top of that she had many film projects planned, including a movie biopic about Jean Harlow, so did she commit suicide? Was it an accidental overdose, or was she murdered? Who would want to murder Marilyn Monroe and why?

The fact of the matter is that Marilyn had become rather dangerous to quite a few people and she was in possession of some pretty interesting information because of her involvement with President John Kennedy. Kennedy, who was a serial womaniser, was not amused at her overtly sexual performance at his birthday party and decided to end his association with her. FBI boss J Edgar Hoover had made Kennedy painfully aware he knew of his trysts with another woman named Judith Campbell, who was also intimate with mafia boss Sam Giancana. Anxious perhaps not to give Hoover further ammunition against him, the President tasked his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to do the dirty work and smooth over things with Marilyn.

Some books and articles claim that was exactly Bobby Kennedy’s mission with Marilyn; damage limitation and keeping her quiet. Others say things had gone further and Marilyn had another affair, this time with Bobby Kennedy himself. Marilyn was someone who had spent a lifetime trying to better herself in the arts and literature. She was a great reader and she began taking notes of her conversations with the Attorney General in order to research their topics and appear confident and knowledgeable. Those conversations included, incredibly, highly secret things within the US government including attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. She wrote these notes down in a red notebook which she showed to Robert Slatzer. He advised her it was an extremely dangerous notebook to have but as her affair with Bobby Kennedy cooled, if indeed it was an affair, Marilyn grew more and more angry. She claimed to friends she was fed up of being tossed around ‘like a piece of meat’ and threatened to blow the lid on her dealings with the Kennedys in a press conference. Bobby Kennedy wanted that notebook destroyed and Marilyn kept quiet. The mafia wanted derogatory information on the Kennedys and had even had Marilyn’s home bugged. The press conference was arranged for Monday August 6th, 1962. Sadly, Marilyn was found dead in the early hours of the 5th.

mm5409683410_8350501c78_oOn the last day of her life, August 4th, 1962, Marilyn was not depressed but making plans for the future. The day before, the 3rd, she spoke on the telephone with handyman Ray Tolman and arranged for him to visit the next week to sort out some repairs on her house, 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood. She also ordered various plants and shrubs for her garden. She spoke with her publicist Pat Newcomb and invited Pat to stay the night. The two women dined locally and turned in to bed early.

The next day, 4th August, Marilyn was awake when the housekeeper arrived at 8am. She spoke with numerous people on the telephone and arranged for Masseur Ralph Roberts to come over for a barbeque the next night.
Pat Newcomb arose around 12 noon and felt that Marilyn was not in a good mood. Pat had slept well while Marilyn, who had a long history of sleeping problems, had slept badly. This seemed to cause some friction between the two women. Shortly after 1 pm Ralph Greenson, Marilyn’s psychiatrist arrived. Marilyn and Greenson had a therapy session together while Pat spent the afternoon sunbathing by the pool as previously arranged.

At around 3pm Pat Newcomb says Greenson asked her to leave as he wanted to work alone with Marilyn.
Later, Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper dropped Marilyn off at Peter Lawford’s beach house while she did some shopping. At about 4pm she returned home and Doctor Greenson also returned for presumably, more therapy.

At 5pm Peter Lawford called and asked Marilyn to a supper later that evening but she declined. Marilyn received numerous telephone calls during the day some of which Eunice Murray had fielded by telling callers Marilyn was busy or not at home. Many times this was simply not true. A call from Ralph Roberts was answered by Dr Greenson who said sharply “Not here,” and put down the phone.

At 7 pm Greenson says he left, leaving Marilyn alone with housekeeper Eunice Murray. At around this time Marilyn took a call from Joe DiMaggio Jr. Joe had broken off his engagement to his fiancée and found Marilyn to be in good spirits. At about 7.30 Peter Lawford called again to ask Marilyn to dinner. His description of Marilyn contrasts with Joe Jr as Lawford states Marilyn’s speech was slurred and that she appeared disorientated. Towards the end of the call Lawford stated famously that Marilyn said, “say goodbye to the President and say goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy.” Mexican actor Jose Balleros also claimed to have spoken on the telephone with Marilyn that night, he claims Marilyn was lucid and awake in contrast to Peter Lawford’s statements. The fact is Lawford and Eunice Murray both gave varying reports of what happened on Marilyn’s last evening and neither’s statements can be completely trusted.

