WHAT WERE MARILYN MONROE’S “SECRETS”?
Celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli has just written a new book called “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe”. What could possibly be said about the late Hollywood sex goddess that hasn’t been said before? And why should we all still be interested in Marilyn anyway?
Apparently, a lot of people ARE still interested. More than interested. Fascinated. Like Elvis, like Lucy, like Judy Garland, Marilyn’s appeal has endured through the decades, with her private life being just as much talked about and written about as her movies. Indeed, Marilyn Monroe is a gay and drag icon and one of the most imitated women ever. (I point to NYC’s annual Gay Pride or Halloween Parades in the Village as proof.) With all that’s been written about her, however, most of the “facts” about her life have been salacious, sex-oriented anecdotes without an inkling of a credible source behind it. After all, it’s easy to make claims about someone when they aren’t around to dispute them. In 2008, a book called “Hollywood Babylon: It’s Back!” claimed as fact, among other things, that Marilyn (1) worked as a prostitute early in her career, (2) made a porn movie with actor Guy Madison, and (3) had sexual dalliances with Ronald Reagan, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rory Calhoun, Orson Welles, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and many other famous men and women. Compared to this patently and proudly trashy book, Taraborrelli’s new bio is a class act. The mammoth (531 pages) book isn’t really gossipy. In fact, a lot of the more salacious stories about Monroe, most of them post-mortem hearsay anyway, aren’t even addressed except for a few pages near the end of the book. Astonishingly, most of these rumors emanated from, of all places, the FBI (Which makes us ask, Didn’t they have anything better to do?). Taraborrelli is quick to point out that most of these claims were never substantiated, must less “proven”– even if the FBI made them. For example, you may remember how in 2007 a supposed tape of Marilyn performing oral sex on an unidentified male was purchased for $1.5 million. This story made national news Coincidentally, in late 2006, FBI files were exposed that such a tape supposedly had existed. The interesting thing was: the buyer was never identified, the “broker” of the deal states that the buyer will never release the tape, and of course whoever wrote the FBI report can’t be identified. And, to state the obvious, no one has ever seen Marilyn’s “sex tape”. Using the mentality of, “If no one has seen it, it’s probably doesn’t exist.”, Taraborrelli points out that this tape is most likely a myth.
Taraborrelli gives a meticulously detailed, almost textbook-like, survey of the world’s most famous blonde. The author seems hellbent on proving the accuracy of his statements– as much as facts about a star who isn’t alive to verify them could be proven. He includes over 30 pages of his sources. “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” concentrates on Marilyn’s internal struggles throughout her life, largely thanks to a combination of genetics (Her grandmother and mother both suffered from psychological disorders.), her tumultuous upbringing, her drug use, and her mistreatment by the people in her life. The book goes into a lot of vivid detail about the lives of Marilyn’s grandmother, mother, and “aunt” Grace, plus Marilyn’s assorted surrogate families– and their lifelong influence on the actress. In fact, it’s 115 pages before “Norma Jeane” even becomes “Marilyn Monroe”. Depending on just how much the reader is truly fascinated by the star will determine how much they will tolerate EVERY little detail about Monroe’s family and upbringing– even such details such as Marilyn’s grandmother’s hairdos. For this reviewer at least, it was cute at first, then got tiring. In addition, even after Monroe becomes a star, her mother Gladys is a recurrent, mostly negative omnipresence in Marilyn’s life and in his book– whenever she reappears for a chapter, the book comes to a screeching halt. But most likely, that was the same effect Gladys had on Marilyn in real life. As for the “secrets”, well… they aren’t really secrets as much as Taraborelli giving us the facts, and then allowing the reader to make their own educated hypotheses on Marilyn Monroe’s life. If you believe what Taraborelli’s research has to say, then logically, the likelihood of an affair with President John Kennedy was high, t he likelihood of an affair with Robert Kennedy was low. As far as her death, the likelihood of suicide was high, the likelihood of murder was low. Taraborrelli also writes a lot about Marilyn’s adventures with the FBI, who seemed just as fascinated, or even more so, with Marilyn’s life as the general population was– something a lot of people may not have known.
J. Randy Taraborrelli doesn’t go into Marilyn’s legacy as a gay icon and her role in American womanhood, which is what I’m particulary interested in. That’s for other books, I guess. So, why does M.M. remain such an enduring presence in pop culture and American history? Dish Miss’ own Lady Clover Honey summarized it in one sentence: “She was the epitome of beauty, femininity, and glamour.”
Isn’t that enough?
(J. Randy Taraborrelli did not return requests for a comment about his book.)