Fifty years ago, on August 5, in the early hours of a Sunday morning, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home. Had she lived, she would have been 86-years-old.
I have a longstanding Marilyn obsession, which makes this post tough to write. What could I reveal that hasn’t possibly already been said, written and speculated about her life? What unique photo can I share? What evidence could I provide about the mystery surrounding her death?
Perhaps you can relate to my early adoration for a woman who left us way too soon. While I can’t remember who it was who exposed me to her in my early teens, I’ll never forget the first photo I pinned of her to my rainbow-colored walls. It’s Marilyn, in a robe, leaning on a window sill. I love the black and white simplicity of it. Her slight smile appears to show a level of contentment, yet her eyes reveal a hint of exhaustion.
Marilyn went on to earn the only female real estate on my teenage walls, flanked by boy bands and Tiger Beat posters. My favorite photos of her are by photographers Milton H. Greene and Philippe Halsman. Long before the Internet was conceived, I scoured the library for books about her life, stalked the Turner Classic Movie line-up for her films, and peppered my parents for their memories of her. My mother didn’t like her acting, “she was so breathy,” she told me. My father, who was 15 when she died, said he learned of her because she married Joe DiMaggio. “I was a kid interested in baseball,” he recalled, admitting that while he was too young to appreciate her at the time, her death was a big deal. “There were questions from the beginning.”
The mystery of her death is just one part of what makes Marilyn’s too-short life still so sensational. She was undeniably beautiful, and full of deep insecurities which made her strive to work harder, be better. Ahead of her time on the Hollywood plastic surgery front, (no doubt pressured by Hollywood) Marilyn had nose jobs, chin jobs and more. Her hair had been dyed so much over the years that when she was interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park, she wore the wig from Something’s Got to Give.
Last fall, I was fortunate enough to visit her gravesite. The park is beautifully manicured and in spite of being bordered by Westwood high-rises, it’s quiet and peaceful. She shares the space with other famous celebrities such as Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood and Farrah Fawcett - and it’s rumored that Elizabeth Taylor is also buried there.
Marilyn, in death as in life, is the most famous of them all. Unlike any of the others around her, the outside of Marilyn’s crypt is pink. Why? Because marble is porous – and over the last 50 years, hundreds of thousands of red and pink lipstick marks from fans have beautified it.
Hugh Hefner, who bought the plot next to Marilyn’s in 1992, will eventually rest next to her (his stone is also covered in lipstick marks). And have you heard the rumor that the gentleman above Marilyn was laid to rest on his stomach? Apparently it’s true, according to my guide at the cemetery.
A few months before she died, photographer George Barris interviewed her on turning 36 and what the future might hold. Marilyn was aging for Hollywood standards and she had been having some unfortunate luck on the set of Something’s Got to Give. Aside from it, her responses were strong, confident and hopeful.
“When I think of the future, I think, I’m thirty-six years old. I’m just getting started…I’m ready. I want to work. Acting is my life. I’ve never felt better. I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human. We all have our areas. We all feel a little inferior, but who ever admits it?….As far as I’m concerned, the happiest time of my life is now. There’s a future, and I can’t wait to get to it.”
Oh, Marilyn, how I wish you could have seen that future.
What do you remember about Marilyn? What was your favorite movie? Did you ever meet her or get an autograph? Share your stories with me, another forever fan, in the comments.
First photo, credit by: thefoxling