WEIRDLAND: Marilyn Monroe (The Last Days), Frank Sinatra & the Jack Pack, Jerry Lewis & the Bombshell

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Marilyn Monroe (The Last Days), Frank Sinatra & the Jack Pack, Jerry Lewis & the Bombshell

Alice McIntyre of Esquire magazine described Marilyn as “astonishingly beautiful. Like nothing human you have ever seen or dreamed!” Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson saw her radiant beauty as “a certain myth of what we call in France la femme eternelle.” Marilyn told Lena Pepitone that Dr. Greenson had made her realize that her marriage to Miller was the cause of many of her problems. “In trying to win his [Miller’s] respect, she had become obsessed with the ‘serious dramatic actress’ goal. This was false, it wasn’t her. She should continue her acting lessons, and gradually improve her skills, but the movies she should concentrate on now were those that came most naturally to her—comedies, musicals, ‘fun’ movies.” Greenson had told her, “Above all, she had to be herself.” “Whoever that is,” Marilyn added with a giggle and a slightly puzzled look. 

Speaking at her funeral, her mentor Lee Strasberg, the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio, lamented that “the public who loved her did not have the opportunity to see her as we did, in many of the roles that foreshadowed what she would have become.” In his opinion, Marilyn’s true destiny pegged her to become “one of the finest American stage actresses of all time.” On Sunday, February 5, 1960, Marilyn was driven to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where she was admitted under the name of “Faye Miller.” Expecting to be consigned to a conventional hospital room, she was escorted to the Payne Whitney psychiatric ward, where she was locked in a padded cell reserved for the most critically disturbed patients. For Marilyn, it was Kafkaesque. It was the true nightmare that had often precipitated her night terrors—the repetitive nightmare of her childhood that she had once related to photographer David Conover: “I’m screaming, ‘I’m not crazy!’ They put me in a bare room with bars on the windows and they go out and lock the iron door, leaving me in a strait jacket. ‘I don’t belong here!’” But the nightmare was real. The fear that she would end up like her mother was suddenly coming true. Becoming hysterical, she pounded on the locked steel door until her hands bled. Throwing a chair across the room, she smashed the small window on her locked door.

Hollywood had changed considerably since Marilyn Monroe had last lived there as one of its celebrated residents. She returned as a displaced person at a time when the studio star system was a thing of the past and the industry was in disarray. Many of the great screenwriters had done their last fade-out, tycoons heads were rolling, and the cinema was being captured from the Hollywood ruling class by Wall Street tyros. More and more of the business was being commissioned by agents with new faces. “If Louis B. Mayer was alive today to see what's happening to Hollywood, his head turn over in his grave,” said Sam Goldwyn. In the spring of 1961, when Marilyn returned to the rolling hills of Fox, it looked the same, but the studio would never return to the glory days when Norma Jeane first tripped into the 20th Century-Fox lobby. When Marilyn arrived, Frank Sinatra was in Hawaii, and she briefly stayed as a guest in his ring-a-ding-ding Coldwater Canyon pad before taking her back to the familiar surroundings of the apartment building at 882 North Doheny Drive. 

Visitors to the modern white-on-white triplex apartment building at the corner of Doheny Drive and Cynthia Street perceived it as a place of transition. Ralph Roberts and Susan Strasberg described Marilyn's apartment as resembling a hotel room, with modern, utilitarian furnishings and no personal touches, no photographs, no awards, just a few books, suitcases, and clothes. It was well known within the Sinatra crowd that the apartment was managed by Sinatra's accountant, Harry Ziegler, and for years it was a way station for Sinatra's pals, girlfriends, and business associates. Angie Dickinson and Betsy Duncan had been residents along with actor Brad Dexter, who had once saved Sinatra from drowning. When Marilyn returned in 1961, Sinatra's secretary, Gloria Lovell, was living in one of the Doheny units and Jeanne Carmen, one of Sinatra's preferred blondes, was living in the other. 

According to Brad Dexter, Jeanne Carmen had known Sinatra and Johnny Rosselli for a number of years. Dexter, who first met Marilyn when he played a role in The Asphalt Jungle, recalled seeing Marilyn and Jeanne Carmen together at the apartment on several occasions. They were friends, as Dexter recently stated. He'd usually see them at Pucini's with Frank, and sometimes at Palm Springs. Frank stayed in Marilyn's apartment for a while after she moved out, and Jeanne was still there in 1964. Marilyn and Jeanne Carmen had been acquainted since the early fifties. Carmen, like Marilyn, had started her career as a model and cover girl for girlie magazines, and she occasionally was cast in B movies, like The Monster from Piedras Blancas for Republic in 1959. Jeanne Carmen was a night person, and when Marilyn couldn't sleep and Carmen wasn't busy they'd while away the night talking and drinking. They often talked about drugs, sex and men. 

