Saturday, March 21, 2015

HGB Podcast 35 - The Life and Afterlife of Marilyn Monroe

Moment in Oddity - Tarim Mummies

European explorers were searching for antiquities in China in the early 20th century when they discovered several desiccated bodies in the Tarim Basin near Xinjiang, China. That discovery would stir up controversy as to the true origin of the Tarim Mummies. The mummies have blonde hair and long noses. These distinguishing characteristics, along with the fact that traces of an Indo-European Tocharian language have been found in the area, have lead researchers to claim the mummies are Europoid. Professor of Chinese, Victor T. Mair, from the University of Pennsylvania, took a team to the Tarim Basin to gather DNA samples and the DNA from 52 mummies was tested. The results suggested that Europeans and Asians intermingled far before most archaeologists had thought. Professor Mair wrote that the discovery was "extremely important because they link up eastern and western Eurasia at a formative stage of civilization (Bronze Age and early Iron Age) in a much closer way than has ever been done before." The Tarim Mummies date back to 1800 BC. These Indo-European nomads are thought to have brought bronze work and chariots to the area and taught those living in the East how to make and use them. Pliny the Elder wrote to Emporer Claudius that a group from an embassy near the Tarim Basin claimed that the people there “exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and made an uncouth sort of noise by way of talking." The Tarim Mummies are on display at the Xinjiang Museum. The idea that Caucasians were in the area of the Tarim Basin and that their bodies were preserved in such a way to enable these findings, certainly is odd.

This Day in History - New Orleans Fire of 1788

On this date, March 21st, in 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire destroyed most of the buildings in New Orleans. New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French. It was named for the Regent of France, Phillip II, Duke of Orleans. The Spanish later took control of the city. In the afternoon of Good Friday, which happened to be March 21, 1788, a fire broke out at Army Treasurer Don Vincente Jose Nunez's home on Toulouse Street. Normally, church bells would have rung out, alerting the town people to the danger and signaling for help, but since it was Good Friday, the priests refused to allow the bells to be rung. The fire raged and within five hours, nearly every building in the city was destroyed including the church that would not ring its bells. The Army barracks was destroyed along with everything in the French Quarter and the jail. In total, 856 structures were consumed. Even the two working fire engines that fought the fire were destroyed. The people of New Orleans were devastated. Governor Esteban Miro reported to Spanish authorities, "If the imagination could describe what our senses enable us to feel from sight and touch, reason itself would recoil in horror, and it is no easy matter to say whether the sight of an entire city in flames was more horrible to behold than the suffering and pitiable condition in which everyone was involved" and that the city was "now in ruins, transformed within the space of five hours into an arid and fearful, desert. Such was the sad ending of a work of death, the result of seventy years of industry." What people see now in the French Quarter was built post the two great fires in New Orleans. A second fire would destroy most of the buildings that survived the first in 1794.

The Life and Afterlife of Marilyn Monroe

No other actress has ever had the notoriety and fame or stirred the emotions quite like Marilyn Monroe. She was a legend in her own time and that legend has only grown since her untimely death. Not only was her rise to fame epic, but her personal life was a tale fit for the silver screen filled with torrid love affairs that included a president, drugs, scandal, tragedy, conspiracy and a mysterious death. Such a tumultuous life is hard to completely snuff out and perhaps Marilyn Monroe's spirit continues to live on in the afterlife.  Not just in our memories, but as a spirit still walking among us.

On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in Los Angeles, California to Gladys Pearl Baker. There is confusion when it comes to who was Norma Jeane's father. Her birth certificate has Martin Mortenson as her father and that is who she was initially named for, but her mother would change the surname to that of her first husband and that name was Baker. Gladys Baker was married to Mortenson, but they had apparently separated before Norma Jeane was born. Their divorce would be final in 1928. Norma Jean had been told by her mother that a man named Charles Stanley Gifford was her father. Thus began the tumultuous life of Norma Jeane.

Norma Jeane's mother was a mental wreck and so she turned the little girl over to foster parents. In 1933, Gladys took custody of Norma Jeane back, which was a huge mistake. Norma Jeane would witness episode after episode of her mother's mental instabiliy until Gladys was finally hauled off to the State Hospital. Norma Jeane then went to live with her mother's best friend, Grace McKee. It was McKee who would teach Norma Jeane how to get all dolled up with make-up and she would take her to the movies and she encouraged her to become a movie star. Grace married when Norma Jeane was nine and she sent Norma Jeane to an orphanage. Norma Jeane was in and out of foster care and then Grace came and brought her back to her home where her husband tried to sexually assault Norma Jeane several times. Norma Jeane would be moved in and out of this home several times over the next few years. One of those places was with her great aunt Olive Brunings, whose son would rape Norma Jeane. After this, she ended up with an aunt named Ana Lower. Norma Jeane would always remember the time she spent with Lower fondly and later in life, she would visit Lower's grave many times.

