Since the 1970s the rumour that Marilyn Monroe and President John F Kennedy had a wild and passionate affair has plagued Marilyn historians’ lives. But did it happen? Well, not the way gossip magazines like to tell it…
Note: This post will solely discuss Marilyn and JFK’s “relationship” and not the theories surrounding her death. For that, please read here.
John F Kennedy is well known for his extra-marital relations but Marilyn is arguably the most famous, despite it not being officially confirmed.
Marilyn herself had slept/had relationships with married men in her time (Johnny Hyde, Andre De Dienes, Arthur Miller to name a few), one of which was when she herself was married (with Yves Montand). As well as Marilyn Monroe, JFK is believed to have had affairs with :
Mimi Alford (White House Intern)
Blaze Starr (stripper)
Marlene Dietrich (actress)
Anita Eckberg (actress)
Ellen Rometsch (call girl)
Mary Meyer (CIA agent ex-wife)
Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen (White House Secretaries)
Can these be confirmed? Well, some have more evidence than others. Which is an important thing to consider when making such claims.
WHEN AND WHERE DID THE KENNEDY/MONROE AFFAIR RUMOURS START?
A ‘HANDSOME GENTLEMAN’
In 1962, Dorothy Kilgallen alluded that Marilyn was spending time with an unnamed man.
Now, it’s important to note Marilyn was spending time with multiple gentlemen in the 1960s, but that doesn’t mean they were all sexual. According to Mimosa by Ralph Roberts, Marilyn and her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio had agreed to see each other and, if they so wished, date others. So, since her divorce from Arthur Miller, it can be confirmed Marilyn spent time with Joe, Frank Sinatra, Jose Bolanos (at the Golden Globes) and, almost definitely, John F Kennedy. But how serious was this “love affair” and how often did it take place?
Well, Dorothy believed she had the scoop…
It could be a Kennedy brother or maybe even Frank Sinatra, although that story was old news in 1961. This name is never confirmed in print. Dorothy did later tell friends that it was in reference to Robert Kennedy although that theory is never proven. Robert’s sister even wrote to Marilyn joking about how they were “now an item!”
In 1994, Jean Kennedy Smith addressed the letter before it went to auction stating to New York Post “The suggestion that the letter verifies an affair is utter nonsense. I am shocked anyone would believe such innuendo about a letter obviously written in jest.”
But Bobby deserves his own post.
So, how did the infamous gossip columnist, who is known for both raising and trashing Marilyn’s name, find out this juicy information?
According to an alleged CIA document (now believed to be a forgery*), Kilgallen received this intel via her interior decorator friend, Howard Rothberg who had no direct link to Marilyn. The unauthenticated document states that Kilgallen’s conversations had been wiretapped, that the Kennedy brothers had “broken up” with Marilyn, and that she “had secrets to tell” such as UFOs in Roswell…
Dorothy Kilgallen herself since has been a victim of conspiracy theories surrounding her death which officially was due to a cocktail of alcohol and barbiturates.
BOB SLATZER – A SECRET HUSBAND AND CONFIDANT
The real affair claims between Marilyn and JFK began a decade after Marilyn and JFK had died. The source for this affair came from Robert Slatzer, who had been featured in a column by Dorothy in 1952 regarding his “romance” with Marilyn who was dating baseball legend Joe Dimaggio at the time.
Slatzer met Marilyn once during her filming of Niagara in 1952.
These letters and phone calls mentioned in the article have never been documented or publicised, nor was he present in any of her telephone books, something Marilyn used constantly. If you weren’t in her phone book, you weren’t in her life.
His name came up again in 1957, stating he and Marilyn were intimate in 1952 (no mention of marriage). If this very private woman was aware of this blabber mouth’s existence, he certainly would not be a friend to her by 1962. Needless to say, his allegations have been debunked and dismissed.
In his 1973 book, The Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe, Slatzer mentions that Marilyn had an affair with the President, was passed to his brother and was soon dumped by him. The evidence for this is Slatzer’s word and nothing else which have previously been proven to be unreliable.
Despite Robert Dallek’s biography of John F. Kennedy stating gossip columns were discussing an affair (which apparently the President wanted to be quashed), there is no record of this (that I have yet to come across). The rumours were predominantly regarding his younger brother (again, never confirmed with viable evidence) and the JFK/Monroe affair only really started in the 1970s.
*Due to the printing quality, and being “over the top” with the use of TOP SECRET and experts have said documents like this are attempting to seem official and are easy to forge, it’s believed this document is utterly fake.
MARILYN & JFK, A TIMELINE OF MEETINGS RUMOURED AND CONFIRMED
11 April 1957
Marilyn and her third husband Arthur Miller attended the April in Paris Ball at the Waldorf Hotel. Also present were Senator John F Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. It’s unclear if Marilyn met the future president and First Lady, but the couples were among the 1,300 guests. This is the first event that can place Marilyn and JFK in the same room.
23 and 24 September 1961
Biographer Keith Badman believes Marilyn and Pat Newcomb were at Hyannis Port with JFK and Jackie on these dates.
According to the press, Frank Sinatra and an “unidentified” couple were in attendance on 22 September. But according to the JFK archives, Frank Sinatra was present at the White House on Thursday 21 September. There’s no note of him being at Hyannis Port on the White House records.
On 18 September 1961, Marilyn said to Ralph Roberts she needed to return to New York for some business. On Friday 22 September 1961, Marilyn and Ralph flew at 1:30 pm to NYC. The plane had experienced engine trouble and had to turn back. She sent Joe DiMaggio this telegram using a pseudonym:
“Dear Dad Darling, airplane developed engine trouble plus all oil ran out of same plane so we had to turn back and land back in LA. Leaving again on another plane at 5pm arrive New York 1pm. When plane was in trouble I thought about two things, you and changing my will. Love you I think, more then ever. -Mrs. Norman.“
Marilyn was due to arrive at Idlewild at 1 pm NY time, and, according to Ralph, they travelled directly to the Lexington Hotel where Joe was living at the time. This means Marilyn could not have been with Frank Sinatra (although he wasn’t listed on the President’s records, so even he may not have been there).