Arthur Miller wrote of Marilyn’s double-edged vulnerability in an unpublished play in which the character modeled on Marilyn has a purgatorial effect on the men who had loved her. "With her open sexuality, childlike and sublimely free of ties and expectations in a life she half senses is doomed, she moves instinctively to break the hold of respectability on the men until each in his different way meets the tragedy in which she has unwittingly entangled him—one retreats to a destructive marriage in fear of losing his social standing; another abandons his family for her, only to be abandoned in turn when her interests change. Like a blind, godlike force, with all its creative cruelty, her sexuality comes to seem the only truthful connection with some ultimate nature, everything that is life-giving and authentic. Her liberating promise is finally illusionary." Miller stated that the play remained unfinished because he couldn’t accept the nihilistic spiritual catastrophe that persisted in its foretelling: “That is, I believed it as a writer but could not confess it as a man. I could not know that in the coming years, I would live out much of its prophecy myself.”

The dry desert winds had warmed the L.A. basin and by 9 A.M., August 4, 1962, it was already eighty degrees. Jeanne Carmen related that Marilyn woke her at 6 A.M. to tell her about strange calls she had received during the night. Marilyn had been up most of the night. “Marilyn sounded nervous and exhausted,” Carmen stated. “She begged me to come over and keep her company.” Marilyn needed to talk to Carmen about things she couldn’t say over the phone. But Carmen wasn’t fully awake or aware of the anxieties she sensed in Marilyn’s voice. She remembered Marilyn saying, “Bring over a bag of pills,” and thought Marilyn was referring to “uppers” to help her through the day after a bad night. Jeanne Carmen told Marilyn she didn’t have time to come over that day because it was her birthday, and she had a series of engagements. They planned to see each other on Sunday. Carmen said that Marilyn called her close to nine o’clock that evening. It was Marilyn’s third call that day. “Are you sure you can’t come over?” Marilyn inquired. Jeanne Carmen again declined, saying she was tired, although she regretted not having responded to her.  —"The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe" (2012) by Donald H. Wolfe 

Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s longtime secretary, stated in an interview that she had overheard a discussion between Lyndon B. Johnson and Bobby Kennedy while she was going in and out of the room at the Biltmore, on July 13, 1960. She recalled that Johnson had claimed to have information about Jack’s womanizing, which had been supplied by Hoover, and used this “as a card, so to speak.” That evening the Lawfords threw a victory party at their Santa Monica home, with Frank Sinatra and the celebrity supporters and another addition, Marilyn Monroe, all raising their champagne glasses to the victorious candidate. The New Frontier, with ideals and aspirations from the eradication of poverty to exploring the galaxy, provided a potent and dramatic battle cry for the Democratic presidential candidate who had, for the moment, swept away the obstacles of his youth and religion.

There was another side to the image that the victorious candidate had portrayed, that of a of a modern, handsome, young statesman whose intellect did not prevent him from having the common touch, all of which added to the public allure and popularity of Jack Kennedy. Detective Fred Otash was sifting through the garbage of New York life in an effort to find something, anything, to stick, as an FBI file dated July 26, 1960 shows. A nameless Hollywood party girl told agents that Otash had contacted her earlier in the month looking for information about her participation in sex parties involving Kennedy, Lawford, and Sinatra. She told him that she had no knowledge of such activities. Agents following this up met Otash in his office on July 11. He told them that somebody was making attempts to spy on Kennedy’s hotel room but inferred that Confidential was looking for dirt on the senator for use in articles before the November election. The call girl told the agents that Otash wanted to set up Kennedy by putting a wire on her and that she had refused. The FBI would later hear one of their own wiretapped subjects discussing the senator’s sexual exploits. Meanwhile, after the convention, Jack Kennedy had little time to indulge in any such exploits, but he traveled to Las Vegas to party with Sinatra. In September, however, he faced into two months of a punishing schedule of campaigning, with an average of four hours’ sleep, and an ongoing round of breakfast and lunch meetings, press conferences and campaign speeches. —"Sinatra and the Pack Jack: The Extraordinary Friendship between Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy" (2016) by Michael Sheridan & David Harvey