In 1942, Norma Jean moved back in with Grace. She was in high school at this time and she started a relationship with a boy named James Dougherty. Grace and her husband needed to move for a job offer, so Norma Jeane was going to be shipped off to an orphanage again. Grace decided to pressure Dougherty to marry Norma Jeane instead and he reluctantly did marry her. Norma Jeane was barely sixteen at the time. In 1943, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines to fight in World War II. Norma Jeane moved in with Dougherty's mother. Norma Jean got a job an airplane factory, Radioplane Munitions Factory, and it would be here that her superstar life would begin.

David Conover was hired by the Army to take picture of women working in the factory to promote the war effort. Conover was taken with Norma Jeane and recognized how photogenic she was and he told her to apply at the Blue Book model agency. Within two years, Norma Jean had appeared on the cover of thirty-three magazines and had changed her brunette locks to blonde. She felt abandoned in her marriage and Grace helped her to obtain a divorce from Dougherty. The modeling got the attention of 20th Century Fox Studios and she was brought in for a screen test. They signed her with a contract that lasted for six months and paid her $125 a week. Ben Lyon was the Fox executive that would take Norma Jeane under his arm and guide her. He suggested that she change her name, so Norma Jeane Baker became Norma Jeane Monroe. She got the surname Monroe from her mother's maiden name. The name still did not sound right. So they tried getting rid of Norma. But Jeane Monroe sounded common. Then Lyon wondered what about using the name Marilyn. It was lucky since it had double Ms and it just sounded nice. Norma Jeane thought it sounded like Mary Lynn and she hated that name. But Lyon convinced her and Marilyn Monroe would become her name, a name that would live on in legend forever.

Marilyn started out as an extra as she took singing and dance lessons. Her first speaking part came in the movie "Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!" She had one line. Her next movie, "Dangerous Years", gave her nine lines to say. 20th Century Fox did not renew Marilyn's contract and she went over to Columbia. Columbia signed her and gave her a role in "Ladies of the Chorus." She then was dumped by Columbia and she decided to go back to modeling for a while and it was at this time that her infamous nude pictures were taken by photographer Tom Kelley. The year was 1949. Marilyn then signed on with talent agent Johnny Hyde, with whom it is rumored she had an affair. Hyde got her some bit parts in low budget movies and then got her an audition with John Huston. Huston liked her and gave her a role in "The Asphalt Jungle" playing the mistress to an aging criminal. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and critics took notice of Marilyn and gave her rave reviews.

Based on this success, Marilyn was given a role in "All About Eve." The critics liked her again and this led to Hyde landing a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox for Marilyn. She also got a nose job at this time. Several films were made by Marilyn at this time with lower budgets and moderate success, so Marilyn decided to take some college courses and she enrolled at the University of California studying art and literature. At the time of her death, Marilyn had 400 books in her library. She was not a blonde bimbo by any means. Then in 1952, those pesky nude photos surfaced in a calendar. Marilyn had given a fake name when the pictures were taken, but people who saw the calendar said the girl sure looked like Marilyn Monroe. Scandal started to perculoate and the studio scrambled for a way to handle the situation. Marilyn was not only beautiful, but she was smart and she handled the situation brilliantly. She told the studio that she was going to tell the truth. And she did. Marilyn explained that she was desperate at the time and needed rent money and so she posed for the photos for the money. The public sympathized with her and Playboy put her in their first issue and thus Marilyn became their first Playmate of the Month.

Baseball player and legend Joe DiMaggio entered her life at this time and would remain a fixture in her life until her death. The two began dating and Marilyn took on roles in several films at this time, none of which got her much notice. Then came the movie "Niagara." This was her first big role and she played a femme fatale plotting to kill her husband. Critics did not care for her overtly sexual portrayal of her character, but it was this image that she would carry forward on the advise of a her make-up artist friend Whitey Snyder. The musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" came next and Marilyn got a chance to really shine by singing and dancing. Her memorable rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" is unforgettable. Jane Russell co-starred and the two women became fast friends. Russell learned that Marilyn had terrible stage fright and that it was the reason Marilyn was always late for filming, so she started escorting her to the set. Russell said of Marilyn that she was "very shy and very sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for."