It’s been noted by some biographers that Marilyn met with WJ Weatherby this weekend. However, the way the Conversations with Marilyn is written, it appears Marilyn and Weatherby were reacquainted in November 1960 (due to the mention of the election), not September 1961. Of course, his book also says Marilyn admitted to having an affair with a famous, married Washington politician. Weatherby’s book was first published in 1976 – and what better tale than the one where Marilyn Monroe confides in you that you’re sleeping with a Kennedy? Or both!
Back to the dates… Could she have left Joe the following day and flown from Idlewild to Massachusetts? Possibly. Although, there is no published confirmation that Marilyn flew that day or where she flew back to (tickets, being spotted by fans, photographs etc.) but it’s far more likely she spent time with Joe and the Strasbergs.
According to Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, he took Marilyn to the home of Peter and Pat Lawford (sister to John F Kennedy) where they held a party at their Santa Monica home in honour of President Kennedy. Even so, Kennedy did not visit Los Angeles in October 1961. He did attend a dinner in November 1961, Marilyn may not have been listed officially as a guest.
18 November 1961
Kennedy gave a speech at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and some have suspected Marilyn met him after. But that evening, Douglas Kirkland met Marilyn to show her photo proofs of his photos taken the day before.
JFK was also recorded as having returned to Beverley Hills Hotel at 10:35 pm before he dropped in on a dinner being held at the hotel where 700 guests were present. None of the guests claims to have seen Marilyn.
5 December 1961
John F Kennedy gave a speech addressing the National Football Foundation at the Waldorf Astoria. Some say Marilyn was in attendance but was a couple of hours late due to her having her hair done by Kenneth Battelle. However, there seems to be no press coverage or images of her being there nor proof she was with Mr Kenneth on that date.
According to Dr Engleberg’s bill, he visited Marilyn in LA on 4 December (maybe Marilyn flew to NYC and returned before 8 December but unlikely)
Some believe there was a dinner party held at the home of Fifi Fell after the Waldorf Astoria conference but the President had left the Waldorf and gone straight to the Carlyle Hotel.
According to Donald Spoto, in February 1962 (between 3 and 7*), Marilyn’s talent manager Milton Ebbins stated he escorted Marilyn to the home of Fifi Fell, where a fundraiser dinner party was held (often confused with a December fundraiser despite Marilyn not being in NYC). Ebbins also stated he took her home.
JFK’s diary shows that he was in Virginia on all the dates Marilyn was in NYC and therefore they both couldn’t have been in attendance.
*Marilyn is placed in LA on 1 February and begins moving into her Brentwood home 8 February. Most other dates in February can be accounted for.
24 March 1962
Marilyn called Ralph Roberts to tell him she was going to be staying at Bing Crosby’s home in Palm Springs (previously the venue had been at Frank Sinatra’s home but was changed for security) on Saturday 24 March 1962.
That day, from midday the President’s movements, are not recorded.
Philip Watson the Los Angeles county assessor told Anthony Summers that Marilyn had been with JFK by the pool and it was clear they were enjoying their time together. However, his presence there cannot be verified.
From Palm Springs Marilyn apparently called Ralph again and put JFK on the phone to discuss a bet Marilyn had with him regarding thigh bones.
A familar man’s voice, “Hello.”
I answered, “Hello. The thigh bone is connected, as the song goes, to the hipbone. But not toward the outside of the body, but it articulates with the pelvic bone, well near the center.”
A laugh, “Well, I take your word. She speaks highly of you.”
Mimosa, Ralph Roberts
She later told Ralph how she had given the President a massage with Ralph later telling Donald Spoto, “Marilyn told me that this night in March was the only time of her “affair” with JFK. A great many people thought, after that weekend, that there was more to it. But Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that.” Ralph also said that “She asked me about the solus muscle which she knew something about from the Mabel Ellsworth Todd book [The Thinking Body], and she had obviously been talking about this with the president, who was known to have all sorts of ailments, muscle and back trouble.”
Susan Strasberg, friend and daughter of Lee and Paula Strasberg, stated that Marilyn felt it was “okay to sleep with a charismatic president – and she loved the secrecy and drama of it. But he certainly wasn’t the kind of man she wanted for life and she was very clear about this.”
In 1976, American Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring was interviewed by Bill Hartigan, who denies this happened as no one was allowed at the property.
The dinner party at Fifi Fell’s home has also been dated to April 1962 but Marilyn had spent most of that month Los Angeles preparing for Something’s Got To Give. There is also no record of Kennedy being in New York in April 1962.
19 May 1962
After the birthday gala held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Marilyn and the other performers attended the home of Arthur Krim where an after-party celebration was held. This meeting is the only one in which Marilyn and the Kennedys are photographed. Present with her ex-father-in-law Isidore Miller and Pat Newcomb, Marilyn met with other guests such as Maria Callas and very briefly spoke to the President and Attorney General. After seeing Diahann Carroll sing, Marilyn took Isidore back to his Brooklyn home in the early hours of the morning before returning to her own home, where James Haspiel claims he saw her for the last time.
Luckily for Marilyn fans and researchers, we are able to pinpoint where she was on many of the dates claimed, or at least where JFK was based on the fact that most of his movements were recorded by the minute.
So did Marilyn Monroe and John F Kennedy have an affair?
Perhaps. Was it as dramatic as people claim? Far from it. The most it would have been was a one-night stand in Palm Springs, otherwise, most other dates can be debunked with both facts and logic. All that can be clarified is Marilyn and JFK were in the same room in April 1957, March 1961 and May 1962. The other dates are hearsay.
Note from Laura: As I have been torn between giving Blonde (2022) a watch, going back and forth between whether I want to subject myself to a film which depicts Marilyn in what is set to be an exploitative and dehumanising way, I asked a friend and fellow Marilyn fan, April Chambers, to discuss her thoughts immediately after watching it. Enjoy!