According to Murray she noticed a light on under Marilyn’s door but the door was locked. She went outside and saw Marilyn either asleep or unconscious on the bed. This was 10 pm in the first version Eunice told. Later on it was moved forward to 3 am. She called Ralph Greenson who advised her to break a window with a poker. Greenson himself then arrived at the house, broke another window and gained entry through the window and found Marilyn dead.

When Police Sgt Clemmons arrived at 4.25 am he saw Marilyn lying face down in what he called the ‘soldier’s position.’ He said “her hands were by her side and her legs perfectly straight. It was the most obviously staged death scene I have ever seen.” Not only that, all the sheets on the bed were clean and Mrs Murray was busy doing the laundry. Clemmons also noted the unusually long time that had elapsed before calling the police and asked why wait until gone 4 in the morning? Greenson and Murray said the film studios had to be informed first. Later, Murray changed her story saying she saw the light on in Marilyn’s room at midnight, went back to bed then awoke later and saw it was still on at 3am then she called Greenson. Greenson then called Doctor Hyman Engleberg and both doctors arrived shortly after. It was Hyman Engleberg who pronounced Marilyn dead.

Eunice Murray admitted in a BBC interview in 1985 for the documentary say Goodbye to the President that Bobby Kennedy was at Marilyn’s house on the day of her death. Eunice’s son in law and Marilyn’s handyman, Norman Jefferies told author Donald Wolfe that Bobby Kennedy arrived late on the Saturday evening with two unknown men and asked Jefferies and Murray to leave while he spoke with Marilyn alone. When they returned Marilyn was comatose in one of the guest cottages attached to her house. Jefferies and Murray called an ambulance but Marilyn died from an overdose. Was it a suicide or an accident? Was it murder? It seems to me that at this late stage we can never know but the autopsy showed that Marilyn’s blood level contained a lethal level of Chloral hydrate and Nembutal but there was no residue from the pills in her stomach, in fact, Marilyn would have had to swallow 38 to 66 capsules of Nembutal plus the chloral hydrate, and would have lost consciousness long before swallowing all of the pills. Was an injection given? The autopsy showed no trace of any needle marks and the final result was noted as a ‘probable suicide.’ Other versions of this story state that an ambulance was called and Marilyn expired on the way to hospital. Presumably it was the ambulance crew that pumped her stomach removing the pill residue. Recently an ambulance driver named James Hall claimed he attended Marilyn’s home that night and Marilyn was responding to treatment when a doctor whom he identified as Ralph Greenson injected Marilyn in the chest with a hypodermic syringe with a long needle. It was he said an inept amateur injection that broke one of her ribs however, these claims were not substantiated by the autopsy. The body was then returned to her home in order to give Robert Kennedy time to leave Los Angeles. I cannot for a moment imagine Bobby Kennedy as a murderer but he certainly would not want to be associated in any way with a movie star suicide. To this day John Bates, a friend of Kennedy’s claims that Bobby and his family spent the weekend with him at his ranch in Gilroy, south of San Francisco.

The final tragedy of this drama is that former husband Joe DiMaggio was set to remarry Marilyn. The date of the wedding should have been August 8th. Instead Joe attended Marilyn’s funeral on that day.

DiMaggio sent half a dozen red roses to her crypt three times a week for the next twenty years. He died in 1999 aged 84 and never remarried. He never spoke about Marilyn publically ever again. When Robert Kennedy visited the Yankee stadium in 1965, DiMaggio took a discreet step back when it was time to shake Kennedy’s hand.

