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The Final Night for a Star
It seems only fitting that one of America's most famous celebrities, a world renowned icon, would never fully die. Marilyn Monroe is kept alive by her illusive passing: no one has ever discovered exactly how this ethereal beauty died the night of August 4th, 1962. It seems a harsh product of a competitive Hollywood world that this actress died from a drug overdose alone in her room. At the time, Hollywood was infatuated with the seemingly harmless notion of a doctor as a miracle worker, who preserved and cured the minds and bodies of the overworked stars through unregulated drug prescriptions. As a product of this time, Marilyn became, quite bluntly, a drug addict. By the eve of her death, the majority of her diet consisted of a lethal combination of pills and alcohol.
Nevertheless, to dismiss this death on such a champaign filled, almost air headed miscalculation of society, is to give no credit to the woman who lost her life. Marilyn Monroe struggled with mental instability, such as paranoid schizophrenia her entire life, a horrible strand that reached back to her grandfather and grandmother, and resulted in the institutionalization of her mother. In fact, this illness was only heightened by her struggles with anorexia and critical insomnia. Such a severe mental illness, when viewed in tandem with her incredibly unstable childhood in and out of orphanages, and her three failed marriages (the first one when she was only sixteen), seems to support the official report of suicide. The woman who was the epitome of femininity and desire, had a most devastating private life. Thus, the official report is “probable suicide” from acute barbiturate poisoning.
But things are never as they seem. Marilyn's life was on the mend. She was reported to have talked about being on the verge of a break through regarding her emotional issues, and wanted to become more independent from her psychiatrist. Marilyn, a woman who supposedly was in the mental frame of mind to commit suicide, had made weekend dinner plans and signed an eleven million dollar contract with Italian filmmakers. She was working on renovating her house and in the process of filming Something's Got to Give. This fulfilling schedule doesn't support the suicide theory, and neither do the suspicious circumstances of how she was discovered: Her psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson, and housekeeper, Eunice Murray, reportedly found her dead at around half past midnight, but waited three hours to call the police. In fact, her body appeared to have been arranged in an unnaturally rigid position. This time delay is the foundation for the mystery. No one knows for sure what went on that critical night, until now.
I didn't know what else to do with myself. So I swerved to a stop in front of the reliable diner on the corner, like in all hard times turning to the placating comfort of warm food. Maybe that was Marilyn's problem. My wife was always reading me the magazine articles on the newest Hollywood diet. To get a body like that, you had to sacrifice something, I guess.
Except, I was never going to be able to think of Marilyn Monroe all made up on the sparkling stage again. All I could see was that deserted, dingy bedroom. Alone and bare in the middle of the bed, her limbs contorted into a rigid pose. She had gripped a phone in one hand. The cord dangled in coils like the end of a noose. No one slept like that. No one died like that. What was happening in this world? What sick injustice lurked? In all my years of police work, admittedly not as many as some, I was never that shaken. The greatest movie icon had been murdered. I was sure of it.
I don't know how long I sat nursing a cup of coffee. The waitress came by every so often and added a steaming splash. Hardly anyone else was out yet, it was too early for the breakfast rush. I could see the weak morning light seep up behind the cars, dawn had found its way to Los Angeles again.
Suddenly, a beige colored individual slid into the bench across the booth from me. “Damn Fox!” Disgruntled, he flung his hand in the air to signal for a cup of coffee.
I wearily eyed my long time friend, Jim Canvasser, unsurprised at such an abstract outburst. Once he got his drink, he would give me more than enough detail of his haphazard, yet enigmatically insightful findings. Maybe it really was the outfit. Canvasser always insisted that to be a good detective, you had to sure as hell look like one. In other words, he walked around as a 1960's Sherlock Holmes.
With a scalding sip of the strong liquid, the detective repeated his outburst in more subdued tones, “Damn Fox. Cleaned out the whole place. Papers missing, files gone, any notebooks swept away. I tell you, I understand why Hollywood was so tight with her publicity when she was alive, but they are impeding a murder investigation here!”
That caught my attention, “Did they change it to murder, then? When I left there was hardly any crime scene at all. I heard the police chief was going to hand it over to the Suicide Prevention Team.”
“Nah, its still the same confusion. Those fools don't know a murder scene when it back hands them across the face. Anyway, that crazy doctor, Greenson, got a hold of 20th century Fox before he called the police. If that isn't suspicious, I don't know what is. The man called her publicity company to clean up her image before he thought to notify anyone else! No wonder that darling had so many issues. They wouldn't even let her die without appearing flawless,” he started distractedly tearing open sugar packets and vaulting their contents into the coffee.