When brute force meets the life force, it is the former that has to yield. – Alexander Walker, Stardom, pg. 311
In 1970, Alexander Walker wrote Stardom as a way for people to understand why we follow celebrities. Unlike other books in the genre that tend to focus on Monroe, Walker dedicates a single paragraph to her—likely due to the time the book was written—to discuss how she played off Gable in The Misfits, declaring her full of life compared to Gable’s manufactured masculinity.
Walker likely would have devoted himself to an entirely different set of stars than the ones he chose in 1970, but it gives us a peek into how Marilyn was viewed before the death rumors began to swirl a couple of years later. She was more than a footnote but unworthy of an entire chapter. This isn’t to say she was overlooked or underestimated. Walker’s description of her as the life force that “exists in the moonlight she dances in” shows someone who respects her talents. However, there are days I wish we could go back to when Marilyn was deemed worthy of little more than a paragraph because at least her memory wouldn’t continuously get sullied.
Andrew Dominik did not set out to create a faithful biopic of Marilyn’s life. Although some film critics are labeling Blonde as such, the film is not attempting to portray Marilyn’s life with any semblance of accuracy. Instead, Dominik has set his sights on accurately adapting Oates’ novel, Blonde.
Blonde, written by Joyce Carol Oates, uses Marilyn as a symbol of everything that was wrong in the 50s and the studio system. Women are expected to be weak. They’re expected to be victims. Marilyn is the weakest victim, and her life fits in perfectly as a starting line for the dark, grotesque and macabre worlds that Oates relishes in creating. Dominik seems to fit right in with this world as well, creating a faithful adaptation of Oates’ book.
As a Marilyn fan, you’ve probably read ten thousand reviews of the film so far. I’m not going to give you a thorough debunking article. If you would like to read a lot of the main misconceptions and lies the film pushed, you can read my debunking tweets here (highlights include: Dominik has her 1958 miscarriage happening in 1957, caused by a fall on the beach when serving a platter of food. He has her landing the role of Miss Caswell because of Darryl Zanuck raping her. He has Whitey injecting her with amphetamines to get her to work.):
Marilyn discussed how she was a mirror for many people, reflecting their lewd thoughts rather than being lewd herself. This film is a giant mirror for all involved, but especially Dominik. He leaves no room for Marilyn to grow, instead relegating her to a box of constant woman-child victimhood. He has Armas speak in the baby doll voice throughout the film, likely to help cover her accent (a plan that succeeds quite well btw, proving the accent discourse wasn’t necessary). He puts her in exploitative situations. He never shows her grit, her meanness. Instead, he declaws the kitten that used ruthlessness and cunning to climb her way to the top and stay there. He makes her a shell of what she actually was. In short, he makes Marilyn a sniveling angel constantly getting tarnished by coming in contact with lecherous mortal men.
What Dominik accomplishes by following that path is put Marilyn’s eccentricities on full display, magnifying them until the real person is lost and a caricature of herself emerges. Yes, contrary to what other reviewers have claimed, Marilyn did call all of her husbands “Daddy.” She did become neurotic, especially in her later life. She was both the victim and the victimizer. But rather than unpack these factual aspects of her personality and treat them with nuance, Dominik chooses to make them her entire personality until the real Marilyn is no longer there.
He also makes some left-field creative decisions. For starters, he perfectly matches a number of her costumes and outfits—and then he puts them in completely different time periods (like her 1962 rose costume for Something’s Got to Give gets portrayed as an item in her personal wardrobe circa 1957). If you’re going to work to the point where you’re matching clothing and hairstyles, why put them in completely wrong time periods?
My biggest grievance for the film, however, is having everyone call her Norma Jeane. Although there are a few instances of people using that name well after she was Marilyn Monroe, this idea of Norma Jeane and Marilyn Monroe being two different people is such an overused trope in both films and books. Norma Jeane and Marilyn Monroe were the same person, at least in private. This idea that people just kind of discarded their pasts after changing their names is a popular idea in fan discourse, but it completely flattens the subject into a before and after, allowing people to place their own thoughts onto how one or the other was the “better” time in the person’s life.
Now, onto the elephant in the room: the NC-17 stuff. There are hundreds of reviews at this point going into detail about rape scenes and vaginal shots. Pretty much anything you’ve read is all here in graphic detail (although some of it was a little sensationalistic in how it was described). The most graphic scene is the JFK blowjob which has him laying in bed on the phone, wearing a back brace and begins with him forcing her to give him a hand job. While she’s pumping away, and then giving him a forced POV blowjob, he’s getting lectured on sexually assaulting three girls while watching fireworks explode on tv as he explodes himself. It’s gross and unnecessary, but it’s really just a great metaphor for the film’s reliance on falsehoods.
On the plus side, the film is beautifully shot and Ana de Armas does a good job with a weak script. I don’t think I would ever say she looked like Marilyn, but she does capture some part of her personality. Little touches like shaking the hands when warming up for a scene and that wide-eyed wonder look are perfectly emulated by Armas.
Overall, I don’t think the film deserves the attention it received. It’s not a great representation of anything, even when looking at it as a symbolic representation of the 50s and the studio system rather than a biopic. It’s just exploitative nothingness that relies on tits and ass to generate publicity instead of a well-written script. The recreations are interesting, but really not worth watching a nearly three-hour film for. In short, the movie has pushed itself into our consciousness with brute force, but Marilyn’s life force will make it yield.
When I think of Marilyn Monroe’s physical form I envision soft, clear skin, fluffy, soft white-golden locks and the smell of Chanel No. 5. But of course there has to be a book or two that throws a spanner in the works, sparking internet rumours attempting to prove the opposite.
Trigger warning: Some discussion surrounding Marilyn’s death
According to some “biographers” Marilyn was flatulent, ate in bed and rarely washed. When she died Marilyn was “unrecognisable” with “hairy legs”. The originators of these tales include Marilyn’s East Coast housekeeper Lena Pepitone and Allan Abbott, the funeral director, with the original myths later twisted into new tales of how Marilyn was unkempt and unwashed. But do these stories have an ounce of truth to them?
