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A Good Story is Worth Repeating: Who Killed Marilyn Monroe?

“And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in” …Elton John

from – Put it this way. If Marilyn Monroe hadn’t died under truly suspicious circumstances we may never have had that beautifully chilling elegy dedicated to her in song by Elton John.

Marilyn’s demise is also the subject of Bye Bye Baby, a drenched-in-pulp, immensely satisfying crime novel by Elton lookalike Max Allan Collins.

[Google Image Collins and see if I’m not right.]

When it comes to hard case crime, tough-talking tough guys out of the Raymond Chandler mode and celebrity suspects out the wazoo, it doesn’t get much better or more LA noir-ish than Bye Bye Baby.

Proving, too, that artwork sells a book as much as a boxcover sells a porn DVD, as soon as I saw that tabloid-style snapshot of the late Mickey Spillane [up until his death he had worked with Collins on a number of projects] with Spillane thrust in the middle of the Marilyn crime scene, the book was an immediate sell. No further questions asked.

Marilyn died either August 4th or 5th, 1962, depending whose story you’re willing to buy. And that’s the part that makes Bye Bye Baby the literal page turner it is. Marilyn was found dead in the guest cottage of her home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive [Brentwood] between 10 and 11 pm on the 4th.

The LAPD claims they discovered her naked body around 3:30 AM on the 5th. What happened in those intervening hours was a suspected cover-up of monumental proportions that allegedly involved 20th Century Fox, the LAPD and The Kennedys.

Chief Parker of the LAPD had been promised J. Edgar Hoover’s job. That being the case, he had every reason to play ball in the investigation that promoted the suicide storyline from the get go. LAPD INTEL under Captain James Hamilton handled all the dirty work from that point forward.

Marilyn’s convenient death also distanced Bobby and Jack Kennedy from the fact that they had been Marilyn’s lovers and that she had kept implicating spiral bound notebooks of her bedroom conversations with them. Those books, by the way, all conveniently disappeared.

[Another example of LAPD handiwork was the net of doubt Johnny Cochran was able to cast over them and their investigatory methods many years later and, thus, earn O.J. Simpson an unwarranted acquittal. Notice, these deaths always seem to occur in Brentwood.]

For me, however, there was nothing like the Summer of ’62. Freddy Boom Boom Cannon’s Palisades Park, written by the Gong Show’s Chuck Barris no less, ruled the Top 40 airwaves; and, after that, there was just one hit song after another pouring out of the jukebox at the swim club on Roosevelt Boulevard where I was practically living at.

Fact is, I had never seen so many good-looking girls in black one-piece bathing suits spread out over an acre of swimming pool as that place.

On one Sunday afternoon there was a cloud burst, otherwise, every day was a beautiful sunny day, with not too much humidity. For Philadelphia that was highly unusual. All was good and right and just with the world until that one fateful morning I heard the news bulletin on WIP radio. Marilyn Monroe had been found dead.

Monroe, you see, was my first woody, and a kid doesn’t forget that. Was I ever bummed out to hear this sad, sad news.

However, even a 15 year old kid, which I was at the time, could tell you none of this made any sense. Which is Collins’ premise.

As we’ll learn from his account which is drawn from extensive Marilyn research over the years, MM was not the drugged-out, drunken bimbo she was made to appear at the end of her life. That was 20th Century Fox’s doing in an effort to demonize her in what was a knock down, drag out contract re-negotiation.

Marilyn would subsequently beat the studio at their own game which gives a rational human being long pause to consider why depression would be the cause of her apparent suicide. Or, as Collin’s fictional P.I. character Nate Heller states [Heller appears in 15 of Collins’ books], Marilyn was at the top of her game. Heller is self-described as a man capable of rough justice, and you’ll see why.

The fact is, Monroe was simply a sweet but pathetically love-starved lady who got passed around like a basket of warm French rolls. That, plus an advisory goes out to porn stars: pretty girls get to know too many important people and hence become a liability. The Kennedys taught Marilyn that lesson.

[Here’s probably the most compelling argument against her suicide. The toxicology report states that Monroe’s system contained 4.5 milligrams percent of pentobarbital, and 8.0 milligrams percent chloral hydrate was found in her blood stream.

