Over the years, certain stories resurface, even after being proven incorrect.
One such story is the alleged connection between Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, and a gold Rolex watch. Despite having believed the matter to be settled, I have previously come across several posts on various social profiles including an Instagram post claiming that Marilyn was photographed at JFK’s birthday gala holding a watch—a personally inscribed gift for the President. Intrigued, I decided to investigate further and separate fact from fiction.
The post featured a photo of Marilyn holding an object in her hand, purportedly the watch in question. Alongside it was an image of a watch sold in 2005 for a significant sum of £120,000.
The watch was said to contain a heartfelt poem inside its case, dedicated to JFK. However, upon closer examination, I realised there were inconsistencies and inaccuracies in this narrative.
To begin with, I left a comment on the Instagram post, pointing out that the watch sold in 2005 was indeed a fake, and that Marilyn never owned a watch matching the description. Unsurprisingly, my comment was deleted, and further comments were disabled. Undeterred, I delved deeper into the subject, determined to uncover the truth.
The watch that was sold at auction in 2005 fetched a considerable amount of £120k – so it must be real, surely?
If the watch had truly belonged to JFK, given by Marilyn herself, it would have commanded an even higher price. The dress she wore at the event fetched over a million dollars but this gift is significantly lower in value.
The uncertainty surrounding its authenticity prevented it from reaching astronomical figures. A breakthrough came when astute Rolex researchers discovered the watch’s serial number: 1296419. This serial number indicated that the watch was manufactured around 1966, three years after JFK’s assassination. Thus, it became clear that the sold watch was in no way connected to Marilyn or JFK.
But then, what was Marilyn holding in the iconic photo? While the concept of a secret gift is enticing, the idea of her carrying around a valuable watch unnoticed seems implausible. Besides, such a gift would likely have been presented in a case or at least wrapped. Instead, Marilyn was seen holding an object wrapped in a napkin throughout the evening.
Although the absence of a case and the lack of witnesses do not provide conclusive evidence, there is some information that sheds light on the matter. Marilyn’s financial records from 1962, meticulously documented by Scott Fortner from the Marilyn Monroe Collection, reveal detailed expenses related to the gala, including tickets, dress, and hair styling, but no mention of a watch. These records offer a glimpse into Marilyn’s preparations, confirming that she did not purchase a watch that year.
Moreover, the photo showing Marilyn with the Kennedy brothers, along with another photo, does not provide concrete evidence of her holding a watch. On the contrary, these images serve as evidence that the item she held was certainly not a watch.
A WHITE KNIGHT
During discussions on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook page, Gary Vitacco-Robles, a Marilyn biographer, suggested that Marilyn may have been holding a chess piece.
This notion resonated with me as I recalled Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper, mentioning in her 1975 book that Marilyn had taken a chess piece from a set she had purchased in Mexico—a knight, which she would wrap in her handkerchief while performing.
The chess piece was a symbol of courage, as suggested by her friend, Dr. Greenson. Eunice also noted that Marilyn had misplaced the piece somewhere in New York.
In a 1974 paper on transitional objects and transference, Marilyn’s psychoanalyst, Ralph Greenson, indirectly referred to Marilyn’s use of a chess piece for comfort. Although he did not mention Marilyn’s name, the timing of events mentioned in the paper coincided with Marilyn’s life.
Additionally, Marilyn had indeed purchased a gold and silver chess set from Mexico in February of that year, further supporting the possibility of her using a chess piece at the gala.
There are financial records owned by Scott Fortner, Marilyn Monroe Collection, indicating that Marilyn Monroe had placed an order for a replacement chess piece after losing one in New York City. While the listed description refers to it as a silver pawn, visual evidence suggests that it is more likely a knight, given that the head of the piece bears a striking resemblance to a horse, rather than a small pawn.
As for the whereabouts of Marilyn’s chess set, aside from the photo taken after her passing, there are no records indicating its fate. Extensive searches through auction house databases, such as Christie’s and Julien’s, yielded no results. However, it is reasonable to assume that the chess set is likely in the possession of Anna Strasberg, Lee Strasberg’s third wife, possibly with a silver White Knight chess piece missing.
In conclusion, the claims of Marilyn purchasing, concealing, and gifting a gold Rolex watch to JFK, containing a love poem, lack reliable evidence. The watch sold in 2005 was proven to be fake and manufactured years after both Marilyn and JFK had passed away. Marilyn’s financial records from 1962 do not indicate any expenditure on a watch. Instead, the evidence suggests that Marilyn may have been holding a chess piece—a symbol of courage and comfort—during the gala. The exact whereabouts of Marilyn’s chess set remain unknown, but efforts to locate it continue.
As discussions surrounding this topic persist, it is essential to rely on verifiable evidence and refrain from perpetuating unsubstantiated claims. By examining the available facts and considering reliable sources, we can separate reality from speculation and appreciate the true essence of Marilyn Monroe’s legacy.