Lena Pepitone was Marilyn’s East Coast housekeeper and did know Marilyn personally. However, some of the claims she makes in her book Marilyn Confidential sensationalise this relationship, not to mention are full of falsehoods which April has kindly debunked here.
Lena makes several outlandish statements in her “biography” including how she was Marilyn’s confidante and close friend. Some claims, aside from the lack of bathing etc. include Marilyn having a life-sized cardboard cut out of Joe DiMaggio and that she was present at the highly photographed event of Marilyn receiving her David Di Donatello award. None of these has ever been verified so can be assumed false.
And let’s never forget that, according to Lena, Hugo was a German Shepherd…
But were Marilyn and Lena close? Marilyn’s masseuse and friend Ralph Roberts mentions in Mimosa that Marilyn always referred to Lena as “the Italian woman” and not by name alluding to the possibility that perhaps they weren’t as friendly as Lena claimed. Not to mention that Lena barely spoke English and had a thick Italian accent, which would make it hard for her and Marilyn to communicate. But perhaps Marilyn did tell Lena all her secrets?
According to Berniece, Marilyn’s half-sister:
Marilyn told me she never talked to anyone about her personal life. And I never observed her discussing intimate matters with her employees. The truest thing that has been written about her since her death is that she had a wall around her.”
According to Pardon My Hearse by Allan Abbott and Gregory Abbott, the former Abbott (funeral director for Marilyn’s service) claimed she was unrecognisable when her body arrived at the mortuary (duh?).
The 2015 book claims:
When we removed the sheet covering her, it was almost impossible to believe this was the body of Marilyn Monroe. She looked like a very average, aging woman who had not been taking very good care of herself. Obviously, the circumstances surrounding her death had greatly exacerbated her poor appearance and she was unrecognizable.
You could tell she had not bleached it for some time, because the roots were darker and had grown out about half an inch.
Her natural hair color was a light brown, not blonde. Her legs hadn’t been shaved for at least a week, and her lips were badly chapped. She was also in need of a manicure and pedicure.”
Now, these few statements are being used as a way of shocking us. We are meant to be horrified that a woman who is known for her beauty could ever be so unkempt. Unfortunately for Abbott, it is perfectly natural, especially after 16 years of bleaching, to let your roots grow a bit. It’s absolutely fine to not get your legs waxed weekly. It’s okay to not have beautifully painted nails every day of the week and to have chapped lips. What is not okay and what IS horrifying is to try and degrade the person, whose corpse is meant to be treated with respect, with gossip.
Even in death, her appearance is being scrutinised and criticised by the male gaze on matters which many women would agree are natural… However, this is worsened because the comments are made by someone who had been entrusted to care for her, in death, in a confidential and respectful manner.
Speaking to Scott Michaels of Dearly Departed Tours Abbott discusses the embalming of Marilyn in this video. Please note there are images of Marilyn’s corpse and discussions that many may find upsetting.
MARILYN THE SLOB?
According to Lena, Marilyn would go days without bathing, was drunk most of the time and used her sheets as a napkin whilst she ate in bed. Not to mention the disgusting period stories. These claims have been rehashed by David Bret, author of Clark Gable: Tormented Star with quotes from the book going semi-viral on Twitter.
However, there have been a few statements and pieces of evidence that debunk this rumour that she was unhygienic.
Marilyn told me, ‘I rub my entire body down with Vaseline and then get into a three-hour hot bath every morning. It gives my skin a shiny glow.’ So I tried that. I almost drowned. “
Ex-husband James Dougherty stated Marilyn would wash her face several times a day to avoid breakouts. This led to dry skin and possibly the start of her Vaseline baths.
Ralph Roberts stated that:
The first contact with her was almost like that of an electric shock. The feel of her skin was incredible.”
Documents and receipts from Julien’s Auctions show Marilyn spent a fair amount on personal care and beauty products throughout the years… So just because she may not have had her hair done that week or waxed her legs does NOT mean she was unhygienic or a “slob”, especially when you consider she spent $3,167.94 on beauty treatments in 1962 alone (with inflation that is $31,067.95 ).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a day without a bath. There’s also nothing wrong with having hairy legs! It feels as if certain people are wanting to destroy the illusion of Marilyn for their own personal gain… As if they have this inside knowledge and are therefore special. Well, they aren’t.
Marilyn was a human being, who occasionally had a week off from being the Marilyn Monroe she worked very hard to be. The one who spent thousands of dollars to look how people expected her to. Beauty is only skin deep.
The long answer? Well, we need to explore Marilyn’s family history (briefly, as it is LONG) and where her relatives came from.
Looking at her confusing and somewhat dysfunctional family tree, I would imagine, could lead to many identity issues and a feeling of confusion as to one’s true self.
It’s also understandable to see why Marilyn had trust and loyalty issues as it was as if she had been lied to her entire life and left to feel unwanted.
This must have also been a terrible strain on her and her marriages. To attempt to create a secure family life for herself would have been terrifying considering she didn’t know what that was or what it felt like. This conflict must’ve haunted Marilyn her whole adult life. Wanting to create a family environment but not knowing how.
Alas, here is a rundown on Marilyn’s family which conveys how Marilyn was by no means from Mexico or had any Mexican heritage.
You see, I was brought up differently from the average American child because the average child is brought up expecting to be happy.
Marilyn ro Richard Meryman in 1962
MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS & MOTHER
Norma Jeane’s grandparents on her mother’s side were Otis Elmer Monroe, born in Indiana and Della-Mae Hogan who was born in Missouri. Marilyn had claimed that her grandmother was from Dublin and her grandfather from Scotland, although searching through Ancestry, there is no documentation showing this. The couple was married in 1899 before they moved to Mexico in 1901 so Otis could work on the Mexican National Railway.