Her liver also contained 13 milligrams percent pentobarbital. A pathologist concluded that there were enough drugs in Monroe to have killed three people but no way she could have taken those amounts in their entirety without regurgitating the stuff at some point. Plus the fact that the water had been shut off in her bathroom meant she couldn’t have washed the pills down, and there was no evidence of alcohol. The conclusion is Marilyn got a Nembutal cocktail delivered by way of a “hot shot”.]

Though What a Way to Go would have been her next film, Marilyn’s last picture for 20th Century Fox, Something’s Got To Give, includes her famous swimming pool nude scenes. At age 36 she was becoming more and more confident with herself and her body.

I remember reading at the time what a mess that shoot had become. Not withstanding the fact that Marilyn had been sick forcing long delays. The studio, on the brink of financial ruin thanks to Elizabeth Taylor’s out of control fiasco, Cleopatra, not only made a big song and dance of Marilyn’s supposedly erratic behavior but made sure everyone on the crew was apprised that they were losing their jobs because of her.

To his credit, Dean Martin, exercising his right of approval of a co-star, told the Studio, no Marilyn, no picture. The Studio had already chosen Lee Remick and were going to re-shoot the movie. Martin gracefully declined to be in it.

In her defense, Marilyn sent individual communiqués to whomever was involved on the front lines, explaining that she wasn’t at fault.

According to the Heller character, Marilyn always made it a policy of being on a first-name basis with the crew.

On the top of a very long list of suspects and accomplices, 20th Century Fox was at the summit. And if you’ve ever seen the film The Player, you’ll know that studios did and still keep “cleaners” in their employ to make scandals go away. Frank Neill was such a man at the time for 20th Century.

Possibly a more compelling argument to draw Fox into this tangled web was the fact that they were also negotiating with Bobby Kennedy for the film rights to his book, The Enemy Within. Kennedy was on the west coast at the time of Monroe’s death and eyewitnesses claim they saw both he and Peter Lawford arrive in a black Mercedes, entering Monroe’s house on the afternoon of the 4th.

Kennedy always denied the story claiming he was in San Francisco on other business, but 20th Century Fox travel records show conclusively he was picked up in San Francisco by a company helicopter for meetings in Los Angeles.

His brother Jack had promised Marilyn she’d be First Lady once he dumped Jackie. Cooler heads [like Bobby] were trying to talk him out of this foolish notion. Then, again, Bobby promised to leave Ethel for Marilyn once he stepped in as the shoulder to cry on. Marilyn had that kind of grip on men.

“How could a man like that be married to a woman named Ethel?” Marilyn asks at one point knowing full well that she’s going to be told to hit the road. She was prepared for it but not going to kill herself.

Except the list of murder suspects doesn’t end there by any stretch. Monroe’s former husband, The Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, shows another possible reason for being given that nickname.

On a number of occasions, the hot-tempered DiMaggio was alleged to have slapped her around. The arguments stemmed over Monroe’s decision to continue with her career.

DiMaggio wanted “an Italian wife”, as Monroe put it. They divorced, but DiMaggio, sensing that there could be a reconciliation, saw Monroe right before her death and tried once again talking her into quitting the business. She refused. The fact that Monroe’s body was bruised lends suspicion that she may have been physically assaulted.

If that isn’t enough whodunnit to keep Agatha Christie fans playing guessing games, Collins expertly weaves in the motives of her housekeeper, Eunice Murray; her Svengali, Dr. Ralph Greeson [on whom the film Captain Newman, based]; mob boss San Giancana; P.R.executive Arthur Jacobs who later went on to make the original Planet of The Apes; Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Sinatra [Monroe wanted to marry him, as well]; Peter Lawford and a rich, Communist conspiracy of Hollywood-types to boot. Basically it’s a cast of characters all six feet under at this point.

It sounds pretty crazy, I’m sure; but after Collins is through presenting the evidence and wrapping it up his way which, is his preogative, you’ll even swear Mickey Mantle had a hand in it.

One last thought on the subject. Marilyn swore that her house was bugged, and everyone [20th Century Fox included] said she was off her rocker. When actress Veronica Hamel bought Monroe’s home, during the course of re-landscaping the place Hamel discovered a tangle of cables. She called the phone company to have them removed. She was told they were surveillance lines.


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