“I can see their motivation, though. They probably want to swing it as suicide to help their own case. She was just fired from that movie, what was it? Someone's Got to Give? Something's Got to Give- for being emotionally unstable. Her suicide would get them off the hook for any backlash from her fans.” I shuddered at the ruthless hand of Hollywood.
“Exactly. Same as that case in '22. That director, William Taylor, went and created a whole scandal for the company when he died. Fox tried to push suicide, but they couldn't very well make a case, seeing as how he was shot in the back and all,” he smirked into his drink. “I think it ended up classified as an unsolved murder in the records.”
None of this told me anything about who actually killed the girl. All we now knew was that she was high profile enough to have information Fox didn't want going public, but that could be any flippant affair too embarrassing to be out in the open. I was getting restless. There was something, some vital and obvious circumstance that would explain all of it- connect the knife to the guilty hand.
Canvassar's stare went from vacant outrage to elated suspicion, “You want to know what I think?” he leaned intently forward and peered around me at the deserted booths, “I think its much bigger than any movie production company. This is bigger than her acting or anything having to do with her career. Remember Marilyn's “Happy Birthday” gig?”
Mental images of a nude, sequined dress plastered to her figure enveloped my mind, “Where are you going with this, Canvassar?” I failed to see any connection, “Just tell me what you know. I can see it on your face.”
“Who was she serenading that night? President John F. Kennedy, that's who. With his wife and his career sitting in the seats right beside him. Did you hear her voice? She practically undressed him with every word. You've heard the rumors that not only was she sleeping with JFK, but Bobby Kennedy got mixed up in the mess too. Can you imagine what would happen if word got out that two of the most powerful men in the country slept with the same woman?” he slumped against the seat extremely contented with himself.
I stared slack jawed at the man across from me. He'd finally lost it. I glanced around at the sleepy diner, “You do realize you just accused the President of the United States and the Attorney General of murder?”
He gave me a disappointed glare, “You do realize that I am not dense? You've been working with me long enough to know that I comprehend full well the weight of my accusations, especially when they are researched and well grounded.”
“Researched?! Its been less than 3 hours, what could you-”
“I have my methods. I'm not saying that I have every fingerprint in place, but we have all morning ahead of us after all. Anyway, I've been keeping my finger on this darling for a little while now. Trevors, over with the FBI, talks quite a lot after a few beers. The poor fool let slip the other night that the CIA has had Marilyn's house under surveillance for a month now,” he paused, sipped his tepid coffee, and resumed his deluge of information, “Apparently, Marilyn called the White House threatening to reveal their affair. She was tired of the treatment by the Kennedy brothers, and she hysterically told them she would call a press conference to reveal the whole fiasco. They, of course, could not let that happen. What's more, Bobby Kennedy was reportedly in Los Angeles last night,” Canvassar slid along the cherry colored plastic, and sprang to his feet.
I was still in the process of interpreting the avalanche of information flung at me in the detective's heated excitement. My opinion was slowly turning from utter disbelief to incredulous skepticism. There was an outline of truth in what he said, but I wasn't about to go accusing the Kennedy family without more proof. Canvassar was making his way towards the door. I slapped some money down onto the table, coins clinked unceremoniously against the lip stained mugs.
“Where are you going?! You can't say something like that and then walk out on me! What are we going to do now? Do you have any leads? Any names?” I caught up with him as he stepped, unruffled by my outburst, into the parking lot. The morning sun had finally found its full strength. Warm rays glinted off the hub caps of the waiting cars.
“We have to get going! No time to lose. I do indeed have names to follow and places to see. You, my friend, are going to take a look into this list,” he thrust a crumpled piece of paper into my palm. “I didn't get a chance to question Marilyn's neighbor. What's her name? Emily Avery. Ask her a couple questions, maybe she saw something. We'll meet back here for dinner, okay?” By now he had slammed his rickety car door and began to back out recklessly in a spout of exhaust.
I watched him screech to a halt just in time as an unsuspecting pedestrian sauntered across his path. I was going to have to give him a ticket one of these days. I shook my head, wondering at my apparent lack of a back bone, as I prepared to follow orders from that erratic detective. As I made my way to my car, I tried to decipher the list of contacts sprawled in smudged blue ink across the scrap paper. It was going to be a long day.