Their first child, Gladys Pearl Monroe, would be born in Piedras Negras with the family moving back to Los Angeles the following year. This is the only connection between Marilyn and Mexico, other than a couple of vacations there and having Jose Bolanos go to the Golden Globes with her.
Otis died in hospital in 1909 following a diagnosis of General Paresis. Della married Lyle Arthur Graves in 1912 but divorced two years later. She met Charles Grainger in 1917 and, although they never officially married, she referred to herself as Mrs Grainger. Della died in August 1927 from myocarditis. Her death certificate also mentioned psychosis which was brought on due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Gladys suffered from mental health issues, likely caused by exhaustion, malnutrition, incorrect medication and inhaling chemicals in the cutting room where she worked.
After she was born, Norma Jeane was fostered by Ida and Wayne Bolender but Gladys kept close. She attempted to provide for Norma Jeane as much as she could, even eventually buying a home for them to share. However, due to a nervous breakdown, Norma Jeane was back in care until she married James Dougherty when she was sixteen. Gladys was in and out of hospitals for the majority of Marilyn’s life. They didn’t share a close bond but Marilyn always made sure she was cared for. She died in 1984.
PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS & FATHER
Although it is often said that Marilyn didn’t know who her father was, she always knew that it was Charles Stanley Gifford. However, it wasn’t publicly confirmed until 2022 via DNA testing. You can read about the documentary that explores this here.
Gifford was born to Fredrick Almy Gifford from Massachusetts and Elizabeth Easton Tennant from Rhode Island. He had previously been married to Lillian and fathered two children with her. They officially divorced in 1925, the same year he and Gladys conceived Norma Jeane. Gifford strongly denied he was the father and had supposedly offered Gladys money to keep quiet.
Marilyn later said, “He [Gifford] told my mother that she should be glad she was married to Ed Mortensen – at least she could give the baby his name.”
Note: Marilyn is quoted in Life in Her Own Words, that Gladys was willing to divorce Mortensen. Despite being separated, the couple didn’t officially divorce until 1928.
Gladys had been dating other men, including Gifford, after her separation and many believed she would not know who the father was due to being so sexually active.
Marilyn told George Barris in 1962: “He left my mother when he heard from her that I was on the way. His name: Stanley Gifford. I was their love child… Even when I became a successful movie star, he still refused to acknowledge me.”
Marilyn recalled, “I was always told my father was killed in a car crash in New York before I was born. Strangely enough, on my birth certificate under my father’s occupation, there’s the word, ‘baker,’ which is the name of my mother’s first husband. When I was born, illegitimate, as I said, mother had to give me a name. She was just trying to think quickly I guess, and said ‘Baker.'”
As she grew, Norma Jeane had seen images of Gifford in her mother’s apartment and likened him to Clark Gable. In 1960, Marilyn said, “Clark Gable, I’m sure he won’t mind if I say it because, in a Freudian sense, it’s supposed to be very good. I used to always think of him as my father. I was just seven years old and he was a very young man and I thought that’s how I’d want my father to look.” Marilyn would meet Gable in 1954 and would both star in their last completed film together, The Misfits (1961).
According to Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece, Marilyn met her biological father in 1961 whilst she was in the hospital (likely after her gall bladder surgery). Berniece mentions, “I don’t know how he came to be there, what the reason was that he finally revealed himself to. her, whether he came on his own initiative, or whether she asked him to come. She never got that far into the conversation. She kept breaking off.” My Sister Marilynconveys Marilyn as being private as to her father’s identity, making Berniece promise not to reveal who he is. Despite this, as mentioned further up the page, she confided the information to George Barris for the book they were to work on together. She may have changed her mind by this point but there is no doubt in my mind that Marilyn wasn’t aware of who her father was.
Gifford died in 1965.
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson (more on her surname later) on the 1 June 1962 in Los Angeles, California. She was the third of Gladys’s children. The first two (Robert Kermit Baker aka Jackie and Berniece Baker) had been born to Gladys and her first husband John Newton “Jasper” Baker. The couple had been divorced since 1922.
Norma Jeane’s half-brother, Robert (aka Jackie), was born when Gladys was just fifteen years old in 1917. Two years later, Berniece was born.
It’s said, when Jackie was just a toddler, he retrieved a broken bottle from a trash can and lost an eye. Berniece claims he lit a firecracker and that is how he lost his eye. He later fell out of an open-top car whilst his parents argued, injuring his hip. He additionally was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone. In 1923, when Jasper was seeing the children for the weekend, he kidnapped them, taking them to Kentucky. When Gladys travelled East to retrieve them, she was told Jackie was in the hospital due to complications with his hip and she was not to see him or Berniece. Gladys stayed and got a job in Louisville until her son recovered. According to Berniece, Gladys, instead of saying goodbye to her children, argued with Jasper. Marilyn said of the event, “She went away and let them to enjoy a happier life than she could give them.”
In August 1933 Jackie’s kidneys failed and he died at the age of fourteen, never meeting his baby sister. Berniece would discover she had another sibling through Grace Goddard (Gladys’s friend) when she was nineteen years old (winter of 1938). They began writing and sending photos, becoming good friends. Norma Jeane and Berniece met for the first time in the autumn of 1944.
They kept in touch via letters and phone calls, meeting occasionally along with Berniece’s daughter Mona Rae and her husband Paris Miracle. However, due to Marilyn’s fame and wanting to keep her sister out of the limelight, they keep visits to a minimum.
On hearing about Marilyn’s death Berniece said, “I held back from collapsing, I was numb.” She confirmed she wanted Marilyn’s body to be released to Joe DiMaggio (whom Berniece had met in 1961). She said he asked if he could help with the funeral arrangements (along with Inez Melson) to which she agreed. When she arrived in LA she was relieved to have Joe’s help. “I relied on Joe for comfort. I was so thankful to have him there to help me cope with the situation, even though we were under great emotional stress.”