Marilyn had fallen into a place of type casting at this point and could not get serious roles. She starred in the Western "River of No Return" and she felt it was beneath her. Her next film was to be with Frank Sinatra, but she did not show up for work and 20th Century Fox suspended her. DiMaggio and Marilyn got married at this same time in 1954. The marriage lasted a year and ended due to DiMaggio's jealousy, both of Marilyn's fame and his belief that she would cheat on him. Fox lifted Marilyn's suspension and she starred in "There's No Business Like Show Business." Next came "The Seven Year Itch," which was one of Mailyn's greatest roles. Her iconic skirt blowing scene is from this movie. This movie gave Marilyn real power and she re-negotiated her Fox contract and gained creative control of her roles.

Marilyn concentrated heavily on acting lessons, hoping she could do stage work, but her stage fright was too overwhelming. She did win the praises of her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, who said of Marilyn, "I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando and the second is Marilyn Monroe." Marilyn began dating Arthur Miller in 1955. In 1956, Marilyn made the romantic comedy Bus Stop and she garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. "The Prince and the Showgirl" was her next film starring opposite Laurence Olivier and she received international attention for this role. She won the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award for her performance. Miller and Marilyn married this year as well. Their marriage would last five years and end after their collaboration on "The Misfits."

My favorite Monroe film, "Some Like It Hot," was made in 1959. Marilyn was nearly impossible to work with on set, but Billy Wilder considered the film his biggest success and it was nominated for six Academy Awards. Marilyn won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy. Marilyn's health began to deteriorate and she began heavily relying on prescription medication. She would mix sleeping pills and alcohol. John Huston directed Marilyn's final film "The Misfits." Production was nuts with Marilyn landing in the hospital for ten days. The film was not a commercial success at the time, but it is a classic today with Clark Gable's and Marilyn's performances highly praised. Marilyn won another Golden Globe for the film.

In 1962, Marilyn began filming "Something's Got to Give," but she spent much of the time ill and she was eventually dismissed. At this same time, Marilyn gave a small performance at Madison Square Garden for President John Kennedy's birthday party. She sang "Happy Birthday" and "Thanks For the Memories" to the President.

Marilyn bought a home at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood, California in 1962. It was the only home she ever owned and she had only lived there for six months when she died in the bedroom of this home. The circumstances surrounding her death fall into three different categories: accident, suicide or murder. Let's explore all of these, starting with accident. The medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, ruled that Marilyn died of acute barbiturate poisoning. Did she accidentally overdose herself? There is also the possibility that she was poisoned accidentally by an enema that was administered to her that was contraindicated with another drug she was taking. Then there are those who think Marilyn was suicidal and took an overdose of drugs on purpose. People claim she had been depressed and she had been recently dropped by Fox Studios, but they did finally rework her contract for double her salary. She also reportedly had just had an abortion. Whitey Snyder saw Marilyn in her final week and said she never looked better and was very excited about her future. There are those who think Marilyn was murdered and Diane is one of them.

Who would murder Marilyn Monroe and why? John and Bobby Kennedy were both having affairs with Marilyn and while it was just a fling for President Kennedy, Bobby and Marilyn had an intense relationship. Monroe kept a diary of all her affairs in a little red book. Marilyn was under the impression that Bobby was going to leave Ethel for her. Obviously, that was never going to happen since Bobby was a Catholic with his eyes set on the White House. Marilyn kept a diary that we'll never know the contents of, but we imagine there was a lot of information in there that the Kennedys would not want out in the public. So we have motive. Now lets look at the evidence.

In the book, "The Murder of Marilyn Monroe" by Jay Margolis and Richard Buskin, the authors make claims that actor Peter Lawford, who was the brother-in-law of the Kennedys, confessed that he knew what happened to Marilyn. The authors also had eyewitness testimony from paramedic James Edwin Hall. The story goes that Bobby went to Marilyn's place to break things off permanently. A fight ensued and a bodyguard with Kennedy gave Marilyn a shot to calm her. Bodyguards then administered an enema with 13-19 Nembutals and 17 Chloral Hydrates crushed up in it. This left Marilyn comatose and the group left. After the housekeeper found Marilyn unconscious, she called paramedics. James Edwin Hall gave Marilyn CPR because she had a weak pulse. He noticed that there was no vomit nor any drug odor in Marilyn's mouth, which is very unusual in overdoses. There was also no water by the bedside, so how did Marilyn take up to 64 pills (not to mention that that amount of pills seems almost impossible for a human to take at one time.) Dr. Ralph Greenson, who was Marilyn's psychiatrist and a man she also could take down because of the affair they were having, arrives on the scene and claims to be Marilyn's doctor, so Hall lets him take over even though he notices the doctor seems to have no clue what he is doing. He then witnesses Greenson take out a huge hyperdermic needle, fill it with a liquid and he puts the needle into Marilyn's heart. Marilyn is dead after that. Peter Lawson claimed this happened in the guest cottage and that Monroe's body was moved to her bedroom and placed faced down in bed for photographs and to back up the suicide story. They needed to prevent lividity from showing she had been on her back. Pictures showing Marilyn face down in bed back up this story and it is only common sense that paramedics are going to take a body out of bed and administer CPR unless the person is stone cold dead and Marilyn was not.