By the time I got down to Emily Avery's name at the bottom of the list, I was sufficiently irritated and exhausted. It had been a frustrating day, full of dead ends and empty trails. It was proving to be difficult to gain any real information, as Federal agents had confiscated any phone records. I couldn't get that image of the cold, fragile hand grasping the cream colored plastic phone out of my mind. Clearly, she had tried to reach out to someone as she died, and I couldn't get a shred of evidence. This only aroused my suspicions, however. The Fed's rigid refusal to betray anything only amplified the fact that there was something there to hide. Thus, I made my way back to Marilyn's house with weary conviction.
The neighborhood was even more deserted looking in daylight. I had originally expected to pull up at some gold gilded, Beverly Hills mansion when Sargent Clemmens had called me to the scene at 4:35 that morning. Instead, I wound my way to this private Brentwood street. Marilyn's house was a thick walled, mission style building, shaded by eucalyptus trees. Evidently, the actress used this nondescript, somewhat middle class residence as a bulwark against the obsessive fame that hounded her.
Before heading in, I sat in the car for a moment. The house next to her's was much the same style, frustratingly reclusive and self contained. However, the second story would provide a promising view over the stuccoed walls surrounding Marilyn's yard. I prepared myself to be disappointed yet again, as I made my way to the front door.
After the first knock, a mousy middle aged woman tentatively cracked open the door. She eyed me suspiciously, “Can I help you?”
“Are you Emily Avery?” I assumed what I hoped was a non threatening stance. She clearly was not going to give me anything if I pushed too hard.
“I am. Are you another reporter?”
“No, ma’am. I'm with the Los Angeles Police department. I would like to ask you a few questions concerning the death of your neighbor, Marilyn Monroe,” I flashed my badge. I technically was not on police business right then, but figured it wasn't too much of a stretch.
To my surprise, her face relaxed, and she opened the door wide enough for me to step in, “I've been waiting for one of you boys to come talk to me all day. All I get are those sly reporters knocking at my door. If I'm going to tell this story, I want to tell it to someone responsible, someone who can get it right. For Marilyn,” she led me into a honeydew colored kitchen, and gestured to a chair.
I couldn't believe my luck. The police really were off the scent of a murder case if they hadn't even gotten around to questioning the neighbors yet. I was about to prompt my new found alliance, but she launched into her tale before I could even get a word out.
Emily Avery had seen everything from her up stairs bedroom window. In the afternoon she heard shouting coming from Marilyn's house. A man's voice that sounded ominously angry, and Marilyn's shrieks escalated to such an extent that Emily had thought about calling over to make sure no one was getting hurt. Then she heard the front door slam, and watched as someone, who she described as looking strikingly like Bobby Kennedy, stormed away.
Later that evening, Emily was up in her room reading when the door bell rang. A flustered Eunice Murray, Marilyn's housekeeper, and her son-in-law, Norman Jefferies, stood on the front stoop. Eunice Murray was wild eyed. She rang her hands, and stuttered that the Attorney General had returned with two men, and ordered her to leave the house. She had no choice but to obey, and Eunice was terrified as to what would happen to Marilyn. Emily led them up to her bedroom, and all three sat watching the events unfold in the garden.
At this point, Emily lifted a shaky hand to her mouth. She glanced around the kitchen, searching for the words as though they were stacked like plates in the cupboards, “They found her in the guest cottage. She liked to go there sometimes if she couldn't sleep, which was often the case. They must have injected her with something, made it seem like she overdosed on drugs. But we saw them, saw them carry out the body. I can still see it. The two black cloaked figures with a ghostly white sheet wrapped around their bundle. They traipsed through the Baby's breath, and broke the window to her bedroom, to make it look like someone had to enter by force, since Marilyn was supposed to have killed herself in her room. I can still see the moonlight on the sheet she was wrapped in. Some of her hair stuck out the top. The peroxide blond stood out against the blood red bougainvillea vine she had finally gotten to grow along the stucco walls. They killed her. Yet another man she trusted only hurt her in the end....”
Emily was overcome with hysterics at this point, and excused herself to hurry to the bathroom. I really couldn't believe it. I had just heard an eye witness report that directly implicated the most important men in the country in the murder of Marilyn Monroe.
A resolute Emily came back into the kitchen, and I reluctantly revealed to her the largest gap in her alibi, “Why haven't Murray and Jefferies said anything to the police? They were both right there with you.”
“They bribed Eunice and that doctor of hers to cover up any suspicion. I saw one of the men meet someone out front, I'm pretty sure it was Peter Lawford. I've seen him before around here, his wife, Pat Lawford, was good friend's with Marilyn. He ordered the cover up, I heard him shouting to everyone as they got busy cleaning up evidence. Eunice came over here in a rush after returning to the house- begged me not to reveal anything. I can't keep quiet, though. If she can live with herself, then fine. But I can't know this and watch that gorgeous, tragic woman go to the grave with one more injustice in her life.”