Berniece passed away in 2014.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Norma Jeane’s biological parents were Gladys Pearl Monroe and Charles Stanley Gifford. However, the birth certificate stated Martin Edward Mortenson (incorrectly spelt) as the father. Gladys Monroe and Edward “Ed” Mortensen had married in October 1924 but she left just four months later. In about March 1926, Gladys told Stanley Gifford she was pregnant with his child whom she gave birth to three months later.
Norma Jeane would be baptised as Baker to hide the illegitimacy, despite Gladys no longer being married to Jasper Baker. Technically, if she were to take her father’s surname, she would be Norma Jeane Gifford.
Despite being baptised as ‘Baker’, her marriage certificate to James “Jimmy” Dougherty notes her birth name ‘Norma Jeane Mortensen’ (with the correct spelling) and even lists him as being her father. But as of 19 June 1942, Norma Jeane Mortensen became Norma Jeane Dougherty.
In 1946, Norma Jeane began using the pseudonym Marilyn Monroe for her modelling and acting career.
In July that year, she would divorce Jimmy but keep his name until she married Joe DiMaggio in January 1954.
On 12 March 1956, she legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. But this would remain for only a few months as she married Arthur Miller in July 1956 thus becoming Marilyn Monroe Miller. That was until their divorce in November 1960 when she returned to Marilyn Monroe… Phew!
There we go! A brief history of Marilyn’s family tree and how she was not of Mexican lineage... Don’t believe everything you see on TikTok.
SOMETIMES I LOOKED AT WHAT THEY REPORTED ME AS SAYING AND I SAID “NO! NO! NO!”
Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe by Pete Martin, 1956.
The myths never end, do they? Especially with the likes of social media, people believe anything and everything they are told from those they look up to and admire. Before we know it, it’s public record and deemed as fact. But I like to show my fellow Marilyn fans the evidence.
So what ”facts” are we busting today?
1. CASTILLIAN DRIVE WAS MARILYN AND JOE’S HONEYMOON HOME
Despite the property on Castillian Drive being branded as Marilyn and Joe’s honeymoon home, it wasn’t. Marilyn rented this property from September 15, 1952, to January 23, 1953. Marilyn and Joe were married in 1954. 508 North Palm Drive was Marilyn and Joe’s LA home, which they rented before getting divorced the same year.
The handwriting on the cheques for Castillian is very similar to Joe’s but this doesn’t confirm that he lived there with her in 1952. He may have stayed with Marilyn. But he didn’t live there officially.
12305 Helena Drive still stands, the neighbouring property was knocked down in 2018 but has previously been reported as being Marilyn’s last home that was destroyed.
3. MAF’S PAW PRINT IS IN THE CASTILLIAN DRIVE PROPERTY
Marilyn lived in this home a decade before Maf was born so this wouldn’t be Maf’s pawprint. A quick Google on when Marilyn got Maf would show that the only home Maf shared with Marilyn was 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood in 1962. You can read more about Marilyn’s pets here.
4. MARILYN WAS ALWAYS DESPERATE TO HAVE A CHILD
Although it is common knowledge that Marilyn couldn’t have children, despite wanting them, it’s often mistaken that Marilyn was 100% positive that he wanted to be a mother. In some notes made in 1957 she crossed out:
“I don’t want any children because I only could trust every delicate and indelicate feeling of my child with myself in case of accident (sounds like my identification card). There is no one I trust.”
This likely meant, as is common in many, that she wasn’t certain if she wanted to be a mother at that time despite stating on numerous occasions she wanted as many children as possible. Marilyn likely knew motherhood would not be easy and would have to rely on others for help (as a mother, this is 100% true), but as she noted, she didn’t trust anyone to do so. Thanks to Silver Technicolor for pointing this one out to me. You can read more about Marilyn and her fertility journey here.
5. THERE’S A MARILYN MONROE SIGNATURE ON THE CEILING AT CASTILLIAN DRIVE
In addition, Magic Markers were first sold in 1952, but the thicker markers weren’t released until 1962 and the signature would have certainly faded. Sharpies weren’t sold until 1964.
6. MARILYN WAS A LOVER OF JEAN HARLOW’S MOVIES
In 1952, Louella Parsons asked Marilyn, “Are you pleased about playing the life of Jean Harlow?” to which Marilyn responded, “Oh, is it true? It’s the first time I’ve heard it. So many people say I look like Jean Harlow, and I’d love to do her life story. I never saw any of her pictures, but from her photographs, I am proud that I am said to look like her.”
This demonstrates that by 1952 Marilyn had not yet watched (or at least remembered watching) any of Harlow’s movies, despite it being a popular belief that she was a huge fan of Harlow and her films since she was a young girl. This is interesting as many today would say they are also fans of Marilyn but perhaps more than likely in terms of Marilyn’s image as opposed to her films.
Of course, Marilyn did reference that she was happy that when she was a young girl, she and Jean both had the same white hair which made Norma Jeane happy. “I had platinum blonde hair and people used to call me ‘tow-head’. I hated that and dreamed of having golden hair… until I saw (Harlow), so beautiful and with platinum blonde hair like mine.”
Apparently, when Marilyn read the script for the biopic of Jean Harlow she stated, “I hope they don’t do that to me when I’m gone.”
7. MARILYN LEFT ITEMS IN CASTILLIAN DRIVE
A lot of the items that have been “found” in this property and branded as hers were in fact dated AFTER she moved out. For example, a burnt magazine (Modern Packaging) from June 1953 was released 5 months after she left the property. The “found” items have not been authenticated.
Previous owners also never seem to have claimed to have found the items, despite living in the home for 20 years.
8. MARILYN WAS BROKE WHEN SHE DIED
One of the common “tragedies” that surround Marilyn’s death is that she was “broke” when she died. However, this is not entirely true. Yes, she was loaned money from Joe DiMaggio for her home and one of her accounts was overdrawn. But Marilyn had multiple bank accounts.