"Marilyn Monroe crypt2" by User:Oleg Alexandrov. Original uploader was Oleg Alexandrov at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Made by Kodak Easy Share camera by User:Oleg Alexandrov). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg#/media/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg

“Marilyn Monroe crypt2” by User:Oleg Alexandrov. Original uploader was Oleg Alexandrov at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Made by Kodak Easy Share camera by User:Oleg Alexandrov). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg#/media/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg

Sources: The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald Wolfe

Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed by Michelle Morgan

Goddess by Anthony Summers

Say Goodbye to the President: 1985 BBC documentary

Websites: http://www.lovingmarilyn.com

http://www.cursumperficio.net

For a recent daily Mail article, click here.

 

The Assassination of John F Kennedy

Dealey Plaza The 22nd of November 2013 was the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most shocking events of the twentieth century, the assassination of President John F Kennedy. I personally expected a deluge of TV documentaries about the assassination but in fact on UK TV there really weren’t that many. A re-showing of the Oliver Stone movie, JFK. A documentary about media response to the assassination which was really the media looking at themselves. But that was really it, there were no probing or investigative programmes, perhaps in 2013 it was far too late for that.

In 1988, twenty-five years after John Kennedy’s death, a veritable wave of documentaries were broadcast on British television, including a rare showing on channel four of the 1966 film of Mark Lane’s ‘Rush to Judgement’. On ITV a documentary by producer Nigel Turner called ‘The Men who Killed Kennedy’ was aired, claiming fantastically that assassins from the French underworld killed the President. That particular film, which had its merits despite its incredible conclusions, was similar to many other films, books, and articles, in that they all challenged the establishment view, framed in the report of the Warren Commission, that the lone killer was a man called Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1995, BBC TV’s ‘Timewatch’ gave us a view of Oswald that brought us full circle. Heavily influenced by the book ‘Case Closed’ by Gerald Posner, the film said look, Oswald really did it after all.  So, have you had your fill of conspiracy theories? Have you heard enough of CIA plots and Watergate and Iran-Contra? Enough of the ‘grassy knoll’, the Book Depository, and Dealey Plaza? Has perhaps our interest in the fate of President Kennedy been diminished by revelations of the apparently numerous indiscretions in his private life?

Whatever the truth of John Kennedy’s private life, his graphic death was the cataclysm of our age, imprinted on the minds of a generation by the flickering incarnation of amateur cine film. For many the case is not closed and has never been even remotely resolved despite two official investigations, the last of which -by the House Select Committee on Assassinations- concluded, ambiguously, that the President was killed “probably” by the result of a conspiracy.

So what are the facts of the assassination? Perhaps the only undisputed fact to emerge from the tragedy was that John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the United States, was shot in the head and killed. President Kennedy was hit by rifle fire in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, while riding in an open topped limousine, part of a motorcade that had just turned onto Elm Street by the Texas School Book Depository. Almost every other fact, every statement, every report, every document, every exhibit, every disclosure, is open to question. Were there three shots or four? Were there more? Was the President shot from behind or from the front? Was he shot from the sixth floor of the book depository or from the so called ‘grassy knoll’?  Did  twenty-four year old ex-marine Lee Harvey Oswald fire the shots? Was he alone or were there other assassins? Why did Jack Ruby, a local night club owner subsequently shoot Oswald? Was it to silence him, to stop him from telling what he knew? Did Ruby act out of rage or was he part of a conspiracy? Was he in the pay of the Mafia? Was the CIA involved? The questions are endless, the answers are few.