I thanked Emily Avery, telling her someone would definitely be in touch. The sky was almost completely dark, Canvassar would be waiting for me at the diner. As I drove, some of the allure of the ground breaking story started to wear off. It seemed an awfully drastic measure for Bobby Kennedy to kill Marilyn over the gossip of a scandalous affair. Albeit, it would be extremely detrimental to both his career and his brother's career, probably a large enough motive to warrant some kind of extensive action. I just wished there was something more concrete.
I needn't have worried. Both Canvassar and I hardly caught any breath as we eagerly pieced together the increasingly explosive story that we had managed to uncover. His investigations had resulted in the exact concrete evidence my story lacked. Marilyn had kept a red notebook, in which she had gotten in the habit of recording all her conversations with the President after he told her there was no use having an enlivened discussion on current events if she couldn't keep the details straight. So she transcribed their conversations, even noting a possible plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Canvassar hadn't been able to track down the notebook itself, but if it did indeed exist, then it was all the motive anyone would need. Marilyn had become not only a social threat, but a political threat as well. She was more important than anyone knew, and certainly than she herself suspected. As darkness descended once again, we were convinced that the sensuously seductive body of Marilyn Monroe had finally gone rigid at the hands of one of the most powerful men in the world.
Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to the president, and say goodbye to yourself, because you're a nice guy. I can hear the words. Thick and slurred. I can't get my tongue to work. Hello? My mouth itches with sound, but I can't hear anything come out. Hello? Pete? Static. How long ago did I say that? Time is hiding from me. Slipping in and out. Say goodbye. I am leaving now. I think I'm gone.
This is different than standing on a window ledge. The space is infinite there. Hope to be swallowed up between the sill and the ground. Expand into the air and disappear. This is different. Its a numbness. Like being swallowed up by nothing. Suffocated. I think I'm gone. Where is the relief? Everything is transitory. The voices won't leave me alone. They whisper about me. Laugh. I cannot escape the joke. I am the joke. Static laughter throbs. Make it stop. That word. Nembutal. It swims in my vision. The pills are smooth and small. My throat constricts, and I swallow. I can feel it sitting there. Its not working. The voices. Say goodbye. I need it faster. Nembutal. Sharp point pricks the end. The crystals drain onto my tongue. Dissolve in my blood.
Trapped in my body. All they see is this inconsequential figure. Skin glowing. Platinum blonde. Desire. Sex. Lurid dreams is all I am to them. I do not want to belong to that. But where else can I go? I'm tired of Marilyn Monroe. See my mind. All they take me for is my body. My body. No room to grow old. A goddess they call me. The title is burdened with immortality. I cannot go on forever. Who wants an old Marilyn Monroe? All she is comprised of is youth and beauty. Beauty decays. Unravels. Goddess. If only they could know my mind. But it is leaving too. Unraveling. The voices eat away. I cannot stop them. What is left? If I cannot have my mind or my body, who's am I? Who's am I? Hello? They rip different parts of me. They all want a piece. Let them have it. But they don't take me. No one ever takes me. I don't belong to anyone. I never have. Even him. The most powerful man in our country. Power. Handsome. Listened to me. I know what I'm talking about. He thought I was engaging. Words felt as good as touch. I called him. I called the big white house. No answer. Hello? No one ever takes me. Say goodbye.
Even the ones who listened to my mind feed me pain. I keep reaching inside. Keep living darkness. Why? Friends tell me it is hurting. I know its hurting, but its supposed to get better. Only he doesn't want the best. He sent her to spy on me. He brings me too close. Needs too much. I can get better without him now. Only it doesn't get better. I don't belong to anyone.