Her City National Bank had $1,337.53 (approx $12,900 today) in her City National Bank account on August 1, 1962, with an overdraft of $4,208.34 (approx $40,700 today). The Irving Trust Account shows a balance of $1,472.41 (approx $14,500 today) on August 1, 1962, and a balance of $111.71 (approx $1080 today) on August 3, 1962. You can see more here. It should also be remembered Marilyn had recently paid off Milton Greene for his share of Marilyn Monroe Productions, she just. bought a home and was currently buying its contents.
9. MARILYN’S BARON PHOTOS WERE TAKEN AT… GUESS WHERE?
It has been cited that Marilyn’s photos with Sterling Henry Nahum (Baron) were taken at… you guessed it! Castillian Drive. But they were fact taken in 1954 (over a year after she left the property) and at Harry Crocker’s home. There are no known photos of Marilyn at Castilian Drive.
10. MARILYN HAD HER HAIR CUT AND STYLED AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN BEFORE SINGING TO THE PRESIDENT
Firstly, thanks to ma girl April for pointing this out and Scott for getting the word out.
So, Miss K was given some of Marilyn Monroe’s hair. Except, it wasn’t her hair. According to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Robert Champion styled and cut Marilyn’s hair for the JFK gala.
Paul Fraser Collectibles sold the hair in 2019. Their description for the item is “Just hours before her performance, Monroe visited her personal hairdresser Robert Champion at the Coiffures Americana Beauty Salon, housed within the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue.”
However, the documents from the time show differently. Marilyn actually had had her hair coiffed and styled by Kenneth Battelle (she also required his services the day before) for $150. As you can see from the photo above, Marilyn was well and truly ready for the event when she left her apartment. Therefore, it’s with 100% certainty that Robert Champion didn’t touch Marilyn’s hair that evening, meaning the hair Kim and Ripley’s own is not Monroe’s. The reference of Robert Champion has now been removed from Ripley’s despite them still claiming they own her hair.
As mentioned before, it’s high time we focus on facts, sources, and documents that support claims instead of believing articles, influencers and information that is released to tabloids decades after Marilyn’s passing. It’s exploitation.
Finding reliable sources is a tricky job, especially when those sources are meant to have been friends or close in some way to Marilyn Monroe. But who within Marilyn’s circle of friends or her acquaintances can be deemed as reliable and who can’t?
This is a sensitive topic because a few of these people are still alive OR have families who are still very assured by their relative’s version of the truth. This is all completely my own opinion based on what I have read and researched. It’s important to remember with any post, I have not read every book, seen every interview etc. so some of those mentioned may have said things untrue and vice versa. But we are generally speaking when talking facts here! I don’t think all of those with stories about Marilyn are intentionally lying when they are making errors. Some definitely are but I will mention those when the time comes…
Here are some of the people that “knew” Marilyn and are therefore often immediately deemed as trustworthy sources… But are they?
It is important to remember that people’s memories, especially over time can adjust the narrative to how things really are. It’s human nature so I don’t necessarily believe that all of those who have told inaccurate stories are doing it intentionally.
Whitey knew Marilyn for over a decade and was a very good friend to her. He first did her make-up for her screen test in 1946 all the way up until 1962, showing a continuous stable relationship, one of the few she had.
Marilyn’s relationship with Whitey was beyond sweet, to say the least. He worked with her, yes but she also confided and trusted him, even asking her to do her funeral makeup if she passed away before he did. He joked and said, “sure, drop off the body whilst it’s still warm.”
Marilyn had a sense of humour, and as a joke apparently bought him a gold money clip with the engraving, “Whitey Dear, While I’m still warm, Marilyn.” The clip sold for over $21k.
Although Marilyn and Whitey were close, he did write the foreword for Robert Slatzer’s highly questionable book not to mention he made many contentious claims about Marilyn and Slatzer’s “affair”.
He never believed Marilyn killed herself (intentionally), and is possibly one of the few people that can attest to her mental state in the final weeks of her life seeing as he knew her longer than many of her peers. He stated not long before she died, “Since her divorce from Arthur Miller, she’s been in her best condition for a long time. She’s happy!”
Whitey was a pallbearer at her funeral as well as her make-up artist, as promised.
RALPH ROBERTS- Masseuse & friend
Like Whitey, Ralph was a reliable friend who always came to Marilyn’s aid when she needed him, which turns out would be in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.
Whilst Marilyn filmed Let’s Make Love, Ralph began giving her massages. This helped relieve her tension and insomnia. During this time she opened up to Ralph discussing relationships, politics, her body, movies and acting. Ralph became one of Marilyn’s closest friends and even played a small part in The Misfits (the ambulance driver who treats Montgomery Clift at the rodeo scene).
When Marilyn passed away Ralph wrote a memoir, Mimosa, about their friendship. Due to the content not being sensational enough, he was unable to find a publisher. Extracts from Mimosa were posted on a family website after Ralph’s own death and in November 2021 the story of their friendship was released.
Ralph and Whitey are probably two of the only people whose testimonies about Marilyn’s life I trust other than Joe and Pat (who never really said ANYTHING). They knew a side of Marilyn that many did not.
SIDNEY SKOLSKY – Columnist & friend
As part of his job as a columnist, Sidney would have made up some stories about Marilyn; it was his job. But it is just as likely Marilyn knew this came with the territory of being friends with a gossip columnist. Again with many articles and books by those who knew her, we need to cross reference and fact check claims. But overall Sidney’s articles and gossip snippets are quite harmless. Let’s not forget that she would be able to successfully use her friendship with Sidney as a publicity tool also!
One claim that does create some bizarre questioning is that apparently, on the day Marilyn and Joe were married, she told Sidney that she was going to marry Arthur Miller. Not a likely thing to do on your honeymoon… But still, it sells. So take his tales with a pinch of salt, unless of course, it is an actual interview.