Image courtesy wikipedia

Image courtesy wikipedia

Lee Oswald was a young man with an extraordinary background.  He was not the ‘lone nut’ as described by the Warren Commission, the investigative body set up by President Johnson to examine the assassination. An ex radar operator at a top-secret US base in Japan, Oswald had spent years in Soviet Russia as a supposed defector. He was known to the FBI and had connections with military intelligence and the CIA. He appeared to be involved in left-wing Cuban politics and supported Fidel Castro. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald shot the President but failed to answer the important question -why? Why should a left-wing activist shoot a liberal minded president who in the words of his critics had gone ‘soft’ on communism and Cuba? But as we examine the accepted elements of the murder more and more inconsistencies occur. The President was shot at 12.30 pm, but Oswald, who worked at the book depository, was seen by witnesses in the second floor lunch room as late as 12.15, which left him only fifteen minutes to ascend to the sixth floor, produce his rifle and take up position. Of course fifteen minutes might have been enough time for a cool and organised killer, but the President was actually due to arrive at a reception at the Dallas Trade Mart at 12.30, which meant he would pass through Dealey Plaza at about 12.25, giving Oswald only ten minutes to be in place, and he had no way of knowing the President would be late. Immediately after the shooting patrolman Marrion Baker entered the Book Depository, drew his gun and with building superintendent Roy Truly hot on his heels confronted a young man in the lunchroom calmly drinking a coke. Truly explained that this was Lee Oswald, an employee. Had Oswald rushed down from his ‘snipers lair’ on the sixth floor or had he been in the lunch room all the while?

image courtesy wikipedia

image courtesy wikipedia

Perhaps the strongest evidence linking Oswald to the murder was the supposed murder weapon, a 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle, a World War II vintage carbine found on the sixth floor of the book depository at 1.22 pm, almost an hour after the assassination. The rifle had been purchased mail order by an ‘Alek Hidell’ and sent to Dallas post office box number 2915, rented by Oswald. When arrested, Oswald was carrying an identity card in the name of ‘Hidell’. To this day there is dispute over whether Oswald’s palm print was found on the rifle. All pretty damning you might think, but the officer who first found the rifle, Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman, identified it as a 7.65 mm Mauser, and was confident enough to make a sworn affidavit to that effect. The day after the shooting, November 23rd, District Attorney Henry Wade also described the weapon as a Mauser at a televised press conference. How then does a 7.65mm Mauser become a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano? I personally know nothing about guns at all but I have seen enough war films to know that a Mauser is German, and stamped clearly on the side of the Mannlicher-Carcano are the words ‘MADE ITALY’ and ‘CAL 6.5’. And surely a police officer, particularly an American policeman, would know what he was talking about concerning guns?

Abraham Zapruder, a local businessman took his cine camera to work that day to film the Presidential parade but what he recorded instead was a Presidential murder. In doing so he contributed arguably the most important piece of evidence in the whole case. His film gave investigators a filmed record and a timetable for the shooting. Examination of the film by FBI experts revealed the time between the first shot to hit the President and the shot that struck his head was 4.8 to 5.6 seconds. It was first thought that there were four shots, one shot hitting Kennedy in the throat, a second completely missing and hitting the kerb, a third hitting Governor Connally also seated in the Presidential car, and a fourth shattering Kennedy’s skull. Given that it takes 2.3 seconds to operate the bolt action rifle, four shots will not fit the time frame for one assassin and one rifle so the Warren Commission came up with the so called ‘magic bullet’ theory, that the second of three shots hit both Kennedy and Connally. This view has been blasted from a number of angles, firstly the bullet itself emerged as almost completely pristine, while one which had passed through the flesh and bone of two human bodies would have been severely deformed. Secondly, in the Zapruder film Governor Connally is seen to turn around as Kennedy is hit then appears to be hit himself as he turns to face front again.

Expert riflemen were called in to test the murder weapon. They were unable to duplicate Oswald’s supposed feat of marksmanship and complained of difficulty operating the rifle’s bolt mechanism and even the trigger. The telescopic sight could not be properly aligned and had to be rebuilt with metal shims added to make it accurate, which means of course that the rifle was tested in a configuration not available to Oswald. Also, test firing was done at still, rather than moving targets. The assassin would also have had to track the President as he passed behind an oak tree, resight his target and then shoot. So did Lee Oswald really do the shooting? What about the shot to the Presidents head which knocked him back and to the left indicating a shot from the right front -the grassy knoll area? And what about the bystanders who rushed up the grassy knoll including a motorcycle patrolman who tried to ride his bike up there? They felt the final shot came from the knoll as did railroad workers on the triple underpass, as did Abraham Zapruder the amateur cine cameraman, as did Mary Woodward of the Dallas Morning News, as did Lee Bowers positioned behind the grassy knoll atop a 14-foot railroad tower, as did many others. So, if other gunmen were involved, who were they? Who paid them? Who organised them? Who stood silently in the wings and watched while the President was killed?