So I belong to Marilyn Monroe. Better her than Norma Jeanne. Norma Jeanne did not belong to anyone either. Not even fame. Not even success. Norma Jeanne lost love, too. Jim Dougherty. Never loved. Escape from not belonging. Grew away. Successful. Norma Jeanne's mother never belonged to her. In a white room. Painful worded letters. Pleas. Escape. I see bloodied sheets. I can feel a razor blade. Someone told me this. Angry that it happened. But I can feel it? See the walls of the cell. White lab coats stare in at me. An animal. Shattered glass. Threw a chair. All a terrible mistake. A terrible, terrible mistake. Who's was the razor blade? Who was the animal? I can't remember if it was my mother or if it was me. I am my mother. No. But her mind is gone. Say goodbye. Unable to love. Love her daughter. Love. Desire. Lust. At every beginning I thought I reached it. Love. Deeper understanding, deeper than skin and shallow pleasure. But they left one after another. They cut me up inside. No one ever stays. The voices taunt me. Nasty names. Cut me up. Reach out the only way I know how. Men I can capture. Terrible. Terrible world. Everyone leaves. All I wanted was to hold me. To love me. Do they love Marilyn Monroe? They want her. Dream after her. They do not love her truly. She is pulling away from me. See my mind. They cannot know my mind. They already suspect. I am pulling away from Marilyn Monroe. I cannot handle her anymore. I can't feel where the world starts and my body ends it is all soft and fluid melting I am slipping into the numbness Do I want this do I want this to end no no no I can't do this someone come please
I can make it better I was almost there take me gather my pieces phone hard plastic attached to my hand no different than my body will anyone miss me will anyone know I am gone sleep forever soft dark long night over I am the dream bright lights perfect voices leave mind quiet goodbye my love goodbye dream nightmare I am finally sleeping finally
I have presented two of the most prominent theories regarding the mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe. One being that she was killed by Bobby Kennedy because of her risky affiliation with the Kennedy family as they attempted to sustain an untarnished image in front of the country they were running. A troubled affair with a movie star certainly posed a threat to the men's reputations, as well as the fact that Marilyn was privy to any amount of top secret information. After all my research, I have concluded that this theory, while compelling as a Hollywood film story, is not grounded in enough actual evidence to hold up under extensive examination.
Donald Spotto, in his book Marilyn Monroe, reveals that the main propagators of the Marilyn-Kennedy conspiracy had alternative motivations, and were not concerned with producing a well researched view of Marilyn's death. Frank A. Capell, who published The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe in 1964, one of the first books to clearly accuse Bobby Kennedy, was close friends with the first police man on the scene, Jack Clemmens. Clemmens was a prominent figure in the anti communist group, The Police and Fire Research Organization. The two were disgusted with the Kennedy brothers because they believed them to be soft on communism. Thus, the “biography” of Marilyn Monroe was born. In this book they outlined the theory that the movie star was killed by Kennedy’s, communist sympathizers, who wanted Monroe out of way because of their "mad ambition.” Capell stressed Marilyn's alleged communist ties, and revealed a paranoia similar to Joseph McCarthy. In addition, the foundational evidence to support this theory is the existence of red notebook that Marilyn used to record all her political conversations. This notebook has never been found, and its existence is quite questionable. The key witness in my story, Emily Avery, is a fictional character that I created. However, there are rumors that Norman Jefferies was an eye witness to the crime, but his testimony has never been documented or proved trustworthy.
Furthermore, this is not the only theory surrounding the enigmatic end to this star. A prominent theory is that she was killed by the government because of her ties to communism. It is true that Marilyn was decidedly leftist politically, and that the FBI did wire tap her house as well as follow her around for a number of years, which did not help with her paranoid schizophrenia. The government's suspicions about the actress originated when she married the author, Arthur Miller, who was a top suspect on the list of possible communists. The FBI continued to follow Marilyn even after her marriage. They believed she was associated with numerous communist sympathizers, such as her doctors, Greenson and Endelburg. The government's suspicions are most blatantly evident in their file on her trip to Mexico, where she was supposedly introduced to known communists by her housekeeper's brother and communist exile, Churchill Murray. Evidently, although the government considered Marilyn Monroe to be a political threat, there is no evidence that this sentiment resulted in her death.
To conclude, I believe that Marilyn Monroe did commit suicide. She was a deeply troubled woman, who's difficult life had only fed any existing mental sicknesses. To say that money or fame, or a possible upturn of her career is enough to prove she could not have committed suicide, is to only skim the surface of the profoundly dark reaches of Marilyn's mind. These pleasures were fleeting to her, and by the time of her death she was dangerously addicted to drugs. Also, she had a history of suicide attempts. These were never successful, as she always made sure that someone who was close to her knew about the plans, or at least knew where she was. Tragically, this was not the case on August 4th. Perhaps, she took the pills with the intention of dieing, but over the course of the next couple hours realized she did not actually wish to end her life. She died with a phone in her hand, after all. Marilyn Monroe, considered one of the most beautiful, radiant, talented people of our time, gave everything to her public image. In the end, her public and private personas pulled in so strikingly different directions, that she was not able to contain herself any longer. Marilyn Monroe is preserved forever at thirty six. Too young, yet having lived through far too much.