Frank Sinatra kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye. When I looked at him, he winked and flirted with me. “You are such a pretty girl. Where are you from?” “Fullerton, California. I’m just a hometown girl.” “Well, I’ll bet your hometown misses you,” he said, laughing. After a while I began to feel more comfortable. These men were just ordinary people, but happened to be famous and wealthy. I believed Frank and the boys would take good care of me and pay me well. I began to relax. The 'party girl' was back. Frank did two shows a night, the second starting at midnight. Later, Frank took me by the hand and led me to the bed. “You don’t look like you’re feeling too good honey. Why don’t you come on over here and cuddle up with me?” I climbed in and lay on my side. Frank curled up beside me, spoon fashion, his arm around me, his hand holding my breast. In a few minutes he was sound asleep. Late in the morning, Frank awoke turned on again. Frank was gentle as we made love, and after about ten minutes, he was satisfied. Frank lay back on the pillows with a big smile on his face and dozed off while I dressed. Then he got up and put on a robe. He walked me to the door, kissed me on the cheek, then put one arm around me and with the other hand he slipped a wad of bills into my bra. “After the show, meet me in the Regency Lounge,” he said. “I want to see you again.” I pulled out the wad of bills and counted my earnings.

Frank was generous; I made a lot of money with him and I didn’t have to go out looking for tricks. He raved on about how he was helping Kennedy get elected in November, and that he was building a heliport at his home in Palm Springs and a special room where Kennedy could stay. One morning Frank Sinatra and I were having coffee in his suite at the Sands and he ranted that he was done with Peter Lawford. Peter had lied about President Kennedy staying at Frank’s house in Palm Springs. After he settled down he said, “I care for you a lot, Janie. I think you have a lot of class. You know, class is born in you, and not many people have that. And some people who you think have it don’t have it at all.” I didn’t say a word but I could see his disappointment as he paced the floor. He was upset about Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962, but he kept it inside. “Janie, you always make me feel better, and you make me laugh when you do your sexy dancing.” I felt sorry for Frank. He led a life of glitz and glamour, but it was still a hard life to lead. That’s why I always tried to be available to him, even on the nights when he only wanted to cuddle. My relationship with him remained solid for the nine years I lived there. Frank always found a way to get a hold of me. Sometimes he was in town for a two-week gig at the Sands, and I was at his side whenever he wanted. I never slept with Sammy—white chicks didn’t go to bed with black guys in the early 1960s, and I didn’t think of him that way. We were friends. Sammy was easy to like. That first experience with the Rat Pack prepared me with the many show-business personalities I would meet in the future. —"Rat Pack Party Girl" (2017) by Jane McCormick

While I was being made up back stage, Jerry Lewis was pacing back and forth like a nut outside my dressing room. He couldn’t keep his eyes off me and that made me notice a distinctively different personality between Dean and Jerry. Dean was cocksure and aloof, whereas Jerry was a strange mix of shy and outrageous. Around women Jerry became shy and introverted. He kept stealing glances at me in the dressing room. He was completely drawn to my orbit. He acted like a schoolboy pursuing his first crush. I thought he was so cute in the way he kept trying to sneak a peak at me and it made me feel so sexy. I never thought Jerry was a player. Also, the comparisons with Dean were not for me accurate. For me, Dean was somehow a hollow personality, and frequently a languid lover. Indeed, Jerry was the more masculine of both, abound with vigor and energy. Even Lynn Dixon succumbed to Jerry's advances and she was real picky. Dean Martin used his romantic façade to lure women into his domain, whereas Jerry Lewis hid his romantic nature behind a childish clumsiness. "I am a putz, so my ideal girl for my act is a ditz," he'd say. I'm sure he  would have loved working with Marilyn Monroe in a comedy. In Hollywood or Bust, they had hired Anita Ekberg as the bombshell. Dean was often conceited and acted the heel, but Jerry was a gentleman who acted the fool. Without saying a word he'd grabbed me and kissed me. I was a bit taken aback. When there were people around, Jerry usually acted like the perfect putz. Nobody suspected that we were amorous with each other. There was something about his naiveté that made me as hot as a firecracker. He ran his fingers through my hair and smiled at me, completely enthralled. —"Jerry Lewis, the Bombshell and  The Last Vegas Show" by Jeanne Harvey Source: medium.com

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