JFK movie poster

JFK movie poster

Oliver Stone’s blockbuster movie from 1991, JFK. was a recreation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation into the murder of the president and before filming had even been completed the US media had begun -if you’ll excuse the pun- to throw stones at Stone. In conclusion the movie offers us the theory that the American ‘military-industrial complex’ was responsible for the crime, the theory running like this; Lyndon Johnson took over the reins of the presidency following JFK’s death. He continued with Kennedy’s cabinet and Kennedy’s policies, all except one -Vietnam. Not wishing to become embroiled in a guerrilla war in south-east Asia Kennedy had already ordered home from Vietnam one thousand troops. Johnson reversed that decision and thus began the disastrous American adventure that was the Vietnam War. Extreme right-wing elements opposed to John Kennedy’s policies of peace ‘removed’ Kennedy in favour of Johnson. Sound fantastic? To be fair to JFK, everything presented as fact was factual, and everything that was conjecture was presented as such, but the real life investigation by Jim Garrison  concluded that the CIA were the real culprits. After the disaster of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA-backed invasion of Cuba by Cuban exile brigades during which the CIA had attempted to force Kennedy into committing American troops into the assault, Kennedy had vowed to splinter the CIA into “a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”. The CIA had become almost autonomous from the elected government, pursuing its own policies around the globe. It had developed a capability -revealed during the 1970’s in senate hearings- known as ‘executive action’, a capability of political assassination. The ‘company’ as the CIA calls itself, was involved with mafia hoodlums to murder Fidel Castro. Castro is alive and well today, but did the CIA collude with the mafia to murder its own commander-in-chief, the President of the United States?

Jim Garrison’s investigation came to nothing but in 1991 lawyer, writer, and JFK investigator Mark Lane was involved as defence attorney in a libel case instigated by CIA man and ex Watergate burglar Howard Hunt. The hub of the case was a newspaper article claiming Hunt was in Dallas on the day of the Presidents murder. Hunt denied this, claiming to be in Washington at the time. In court Lane introduced testimony that indeed placed Hunt as part of a CIA team in Dallas on the day in question. Leslie Armstrong, forewoman of the jury said afterwards “Mr Lane was asking us to do something very difficult -he was asking us to believe that John Kennedy had been killed by our own government. Yet, when we examined the evidence, we were compelled to conclude that the CIA had indeed killed President Kennedy.” A shocking and significant breakthrough in the JFK murder you might think? Leslie Armstrong went on to call for action to be taken by the proper authorities in the government. Nothing was done. The US Justice Department did not stir, nor has any other organ of the forces of law and order in the United States. The US media continues to ignore the countless revelations that have appeared in the years since John F Kennedy was killed, yet conspiracy theories are abundant in Europe and the UK. Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals have shown us the dark underbelly of the American establishment, could it be that some secret influence is at work, hidden from public perception, preventing serious examination of the crime of the century?

President Obama has recently been elected to another four years in office, and in accordance with US law they will constitute his last term. Obama’s presidency has been largely unremarkable but he still has a chance to offer something significant to his fellow Americans and to the world. He can appoint a special prosecutor and special investigators and direct the CIA and FBI to answer pertinent questions. Not about how many shots, or from what direction, or any of the other thousand and one questions regarding the minutiae of the assassination but who was responsible? Who gave the orders? Who really killed President Kennedy? Still, perhaps even that would be fifty years too late.


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