NORMAN ROSTEN – Poet & friend
She was a difficult woman, you know. We liked her and we said the nicest things about her and she deserved them; but, she was trouble and she brought that whole baggage of emotional difficulties of her childhood with her. “
Marilyn met Norman in 1955 through friend and photographer, Sam Shaw. He was a poet and a playwright, friends with Arthur Miller as well as Marilyn. He is one of the few people who knew about their affair before it went public and remained friends with the couple throughout their marriage.
Marilyn went on vacations with the Rostens, including their daughter Patricia and shared a special bond with the family. Marilyn had even left $5000 for Patricia’s education in her will.
Marilyn would often send her poems to Norman and even hired his wife Hedda to be an assistant. She was part of the Miller’s entourage in 1956 when they were in England.
Even after her divorce from Arthur, Marilyn and the Rostens remained friendly.
They knew the real Marilyn, the side of her that wasn’t dripping in jewels or coiffured. They knew the sensitive woman who wished to fit in with intellectuals and poets, not the movie stars. The Rostens, again, had no sensationalized tale about their friend, only stories about her very human qualities.
PAT NEWCOMB – Publicist & friend
At the core of her, she was really strong… and that was something we tended to forget, because she seemed so vulnerable, and one always felt it necessary to watch out for her.”
Pat Newcomb worked for Marilyn briefly in 1956 during the filming of Bus Stop. There were rumours of an alleged falling out but in 1960 when Rupert Allan (Marilyn’s publicist) moved to Monaco to represent Princess Grace, he was replaced with Pat with no objections.
Marilyn was very generous to Pat, gifting her a mink coat and a car. Pat in turn was there for Marilyn as more than a publicist but as a friend, staying by her side through some of her toughest times including her divorce from Arthur Miller.
Pat had shared her opinions on the likes of Greenson and Eunice Murray, complaining they were too interfering and controlling of Marilyn, being frank and honest about Marilyn’s wellbeing. However, Pat is most well known for being with Marilyn on her last day alive, before Greenson had told her to go home.
When Pat had discovered news of Marilyn’s passing she went to the property in Brentwood still in her pyjamas, and screamed at photographers “Keep shooting, vultures!”
When asked how she was feeling, Pat retorted, “How would you feel if your best friend died?”
Despite working tirelessly to field press inquiries the Arthur Jacobs agency had decided to fire her due to her outburst.
Pat is particularly private and has only discussed Marilyn, her last day alive and their relationship briefly. But it’s clear from what she has said and how devoted she was to Marilyn, that their friendship was genuine.
EUNICE MURRAY – Housekeeper
It’s my feeling that Marilyn looked forward to her tomorrows.
Eunice Murray was hired by Ralph Greenson in 1961 as Marilyn’s housekeeper and, many say, “spy”. She would report Marilyn’s coming and goings as well as who called and who she called to the man who hired her (although Marilyn was the one who paid her salary).
Mrs Murray, like Marilyn, was incredibly dependent on Greenson due to her own personal insecurities and messy past.
It is widely believed Marilyn was going to relieve Murray from her duties the day she died, as well as Greenson, hence the rumour that perhaps they were responsible for her death… However, it would seem counterproductive to murder someone if you wanted to stay employed by them and it’s unlikely they would’ve pursued this action as a form of revenge. The likely situation is that due to Murray wanting to travel that summer, Marilyn dismissed her and wrote her a cheque. It is indeed rumoured she was distancing herself from those she depended on and Greenson may have upset her that afternoon in his attempts to dissuade her, but this will remain a mystery and cannot be up for debate.
But can Mrs Murray be trusted? Well, I feel Eunice has only really had opportunities to discuss Marilyn’s death (considering she was the one in the house with her) and not much else. Her opinion and her relationship with Marilyn will be defined by that factor alone. She was an elderly woman, who may just have gotten the information incorrect or confused about Marilyn’s death. It’s also likely she wanted to protect Greenson from his negligence (although it was Engleberg who prescribed the drugs). Again, due to her devotion to Greenson more than Marilyn and her confusion and grief, I wouldn’t say she was a reliable source. She was never consistent with her statements regarding Marilyn’s death, and over the years just went along with the popular theory of that decade.
Jeanne Carmen was an actress who later came to biographer Anthony Summers stating she was Marilyn’s best friend. As well as Robert Slatzer, Summers’ book is largely based on their testimony. A major red flag… Why did he not check their claims?
She claimed Marilyn knew mobsters, that she herself met Bobby Kennedy (no records, dates or general proof of this) and that they lived in the same street (again, no records)… This list goes on.
Jeanne never even met Marilyn Monroe. There is no reference to Jeanne in Marilyn’s possessions such as letters, phone books, or photos and there’s no mention in any press clippings. There is no proof Marilyn even knew who she was let alone were best friends. She claims all of her photos of her with Marilyn were lost in a fire… sounds fake, right? You can read more about Jeanne Carmen here.
So, can she be trusted?
José Bolaños (screenwriter) – Knew Marilyn for a hot minute, claimed they were going to get married and adopt. Unlikely…
Colin Clark (third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl) – Colin barely saw Marilyn at all due to her entourage preventing outsiders and her lack of interest in anyone but Arthur. My Week With Marilyn was written for monetary gain and fame only. His dates on significant events occurring are the biggest tell of his unreliability. Considering these were meant to be diary entries at the time, there should be no opportunity for errors to be made.
Peter Lawford (friend) – His name is often associated with Marilyn’s passing however what he actually said and what is claimed are two separate things. He may have never said half of what is claimed. Either way, him being concerned about Marilyn on the night she died, but not actively doing anything other than calling people must have weighed heavily on his conscious. Due to inconsistencies and half of the claims not even coming from Peter himself, he would not be deemed a trustworthy source. You can read more about that here.
Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen – Gossip columnists who loved to stir the pot… Dorothy seemed to have an obsession with putting down Marilyn and putting conspiracies front and centre. Winchell (oddly, a friend of Joe DiMaggio’s) loved a bit of drama. Again, if any articles come from them it’s unlikely to be anything other than gossip. They weren’t close to Marilyn like other journalists were.