Police arrived at the house at 4:30am and notice fresh sheets on the bed and that the housekeeper is washing sheets (in the middle of the night?) and that there is no water for washing down pills. Marilyn could not take pills without water, she even gagged on them at times with water. Undertaker Guy Hockett arrives around 5:30 and claims that Marilyn died between 9:30 and 11:30pm. Police get statements from everyone, but the housekeeper keeps changing her story. The coroner finds no proof of drugs in Marilyn's stomach and the only way there would be no residue is if she took the pills over a stretch of time. If she had taken the pills slowly, she would have been dead long before she could have taken the amount found in her bloodstream. There was no evidence she shot up with the drugs. The amount of drugs in her system, would have killed 30 people. In the end, Marilyn's death was ruled a suicide.

Joe DiMaggio made the funeral arrangements. There was a public viewing and the coffin Marilyn was buried in was the top of the line. It was a hermetically sealed antique-silver-finished 48-ounce (heavy gauge) solid bronze casket that was lined with champagne-colored satin-silk. Only twenty-five people were allowed at the service. Marilyn was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California in a pink marble crypt at Corridor of Memories number 24. For twenty years after her death, DiMaggio would have a half dozen roses placed at her memorial three times a week.

But was this truly the end of life for Marilyn on this side of the veil. With so much turmoil in her life while she was living and with such mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, the possibility that she would be at unrest is real. And there is much eyewitness testimony out there about Marilyn's afterlife. It would seem Marilyn has many locations she still holds dear and visits regularly, even all these years after her death.

Several hotels seem to still be a stomping ground for Marilyn. As we covered in podcast epsiode 5 featuring the Roosevelt Hotel, Marilyn had a suite where she lived for nearly two years. A mirror that had once been in that suite was moved to a wall in the lower elevator foyer.  People claimed to see the reflection of Marilyn in the mirror.  Recently, the mirror was moved into storage.  Marilyn is not stuck to just haunting her old mirror though.  She has been seen and felt in her suite, which was room 246.  She also has appeared in the Cine Grill and the scent of her perfume lingers. L.A. ghost story expert Richard Carradine claims that the ghost of a blonde woman has been seen in the penthouse suites of the Beverly Hilton and that he believes that the apparition is Marilyn. Hotel guests and staff both have reported seeing her. The Knickerbocker Hotel's bar was a favorite haunt for Marilyn when she was married to Joe DiMaggio. She is still seen at times in the bar, which also is reportedly haunted by Rudolph Valentino.

Marilyn Monroe, of course, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many people claim to have seen her apparition at the star's location. Sometimes a pink mist is witnessed. And Marilyn still seems to enjoy the cadiallac she once owned. She has been seen in the vehicle, particularly sitting in the back seat.

Marilyn's gravesite at Westwood Memorial Park has also been the scene of afterlife sightings of the actress. Her ghost has been seen floating above the tomb and orb pictures appear in many photos, which of course could be attributed to a variety of things. Visitors at night are kept from the cemetery by a gate, but people claim to see flashes of light near Marilyn's crypt.

Marilyn's former home in Brentwood is where she seems to be most active. Every room has a story about a sighting. Housekeepers claim to hear a woman humming even though they are alone in the house. Occassionally the humming turns to soft singing. Items go missing in the kitchen often or are moved around. In the bedroom where she died, she has been seen hovering over the area where her bed was located. Marilyn claimed that the home was the only place where she had felt truly safe and secure. Is that why she still seems to want to stay at this beautiful and charming home?

Marilyn Monroe was so much more than just the "Blonde Bombshell." Her legacy lives on, but does her spirit? Does Marilyn continue to haunt her old haunts? Might you spot Marilyn one day sitting near her crypt or dancing about in a mirror? That is for you to decide!

1 comment:

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